October is here and New York Rangers hockey is back. It has been a long but exciting summer, but it is finally time to drop the puck and get the 2019-20 season underway.
This team has changed completely from when they last played on April 6, and it seems it has changed for the better. With the change in personnel, there also needs to be a change in letters. Last season saw Chris Kreider, Mika ZIbanejad, Marc Staal, Jesper Fast, former Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello with an “A”. That should change with the 2019-20 season.
So, who will represent the leadership group for the young and inexperienced Rangers?
Captain: Mika Zibanejad
This seems to be the most logical choice. After having a career season in 2018-19, and a marvelous training camp and preseason, Zibanejad is poised to have an even bigger year this season. This is going to be a huge year for him with the biggest catch in free agency, Artemi Panarin, joining him on his left.
There have been a ton of rumblings on social media regarding a huge announcement coming on Oct. 3, which is opening night. The leading choice for that announcement is the “C” being stitched on the front of #93. This will be a breakout season for him, and it only makes sense to give him an extra boost of confidence with being named the leader of the locker room and the ice.
If Zibanejad is named the 29th captain of the New York Rangers, you can expect nothing but cheers from the Madison Square Garden crowd. He is a fan-favorite, especially after the departure of Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Ryan McDonagh, and Rick Nash.
Alternate Captain: Chris Kreider
The 2019-20 season could be Kreider’s last with the Rangers. With the salary cap being in a bit of a bind, and a number of other players having an expiring contract at the end of the season, the cash might not be there for #20. If a deal was to be made, an argument could be made that Zibanejad would have been an alternate captain and Kreider be given the “C”.
With that uncertainty, Kreider will be the first choice for alternate captain this season. If he still remains on the Rangers roster after the Feb. 25 deadline, he will keep the letter. But, if he is moved at the deadline, you can expect either Fast or Panarin to take over the “A”.
Kreider has been a veteran leader for the Rangers for a long time. He is one of four players left from the 2014 Stanley Cup Final run, and he has been an alternate captain since the 2017-18 season. He has been a consistent player in seven seasons with the Rangers.
Alternate Captain: Marc Staal
As the longest-tenured Rangers skater, it makes sense to give Staal the other “A”. He will be a leader to a young defensive core, and his input will be crucial. The Rangers have been plagued by the said, defensive core, in recent years, but that could soon change with the influx of talent coming in for 2019-20.
Staal has been an alternate captain for the Rangers since the 2010-11 season. That alone should warrant giving the “A” to #18. This entire team, up and down the forward and defensive lines, is very young and inexperienced. The leaders of this team should be those that have spent the most time in the NHL, seen the best of times and the worst of them, and have been in leadership positions before.
Staal fits all of those categories. A lot of Rangerstown supporters have called for his head in recent years, as he has significantly gotten slower and less valuable on the ice. But, despite his offensive woes and slowing game, he has been one of the better defenders. His contribution will be key on the defensive side, as the Rangers have stacked up on offensive-minded d-men like Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo.