Although the New York Rangers have not had a captain since the departure of Ryan McDonagh in 2018, clear leaders have emerged. Especially now, after veterans Marc Staal, Jesper Fast, and longtime franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist have departed, an established leader seems needed on the young team. While they opted not to name a captain going into 2021, one particular player has proved to be the correct option for the role. As the season has progressed, Chris Kreider has become more and more deserving of the “C” on his jersey to be the 28th captain in New York Rangers’ franchise history.
Chris Kreider Should Be The New York Rangers’ Captain
Tenure In New York
Drafted in 2009, Chris Kreider is the longest-tenured player on the Rangers roster and one of the only homegrown talents. He played his first NHL game in the 2012 playoffs and has been a mainstay on the team since 2013. Since then, he has been a key top-six contributor for nearly 9 seasons.
Not only has he been on the team for a long time, but he is locked in to stay on the team for a long time. Last season at the trade deadline, the Rangers signed Kreider to a 7-year extension worth $6.5 million annually. This contract extends until 2027, meaning Kreider is contractually bound with the team for the longest duration of time.
When it comes to deciding who will be captain, tenure is often a major component that goes into it. For example, on the Minnesota Wild, Jared Spurgeon was recently named captain after the departure of Mikko Koivu. He has been on the team since 2010 and is signed through 2027. Similarly, Nico Hischier of the New Jersey Devils is a franchise cornerstone and has been named captain. While he was only drafted a few years back, the value of being a first overall pick is very high. He is signed through 2027, which exemplifies the significance of longevity when it comes to captaincy. Therefore, Kreider’s long history and future with the team build a strong foundation for the case to make him captain.
Clutch And Timely Performances
It is no secret that Chris Kreider is an excellent and effective winger. He has speed, skill, and size, and knows how to utilize his tools to his advantage. His rates of point production have increased over the past few years. They have generally been in the high 40s and low-to-mid 50s throughout his career. Besides a peculiar season here and there, he has also been a steady force defensively. He plays a physical game and is an excellent net-front presence at both even strength and on the powerplay. His ability to deflect pucks and cash in on rebounds in front of the net is near the top of the league. He skates very well and drives the net hard to create one-on-one situations. He powers through the opposing defenseman and uses his agility to transfer from forehand to backhand and score.
All that is certainly impressive, but alone, it is not enough to make him the choice for captain. The special aspect of Kreider’s game is that even though the production can simmer down occasionally, he is a clutch player that comes up big when necessary.
In The Playoffs
Going back to the 2015 playoffs where the Rangers faced the Washington Capitals in the second round, Chris Kreider played the hero in game 5. The Rangers were down three-to-one in the series and were losing 1-0 with time winding down on the clock. At the brink of elimination, Kreider scored the game-tying goal, which became the turning point in the series.
In that game, the Rangers went on to win in overtime off a goal from then-captain Ryan McDonagh (who demonstrated how a captain needs to show up when his team needs him most).
The very next game, the Rangers were in Washington. Kreider scored two goals in the first period, leading the Rangers to a victory. Earlier in the same series, he had scored an overtime winner 38 seconds in, to win game 2 for the Rangers. Clearly, as he showed in that series and many others, Kreider came up clutch time and time again. He played well when the team needed him most.
In The Regular Season
As recently as just a few days ago versus the Philadelphia Flyers, Kreider has always been clutch when needed to in the regular season. With many core forwards underperforming and others out of the lineup, more responsibility fell on players such as Kreider. In that game, he scored all of the Rangers’ goals (notching a hattrick) and helped keep the game close in a 4-3 defeat.
Earlier in the season, in a match against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kreider scored the game-winning goal with less than nine minutes left. The Rangers went on to win the game 3-1. Going back to last season, Kreider scored 5 game-winners, including several memorable ones. In particular, on January 16th, 2o20 versus the New York Islanders, the game was tied with less than 30 seconds to go. The Rangers were on the powerplay, and Chris Kreider was standing at the top of the crease, in his usual spot. Mika Zibanejad took a one-timer which was saved, and Kreider cashed in on the rebound. The goal can be seen at 7:51 of the video below.
As he portrays consistently, Chris Kreider is indeed a clutch player that can be counted on when needed. That furthers his promising case for the captaincy.
Visible Leadership Qualities
Chris Kreider is not only a great player on the ice. He fulfills the most important role of a captain: leadership. At the end of every period when the players walk off the locker room, one individual can be seen waiting behind. Chris Kreider stays back to give fist bumps and words of encouragement to all his teammates. He does the same for each of them, regardless of the quality of their play. In postgame interviews, he can be seen as the voice of the team, giving thoughtful and honest responses. As a good captain should, he takes accountability when he needs to and does not throw anyone under the bus. Instead, he speaks in a uniting manner and acknowledges the team as a whole rather than specific struggling portions.
Praise From Teammates And Coaches
Moreover, he has been a great guide to the younger players on the team. For example, Brett Howden spoke about Kreider’s leadership in an interview with NHL.com. He said, “As a young player, he is there for us… Chris just tries to help you out in every single way.” Going on, Howden said, “Everyone knows how [Kreider] is about his body and how he gets ready for the season, how he prepares. And everyone knows how explosive and strong he is, and everything like that. I thought it would be a great learning experience for me and a good time for me to come back [and] do the stuff he does.” In response to Howden’s kind words, Kreider handed the credit back to him, praising Howden’s work ethic.
What’s more, even head coach David Quinn praised Chris Kreider’s leadership. In an interview recorded by the NY Post, Quinn said, “Chris has always been a leader in a lot of ways … I just think that this year in particular because of the roster makeup and the opportunity for guys to step up to a different level in the leadership category, I think he’s done it and I think he’s embraced it.”
Chris Kreider is a role model who guides younger players on the team. He is revered by all of his teammates. He performs very well on the ice and maintains modesty, making him the perfect fit for the role of captain.