Canucks laugh at your ancient tradition, name Luongo captain

Naming Roberto Luongo captain today reinforces that the Vancouver Canucks pretty much have nothing else going on.

You could have given the captaincy to newly minted alternate captains Willie Mitchell or Mattias Ohlund as a symbol of your team commitment to defense, but GM Mike Gillis wants this team to look like it plays in the WHA.

You could have given it to fellow alternate Ryan Kesler, symbolizing the hungry young players that the Canucks are building their offense around. But no one wants their captain to be a guy who gets crosschecked in the face or skate stomped by his opponents.

Maybe they could have given Henrik and Daniel Sedin one half of the 'C' each, so it looks like one of them is wearing an eyebrow and the other is wearing a ski slope. Or maybe not.

So the Canucks gave it to Luongo. He's the only thing keeping this underwhelming collection from spiraling into the conference basement. They're now the Luongo Panthers, West Coast Edition: A few young prospects, some wacky management and one fantastic goalie keeping them relevant. Let's just hope they don't go trading him for Bertuzzi.

But both coach Alain Vigneault and GM Gillis decided Vancouver's captain should be Luongo, and "it took him about .01 seconds to say 'yes'" according to Vigneault. That's pretty darn quick. You know, considering the general mechanics of speech muscles for most human beings.

Vancouver is bucking the long-standing tradition of NHL teams to not officially name goalies as captains. It's always been an unofficial thing: Olaf Kolzig was the captain of the Washington Capitals, even without the title. Martin Brodeur might have picked up the honor after Scott Niedermayer left the New Jersey Devils.

Yankee Canuck was really looking forward to Luongo rushing out of the crease to argue calls with the referee. Alas, NHL rules state (.pdf) that not only can't he wear the 'C,' he also has to defer to the alternates to act as captains on the ice.

The boys from the KB ask three key questions:

1. How much of this is a ploy to keep Luongo in Vancouver past his contract, which expires at the end of next season?

2. How will this go over with Ohlund and Mitchell, who were the supposed front-runners for the captaincy? Ohlund is already talking about testing the free-agent waters next season. Mitchell hasn't always had a smooth relationship with his coach.

3. Is this why Luongo cut his hair? If so, does George Steinbrenner secretly own the team?

I'll add a fourth: If this decision had been made by Oren Koules and we were talking about Kolzig instead of Luongo, where would it rank on the insane-o-meter?

Not to say the move is insane, mind you. Luongo is the leader of the team, no doubt about it.

Just saying that it's a bit ... unorthodox. It's no "offering Sundin $20 million," but it's still a little wacky.

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