After seeing Staal, Fast, and Lundqvist move on, the Rangers need a Captain more than ever

New York Rangers leadership took a hit this off season. They no longer have the foundation that the younger players can lean on when times get tough. The new generation of Blueshirts hockey has begun. 

Alternate captains Marc Staal and Jesper Fast have departed for Detroit and Carolina. The face of the franchise for 15 years, Henrik Lundqvist, now calls Alex Ovechkin his teammate as a member of the Washington Capitals. 

Dueling schools of thought

Some believe that the team is better off with no captain and a few alternate captains. The thought is the team has plenty of leaders so naming a captain is unnecessary.

I get that theory, but I think back to the 1994 team. A hockey club loaded with leaders such as Adam Graves, Brian Leetch, Glenn Andersson, and Mike Richter. A phenomenal group of players, but at the end of the day, when the game was on the line the “Captain”, Mark Messier was there to lead the club over all the obstacles.

This Blueshirt team needs a captain.

Captain My Captain 

In the rich history of the Rangers, 27 men have had the honor to wear the “C” and the left side of their chest.  Names like Bill Cook, Bob Nevin, Dave Maloney, Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Ryan Callahan, and the most recent captain Ryan McDonagh have taken on the huge responsibility.

McDonagh was traded, along with J.T. Miller, to the Tampa Bay Lightning two years ago leaving this team without a captain. 

That deal was part of a huge and impressive rebuild that seems to have concluded with the selection of Alexis Lafreniere earlier this month.  The next logical step for the organization and its players would be to name a captain prior to the start of training camp.

The next Rangers Captain, Chris Kreider?

Leadership is such a huge part of a hockey team. A captain has to be respected by his teammates, serve as the middle man between what the coach wants, and how the players respond. 

Most importantly the captain has to have the trust of the head coach. It’s bigger than just slapping a letter on your sweater.  The captain’s leadership represents the organization in every way. 

Among the current team roster, two names stand out. Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. 

Kreider was on course to take the reigns as the next captain. The primary issue in not naming him the captain the season before was due to his contract in my opinion.

The team was undecided if they would be able to sign him to a long term deal as the 2019-2020 season kicked off. No one could blame coach Quinn for not pursuing a Kreider announcement if the hierarchy of the Blueshirts would not commit to signing him to a new contract.

Kreider played with the heart and grit fans have been used to seeing regardless of his contract situation and in the end, a new seven-year, $45.5 million contract was agreed on. The Kreiderman is poised to me here for a long time and once again should be considered to be the next leader of the team.

next Rangers captain
Kreider and Zibanejad (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The next Rangers Captain, Mika Zibanejad?

Zibanejad has proven to be a leader already. On the ice, he is the man the team looks to most. A proficient face-off player, strong power-play forward, Zibby does all the things a coach will ask of him without question. He was second on the team in scoring, falling nine goals shy of 50 goals scored in the pandemic shorten the season.

The 27-year-old has proven to be a leader on the bench and in the locker room. Throughout last season, Zibanejad has been seen working with the younger guys on the ice during practices, communicating with players during games, and showing the patience that is needed to be a true leader to one of the youngest squads in the NHL last season.

Other Options

There are a few other options for the team to look at. Artemi Panarin or Jacob Trouba could be considered for the vacant captaincy. In my eyes, though they have not been here in New York long enough to earn that responsibility.

An original six team, the Rangers are in need of a captain. Call me old school, but I believe all teams need to have a captain.

That voice that can argue calls on the ice with officials, take charge on the bench and in the locker room while at the same time strive to bring this team back to the playoffs.

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