In the latest episode of our podcast, which you can find here (go check it out!), we talked about who should be the next captain of the Rangers. There are only two realistic options, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, and I’ll talk about them both and summarize our thoughts from the podcast.
Kreider, who is now the longest serving member of the Blueshirts, has been an important player for many years and he’s basically been everything the Rangers hoped for when they drafted him with the 19th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. Of the two candidates, Kreider is the more quiet, but that does not mean he lacks a presence in the locker room. Since he’s been on the Rangers for such a long time and with the current roster being so young it would make sense for players like Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere to look up to him and ask for advice. On the podcast, I said Kreider is almost like a remnant of the Alain Vigneault-led squads (and John Tortorella, too) and that he was made for this roster rather than the 2012-2017 teams. In my opinion, Kreider would be a great leader because of how he plays the game of hockey; he skates hard and hustles after every loose puck, goes hard on the forecheck, body checks, he’s passionate, and he is someone you can depend on when you need a big goal.
The other candidate, Zibanejad, has improved every year since he was traded to New York back in 2016. The Swede had his best season this past year, with an absurd 41 goals in 57 games (godly for a center). Like Kreider, Mika is in discussion to fill the captaincy hole because of how he plays the game. The fact that he has won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award is a great indicator of who he is as a player because only the best Rangers win that award and that includes Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist, and Mats Zuccarello. We also talked on the podcast about how Zibanejad is extremely vocal in the locker room and will often point out in interviews when his team needs to be better. In fact, he did this multiple times down the stretch before the season was shut down. I talked about this in another article a while ago, but Zibanejad is a better player to build around because he is a center and the best teams of the 2010s, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins, won multiple Stanley Cups and their teams were built around Toews and Crosby.
Nothing against Kreider, but we think Zibanejad should be named the next captain of the Rangers. Not only does he lead by example, but his ability to be vocal is important, especially in New York where everyone will play the blame game and point fingers at the drop of a hat when something goes wrong. Zibanejad is the one most fit to lead this young Rangers squad into the future.