The New York Rangers are currently firing on all cylinders. They have the second best record in the NHL by points percentage since December 5th with an 18-4-3 record, and the team finally is looking like the group we all envisioned at the beginning of the season. One of the statement wins of the season came this last Monday against the Calgary Flames and one of the catalysts in that game was none other than the Rangers controversial captain Jacob Trouba. Trouba hasn’t had the smoothest ride, yet he is still a key part of this team.
Trouba started off this season struggling as much as he ever has. He was getting burned regularly on the ice, he was throwing himself out of position with hits that didn’t connect and he generally looked off. Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant even mentioned at one point that Trouba was fighting off an injury, but wouldn’t specify.
Trouba was getting flack from the fanbase at every turn and when you make eight million dollars, fans rightly expect you to have a positive impact on the game. Fans were also incensed when Gallant basically said Trouba wouldn’t sit even if he wanted him to.
It was a perfect storm to hit Trouba early in the season. The weak play after being named captain over other popular choices like Chris Kreider or Mika Zibanejad propelled this fanbase to immediately start thinking of possible trades or buyouts.
But things can change. Things can change in a big way.
Look no further than when the Rangers played the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3rd, a game that has now become famous with fans for the helmet throw. With the Rangers trailing the Blackhawks by three goals late in the second period, Trouba fought Jonathan Towes and, before exiting the ice, he screamed at the Rangers bench and threw his helmet in the ultimate showing of frustration.
Fans of other teams endlessly trolled Trouba and the Rangers. But something changed within the locker room and the team would begin to go on a 18-4-3 tear through the NHL to get right back into the Stanley Cup contender conversation. But the helmet throw itself was also another controversial move by Trouba.
To put full credit on the helmet throw would be foolish, but to discount it completely is just as foolish. These guys are human too. If you’ve played sports at any level you know how it feels to see one of your teammates fired up, especially a leader and it makes you want to do well. It makes you want to turn things around. It makes you want to live up to expectations. The Rangers certainly have responded well since the “helmet throw.”
While the concerns with Trouba are valid, especially with his contract becoming a sore spot when Filip Chytil, K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafreniere are due for new deals this summer, it’s important to realize that Trouba’s play has improved as of late as well. He is meshing better with his partner K’Andre Miller, he is making better decisions on the ice and his hits are causing game changing moments for the better.
The Flames – Rangers battle was a microcosm of the positive impacts Trouba can have on this team when he is playing his game the right way. He was a monster out there who contributed in every possible way in order to help his team win, what many are calling, the game of the year.
Former NHL enforcer John Scott even said players around the league are beginning to fear Trouba. That goes a long way in the NHL and especially during the playoffs when time and space on the ice gets harder to find. Some players may be thinking twice about taking a run at the Rangers captain and his teammates.
He has understandably had his ups and downs, but Trouba has been much better of late and he deserves the necessary praise. When the Trouba train decides to hit you off the tracks, you better move or face the consequences.