The New York Rangers are coming out of this “re-build” and have “re-tooled” themselves into a solid team. The necessary pieces are starting to fit into the puzzle, and something is starting to take shape.
With that being said, there is currently one thing missing on this team: the iconic patch of a ‘C’ worn on one of the sweaters. The last player to wear the letter was Ryan McDonagh from 2014-18.
The captaincy debate is more than just a cosmetic change to a player’s jersey. It is a symbol of leadership and unity under the direction of a veteran player who has been through it all. It is another voice under head coach David Quinn to keep the players “accountable” and “responsible.”
Since the departure of McDonagh, the blueshirts have gone with four alternate captains. Jesper Fast, Marc Staal, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider wore the ‘A’ for most, if not all, of the 2018-19 season. It seems to be a two-man race for the captaincy role, just as it is a two-man race for the successor to Henrik Lundqvist.
This team is moving very fast toward being a contender in the NHL, and with that, this decision must be made. It is finally time to name the 29th captain in the history of this franchise.
Despite all of the contract rumors and discrepancies associated with Kreider and the Rangers, he will be suiting up in blue for the 2019-20 season. It is obviously in the best interest to try and fix this flooded salary cap and sign Kreider to an extension.
Recently, the Rangers signed newly-acquired defenseman Jacob Trouba to an $8 million average annual value over the next seven years. This may impede Kreider’s extension talks for now, unless other money saving moves are made.
If the Boston College product is re-signed to an extension, he would seem to be the most logical candidate for the vacant captaincy position. He is one of the longest tenured Rangers and to couple that with his determination to return from a very serious injury two seasons ago, it’s his to lose. Aside from Staal and Lundqvist, Kreider’s seven years in Manhattan are the longest on the team.
Over the last seven years, Kreider has appeared in 460 games and contributed 133 goals and 138 assists. With blazing speed that is coupled with strength on the puck, he has been exhilarating.
As the first-line center, Zibanejad has been a staple on Rangers scoresheet. In 2018-19, he had a career year and set a bunch of personal bests. The Swedish native put up career highs in goals and assists with 30 and 44, respectively. Additionally, he appeared in all 82 games for the first time in his career.
Zibanejad was also the Steven McDonald Extra Effort award winner for the 2018-19 season. His contribution to the Rangers was unmatched and he led the team in a plethora of categories. Aside from points, he led the team in shots with 236, which is crucial considering that the Rangers were the fifth-worst in that category last season. He also led the Blueshirts in block shots as a forward with 66.
Last season, he donned the alternate letter on his crest and wore it well. Despite only being with the Rangers for three full seasons, he is considered a veteran player in the organization with all of the younger players.
Who is More Likely?
This offseason will be one of the biggest in years. As much hope and high spirits surround this team, a lot of missing parts still exist. The youth movement is finally here, and the focus will be solely on them. This is why choosing a captain now is one of the more important things to happen this offseason.
Filling the vacant captain spot will help build give the younger players a shoulder to lean on. Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and even sophomore players like Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil can learn from a captain. They can benefit from having somebody who isn’t a coach, but instead a veteran teammate, helping jump-start their Rangers career.
If the financial situation is resolved, and Kreider can be re-signed, he should be given the ‘C.’ He has been apart of the Rangers for a number of years, including the 2014 Stanley Cup Final run, and it would make sense to give it to him. Kreider battled his way back from a major injury to help keep the Rangers on a positive path.
If the financial situation cannot be resolved, and this is Kreider’s last season with the Blueshirts, then the captaincy should go to Zibanejad. Both of these players deserve the honor and each has been leaders in his own right.