The Great Debate: Who is the next Rangers Captain?August 17, 2014, by
Loads of armchair GM’s have had one thought on the backburner of their mind since Ryan Callahan was traded last March: who will be the next captain? Instead of instantly naming a new captain, a move which the Lightning made immediately upon the captain-for-captain swap of Callahan for Martin St. Louis, the Rangers simply promoted Dan Girardi to full time alternate. Joining Marc Staal and Brad Richards proudly wearing the ‘A’ on their sweaters was a promotion of sorts for Girardi, who signed an extension during the regular season.
Around now is when I would cite some reliable sources about the most recent news as to who will be leading our beloved Blueshirts through seasons to come, but quite frankly I would rather irresponsibly yap about my opinion and play a few rounds of Devil’s Advocate. We know that Richards can’t be the captain, leaving us with two logical guesses in Staal and Girardi. Many are convinced that Ryan McDonagh is a lock for the role. How about veteran and former captain St. Louis? Or another former captain in Rick Nash? The possibilities are endless.
In order to logically analyze this, we should look at the qualities that the Rangers have looked for in a leader. Callahan was a quiet, hard-working and poised leader. He was never the most skilled player on the ice, but he always gave it 100%. He was the personification of a John Tortorella player: tough, willing to give up his body for the puck, possesses a full team mentality, and a hard trainer. When Alain Vigneault came in, it felt as though the Torts days of hellish training camp were over and Cally might be leaving shortly thereafter. Still, I believe had he and the front office come to terms on a contract extension, he would still be wearing the ‘C’ for AV.
Along with Cally’s departure, the Rangers have to address the veteran leadership lost with the Richards buyout. Though Richards’ monotone interviews left a lot to be desired in the staying awake category, he has a great locker room reputation and nobody can take away his offense-loaded response to being benched in the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals. Simply put, he is an unassuming hard worker and was great for the team in the locker room.
This is where I believe MSL gets a letter. Do I think it’ll be the C? No. But I do believe he takes an alternate captain spot for his first full year as a Ranger. He isn’t locked down long term, and he is 39 years old, and it’s a lot less irritating to change alternates year to year as opposed to captains. Although Nash is locked down with a NMC, I also don’t see him taking a letter next year. Nash played captain with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a role which didn’t suit him at all. When Columbus fans were calling for his head, he didn’t respond well (with good reason..) and I don’t see Nash being successful with that sort of spotlight on him. I think that in a huge market, him playing his game as low-key as possible is the key to his success.
Speaking of long term contracts, the speculation that Staal won’t be promoted to captaincy due to his ‘probable’ departure for Carolina to play with his brothers is real right now. I could probably write a full post about how absurd I think it is that Marc would leave to play with his brothers and try to change Carolina’s team name from Hurricanes to Staals, but that’s another story for another Sunday. I don’t see him getting the ‘C;’ in fact, I think he might lose it altogether. With Derek Stepan being called to play for the United States in Sochi mostly for his locker room presence, he has to be considered for a leadership position with the Rangers. He’ll be a RFA after this year, so he will be around for at least two more seasons. Give Staal’s ‘A’ to Stepan, keep Girardi and St. Louis as alternates, and give the ‘C’ to Ryan McDonagh.
Why Mac? Look at him. He’s got the Callahan-esque mentality of playing as hard as is required, as is evidenced in 53:21 TOI in the triple overtime game against the Capitals in 2012. Each interview is perfect, as though he is teaching front office how to PR right. He holds himself accountable and often looks ahead to the next game as opposed to being too high on himself. He has obvious talent and, let’s not forget, he’s only just turned 25 years old. McDonagh is locked up through 2019. Girardi has been a lifelong Ranger, he’s a guy who went from undrafted to all-star in only a few short seasons… but he is older and less talented than Mac. I say give it to the kid and let him run with it."The Great Debate: Who is the next Rangers Captain?",