I am not going to draw a straight line between the absence of a captain and the Dust-Up in the Tunnel between Tony DeAngelo and Alex Georgiev following Saturday night’s overtime defeat to the Penguins that has rocked the franchise’s world and all but certainly signaled the end of No. 77’s Broadway run.
Mark Messier, Vic Hadfield, Barry Beck, Ron Greschner and Ryan Callahan could all have been wearing the sweater and the “C” on Saturday and they would not have been able to prevent the spontaneous combustion that occurred.
But I do believe that the Rangers, who seem to be dealing with all sorts of issues as they struggle to find equilibrium out of the gate and recover the positive 2019-20 vibes they apparently left behind in the Toronto bubble, do need a captain. I think they do need an identifiable leader among the leadership group.
And at this juncture, there is no better man for the job than Chris Kreider, who in his 10th year with the organization has emerged as the voice of the team.
Prior to the season, the hierarchy that includes president John Davidson, general manager Jeff Gorton, head coach David Quinn and assistant GM Chris Drury, concluded that the team would benefit from going with four alternates rather than one captain. That implied that the group did not believe that Kreider or presumptive leading candidate Mika Zibanejad were proper fits.
With that in mind, a couple of weeks ago I suggested that Jacob Trouba would be a logical candidate to fill the post starting with next season. That came in the wake of the defenseman having been lauded by Quinn for his work in the room following the opening night 5-0 debacle of a defeat to the Islanders.
That was just a little over two weeks ago, even if it seems like a decade has passed since then. Good Ship Ranger has been springing leaks one after another and is in danger of becoming the S.S. Minnow. Of course the coach is going to be ultimately held responsible for the vessel’s fate. But a strong and distinguishable first mate is going to be needed, too.
And that would be Kreider, who has had blue blood running through his veins since joining the Rangers at the start of the 2012 playoffs just a couple of days off the BC Chestnut Hill campus.
There may be management concerns — there certainly had been through No. 20’s formative years — that Kreider internalizes too much, worries too much and that the captaincy would become a burden for him.
But the growth in Kreider’s stature has been steady even if consistency on the ice remains elusive. Saturday, visibly upset (and now we know why there was reason to be, beyond the outcome) on the Zoom call with the media, Kreider called the team out for its woebegone performance in letting another third-period lead get away.
This wasn’t Kreider in his locker speaking softly to an individual journalist in order to get the message out. This was Kreider using his platform to tell his teammates that it just hasn’t been good enough. And knowing Kreider, it is all but certain that he sent that message directly before blasting it into cyberspace, where it will remain for all eternity or until the cloud is full.
It is one thing to have four alternates in Zibanejad, Kreider, Trouba and Artemi Panarin, but if there is one captain, then he becomes the singular individual responsible for setting the bar. He becomes the player responsible for confronting teammates if the effort is not good enough.
There have been all sorts of wild stories circulating through the internet the last two days regarding DeAngelo and his supposedly diseased relationship with K’Andre Miller. We have been told by numerous individuals that there is nothing to them and instead inventions to suit a narrative.
The Rangers are expected to vigorously refute these stories during a press briefing before Monday’s rematch at the Garden against the Penguins. Teams across pro sports generally tend to circle the wagons in instances such as these, but it would behoove Davidson and the hierarchy to provide as much transparency as possible here in order to counteract stories that have begun to gain currency.
(In addition, there are tales circulating that Kreider punched DeAngelo in the face after the initial imbroglio was broken up by Miller, as The Post reported Monday morning. That is simply not true, according to several individuals with knowledge of the situation.)
A young team with a still young-in-NHL experience coach is in the midst of a crisis of confidence. The goaltending has been shaky. The structure has been transient. Now this, prompting the enforced departure of one of last season’s most important assets.
The Rangers need a leader. They need a captain.
Calling Kid K.
Calling Chris Kreider.