The Canadiens couldn't win when they named their new captain. They also couldn't lose.
While I share the opinion of widely-read columnists and bloggers on both sides of the language divide that PK Subban was best candidate for the "C", there's no credibility in attempting to diminish the elevation of Max Pacioretty to the most coveted and respected leadership position in professional hockey - if not in all of pro sports.
Unlike the boisterous and engaging Subban, Pacioretty is a quiet, leadership-by-example type whose near-miraculous recovery powers in the wake of a string of serious injuries have imbued him with an aura of indestructibility. Most tellingly, he was awarded the captaincy after a vote among the players. As much as it's a stretch and a trivialization of professional soldiering to say that athletes "go to war" together, there is a sort of military mentality in team sports, where - as in combat - the biggest responsibility is to the guys next to you, and the greatest fear is letting them down. In those circumstances, leadership is paramount, and there are no better judges of leadership qualities than those being led. If the guys who live check by jowl in circumstances of shared challenges and adversity decided collectively that Pacioretty was the best choice for a leader, that should be good enough for anyone.
It's also not as if Subban lost the lottery here. He's still in a leadership position as an alternate captain and the heir apparent whenever Pacioretty has to miss a week or two with a femoral shaft fracture or collapsed lung. He's the unquestioned face of the franchise, which is saying something when one of his teammates won the lion's share of the hardware at the NHL Awards. Along with being the Canadiens best player who's not Carey Price, Subban's stock in the community soared last week with his unprecedented generosity to the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation. For cynics who think it was public relations posturing for the captaincy, there are much cheaper ways of grandstanding that making a 10 million dollar commitment to charity. Haterz gonna hate, as the kids today are wont to say.
Subban would have made a great captain. He still might someday. In the meantime, he'll be a dependable lieutenant to a guy who's every bit as qualified for the captaincy, in different ways. Whatever else the Canadiens shortcomings might be entering the 2015-2016 season, quality leadership is not one of them.