There is no more valuable letter in hockey than “C”.
That captain designation is an honor for any player. In September 2012, Gabriel Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history as he sat just three months shy of his 20th birthday. Connor McDavid has since broken that record in 2016, beating Landeskog’s mark by 20 days.
I remember arguing with my then co-host Mike Evans about Landeskog being given the honor. “It’s a publicity stunt,” he said. I disagreed. I had met Landeskog, talked to those around him and watched how he carried himself. “You might not like the move right now,” I told Mike. “But, trust me. He’s a captain.”
On Wednesday night, the Avalanche season came to an end with a 3-2 Game 7 loss to San Jose. In the 2nd period, the Avs seemed to scored to tie the game at 2-2. But following a challenge by the Sharks, it was ruled that Landeskog was offsides as he was going through the door to the bench on a line change.
I was furious. I dropped a couple four-letter bombs, both out loud and on Twitter. Being a fan will do that to you. Where is the definitive proof? Is there some camera angle that we’re not seeing on television? I was zooming in on still photos like I was trying to find the second shooter on the grassy knoll. How could they overturn the goal?
But they did. And the Avalanche went on to lose.
“It’s a clumsy mistake, you know?” Landeskog said after the game. “Hopefully they got it right.
“I’ll take the blame for that.”
Now, I don’t know about you. But I would not have been able to keep my cool like that. Each of the four-letter words I chose for social media (and probably a few more) would have erupted from my mouth like a Chris Rock stand-up routine. My chance to be in the Western Conference Finals and a solid opportunity to make the Stanley Cup Final was robbed. Now I have to sit around for five months and wait for my chance to start climbing this mountain again? Hell no. I’m PISSED!
Maybe Landeskog’s words stand out more to me right now because of the stark contrast to the NBA. If a call like that had happened within the NBA playoffs I think I could count on one hand the number of players that would take the high road. The rest would flop their way through the presser finding everyone else to blame.
But not Landeskog. And his attitude is shared by his teammates.
“No matter what that call is, we have to keep playing,” said Ian Cole. “We have to learn that when things don’t go our way, we have to take momentum back as quickly as possible.”
Ultimately that one decision from the situation room in Toronto did not cause the Avalanche to lose the game. San Jose is a better team. At least in 2018-19 they are. There are dozens of things the Avs could have, and should have, done better in Game 7. But that call is the only thing fans are talking about in the wake of the loss.
In the end, for the past few weeks I saw a team that has put the Western Conference on notice. They are young. They are talented. And they will be back.
And late Wednesday night I saw what leadership looks like summarized in six words.
I’ll take the blame for that.