Though many believed the Rangers would choose a captain prior to this season, they opted to go with four alternates instead. During the first half of the season, it seemed Chris Kreider was emerging as the true leader. However, as the Rangers enter the final weeks of the regular season it appears Jacob Trouba could be making a case of his own.
Streaky Chris Kreider was there when the Rangers needed him
The Rangers had a very slow start to the season with their veterans struggling. That included Mika Zibanejad. During the first half of the season, Artemi Panarin also took a leave of absence due to a political hit job. Chris Kreider stepped up while Zibanejad was finding his game. He stepped up with Panarin out. Kreider voiced his concerns about the team’s effort and expressed the need for the Rangers to “hate losing.” He experienced an excellent stretch while Panarin was out, recording two hat tricks in just five games. He was setting an example for the young players and truly being a leader. The first half of the season seemed to be a sort of revelation for Kreider both on and off the ice.
When Zibanejad finally found his game and Panarin came back at full force, Kreider’s game started to dip. Throughout his career, it has always been clear that Kreider is a streaky scorer. Plenty of players are, but for Kreider this phenomenon seems to be augmented. Kreider periodically disappears altogether. During these slumps, he can be barely noticeable most nights. He’s not a fourth line player that plays eight minutes a game, he plays on the top line with Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Zibanejad has turned into a star in this league and Buchnevich has significantly elevated his game this season. The dynamic between the three of them is impacted by Kreider’s disappearing acts from time to time. With two goals in the last two games, it’s possible Kreider is coming out of his most recent slump. However, when it comes to being a captain, being streaky isn’t ideal.
Four games against Devils displayed Jacob Trouba’s leadership
Since being traded to the Rangers from the Winnipeg Jets, some have felt that Jacob Trouba’s play in New York has been underwhelming. But the last four games against the New Jersey Devils have been an opportunity for Trouba to lead. The Rangers were off to a slow start against the Devils last Tuesday. Despite being up 1-0 after the first period, they weren’t necessarily outplaying their opponent. They won the game 3-0, and after the game David Quinn revealed that he didn’t go into the locker room between the first and second periods. He let Trouba handle the situation instead. The Rangers did improve their game after this slightly unorthodox coaching decision. If Jacob Trouba can be a voice more often and more consistently, he should seriously be considered for captain next season.
On the ice, Trouba is at his best when he is hitting effectively. Across these four games, he recorded 14 hits including a big one on Andreas Johnsson on Sunday. Physicality has always been an element of Trouba’s game, but it needs to be there consistently. It just gives his game a boost. He’s also definitely more of a stay-at-home defenseman. Over this span, Trouba was reliable in his zone as he was mostly in position and effectively shutting down plays. He also had 10 blocks. This is Trouba’s true game that makes him the impressive player Rangers fans thought he would be when he came over from Winnipeg. These are the elements Trouba needs to bring every night. If he can do that, he could significantly pull ahead of the other alternates in the captain debate.
Note: All stats come from hockeyreference.com
NHL News and Scores
Watch Patrick Marleau pass Gordie Howe for most games played here.