Henrik Lundqvist at the 2018 Winter Classic
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Few have earned the right to empathy like Henrik Lundqvist has. His evident frustration should not be a target for criticism by fans. The criticism by fans should be directed towards every other facet of the struggling machine, not its only working part.

In my life, I have grown up with a few sports heroes. Of the heroes I have, the most generic, is Derek Jeter.

My generation’s Mickey Mantle, Jeter was the idol of kids across New York and even the United States. He personified class, leadership, coolness and performance.

Only one athlete exceeds his greatness, to me. That individual is none other than the King of New York, Henrik Lundqvist.

With hockey as my favorite sport, my choice was influenced a bit. But for me. There are a couple reasons why Lundqvist supersedes Jeter as an individual’s true sports hero.

Lundqvist has led the Rangers to the playoffs in all but one season in his 12-year career. Additionally, I have watched him carry inept team after inept team on his back through rounds of the playoffs, often watching him fall short of the elusive championship he desires so heavily.

I have watched him stand on his head in the postseason, making mind-boggling saves minute by minute, only to fall short due to punchless offenses or incompetent defenses.

Outside of his sole “senior moment” against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2016 NHL Playoffs, Lundqvist has been nothing than stellar in the postseason over the last decade for New York. It has been his team that has let him down time and time again.

Jeter, throughout all of his greatness, was never burdened with a mediocre team in the prime years of his career. His patience was never pushed to a boiling point, like Lundqvist.

Jeter, in his career, prospered with his team. Lundqvist, in his career, has endured his team.

This is not a bias-induced tirade that I am trying to embark upon. This is the sad truth of the Henrik Lundqvist situation in New York.

At almost 36-years-old, he is having a season worthy of a nomination for a Vezina Trophy Finalist. He is among the league leaders in Save Percentage and GSAA. This is all being miraculously done with one of the worst defenses in the NHL.

And, at almost 36-years old, he is being peppered with shots game by game, experiencing defensive breakdowns throughout every game, and is carrying a mediocre team, once again, on his aging back.

To add to the fun for Lundqvist, he is being criticized by Ranger fans for showing emotion, particularly frustration, for his team’s incessant struggles.

This, to me, is an absolute disgrace. Rangers fans should be grateful for Lundqvist’s past and current contributions, not admonishing him for his warranted frustration. I would be upset if my offense couldn’t score any goals … again. I would also be upset if I had a terrible coach who consistently made bad decisions regarding both offensive and defensive player deployment.

I would be frustrated over years of futility characterized by bad offenses and stay at home defenses, requiring me to stand on my head practically every single game to ensure victory.

Yet, Rangers fans refuse to show empathy. Instead of endeavoring to understand the reasons behind Lundqvist’s frustrations, they just point fingers at their infuriated goaltender.

I do feel bad for Henrik Lundqvist as a competitor. If you have watched his entire career, you should too.

At 36, he is still elite. Where is his help?

Lundqvist is not in a position to win with this Rangers team. He will not win by the time his contract is up. While I hope I am completely wrong, I know I am right.

We can only hope he is traded to a contender where he has a real chance to win. That real chance is not in New York. It’s elsewhere.

He deserves better. He has earned better. Why is this so hard for Ranger fans to understand?