The 2020-21 New York Rangers lost three important leaders this past offseason. Marc Staal, Jesper Fast, and Henrik Lundqvist were all victims to time and circumstance.
Both Staal and Fast wore an “A” on their sweaters which now belong to Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba. Fine replacements, and before I go any further I want to be clear; the Rangers don’t have a leadership issue.
The Right Player at the Right Time
Back to start the 2019-20 season, John Davidson led a Town Hall and was asked if the Rangers would name a captain. “It’s about the right player at the right time.” Those were the words repeated often by JD and to date the team is still without an official captain
A player has emerged and he fits the bill for a lot of reasons – Chris Kreider.
Kreider is the longest tenured member of the Rangers on the roster. For the last 9 seasons, the 29 year-old has worn the Broadway Blue proudly. He’s always front and center and tells his teammates the hard truths.
On the night of the locker-room incident with Alexandar Georgiev and Tony DeAngelo, the Rangers chose to send him out to speak. After a long pause before speaking he voiced frustration with the team’s almost stubborn refusal to play simple north-south hockey with a lead late in the third.
It obviously was a message well received as the Rangers won their next game 3-1 against the Penguins. A powerful message during a rough time for the team, a message a captain gives and his team listens.
Last night, the Rangers lost another tough game and who was the player they chose to send to address the media? Yes, it was Chris Kreider.
Kreider defends teammates against criticism
The Rangers de-facto captain took incredible exception to a reporter questioning Mika Zibanejad’s heath yesterday. “He’s doing an unbelievable job defensively,” an agitated Kreider responded. “He’s eating up the top players in the league and he’s not exactly getting the O-zone starts because he’s getting those tough matchups.”
Kreider concluded by saying, “I think he’s doing a bang up job and he’s doing everything to help our team win.” When he finished answering the question, you can see Kreider just looking in the sky agitated and shaking his head.
Outspoken and fearless in defense of his team. Plays hard and leads by example. The obvious choice for the “C”.
The perfect bridge to the next captain
So will the Rangers change their minds and give the letter to the most obvious choice in the room? Internally, they see one of their young players like Alexis Lafreniere or K’Andre Miller becoming the captain, but they are years away from that heavy burden.
It would make sense to let Kreider show them what it means to wear that “C” on your chest. And even if he’s still here for the entire length of his deal which goes into 2026-27, Chris is the type of person that would relinquish it to either Alexis or K’Andre.
Matter of fact, he would probably do it with a great sense of pride. In doing so with the knowledge he helped groom them to take the torch into the next decade of Rangers hockey.
All the Rangers have to do now is change their minds on not having a captain.