“Blood clots.” Last season, those chilling words hit New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider hard. This year, after multiple surgeries, Kreider is back and feeling better than ever. Let’s break down where Kreider will fit on an increasingly youthful team and with a refreshed perspective on health, hockey, and the NHL.
Chris Kreider’s Re-Energized Return to Broadway
It’s December 27th. Kreider is in the locker room and outside, rumours are swirling. Where is the Rangers star forward at this desperate hour? Has he been traded? Is he hurt? When the news arrived, it was bleak. Kreider had a blood clot and his return was unknown. What was already one of the worst seasons in Rangers history took another major blow. A malformed rib was causing blood clotting in Kreider’s right arm. He missed 24 games, the Rangers lost 17 of those tilts.
Same Player, New Team
Kreider is returning to a widely unfamiliar team in 2018-19, but his role of a young kid benched by Alain Vigneault is long gone. Luckily for Kreider, he is very familiar with the new coaching staff in head coach David Quinn and new assistant coach Greg Brown. Brown coached Kreider to two National Championships while Kreider attended Boston College. Quinn was at the helm of BC’s biggest rival, Boston University. With a team as youthful as the Rangers, strong peer-leadership will be essential to creating the “we” mentality that coach Quinn talks so much about. The Rangers have also added players such as Adam McQuaid from the Boston Bruins and free agent goaltender Dustin Tokarski to replace Ondrej Pavelec. Kreider’s adaptability to adversity, as showcased by this serious health scare will make him an asset to melding with these new players quickly as the season gets underway.
Rangers Role Model
Kreider’s influence will be huge on players like Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Michael Lindqvist and many more young prospects looking for a spot on the Rangers. As the fourth most-tenured player on the Blueshirts, he is a role model for the reconstructed team. In fact, he may even become the new captain. Since Ryan McDonagh was sent to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline, the Rangers have been without a captain. Mats Zuccarello is another candidate for the honour. However, Kreider’s rejuvenated joy and passion for the NHL, and the Rangers especially will make him a strong contender for the position.
Thanks to Kreider’s experience with both Quinn and Brown, he will be able to achieve a much closer bond than he was ever able to achieve with John Tortorella or Vigneault. A strong bond with a coach is essential, especially as the team is reshaped. Veteran players can share their key learnings on the team’s internal dynamics. The fresh coaches can contribute a relatively unbiased strategy to collaborate best with the team’s current strengths and improve on their weaknesses.
Kreider’s Past and Future
Dropping 20 pounds due to his surgeries and post-op recovery time, Kreider enjoyed playing with less weight on his skates. Kreider adapted to a plant-based and ketogenic diet in order to maintain his new weight. Kreider’s dedication to his health and what he’s putting inside his body will make him a stronger player on and off the ice. Kreider should be able to surpass last season’s point total of 37 in 55 games. It is hoped that his new training routine will put him back in the 30-goal, 60-point season arena.
“When you’re in the NHL, you’re stuck in this maze where everyone is hyper-competitive. You live and die with wins and losses. Then you get out of the maze and it changed my perspective for the better. Your career goes by so fast. This was my first opportunity to step back and see that. If you can’t be grateful playing in the NHL, shame on you,” Kreider said in a recent interview with ESPN.
Broadway is just as grateful to have him back.
Main Photo: DECEMBER 23: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers reacts in the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs during their game at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)