For several years, the heir apparent was Josh Gorges, but with his trade to the Sabres it opens up the spot for one of the young leaders of the club to step up.
Who could fill the role? There are several choices. Andrei Markov, for one, would be a logical choice. He's likely to retire as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, and is looked upon as a silent leader in the locker room. However Markov has denied the C in the past, and I assume he'd prefer to be seen as one of the leaders rather than main ringleader. Markov also doesn't like talking to the media. He does it, but not by choice. The captain has to do it a lot, and that may annoy him.
Some have suggested Brandon Prust would make a great captain, given his natural leadership abilities and effort level. Yet the Habs would probably be better served by someone who holds more natural ability than a fourth liner, not to mention someone who's less likely to be a healthy scratch once in awhile.
Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher have both been mentioned several times as good candidates, and it's tough to disagree. They're both young, inspiring players that help Montreal win on most nights. Yet neither has demonstrated pure leadership, and would probably be better suited with an "A" on their jersey.
Tomas Plekanec could easily wear the C. He's Montreal's Selke forward, and would probably do a great job mentoring young forwards in the art of dealing with trolls. There's no on-ice argument against Plekanec taking over from Brian Gionta, and frankly I would be pleased with the decision, yet he is notably silent in the dressing room, preferring to let his actions do the talking, and doesn't seem like he loves dealing with the media every game.
However, I submit to you that the best choice for the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens would be none other than superstar defenseman P.K. Subban.
If we base ourselves off lazy narratives, at first glance Subban would be a terrible candidate.
He's greedy, emotional unstable, immature & arrogant, right? Well, the good news is that it's no longer 2011, and last season P.K. Subban showed all the qualities you want to see in your captain.
Remember when he saved Dale Weise's brain from further injury?
His post-game interviews are loaded with the term "team concept", and he'll always revert to giving credit to his teammates whenever acclaim is rightfully thrown his way. Even when coach Therrien was up to his old tricks, Subban never took the opportunity to make a big deal about it.
"It’s not my job to talk about how I feel, if you have a question about the game I’ll answer it . . . this is about the team, it’s not about me, it should never be about me."
This year, he demonstrated a gigantic leap in perceived maturity, as he went out of his way to stop his teammates from retaliating whenever he was the target of a dirty hit, and rarely engaged in any extra-curricular activities, certainly not more than most current captains in the NHL.
He was the player who rallied the troops versus Boston in the playoffs, who never gave up despite facing endless punishment from the bruising Bruins.
Not to mention he defused a potentially embarrassing situation for the Boston Bruins in the most mature fashion humanly possible.
If we look at Subban's recent demeanor in the NHL, he's demonstrated all the skills and qualities you'd come to expect from a leader, and he's done so while being one of the best young players in the league.
Marc Bergevin bangs the 'character' drum endlessly, and I struggle to think of another Canadiens player that oozes character like the young Norris winner that patrols the Habs' blue line.
The next subject many people will bring forth is his age. At 25 P.K. Subban is relatively young, but is he too young to become a captain in the NHL? Let's take a look at the current captains in the NHL, and when they were named. (h/t to SpreeEndaz for doing the legwork on the numbers)
We can clearly see a movement in the NHL that involves identifying young superstar talent, and running with them as captains from a very young age.
If we remove players that were not drafted by their teams, the list gets even younger (h/t to Baruch):
Does it work? For recent cup winners, yes. (*note, Lidstrom was the captain for the Wings in 2007, and not Zetterberg)
Now that we've established Subban is certainly old enough to lead the team, let's go through the checklist on what makes a good captain.
First it takes natural leadership, something Subban provides in spades. Next, you want them to epitomize a love for the logo on the front of the jersey, which again is something Subban has not been shy to demonstrate. Your captain should never give up, and constantly push his teammates to be better, which happens to be Subban's strong point.
The other asset Subban possesses is his incredible eloquence, he's wise beyond his years and has a penchant for saying the right things at the right times.
This young man has faced adversity during his entire career. Endless hockey pundits have tried to change him, and tell him how to play, yet he's thrived doing it his own way. He was told he could never handle the defensive workload in the NHL, to which he responded by winning the Norris. He was criticized for not being 'Team Canada worthy', yet he came home from Sochi with a gold medal around his neck, and will likely do so again a few times in his career. Every single time someone has stated that Subban is either not ready, or worthy of an accomplishment he proves them wrong. For those saying Subban isn't captain material, all I can state is that Subban has a long history of making his naysayers eat crow.
In the long run, Subban will probably end up as captain of the Montreal Canadiens, it's just a matter of when. If the team decides to go the safe route and pick Tomas Plekanec no one will be upset, given that Plekanec is a great player that has captained his national side in the past. However if the Habs are ready to embark on the next step, and embrace the future as Marc Bergevin has stated, the choice is clear: P.K. Subban should be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens.