Reviewing the top candidaes for Rangers captain

K'Andre Miller's defensive play has been great to start this season.

One of the little nuggets that Chris Drury and Gerard Gallant gave us yesterday was that the Rangers are planning on naming a captain for next season. It’s long overdue, as the Rangers haven’t had one since trading Ryan McDonagh a few years ago. They’ve had alternating Alternates, with Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Artemiy Panarin, and Jacob Trouba wearing the ‘A’ last season.

The talk of having an actual captain is good to hear. A formal captain is mostly for the fans, as leadership is never from just one person in the locker room. However it is a symbol of the identity of the team. It’s something the Rangers have lacked since the rebuild letter. Partially because they were gutting the team, and partially because it was clear there was a rift between some of the alternates –and others– and the head coach.

It does bring up the question – who will be captain? There are certainly the easy guesses, as it’s the players we think about regularly. But there are some dark horses as well.

Chris Kreider / Mika Zibanejad

The old debate continues, as the smart money last year would have been on one of Kreider or Zibanejad to get the ‘C’. The debate has raged on for a couple of seasons now, and there really is no difference between the two.

Kreider carried the team through some of their more dramatic periods last season. Zibanejad is the 1C who is capable, without COVID, of putting up points in droves.

The only difference at the moment is that Kreider has the long-term contract, while Zibanejad does not. If Zibanejad does get the ‘C’, expect the long term deal to be announced shortly before or after.

It is worth noting I don’t necessarily see Artemiy Panarin getting the ‘C’. Happy to be wrong here, and it’s not anything against Panarin.

Jacob Trouba

Trouba is the other candidate of the “top three” for captain. It may not be something that many agree with, but it’s hard to argue the impact he’s had on the lineup. He’s the “veteran leader” on the blue line, and he’s already been thrust into situations where he’s addressed the locker room without the coaching staff present. Most notably this was against the Devils last season, which made headlines after the Rangers comeback win.

As an aside, like Kreider, people will point to the contract as a reason why he shouldn’t be captain. A good assumption can be made that players don’t care about how much a guy gets paid when it comes to wearing a ‘C’. It also is not a coincidence that the Rangers got bullied when he wasn’t in the lineup.

There was also the MSG propaganda machine last season. Sam and Joe never hesitated to mention how great of a leader Trouba is in the locker room. MSG is all about controlling the message, and that isn’t really a subtle sign of things to come. If Kreider and Zibanejad are the favorites, then Trouba would be the smart bet with a higher payout.

Ryan Lindgren / Adam Fox

The first two dark horse picks for captain, both Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren have a case for the ‘C’. Lindgren, as we know, is a special type of player for the Rangers. Like Trouba above, the Rangers got bullied when he wasn’t in the lineup. But he’s more than a tough guy defenseman, he’s very good and routinely is getting matched up against the best of the best. Players notice this.

As for Fox, he’s the best defenseman on the team. He and Lindgren represent the young future of the blue line, and will likely be here for the long haul. We don’t usually hear much about his leadership qualities, but that could just be reading too much into this.

Even if they don’t get the ‘C’, I can see them both wearing an ‘A’ soon enough.

Alexis Lafreniere

The outside chance of Alexis Lafreniere being named captain is still there. He’s the first #1 overall pick, and he will likely be the most skilled winger on the team in the coming years. Is that enough to name him captain? Is that too much pressure for Lafreniere? It might be.

Ryan Strome

Ryan’s Callahan, McDonagh, and Strome. Let’s keep the tradition alive. Name a Ryan captain and then trade him.

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I would bet on one of the veterans being named captain, as the Rangers are turning the corner to head into contention. That likely eliminates the three kids as captain. I still think it will be Trouba as the next Rangers captain, but that’s just my guess.