Amid their first successful season since 2016-17, the New York Rangers finally find their identity. Currently down 1-0 in the best-of-seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Rangers have many capable leaders on this team. All of those “leaders” co-exist on the same level as each other, with no captain leading the pack. That has to change when this season comes to an end.
All Rangers fans thought that a decision was going to be made before the start of this season, but that never came to fruition. Even after head coach Gerard Gallant hinted and was teasing it for a good while before the season started. Instead, they decided to make Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika ZIbanejad, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Strome, and Barclay Goodrow Alternate Captains. Throughout the season, these six players were cycled wearing the “A” on their chest.
After being labeled as a team that would free fall in the standings to the bottom of the league, they have fought their way back to the top. The “Kid Line” is flourishing, Igor Shesterkin is claiming the throne as the new “King” in New York, and the mantra of “No Quit” is resonating well. The only thing missing is a sole leader to shoulder the responsibility for every major decision of this team and keep accountability for his teammates.
Who Can Take The Role of Captain?
I firmly believe that it would stay inside the group of Assistant Captains. I don’t believe anyone outside of those six players mentioned would be given the responsibility and title. In the future, you can argue that someone from the “Kid Line,” Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Filip Chytil, could be given the “C.” But that is still a ways off.
Chris Kreider has the longest tenure on this team, and he would surely get the nod from the locker room. He keeps his linemates accountable and seems to be a vocal leader with the media. He destroyed every single stigma about him this season, going far beyond the ever illuding 30-goal mark and lighting the lamp 52 times.
His linemate Mika Zibanejad, is also not a bad choice either, as he commands the top line at the centerman position. The past three years have been enjoyable to watch from Zibanejad, as he has turned himself into the 1C of the future for the Rangers.
Another solid choice is Jacob Trouba. His leadership skill on a young defensive core has sat well with this group, and it is showing in these playoffs. Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Braden Schneider, and K’Andre Miller are all young guns on that blue line, and Trouba has been a leading example for each of them. All the while, Trouba is only 28-years-old and still has a long career ahead of him.
If I could throw my two cents in, I would have to switch my initial stance on the next captain of the New York Rangers from Zibnaejad to Kreider. Over these past two years, I have been fairly adamant about “Captain Mika.” But, as time has gone on and seeing the rejuvenation from Kreider this season, as well as in these key playoff games, it seems to be a no-brainer to give CK20 the captaincy.
He has been around since the golden years of the Rangers. The playoff runs, the Stanley Cup final against the Los Angeles Kings, and help bring in the new era with the rebuild. Not many players would have stayed to help right the ship after a complete rebuild as the Rangers did. That speaks volumes to me, and it should to the rest of the Rangers fan base. So, entering the 2022-23 New York Rangers season, I hope that we have the 29th captain be none other than Chris Kreider.