This is the third installment of my series exploring who should be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens. I’ve already considered Gallagher and Byron, and ruled both out as legitimate options, for completely different reasons. You can access those articles and others at https://habather.wordpress.com/
There is another veteran member of the Montreal Canadiens that deserves some consideration in naming the next captain. Jeff Petry was acquired by GM Marc Bergevin at the 2015 trade deadline from the Edmonton Oilers. That summer he was signed to a six year, $5.5M contract extension. In the 2020 off-season, he was prioritized among pending unrestricted free agents and signed a new four year, $6.25M extension. Petry will turn 34 this coming December; this contract takes him to the twilight of his career.
With Shea Weber’s departure, Petry’s importance to the Habs is higher than ever. But should he be the next captain?
Petry is absolutely the kind of leader the Habs should keep around, regardless of the path forward.
The Habs are once again at a crossroads. Are they trying to tweak this group they have, or should they focus on a rebuild? This decision is a factor when choosing the next captain. Either way, Jeff Petry is a good guy to have around.
Petry’s contract takes him until he is 37 years old, but he is not the kind of defenceman whose hard miles are likely to slow him down to the point of hurting the team. His style of play means he is less likely to hit a wall and be an expensive appendage on a D group. With a flock of young defencemen expected to join the Habs in the next few seasons, Petry is the kind of veteran you keep around.
Petry’s temperament is highly suited to leadership.
I ruled out Gallagher as captain because he has a temperament that makes him a referee target. That’s not a trait you need in your captain. I didn’t mention Byron’s temperament in eliminating him, but I’m guessing rousing locker room speeches do not feature on Byron’s resume.
Petry walks a nice line. He is composed and mature, on an off the ice. He’s a guy the players, officials and media can respect. But I also love that we’ve seen him get a little salty a few times this season. Petry has demonstrated he can get pissed and call out the team when he must, and the balance is an essential trait for a captain.
Petry leads through his play on the ice.
One of the reasons I eliminated Byron as captain was his production in comparison to his cap hit, and the likelihood that a move is inevitable because of that. I argued that the next captain needs to be a significant part of the Habs future, and that’s not a reality for Byron at this stage. An argument could have been made that Gallagher’s contract may become less than desirable before it ends.
My expectation is that the return of Joel Edmundson will see the pair return to top pair form and Petry will be freed to skate like the wind and take offensive chances again. He’s been clutch in the past, both when he’s had to step in for Weber, and with Weber in the line-up. He will be that guy again.
Petry is a legitimate option to be the next captain but may best fill the support role.
The Canadiens could name Petry captain tomorrow, and it wouldn’t be a bad call. But my belief is that he is an ideal alternate, along with Gallagher. A guy who can support a young captain who will be a significant part of the core moving forward.
If Petry is your captain today, the question arises again in 3 years, much like it has today because they named another veteran captain in 2018.
Petry is a perfect Alternate, and a great mentor for the next guy to wear the C.