New York Rangers: The Ideal Group of Captains Going Forward

The New York Rangers currently have a captain and four alternate captains. They are looked up to in the locker room as leaders, and the position is taken very seriously. So that leaves the question, who deserves to wear the “C” or one of the four “A”s on their jersey?

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The New York Rangers are a storied franchise with an incredible history. Being the captain or alternate captain puts you in a storied group of Rangers players.

Being a captain on any team holds a great deal of responsibility. Other than being the team’s representative when speaking with the referees, the captain is the man of the house in the locker room. It’s his job to enforce the rules of the organization and management. Alternate captains are in charge of taking over the captain’s role when he is not on the ice.

Ryan McDonagh is and has been the captain of the New York Rangers since the start of the 2014-2015 season. The Rangers have a lot of alternate captains in comparison to other teams around the league. This past summer, they added Rick Nash as the fourth alternate captain for this season. The other three are Marc Staal, Derek Stepan, and Dan Girardi.

The question is, are there any better choices in house for these roles?

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Ryan McDonagh has done an excellent job as captain of the New York Rangers. There hasn’t been a single complaint from anyone within the organization about the job he has done.

McDonagh’s dedication to the game and this franchise makes him an easy choice for this role. His drive to win is very visible every single night. A key moment in his captaincy that showed that came in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The New York Rangers were down to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers were defending President’s Trophy winners, so the pressure to follow through in the playoffs was on. They lost the series in seven games, but their effort did not go unnoticed.

After the series, it was revealed McDonagh had been playing on a broken foot. Could you imagine the pain involved in that? Nevertheless, McDonagh wouldn’t miss that game. He endured hell for the team to try and help win.

There isn’t much doubt that McDonagh would do it again. His passion for the New York Rangers is very present, making him a clear-cut favorite to be the captain.

Alternate Captain #1

Apr 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) moves the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) moves the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Stepan has been an alternate captain with the New York Rangers since the start of the 2014-2015 season.

Stepan is the center of the Rangers top line this season. He is seeing plenty of minutes. At times, he really looks like he is the head of the forward group for the team.

There was a moment earlier this season where Stepan really showed up as a leader. On December 27th, the Rangers were hosting the Ottawa Senators. The Senators came out flying and scored two goals within a minute of each other early in the first period.

Stepan then unleashed a verbal explosion of the bench in an attempt to fire up the team. Stepan would later score twice in the second period to tie the game at three. The Rangers would go on to win in overtime. After the game, several Rangers said they had noticed Stepan’s energy both on the ice and on the bench. It helped push the Rangers to victory.

Stepan would make an excellent choice for captain if McDonagh wasn’t such a great fit. He has what it takes both on and off the ice. The Rangers are lucky to have two guys like that.

Alternate Captain #2

Jan 14, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello (36) skates with the puck during the second period of the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 14, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello (36) skates with the puck during the second period of the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Mats Zuccarello would be a great fit for alternate captain. He is well liked among the players in the locker room and he is known to provide a great offensive spark when needed on the ice.

This week, the NHL named a player on each team to be the LGBTQ Ambassador for their respective teams. The idea of the project is to create a system of support for LGBTQ inclusion in the sport of hockey, especially in the NHL. LGBTQ inclusion is such a vital issue in today’s sporting world. It’s great to see the NHL make a move to get involved.

The fact that Zuccarello was tagged for the Rangers shows that he is a tremendous leader. His approachability makes him a great selection for the job.

Zuccarello would also be a great alternate captain in comparison to Stepan and McDonagh. Being a European, it would provide some variety in the leadership. He could be a great figure to help European players adjust to life as a New York Ranger.

His consistency on the ice only makes him a better choice for alternate captain. If the Rangers are looking for a new man for the position, you should expect Zuccarello to get a lot of consideration.

Alternate Captains #3-4

Dec 3, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) in action during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 3, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) in action during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It would be in the best interest of the Rangers to cut down two of the alternate captain positions going forward. Having more guys with the “A” on their jersey diminishes the value of the responsibility and what it holds. The Rangers have taken it too far in the past couple of years by adding alternate captains.

If these suggestions were to hold, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Rick Nash would have different looking jerseys next year.

You Need to Earn Your Stripes

Apr 21, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) has the puck knocked away by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy (12) during the second period in game four of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 21, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) has the puck knocked away by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy (12) during the second period in game four of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Staal has been an alternate captain for a few years, but its time for a changing of the guard. Staal hasn’t been as reliable as he used to be. He has been seen as a liability on defense and he is often subject to questioning about how age has affected him. He has been with the team for a long time, so it is defensible, but I think it is time for the Rangers to move on.

Dan Girardi is in a similar situation. His contract is the biggest thing weighing the Rangers down right now. Girardi hit a steep slope in regards to declining performance. His mistakes are getting harder to watch, and they don’t look any better with an “A” on the front of his jersey. Girardi’s tenure with the team makes him hard to move from this position. However, it has been done before and can be done again.

Rick Nash is one of the newer alternate captains with the team, and he simply doesn’t meet the requirements. Nash has an aura of disappointment with the team. He never met his expectations of consistent, high-scoring play, and that has hurt his image. His inability to perform in the playoffs only makes it worse. You need to practice what you preach as an alternate captain, and Nash hasn’t done that.

Leadership is a very important aspect of having a winning team. The Rangers have great leaders at the top, but reform might make their leadership core even more impressive going forward.

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