The Vancouver Canucks celebrate their 40th anniversary on Oct. 9 and their captain will surely have some ceremonial responsibilities that night, as the franchise begins a 2010-11 NHL season filled with Stanley Cup expectations.
But with less than a month to go before training camp, the identity of that captain remains an open question.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis denied an Internet report Tuesday that claimed goaltender Roberto Luongo had been stripped of the C and that centre Henrik Sedin, the NHL's most valuable player, would take over as captain. Gillis said he had yet to meet with Luongo about the matter, but expects an audience in Vancouver next month, when the goaltender arrives prior to training camp.
After losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season last spring, Luongo said he would review his captaincy, particularly its media demands.
Gillis said the organization wanted Luongo to determine whether the captaincy had become a distraction. He added that the team made lots of changes this summer, and wanted to give the goaltender ample opportunity to digest a revamped roster.
"I don't think it is [a distraction] but it comes with certain expectations that may be, at times, a distraction," Gillis said. "It can be challenging answering similar questions over and over again."
Meanwhile, defenceman Sami Salo and winger Alex Burrows will not be ready for the start of the regular season, and are expected to begin the year on the long-term injured list.
That leaves the Canucks with some new salary-cap flexibility, and without the pressing need to move defenceman Kevin Bieksa's $3.5-million (U.S.) ticket. They are even monitoring former Canucks blueliner Willie Mitchell, an unrestricted free agent who is back skating after missing most of last season with a concussion.
Mitchell worked out for the Canucks, but reportedly has a two-year offer from the Los Angeles Kings, one of several suitors. Vancouver is concerned about Mitchell's head-injury history. The 33-year-old has not played since Jan. 16 because of a third career concussion.
Salo ruptured an Achilles tendon in late July, while Burrows is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
Gillis admitted Salo could miss the entire season, but maintained that a four- to six-month timeline remains the working schedule. Burrows, who led the team with 35 goals last season, underwent surgery for a torn labrum in June, and could be lost until December.