One very big takeaway from the today’s press conference was Chris Drury saying he wanted to name a captain this season. “We can keep moving this thing forward, a big piece of that for me would be getting a captain,” he admitted. “For me it’s a priority. At the end of the day, it has to be the right person.”
Drury added the following caveat. “I’m not interested in giving it to someone to just say we have a captain,” he continued. “I think we have a lot of leaders in our room and leaders that have taken big steps, including the second half of last season.”
Who is Drury talking about?
As to whom the “person” could be, three names immediately stand out. Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Jacob Trouba.
Trouba became a candidate for captain late this season. After beating the Devils in April, David Quinn acknowledged that he didn’t go in the locker-room after a poor first period. Instead, Trouba talked to the boys into settling down and playing better defense. It obviously worked as Quinn joked, “maybe that’s the new recipe.”
As for the other two, Kreider is the longest serving member of the Rangers and has a good chance to get it. Although it should be kept in mind that the Blueshirts believe that Alexis Lafrenière is future captain material. This was told to me by someone within the organization during this past season. So Kreider, who is 30 years-old would help groom Alexis to one day take the C.
Zibanejad has also put in his time and earned the right to wear the C on his chest. He battled through adversity this year after contracting COVID which lead to a prolonged slump. The center never used it as an excuse and besieged opposing goaltenders for an incredible second half finished that resulted in 50 points in 56 games.
Rangers next captain: Jacob Trouba
When the Rangers lost Trouba to a concussion in the first period of crucial game against the Islanders, it had major ramifications. Without the 27 year-old defenseman, the Blueshirts lost that game and were quickly removed from the playoff picture soon after.
Trouba’s importance to this team goes way beyond his on-ice efforts. Thanks to his calming influence, rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller had an outstanding inaugural campaign. Miller also publicly cited how helpful Trouba has been to him personally on and off the ice.
He currently wears an A, and should continue to do so even if he isn’t named captain. The one concern I have is how long it took for Trouba to get comfortable to start taking on a more vocal locker-room role.
Chris Krieder is a solid option
Kreider acted like the de-facto captain for much of the season. He took incredible exception to a reporter questioning Mika Zibanejad’s heath as a possible reason for his early slump. “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.”
Being outspoken and fearless in defense of his team makes him an obvious choice for the “C”. As I alluded to before, it would make sense to let Kreider show Lafrenière what it means to wear that letter 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 the kid when the time comes.
Mika Zibanejad Deserves To Be Captain
Zibanejad has earned the right to be the next captain. For all intents and purposes, Mika is already the “people’s captain.” He probably is the captain in the eyes of some of his teammates too. Zibanejad has matured into a superstar player and person.
He’s vocal on the ice and can be seen taking charge as any good leader should. He does that usually on the bench talking with his line mates about where to go, or what needs to happen on a play. Zibanejad is also a field general giving out direction and instructions right before a draw.
The center just turned 28 years of age and would be a great choice. If there is any concern, it is simply the fact that he will be a UFA next summer. Should they be unable to reach a contract extension, it would be another captain traded at the deadline (Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh).
Is there another choice?
The last question to ask is if there is another choice? One could argue that Artemi Panarin should be given the captaincy, but is the language barrier an issue? That could be the case, but Panarin appears to have a more laid back personality. That didn’t work for Brian Leetch in New York, as he wasn’t very vocal and his demeanor almost never changed in a game.
Adam Fox looks like an emerging leader, and if not Alexis Lafrenière as a future captain it could be the 23 year-old defenseman. I just don’t think he’s ready for that responsibility.
The only other choice for captain could be someone not here yet? Although unlikely, there could be a candidate that gets traded for that checks all the captain boxes for Drury and Gallant. However, by the sound of Drury today, the next captain is likely someone from the current core leadership group.
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