Feb. 26th marked a historic day for the New York Rangers. The Rangers traded five top players to kick their promised rebuild into high gear. However, considering captain Ryan McDonagh was sent to the Tampa Bay Lightning, there are more changes to be made to this year’s squad. The New York Rangers captain search is now on.
New York Rangers Captain: The Best Players for the Job
Getting a younger, and better team calls for a veteran Ranger to step into the shoes of McDonagh. In fact, this individual needs to surpass what McDonagh brought to the table because frankly, it was not enough. McDonagh lacked the grit and vocal nature to motivate his fellow players, especially in this year’s uphill battle. Of the Blueshirts left standing, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider are the most attractive candidates to take on this responsibility.
Zuccarello has become synonymous with the spirit of the New York Rangers since his arrival to the team. He earned the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in 2013-14. He earned an impressive 59 points in the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Final season. However, there was trouble when the small-statured Norwegian suffered a traumatic brain injury in the 2014-15 playoffs. Left unable to speak for a time, the future of Zuccarello’s career was in question. He truly emerged as a leader after his incredible return in 2015-16. He tallied a career high 61 points, including 26 goals. He’s been the sole winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award since.
The 5’7″ top winger has faced plenty of doubt in his career, overcoming it each time. With a team of green players entering the NHL, many for the first time, veteran leadership rooted in the Rangers legacy will be essential for the next captain. Zuccarello has this in spades. He’s been loyal to the organization, understanding the business and emotional side of the sport well. Zuccarello had two great friends, Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard, get traded to rival teams and has continued to perform with the same relentless compete level as any top forward.
In addition to a strong personal character, his hockey sense is extremely sharp. His low center of gravity and powerful core strength allow him to pivot with the puck quickly, giving him ability to avoid any elite defenseman. His skill set is also bolstered by a fearlessness, which he exhibits on a nightly basis. Most NHL players stand at least seven inches taller than Zuccarello, but he’ll rough them up like any other player would, and more often.
Zuccarello is well-loved by Rangerstown and they would be delighted to see him as the New York Rangers captain.
Kreider, once a pine-rider under former coach John Tortorella, is an integral piece of the Rangers organization. His absence this season thanks to a dangerous blood clot, and partnering rib resection, revealed just how essential the Bostonian is to the Rangers. His speed sets him apart, crashing the net for important scoring chances. The KZB line with him, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich produces more consistently than any other line in the Rangers recent history. His points continue to climb season-by-season, earning a career high of 53 in 2016-17.
Kreider also plays with an attitude, unafraid to stick up for himself and his fellow teammates. That confidence in times of confrontation are key for a captain. A strong voice in the Rangers locker room has been missing and Kreider could undoubtedly provide that. In addition to his quality of play, Kreider is known for him camaraderie with his teammates. The Boston College graduate used his collegiate Russian to communicate with Buchnevich upon his arrival to New York, when his English was sparse. A Ranger since 2012-13, Kreider has seen the team at it’s highest of highs and lowest of lows. He’s also been the center of controversy with the Carey Price injury in May 2014 and handled it with the diplomatic attitude of a worthy leader.
Whether it’s Zuccarello or Kreider, the Rangers were not stingy about their current rebuilding promise. With six new players 25 years-old and younger and a plethora of draft picks in 2018 and 2019, a new Stanley Cup contender will very likely be led by this individual.
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