Chris Kreider Should Be The Next Captain Of The New York Rangers
Chris Kreider should be the next captain of the New York Rangers. There, I said it. Yes, I am a huge Chris Kreider fan. I absolutely love his game, even if it is somewhat inconsistent at times (I could go on a LONG rant at how AV has limited his impact). However, I do not believe that my personal bias gets in the way of seeing this objectively.
As Justin mentioned in his article, the Rangers have a number of solid options for the next man to wear the “C” in New York. As such, I will not go into too much detail on their merits or lack thereof. If you would like a more in-depth analysis of the other candidates, you can read Justin’s article here.
Zuccarello is an obvious candidate for the captaincy. Zucc has been with the Rangers since 2010, however, Zucc became a mainstay on the Rangers in 2013-2014 when he helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Finals. During his time with the Rangers, Zucc has shown the fire, passion, and leadership attributes that a captain needs to have. Despite his small stature, Zucc is a heart and soul player that has enamored himself to The Garden Faithful.
The only issue is that I do not believe Zucc will be around much longer. I believe that Zucc will be actively shopped along with picks and prospects for the Rangers to try to move into the top five in the draft if they do not get a good lottery pick. Even if Zucc is not traded at the draft, I cannot see the Rangers being competitive enough to hold onto him longer than the trade deadline. Unless the Rangers believe that Zucc is worth re-signing at an increased price tag for four to five years during a rebuild, Zucc will be gone by this time next year.
Brady Skjei has the potential to be an impact defenseman for the Rangers for years to come. Last season, Skjei broke out and exceeded all expectations and scored nearly 40 points in a third pairing and second PP unit role. His smooth skating, solid stick, and great vision will allow Skjei to succeed in today’s NHL. I also believe that Skjei will become a member of the leadership corps for the future. That being said, I do not think that Brady Skjei is ready for the “C” as he is still finding his own game.
Skjei took a bit of a step back this season. Part of this can be attributed to Brendan Smith’s fall from grace and inconsistent partners. For Skjei to wear the “C”, he needs to be an established performer that can consistently lead by example night in and night out. In one or two years, Skjei will be there. If the Rangers choose to go without a captain next year and the year after, Skjei will be a serious candidate if he lives up to expectations.
Wait, what? Yes, I said John Tavares. No, I do not think that Tavares will sign with the Rangers this off-season, however, there are some compelling reasons for Tavares to sign with the Rangers.
How far could the @NJDevils go if they make the playoffs?
— NHL (@NHL) March 28, 2018
If Tavares does sign with the Rangers, he should be the captain. He will be the only elite skater for the Rangers. Tavares has shown he can rise to the moment, even if those moments happen only once every 20 or so years.
Chris Kreider should be and will be the next captain of the New York Rangers. Kreider has been with the Rangers since he signed his ELC just before the 2012 playoffs began. Kreider is now one of the longest-tenured Rangers and has been wearing an “A’ for the Rangers since Ryan McDonagh was traded. This is official recognition that Kreider is a member of the leadership group for the current Rangers. However, just because he has the “A”, does not mean he will be given the “C”. Marc Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Brady Skjei, and others all have legitimate arguments for wearing the “C”. However, Kreider has the best argument based on the following.
As I mentioned, Kreider is among the longest-tenured Rangers, only trailing the King, Staal, and Zuccarello. However, Lundqvist cannot wear the “C” due to NHL rules and regulations pertaining to goaltenders. Staal and Zuccarello are both candidates to be traded, bought out, or moved in the next year or even this off-season. Currently, Kreider is signed for three more years at a very fair contract and is in the prime of his career. Unless the Rangers are overwhelmed by an offer for him, Kreider is staying put and will continue to be a force, especially if the Rangers hire a coach that does not criticize or attempt to reel in aggressiveness and edgy play.
A leader does not need to be a loud person to be a good leader. In fact, the best leaders that I have worked with in the Army have always maintained a calm and even-keeled presence, even in extreme circumstances. However, these leaders still have a way of making people understand exactly what is necessary and are able to influence their followers to do the things necessary to get the job done. I have very little idea what goes on in the locker room of the New York Rangers. That being said, Kreider seems to be the type of player that is not afraid to speak his mind and tell teammates what needs to happen and then go back it up with his own actions.
Of note is the fact that Kreider can speak Russian to some degree, depending on who you ask. This is no small matter considering the fact that Pavel Buchnevich, Igor Shestyorkin, Vladislav Namestikov, Alexandar Georgiev, Marek Mazanec, Filip Chytil, Alexei Bereglazov, Yegor Rykov, and potentially more from this coming draft are either from Russia or speak some Russian. While not a deal breaker when it comes to being the team’s captain, the ability to easily communicate with these young players will go a long way towards building a cohesive team.
In order to be a leader, the leader must have the backing and support of their teammates. The Rangers do not have many guys that fight or play with an edge to their game, or maybe they do but we will never know because of AV’s criticism of players who stand up for their teammates. However, Chris Kreider is one of those guys. Kreider is not afraid to stand up for his teammates and do the dirty work when necessary. Just take a look at these fights. Each one was in response to a dirty hit or play that needed to be answered. Regardless of your opinion on the effectiveness of fighting, fighting is here now and a team needs a player who can fight AND be an effective contributor.
RISING TO THE OCCASION
While being a good teammate and being able to communicate what needs to be done is extremely important for a leader, it is not good enough if they do not back up their words with actions. Nearly every person that I have spoken to in the Army and outside the Army has mentioned leading by example as a pre-requisite for being a leader. You need to look no further than former Ranger Captain Mark Messier for the definition of what this means.
Leading by example plays itself out both on and off the ice. However, on ice performance is what gets weighed most heavily for an NHL player. In this regard, there is no current Rangers skater who has done more when it mattered most than Chris Kreider. Time and again Kreider has stepped up in the biggest of moments and delivered.
Just after winning the National Championship with BC*, Kreider suited up for the Rangers in game three of the Conference Quarter Finals. In game six of that series, Kreider scored the game-winner to beat the Ottawa Senators and keep the Rangers from being eliminated.
Kreider then continued his clutch play by scoring the game-winning goal against Washington in Game one of the Conference Semi-Final.
Since then Kreider has continued to step up in the biggest moments scoring more huge goals for the Rangers than any other player. In 2013, Kreider only scored one goal in eight games. However, that goal, like the majority of his playoff goals came in the biggest moments. With the Rangers down 3-0, Kreider deflected a pass from Rick Nash to give the Rangers their only win of the series.
In the 2014 playoffs, Kreider continued to live up to his big game reputation. With the Rangers down 3-1 against the Penguins, Kreider opened the scoring ten minutes into the game. After Kreider scored, the Rangers did not trail again in the series. They ended up winning the series 4-3 and moved on to face the Canadiens in the Conference Finals. Kreider scored three goals in the series, including a game-tying goal during game three at MSG to send the game to OT. In the Finals, with the Rangers staring down elimination, Kreider tied game five shortly after the Kings took an early lead. Although we know the ending, that does not take away from Kreider’s contributions.
In 2015, Kreider was at the height of his clutch performance. The Rangers once again trailed the Capitals in a series that they seemed destined to lose. Trailing 3-1, and losing 1-0 late in the third period, the Rangers pulled Lundqvist. Before Hank got to the bench, Kreider did this.
In game six, Kreider got the Rangers going early with a vintage Kreider move. Kreider used his speed and power to drive hard to the net before beating Holtby with a backhand shot. Then, at the end of the first, Kreider went hard to the net after a faceoff and scored on a rebound with less than a second remaining in the period. The Rangers did not look back and forced a game seven. You know the story there, at least most of the story. What you may not realize is that on the shot by Girardi, Kreider was providing a full screen that allowed for the rebound to Stepan. Had Kreider not been doing what he does best, the rebound to Stepan does not happen. Holtby saves the shot cleanly and forces another faceoff.
To be fair and impartial, 2016 and 2017 were not the greatest playoffs for Kreider. However, that goes for just about any member of the Rangers. However, Kreider did score two goals in five games against the Penguins in 2016, including the goal that sealed the Rangers only win. In 2017, Kreider was criticized for not bringing the same level of compete and energy against the Canadiens and Senators (don’t get me started on how the Kreider/Price incident may have been a factor in limiting Kreider’s game). However, in the Rangers final game against the Senators, Kreider nearly single-handedly staved off elimination, but it was too little, too late.
Since coming back from injury this season, Kreider has gone on a tear scoring 14 points (4G, 10A) in 16 games and 10 points (3G, 7A) in his last six games. Once again, Kreider is giving us a glimpse of just how dominant he can be, even with the added responsibility of being one of the alternate captains. Kreider has the longevity, he has the communication skills, he is a great teammate, and most of all, Kreider shows up when it matters most. Chris Kreider is my pick to be the 28th captain of the New York Rangers.
*Correction: Chris Kreider went to BC not BU