Rangers President and GM Chris Drury said during the summer, “I think if we can keep moving this thing forward a big piece of that for me is getting a captain. For me it’s a priority, but at the end of the day it’s gotta be the right person.”
He added, “I’m not interested in giving it to somebody just to say we have a captain, but I think we have a lot of leaders in our room and leaders that have taken big steps in the last couple of years including the second half of last season. Looking forward to talking to Gerard further about it, we talked about it a little in the interview process and see how it shakes out this summer heading into training camp.”
When asked in the offseason about naming a captain, Gerard Gallant said “I’m a firm believer in 23-guys being real good leaders and that is what you need in your hockey club and when you pick a captain you gotta make sure it’s the right one, so we will talk about that, he knows the players better than I do and we will go in there and make a decision, but it will be a group decision and look forward to that, but the big thing for me is that we need 23-guys who are ready to take leadership roles.”
The Rangers have not had a captain since Ryan McDonagh was traded in 2018.
Former President John Davidson said prior to last season “If you feel that your club has collective leadership and hand out three “A”s and not worry about the “C.” If you make a mistake by giving the “C” to someone, it’s not a healthy situation. You’ve got to make sure and take your time. It’s not an emergency to fill that role, there have been lots of teams that have done well without having a Captain.”
Last year the Rangers had four alternate captains: Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin.
Zibanejad and Kreider have been alternate captains for the past three seasons.
In an interview with a Russian hockey podcast, Panarin said that he doesn’t want to be the captain and that he thinks they have “more deserving candidates.” (NHL.com)
Panarin said that being the captain is a lot more than just “putting a letter on the sweater” and that it involves a lot of work off the ice, between periods, motivating guys and “being the face of the franchise.” (NHL.com)
He added that because of the language barrier he is “afraid” that he wouldn’t be an “effective” captain and would only be able to lead with his play on the ice. (NHL.com)
Adam Rotter: Mika Zibanejad, to me, has long made the most sense to wear the “C,” but clearly the Rangers didn’t feel he was the right choice over the past three seasons. Maybe it was because there was always a question about his future, but if he does end up with a long-term contract then I think he could finally get the “C.” Maybe, like potentially with Chris Kreider, they feel the added responsibility would take something away from his game, but he’s been their number one center, most complete forward and someone that has carried the Rangers for long stretches. He’s deserved to be the Captain, but they haven’t been willing to stitch the “C” on his jersey.
Outside of Zibanejad, the most likely candidates are Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox. You figure that if it was going to be Chris Kreider it would have happened already, especially after he signed his long-term deal. I think Trouba might be the best fit for where the Rangers are and what they need know. He’s a veteran, his place on the team is established and he assumed a big leadership role on and off the ice last season. Fox is arguably their best player and makes sense as a potential long-term captain, but I think it would be a lot to put on his shoulders heading into his third-year. If he were to have another Norris caliber season this year and then sign an eight-year extension, sure, but I don’t think it’s the right time for him. Alexis Lafreniere could be another possibility down the line, but he isn’t a consideration now.
As for Panarin, as good, dynamic and important as he is, I don’t think anyone considered him as a potential captain. The language barrier is an obvious issue, maybe not as much with his teammates, but certainly as someone who would need to face the media after every game. Panarin’s greatest strength leading the Rangers will be on the ice, scoring goals, setting up key plays and coming through when needed. It’s nothing against Panarin, but when there is talk of finding the right guy and not just giving the “C” to your top scorer, this is what they are talking about. It just wouldn’t be the best fit and Panarin freely admits that.
If the Rangers feel they need to name a captain for this season and Zibanejad isn’t signed then I think it will be Trouba. I don’t know if Trouba should be the captain long-term, but if they need to fill that spot now, it should be him. If they are willing to wait another season or go with a rotation of sorts and not name a permanent captain, then I think you could see Fox being named captain next season, but if it has to be now and it won’t be Zibanejad, I think there is a good chance it’s Trouba.