The Colorado Avalanche changed their captaincy today from the oldest member of the club to the youngest. Coach Joe Sacco announced that Gabriel Landeskog, the rising sophomore forward and Rookie of the Year, will become the fourth Captain of the Colorado Avalanche, succeeding Milan Hejduk at the position. Hejduk was captain for only one season.
Landeskog is the youngest captain in the history of the NHL, beating out Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby by 11 days. Landeskog, the only Avalanche player to play all 82 games last season, was tied for the lead among NHL rookies with 52 points and led the Avalanche with 22 goals. Landeskog was comfortable on the NHL ice for the entire season, not showing the usual slumps of a rookie. His physical play and endurance in late game situations stood out from the rest of the team.
Landeskog is the seventh captain in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history, joining Hall-of-Fame Nordiques forward Peter Stastny and his predecessor Hejduk as the only European-born captains. Landeskog also succeeds Joe Sakic and Adam Foote as Avalanche captains. For the time being, Landeskog is the only Colorado captain without a Stanley Cup ring.
Hejduk, who assumed captain duties early in the 2011-2012 season after the Avalanche played for several weeks without one, will join center Paul Stastny as alternate captains. Hejduk was the de facto veteran captain after the other members of the squad did not rise to the challenge Sacco set for them last season. Hejduk is the last remaining member of the 2001 Stanley Cup champion team and his production declined last season.
Other possible captains for the Avalanche included Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Johnson, Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. O’Reilly seemed a likely choice for captain with his work ethic, but is often considered the team’s third line center and currently is without a contract. Johnson and Duchene have been given the keys to the franchise in previous seasons, but never embraced the opportunity. Stastny always seems to be on the trading block and his age would not give the team long-term stability, like the 19-year-old Landeskog.