VANCOUVER – No 20-year-old in the NHL carries the same burden as Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Although the Avalanche put up a spirited performances in a 4-1 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, Colorado still tied the Eastern Conference’s Florida Panthers for the worst record in the league after the loss.
Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history at the age of 19 years and 286 days when he was given the ‘C’ by Colorado last September.
And three months into his first season as a leader, he is the first to admit it hasn’t been a walk in the park.
“It’s tough, I’m not used to this position that I’m in,” he said. “I haven’t been through this before so it’s definitely something new.
“I have a good group of guys around me that support me in decisions and in everyday life as a captain in the NHL, so it’s not just me, it’s the whole team that is trying to grow together and trying to learn from this.”
But thankfully for the team, the performance against the Canucks was at least a “baby step” in the right direction.
“We started playing like a team,” said Landeskog. “We looked like a team out there, we had layers of support, guys were talking to one another and we had patience in our own zone and I think we had some good shifts in their zone as well.
“In that way it was a good game for us, but we didn’t get two points.”
Landeskog’s mood then dipped somewhat after learning of his team’s current standing in the league, but said it was something his team cannot dwell on.
“It certainly doesn’t (feel good), ” he said. “It’s not a great feeling, but we put ourselves in this position and we’ve got to dig ourselves out of it, it’s as simple as that.”
Landeskog—who battled head and leg injuries earlier in the season—finds himself in the unenviable position of regaining the form that earned him the Calder Trophy last season as the NHL’s rookie of the year while leading his struggling team out of a funk that has seen the Avs drop eight out of their past nine outings.
“We expect to be a lot better that’s for sure, we know we’re a better team than we’re were playing right now but it’s frustrating, we’ve got to find a way out of this,” said Landeskog. “We’ve got to look at the small picture, we can’t look at anything else. We can’t stare at the standings.”
Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco believed his young captain was heading in the right direction.
“It’s been a process, there’s no question,” Sacco said. “He’s a young player, it’s only his second year in the league, he’s dealt with some adversity of his own – he had the head injury and came back, then a torso injury, so he’s been banged up a little bit – but it’s a bit of a process for him right now.
“He’s got some good people in there to lean on, he’s got Milan Hejduk and (35-year-old goalie) Jean-Sebastien Giguere, guys that have been around and guys that have won in this league consistently, so he’s not by himself.”