Captain’s crunch: Gritty Landeskog leads Avs back to final

Jun 7, 2022, 11:28 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 11:35 am

Colorado Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog (92) is presented the Campbell Conference Bowl from Bill Daley, Deputy Commissioner, after defeating the Edmonton Oilers during overtime NHL hockey conference finals action in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday, June 6, 2022. The Avalanche won the game 6-5, to take the series. (Amber Bracken/The Canadian Press via AP)


DENVER (AP) — Gabriel Landeskog kept his patience even as everyone scattered in every direction at practice. Not exactly paying attention, the players were acting like a bunch of 2- and 3-year-olds — because they were.

Coach Gabe kept things calm while he was in charge of his young daughter’s soccer team this spring. Captain Gabe radiates cool as the longtime leader of a Colorado Avalanche team headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2001.

He’s grown up with the “C” emblazoned on his jersey, taking over the responsibility at just 19 years, 286 days old. He’s learned all about leadership in the decade he’s been captain, most notably this: Just be himself, because his work ethic carries a lot of clout.

It’s a style that served another longtime captain well in Joe Sakic, who led the Avalanche to a pair of Stanley Cup titles (1996, ’01) and is now the team’s general manager.

“If you’re going to start faking things and trying to pretend to be something you’re not, people will see right through that,” said the 29-year-old Landeskog, whose team is waiting to face either two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay or the New York Rangers. “Be yourself and things will follow.”

Even strong leaders, though, seek advice on complicated issues. Like this: About to be presented the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for winning the Western Conference after a sweep of Edmonton, Landeskog turned to Sakic for guidance. Should players put their hands on this piece of hardware or steer clear in keeping with hockey superstition that it’s bad luck when a more important trophy is still possible.

“He was like, ‘Do whatever you want. Touch it. Don’t touch it. It doesn’t matter,'” recounted Landeskog, whose team posed with the trophy — and did touch it, for the record — but didn’t bring it into the locker room. “It’s important to enjoy the journey and important to enjoy the moment.”

His responsibilities include providing grit on a line that features Nathan MacKinnon and Valeri Nichushkin. The left winger hangs out in the tough places, often in front of goaltenders, and he sticks up for his teammates on the ice and off. After Nazem Kadri was knocked out of the Oilers series by Evander Kane, the captain was clear: “Don’t like it.”

It’s all that — plus a witty sense of humor — which has earned him nothing but respect around the room.

“Probably the best captain I’ve played for,” said defenseman Cale Makar, who filmed a comical commercial with the captain. “He’s able to sneak in those right moments when we need his voice but at the same time he’s consistent for us every night playing with that same physical force.”

When Landeskog was appointed captain on Sept. 4, 2012, he was no more than a kid himself. At the time, the forward from Sweden was the youngest in the NHL to assume the role. That distinction was eclipsed in 2016 by Edmonton’s promotion of Connor McDavid (19 years, 266 days).

No doubt, this season has been Landeskog’s finest work. He was leading the team in goals (30) in the regular season when he underwent knee surgery on March 14. He wanted to be closer to full strength for a long postseason run. Back in time for the playoffs, he’s scored eight goals, picked up nine assists and is third on the team in hits.

“Very in tune with what we’re trying to accomplish as a team,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of the player taken second overall by Colorado in 2011. “He understands all of the personalities and their tendencies in our locker room, attitudinally.

“He’s in a position to help guys out and comfort them when they need it — and give them a kick in the (rear) when they need it, and give them a pat on the back when they need it.”

His lighter side shined through in a series of commercials with his family. In one episode, Landeskog showed up wearing a “C” on his sweater for a family picture with his wife and two kids (” because I’m the family captain, ” he proudly proclaimed). Another saw him stepping on a toy and fighting back tears as his wife asked what’s wrong.

He also found time to coach that soccer team, too, with the season recently ending.

“It’s awesome coming home to the kids, and they’re buzzing around and want to go to the park,” said Landeskog. “So that’s been great.”

Much like Sakic, Landeskog prefers to lead by example, helping the Avalanche go 12-2 — with two series sweeps — to secure their spot in the final. And much like Sakic, he’s trying to join him as a Colorado captain who’s lifted the Cup.

“At the end of the day, it’s a group effort,” Landeskog said of leadership. “I think we’ve got tons of leaders.”


More AP NHL: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bump & Stacy Show


Associated Press

Minnesota ends Chicago’s five-game winning streak

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Aerial Powers had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Kayla McBride added 15 points and the Minnesota Lynx beat the Chicago Sky 81-78 on Wednesday. Minnesota (8-15), which was coming off a 102-71 victory over Las Vegas on Sunday, has beaten the top-two teams in the WNBA standings in consecutive games. Jessica Shepard […]
13 hours ago
FILE - New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner stops to talk to the media before attending a meetin...
Associated Press

Steinbrenner realizes may take record price to keep Judge

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner realizes there is a chance the price may be going up to sign Aaron Judge to a long-term contract after the star slugger’s outstanding first half. Judge turned down an eight-year contract worth $230.5 million to $234.5 million, cutting off talks ahead of the April 8 opener and saying he wouldn’t […]
2 days ago
FILE - Noah Gragson prepares on pit road for the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race at Daytona Interna...
Associated Press

NASCAR penalizes Gragson for intentional Road America crash

NASCAR on Wednesday penalized Noah Gragson for a deliberate and dangerous crash he caused in the Xfinity Series race at Road America. Gragson, who turns 24 later this month, was docked 30 points and fined $35,000 by NASCAR for intentionally crashing into Sage Karam on Saturday at the road course in Wisconsin. Gragson’s swerve into […]
2 days ago
Baker Mayfield...
Associated Press

Browns trade quarterback Baker Mayfield to Panthers

CLEVELAND (AP) — From being drafted first to dumped four years later, Baker Mayfield’s wild four-year ride in Cleveland is over. The No. 1 overall pick in 2018, Mayfield was traded Wednesday by the Browns, who moved on from the divisive quarterback months ago and finally sent him to the Carolina Panthers for a future […]
2 days ago
Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts after losing a point as he plays Taylor Fritz of the US in a men's sing...
Associated Press

Hampered Nadal gets past Fritz at Wimbledon; Kyrgios next

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Wincing from abdominal pain, unable to ply his customary relentless style of tennis, Rafael Nadal worried that he might need to stop playing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals against Taylor Fritz. Up in the Centre Court stands, Nadal’s father was waving his arms, motioning to the 22-time Grand Slam champion to quit. […]
2 days ago
U.S golfer Colin Morikawa playing the 9th hole during the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor, Ireland...
Associated Press

Morikawa caring less about No. 1 and more about winning

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland (AP) — Collin Morikawa was one round away from reaching No. 1 in the world, staked to a five-shot lead in the Bahamas and needing only to win. Seven months later, No. 1 feels like a mile away. Morikawa shot 76 in the final round last December and began the new year […]
2 days ago
Captain’s crunch: Gritty Landeskog leads Avs back to final