On May 31, 2007, the Pittsburgh Penguins named Sidney Crosby as their new team team captain, the the youngest age ever of just 19 years, 297 days. It was a moment that made many question if Sid The Kid was ready, but Crosby and the Penguins have never looked back.
The Colorado Avalanche are hoping for similar results with their newly anointed captain.
Gabriel Landeskog is 11 days younger than Crosby, and has been named captain of the Avs at just 19 years, 286 days. When coach Joe Sacco and fellow teammate Milan Hejduk called Landeskog into an office for a meeting, Landeskog had absolutely no idea of what this big day had in store.
“I had no clue. I didn’t have any idea what [the meeting] was about,” Landeskog said after receiving a new Avs No. 92 jersey from Hejduk. “I was a little bit shocked at first. I didn’t expect this at all, especially this early in my career. But I feel like I’m ready for it and this organization feels like I’m ready for it.”
As the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Landeskog did not make Avalanche fans wait too long to see just what he could do on the ice. On his way to winning the NHL Calder Cup as the league’s best rookie, Landeskog scored 22 goals and added 30 assists with Colorado. He was the team’s leading goal scorer as an 18-year-old rookie phenom.
Landeskog received the captaincy from Hejduk, who felt it would be better for the team if he relinquished the role as his career reaches the end. Hejduk put up career lows in both goals and points, and felt the time was now to pass the torch to Landeskog, who is expected to lead the Avalanche for years to come.
And the idea was all Hejduk’s, who even surprised Sacco when he made his decision to the Avs coach.
“Coming from him, knowing that if he didn’t feel comfortable doing it 100 percent, I wouldn’t expect anything less from him,” Sacco said. “We had to respect what he was thinking. It’s never an easy decision for a player, especially one of Milan’s character.”
And both men felt that Landeskog was the best man for the job.
“I think Gabe is a great choice,” said Hejduk. “He’s young, but the older guys on the team will help him. I believe he’s going to be here for a long time and he’s going to be captain for a long, long time. I feel really comfortable about this.”
Sacco couldn’t agree more.
“To me, the logical choice kept coming back to Gabe,” he said. “No. 1, his leadership ability comes very naturally. He doesn’t try to be somebody he’s not. He demonstrated in his first year at 19 – he started at 18 – strong leadership both on and off the ice. His play on the ice certainly was an example of how we want all our players to play. He played in every situation possible for us.”
And now, he will play in ever situation for the Avalanche as the new team captain.