The New York Rangers have had some great leaders through the years, but what kind of leader is Ryan McDonagh and is he getting the job done?

New York Rangers: (22-14-5 (49 points), 2nd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
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By Chris Wengert

When it was first announced that defenseman Ryan McDonagh would become the 27th captain in New York Rangers’ history, the decision made sense.

McDonagh represented his play on the ice with a hard-nosed style of hockey that suits a captain.

He could also contribute on the offensive side of play, which is invaluable to any hockey club.


McDonagh scores the occasional clutch goal, like this Game 5 overtime winner against the Washington Capitals last year:

McDonagh usually says all the right things during interviews, represents the team well off the ice, and treats fans incredibly well.

But lately his team hasn’t been performing consistently, the defense of which has been the biggest culprit.

Anyone can wave pom-poms when their team is winning, but a leader’s reputation is built or destroyed when their team is facing adversity.

Comparing anyone to Mark Messier is almost not fair because he fits into that “once in a generation” category.

But you can’t argue with results.

When Messier’s team was on the brink of elimination in 1994 against the New Jersey Devils, the captain scored a hat trick to keep his team alive.

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Saturday’s game against the first place Capitals could have been a turning point for Ryan McDonagh’s Rangers.

Instead what fans saw was more blown coverage and missed opportunities.

It wasn’t all bad though. The come back that the team made after being down 2-0 was a deviation from the let down performances of December.

Jayson Megna continues to impress with his finesse, Kevin Hayes came out of the woodwork, and Henrik Lundqvist is slowly finding his way back to royalty.

But perhaps the biggest concern to come out of Saturday’s loss was McDonagh’s performance.

If leading by example is Mark Messier, then Ryan McDonagh’s Saturday performance was Wade Redden.

McDonagh had two missed opportunities that could have closed out the game.

The first opportunity came in the form of a missed tap-in after Rick Nash fed McDonagh with a great pass.

That slam dunk should have made the game 4-2, but instead the puck sailed harmlessly through Braden Holtby‘s pads and into the corner.

The second missed opportunity was much more devastating:

Valeri Zelepukin anybody?

While this game was obviously not the Eastern Conference Finals, it certainly felt like it at times.

The Rangers were so close to beating a Capitals team that spanked them to a tune of 7-3 last time the two teams met.

Instead Ryan McDonagh left Nicklas Backstrom wide open in front of Henrik Lundqvist, allowing the tying goal with five seconds left on the clock.

Backstrom should have been knocked to his backside on that final play.

Where was the Rangers’ hard-nosed leader that should have been leading by example?

Standing by himself near the far circle of course.

This leadership is a microcosm of  what the Rangers’ play has been lately:

Close, but no cigar.

Leaders must hold two qualities. They must lead by example and know when to speak up in the locker room.

Sometimes leaders rely solely upon the first quality.

Jaromir Jagr was a decent Ranger captain because he led by example game in and game out.

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A similar argument can be made for Brian Leetch who led with his lock-down performances on the ice.

Ryan McDonagh has yet to show fans this type of leadership.

In fact, an argument can be made that McDonagh has not been the same elite player that he once was since that C was stitched onto his jersey.

The bottom line is that Ryan McDonagh needs to be a lot better if this team wants to be successful this season, because right now he isn’t leading by example.

Not even close.

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