Chris Kreider emerging as Rangers’ true captain in tough seasonFebruary 10, 2021
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Chris Kreider may share the alternate captain title with three of his Rangers teammates, but as the team’s longest tenured player, the 29-year-old has acted more like a true captain this season than the rest.
Through the first 11 games of the season, he has become the go-to player to speak on behalf of the team following losses. He’s the guy who gives fist bumps and words of encouragement on the way to the locker room between periods. And he has been a lighthearted presence in the locker room with his playful personality.
Maybe it’s because he recognizes he’s the fourth-oldest player on the team, or because he’s in his 10th season with the organization, but Kreider has assumed the responsibilities of captain on this young Rangers club – and he’s done so with his own unique approach and flare.
“Chris has always been a leader in a lot of ways,” head coach David Quinn said Wednesday ahead of the Rangers’ first game against the Bruins. “I just think that this year in particular because of the roster makeup and the opportunity for guys to step up to a different level in the leadership category, I think he’s done it and I think he’s embraced it.
“He’s been around here a long time and obviously he’s a part of our future. I think he realizes the impact you can make, not only on the ice but off the ice, and he certainly has embraced it.”
Last year, with his contract set to expire at the end of the 2019-20 season, the Rangers realized the leadership qualities they would be letting go if they didn’t extend Kreider. And so the organization locked him up to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal that will keep him on the team through the 2026-27 season when he is 36 years old.
With one of the youngest teams in the league – they have an average age of 25 – the Rangers likely knew it would be imperative to retain as much experience as possible. Kreider, the Blueshirts’ 19th-overall selection in 2009 out of Boston College, has the third-highest NHL experience on the team, behind only Mika Zibanejad and Jack Johnson.
Kreider, who has four goals so far this season, knows when it’s time to be serious and when it’s time to have fun. Following the Rangers’ 4-2 win against the Capitals last week, Kreider was seen rattling the table up and down during Ryan Strome’s media availability, making him laugh and further enjoy the victory.
But after Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Islanders, the Rangers’ second shutout defeat against their New York rivals, Kreider was stoic and level-headed. When he was asked if he believed Zibanejad, who is currently in a notable slump, was playing at 100 percent, Kreider came to his teammate’s defense while also offering a sensible big-picture answer.
“Regardless if a guy is playing it 100 percent or not, we’re NHL players, we’re professionals, most guys are dealing with bumps and bruises, some guys are playing through worse injuries or sicknesses,” he said. “But I’m not going to speak to that, that’s something that stays in the room obviously. But he’s played 100 percent, he’s doing an unbelievable job defensively. He’s got the tough matchup every single night, he’s getting defensive zone draws and in my mind, he’s eating up the top players in the league.
“He’s not exactly getting, you know the O-zone starts that he would necessarily get because he’s drawing those hard matchups. So I think he’s been doing a bang up job. And he’s doing everything he can to help our team win.”
Kreider has proven that he doesn’t need to don a “C” on his sweater to be a captain. He has been just that and more without it.
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