Last season, the New York Rangers were devoid of both strong character and strong leaders, between both the players and the coaches. As youth continues to take control of the organization, the team needs a skater that has been through it all.
Mats Zuccarello, the 30-year-old alternate captain of the New York Rangers, is one of the few veteran players remaining on the squad heading into the 2018-2019 season. The experienced winger has played his entire career with the Rangers, exhibiting nothing but character and determination throughout his tenure.
Zuccarello, who stands at just measly five-foot-seven inches tall, has proven that size and strength are not a determining factor in the makeup of a successful NHL player.
He has been the leading scorer for the Rangers for three consecutive seasons. His ability to see the ice, coupled with a great degree of offensive awareness, propels him into the conversation as one of the few elite playmaking wings in the NHL.
His personality can also be deemed a strong one. Zuccarello is often seen battling it out with players who are twice his size. He has not been afraid to challenge bigger players throughout his career. At points, the difference in size between Zuccarello and his adversary can even be deemed to be comical; his altercation with Victor Hedman is one of the examples that come to mind.
Mats Zuccarello going after Victor Hedman is my new favourite thing pic.twitter.com/Q05VCe1xJh
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 3, 2017
Grouped with an ability to score at a high level, create offense, and throw his body around, Zuccarello is an ideal candidate for the position of ‘captain’ for the Rangers this coming season.
His ability to play with an edge and to lead by example could be good for a Rangers team that has lacked character for a couple of years now. The team could use an influx of the heart and determination that Zuccarello plays with game by game. Additionally, he serves as an excellent example for younger players to follow.
Zuccarello’s credentials for the captaincy cannot be questioned. He is a successful NHL player who personifies the attributes of determination, grit, and class. He has also held a leadership role as an alternate captain on the team for a full season.
But, for me, Zuccarello has been a Ranger throughout their ups and downs. He played an integral role on the Rangers teams that played in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, and the Eastern Conference Final in 2015. He has also been on teams that have exited in both the first and second rounds of the playoffs. Additionally, he understands the feeling of failure and ineptitude, like most current Rangers do.
In other words, Zuccarello has been on a Rangers team that has made it to every level in the NHL Playoffs. His experience in this league will aid him tremendously in guiding the plethora of youth that is flowing into the organization.
Looking at former captain Ryan McDonagh, my main criticism has been that he did not lead with enthusiasm. He did not seem to be a vocal leader either. Instead, he seemed to simply be the player that rose through the ranks in the organization and was given the captaincy because he was the best player on the team (aside from Henrik Lundqvist.) Zuccarello, on the other hand, is one of the more vocal players the team has to offer.
His weak leadership abilities became abundantly clear to me throughout the season, particularly when Lundqvist was the player that had to skate up and down the bench to rally his team, not the alleged “captain.”
— Solo (@adamjayyy27) January 13, 2018
The necessary fire that a captain needs to lead seems to be very present in Zuccarello. He fits all of the requirements to be a captain in the NHL.
Give him the role!