The New York Rangers have gone the entire season with alternate captains. Now is the time to name one and his name is Mika Zibanejad.
The New York Rangers have gone without a captain for long enough. The team needs to name a player who can lead the young players and not be concerned about speaking to a veteran on the team.
That player should be Mika Zibanejad.
When the Rangers traded Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning last February, they also traded the team’s captain. When this season began, the team was in the process of rebuilding, brought in a new head coach in David Quinn and decided to go with alternate captains as the team searched for its identity.
The team named Marc Staal, Jesper Fast, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello as the alternate captains when training camp concluded this season. Now, with the trade of Zucc, the team should reevaluate the captain situation.
The Blueshirts need a player who leads on the ice with his play, has the ability to talk to his teammates without the feeling of intimidation and yet possess the ability to handle the team in the locker room and on the bench during games.
He has to be able to address the media and convey the system the head coach is implementing throughout the season. He also needs to be a player who has the intention of wearing the Rangers sweater for a long time.
Mika Zibanejad fits that role right now. The center is tied in goals scored with Chris Kreider (26) and is the team’s point leader with 62 while playing in 62 games this season. The right-handed center has nine goals on the power play along with his 20 powerplay points. Mika leads the team in faceoff percentage, winning 49.24 percent of the draws he takes.
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He is the number one center on the team, taking the crucial draws in both ends of the ice. He is on the team’s top power-play unit, kills penalties and has become the leader of this young club.
The 25-year-old is in his third full season with New York following his five seasons as a member of the Ottawa Senators. He has scored 20 or more goals in four of his seven full-time seasons in the NHL.
Leading by example
Zibanejad has grown into the leader the team needs right now—a player who can work with the like of Brett Howden, Boo Nieves, Lias Andersson, and Filip Chytil. The young players and learn by just watching what Zibanejad does on a daily basis.
He has become the person that all of the players can rely on and respect yet is not here to make a player feel good, rather teach players how to bleed professionalism on an original six team in one of the toughest markets in the National Hockey League.
He doesn’t hold back when he has something to say as was the case in a recent Rangers game. Zibanejad was clearly dissatisfied with a play involving Chytil. The age of the player didn’t matter to Mika. He made sure the young rookie knew he did something wrong as he showed his frustration on the ice. The conversation continued when the two went back to the bench.
Here’s Zibanejad being animated with Chytil on Sunday. This continued on the bench, Chytil looked frustrated. Don’t know if it’s related to the effort issues Quinn cited, but it’s certainly possible. #NYR pic.twitter.com/96Q49rymlo
— The Garden Faithful (@GardenFaithful) February 26, 2019
This was more than a teaching moment; it was a captain telling a player what he expects out of him if he intends to stay in the lineup even before the head coach could address the situation.
Zibanejad is assuming the role even without the C on his chest. That’s what a good leader does—leads, regardless of status.
The Rangers are sitting in a tricky spot within the rebuilding process and need a captain help get them to proceed from rebuilding to winning—a player who while teaching by example how to win can also teach how to be a productive player that helps the team get back to its traditions of an original six hockey team.
David Quinn and the organization must name Mika Zibanejad the next New York Rangers Captain. This needs to be done now, as the team continues to battle for wins in what will be a second consecutive season missing the playoffs.
A leader is needed to bring this team together after going through another tumultuous trading deadline as fans favorites were once again traded.
Mika Zibanejad has earned the right to wear the prestigious C on his sweater.