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Luongo cedes the "C"

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

It took Roberto Luongo .01 seconds to accept the Canucks captaincy before the start of the 2008-09 season.

In hindsight, he should have mulled it over a little longer.

After two seasons as the unquestioned leader of the Canucks, Luongo relinquished the captaincy late Sunday night in a phone conversation with GM Mike Gillis.

The decision was a difficult one for Luongo, who received no pressure from the Canucks one way or another, and after weighing all his options and what’s best for him and the team, he stripped himself of the C, which he never actually wore.

As the 12th captain in Canucks history, Luongo led Vancouver to back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The Canucks fell to the Chicago Blackhawks both years and in the end, a lot of heat came down on Luongo for how he performed in the post-season.

He signed up to be the main leader on the team and everything that goes along with that, he just didn’t realize it would affect his game so much.

Gillis said the Canucks have no regrets about naming him captain, but he’s happy Luongo was able to put the team first.

“I think it’s great for us because it’s about winning now,” said Gillis, during a scrum at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C. “I think the fact that he put the team ahead of himself is a real statement about the leadership that he does have. I know he loved being the guy, the captain of this team, he really did, but he felt that in order to be the best prepared and play to win, it was in the team’s best interest that we go this route and in his best interest and we support that.”

One of the major pitfalls of being captain for Luongo was having to deal with the media on daily basis. Having to answer for not only his play, but that of the team night in and night out, wore on Luongo and he admitted last season that it was becoming a distraction at times.

Luongo will still deal with the media, but he’ll put Luongo first - a must for a goaltender.

“[Being captain] may be incompatible with the goaltending position and the expectations that are placed on a captain in terms of availability and being the spokesmen of the team, it may have been a little too much based on how he likes to prepare and how he likes to get ready to play a game,” added Gillis.

“He tried to meet those expectations the best he could, but at the end of the day he felt it wasn’t the best thing for him.”

The Canucks are now left with a captain conundrum heading into the 2010-11 season with training camp set to begin with testing this Friday. That doesn’t bother Gillis, he’s prepared to take his time and come to a decision with coach Alain Vigneault as the pre-season unfolds.

Although there’s no official casting call for the captaincy, there are silent auditions going on, Gillis knows it and the players know it. Someone will be named captain, the team is not considering rotating the captaincy.

This should be fun.

“There’s an opportunity for people to step up. We’ve had a lot of changes over the last couple years, there’s a lot of new players coming to this team that are accomplished players, there’s guys that are more mature, there’s players that have accomplished a whole lot the last couple of years and I think it’s an opportunity for us to sit back and see who really wants this and who wants to step forward and grab it.

“There are a lot of candidates, a lot of possibilities and we’re going to take our time and observe them and see how it plays out."

No one is a shoo-in for the job, it’s open to everyone on the roster, but a strong case can be made for Vancouver’s four offensive stars.

Henrik Sedin – He’s been with the team nine seasons making him the longest serving Canuck, alongside his brother. Coming off a spectacular 112 point season in which he was awarded the Art Ross Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy, Henrik isn’t overly vocal, instead letting his game speak on his behalf.

Daniel Sedin – He’s been with the team nine seasons making him the longest serving Canuck, alongside his brother. Despite an injury last season, Daniel set new career highs in assists and points and were in not for a 19-game setback, he would have pushed Henrik for the Art Ross and Hart Memorial trophies. Like Hank, he isn’t overly vocal, instead letting his game speak on his behalf.

Ryan Kesler – No Canuck wears their heart on their sleeve like Kesler, he’s an emotional player and that helps him thrive on the ice and in the locker room. Extremely vocal and competitive, Team Canada fans saw during the Olympics how hard it is to play against this guy.

Alex Burrows – It’s no secret that Canadian captains have a much better track record when it comes to winning Stanley Cups than their American or European counterparts. Like Kesler, Burrows plays with a chip on his shoulder, helping him thrive in any situation.

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