The Rangers are heading into next season having traded their last two captains to Tampa Bay. The players wearing the ‘A’ both have questionable futures in New York as well. Mats Zuccarello, a fan favorite and potential captain in his own right, only has one more year remaining on his deal. Marc Staal has the years on his deal, but has seen his game take a significant decline and is headed towards a buyout.
With the David Quinn era set to kick off next month, the Rangers are going to need a leadership group to help develop the kids and bring them along. It seems likely that Zuccarello and Staal keep their A’s, but the question becomes who the next captain will be, if there will be one.
The most obvious choice is Zuccarello. He’s a fan favorite. He always shows up. He’s among the top scorers and skilled players on the team. He’s been there before. And perhaps most importantly, he struggled to stick in the NHL. He’s a guy that has seen the ups and downs, and can coach some of the kids through it all. But if he’s truly headed to the trade market, is a one-year captain the best thing?
He’s the longest tenured skater and has had an A on his jersey for as long as I can remember. He, at one point, had a reputation as a stud shutdown defenseman that played the game the way it was meant to be played. However his game has seen a significant downturn in the past few years. Perhaps it was Alain Vigneault’s system, perhaps it was a changing game. We won’t know until we see him in Quinn’s system. But with him headed towards a buyout (likely), is that the best plan?
Kreider is always showing up for big moments. Think about it – he’s always on the ice for a tying goal or a go ahead goal, especially in the playoffs the past few years. You want someone who can get to those dirty areas in crunch time to guide the youth. He’s signed through 2019-2020, so he’s not a flight risk just yet. That said, he’s a polarizing Ranger because people expect more of him. Will the fans support a captain that “only” puts up 25 goals and 50 points?
The 1C for now, Zibanejad is just 25 years old and signed for another four seasons. He’s locked in a top-six forward until the next lockout. However he’s never been thrust into a leadership role. Is it best he get an ‘A’ first?
Perhaps the best answer is that no one has the ‘C’ this year. Let someone earn it, ease their way into the role. Let Quinn learn his players and who commands respect in the locker room."Finding the next captain",