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There's a mounting frenzy on call-in shows and in the papers over who will wear the "C" for the Canadiens this season, although Jacques Martin said the media hordes will have to wait until the end of camp to find out - unlike past years, the captain will be appointed by the organization, not voted on by the players.

Within the room, the whole issue is dismissed as a media construct - they're not far wrong - but said media, the Montreal Gazette in particular, speculated today that Andrei Markov had been approached by the front office about the post and turned it down.

Markov said that isn't so, although he allowed that the job is "a huge responsibility" and joked that he didn't think he had the heart to deal with the television cameras on a daily basis.

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Fans know the stylish Russian defenceman is a retiring type who speaks somewhat fractured English, but within the room he's viewed as the team's best player and commands a great deal of respect. Smart money's still on him.

But Martin also didn't rule out captaincy by committee, on a rotating basis, which would be a novelty for Montreal, but would allow people like Markov, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri, say, to share the load.

Cammalleri said the captaincy is "much bigger news outside this room than inside it" and added he's not angling for the job.

In regards to on-ice matters, Martin intimated that he'd like to see the Habs mirror the Detroit Red Wings approach of smart, physical, puck-possession play.

The scrimmages have been red-blooded affairs, and Martin said committed physical play doesn't necessarily require a roster full of Evgeny Artyukhins.

"When you're working hard, you're around the puck, you can finish your checks, short passes are available. You look at tape of the Red Wings, there's always three-four guys around the puck," he said.

Martin continued: "It's interesting, you know, if you're not a big team it's like you can't be physical . . . Detroit's not a big hockey club, but they play physical. It's about winning finishing checks and winning battles. Most of the time size isn't a factor, well, size of the heart maybe."

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Betting has closed on when the estimable coach will trot out "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

Actually, that's a bit of a cheap shot, Martin this week has belied his reputation for using lots of words to say not very much, delivering pithy and concise analysis and providing actual answers.

We'd like him even he wasn't a fellow Franco-Ontarian.

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