Trouba named the 28th captain in Rangers history, why they selected him, WJC gets going


In a little surprise, the Rangers announced Jacob Trouba as the new captain of the team at a short press conference yesterday at Madison Square Garden. They even aired it on MSG Network and streamed it for fans. A rarity.

Acquired by the club on June 17, 2019 from Winnipeg in exchange for Neal Pionk and a 2019 first round pick (Ville Heinola), the 28-year old Trouba is coming off his best season as a Blueshirt.

In 81 games played, the right defenseman set a new career high with 11 goals while posting 39 points (11-28-39) and a career best plus-25 rating. He also had a career high 88 penalty minutes.

If there is an area the big defenseman makes an impact, it’s with his physicality. A tough player who never passes up a chance to finish a check or block a shot, Trouba recorded 207 hits to lead the Rangers and his 177 blocked shots ranked second in the league.

That tenacious style led to some big hits including one on Sidney Crosby that helped swing the first round series. The Pens captain missed the rest of Game Five and didn’t play in Game Six. The Rangers rallied back to defeat the Penguins in seven games to complete a 3-1 series comeback.

Trouba continued to catch opponents with clean checks that went un-penalized. Another huge hit against the Hurricanes turned a crucial game around during the second round series won by the Rangers in seven games.

When he wasn’t delivering thumping hits, he was sacrificing his body to get in the path of shots. Something that exemplifies leadership. Of course, he wasn’t alone. You had defensive leaders Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox doing the same. That gritty style was instrumental in the Rangers’ run to the Eastern Conference Final.

Although he wasn’t as consistent his first two years on Broadway, it was the calming influence of Trouba that helped defense partner K’Andre Miller settle in. The younger blue liner made some strides in his second season. He improved and showed more of an edge like his older teammate.

For Trouba, he is the first Rangers’ captain since Ryan McDonagh. After he was traded to the Lightning in 2018, the club didn’t have any player wear the ‘C.’ Instead, they were patient in their search for a new captain.

Quite often, we saw the leadership role bestowed upon the trio of Chris Kreider, Trouba and Mika Zibanejad. Along with ex-Ranger Ryan Strome, Fox and Barclay Goodrow, it was those six who donned alternates in ’21-22.

Although Gerard Gallant went back on his promise to name a captain last season, he discovered that he had plenty of team leaders who could assume the role. When Trouba wasn’t front and center answering questions following games, it was Kreider and Zibanejad who were accountable.

In what was a special season for him where he tied Adam Graves with 52 goals for the second most by a Ranger in a single season while besting single season goal scoring leader Jaromir Jagr with 26 power play goals which led the NHL, Kreider seemed to be the top candidate for the next captain.

Having been the longest tenured Ranger dating back to a memorable debut during the 2012 Playoffs, he certainly was someone many fans including yours truly wanted to see as the new captain. However, there is nothing wrong with GM Chris Drury’s choice of Trouba as the 28th captain in Rangers franchise history.

To hear him eloquently speak to reporters at the press conference on Monday, it’s an honor that Trouba takes very seriously. With overwhelming support from both Kreider and Zibanejad along with Gallant and Fox, he will assume the mantle. No small task.

Vowing to remain the same player he’s been, Trouba understands the importance of such an honor. Throughout their long history, only 27 players have held the captaincy wearing the Blueshirt. Featuring such legendary names as Bill Cook, Art Coulter, Neil Colville, Harry Howell, Andy Bathgate, Vic Hadfield, Brad Park, Phil Esposito, Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Jagr, it’s definitely a great class to be mentioned with.

Former captain Ryan Callahan, who has moved on to a successful broadcasting career for ESPN, welcomed Trouba to the club yesterday. What else would you expect from the classy ex-Ranger who wore the Broadway Blueshirt with pride?

I’ll also give credit to Kevin Weekes. He was the first to break the story via his classic Breaking News segments he posts on Twitter. He sure has a unique way of providing fans with an entertaining approach to big stories. Although not always 100 percent accurate as Hasan noted in his most recent Devils piece, Weekes continues to make covering the sport more fun.

A day following the announcement which saw Trouba put on his new Rangers sweater with the ‘C’ draped on the front along with the number 8 we’re accustomed to seeing, his D partner had high praise for him.

There certainly is a lot of responsibility that comes with being captain. However, I like what Trouba said. He plans on being the same person. That’s exactly as it should be. He leads by example on the ice with a rugged style similar to former Devil Scott Stevens. I’m not comparing them. Just noting how hard Trouba plays the game.

I definitely didn’t see them revealing the new captain in the dog days of an unforgivable summer that feels like it’ll never end. Second week of August. But that’s exactly what they did. They wanted to get this out of the way.

A couple of thoughts on Trouba as the 28th captain. For a long time, we saw fans complain about the Rangers not having a captain. Predictably, the same losers whined about the selection of Trouba over Kreider and Zibanejad. Talk about hypocrisy. Give it a rest.

To Sean McCaffrey’s assertion in his well thought out post on bluecollarblueshirts.com about the team not revealing who the alternates are, we know who they’ll be. It’s not that big a deal now. There’s still over a month until training camp opens.

We already know the first two A’s will be Kreider and Zibanejad. The dynamic duo who were largely responsible for the Rangers’ first Final Four appearance in the playoffs since 2015. By not giving either the ‘C,’ they can just go out and perform. Maybe that was part of the thought process.

As far as who else could be an alternate, Barclay Goodrow and Fox are likely to. They did last year. The only player I’d love to see also get one is The Warrior, Ryan Lindgren. But you can only give out so many letters.

Artemi Panarin doesn’t need an ‘A.’ His job is to produce. Having a very limited grasp of the English language, the Russian star must put an up and down postseason behind him. While his overtime goal on the power play to beat the Pens will be fondly remembered, the Bread Man was streaky throughout and shied away from taking the body.

Now, he’ll play with new two-way pivot in former Hurricane Vincent Trocheck. I like the potential of it. It’ll be most intriguing to follow the battle for the right wing. Both Kaapo Kakko and Vitaly Kravtsov will be competing for a spot in the top six. If neither grab it, it wouldn’t surprise me if Gallant goes with Goodrow or the returning Sammy Blais to start.

As for potential newcomers, both Will Cuylle and Brennan Othmann will have the chance to impress Rangers brass. Currently, they’re representing Team Canada at the rescheduled U20 WJC in Edmonton. Along with recently signed goalie prospect Dylan Garand, they comprise three of seven prospects taking part in the tournament.

Brett Berard is playing on the third line for Providence College coach Nate Leaman representing Team USA. They won easily 5-1 over Germany in their first preliminary in Group B action. Devils prospect Luke Hughes had a goal and assist in the victory. He’s gonna be a good one.

Adam Sykora is the youngest player for Slovakia. The 2022 second round pick had a tough introduction to the World Juniors going minus-3 without a point in a 5-4 loss to Czechia yesterday.

Other NYR prospects taking part are Jaroslav Chmelar (Cze) and Kalle Vaisanen (Fin). Games can be seen on NHL Network. Currently, Canada is tied with Latvia 1-1 after a period in Group A play.

Highly touted Connor Bedard has his first goal of the new tournament. Don’t forget he scored four in a game last December before Covid canceled it. The future top pick in 2023 is a franchise player. He’s a must watch if you have any interest in hockey futures.

USA next plays on Thursday against Switzerland. That could be more of a test. But they should prevail. Look for scoring and dominant puck possession from the second line featuring Coyotes number one pick Logan Cooley (goal), Matthew Coronato (assist), and Matt Knies (TOR).

There could be some more hockey news soon involving the Islanders. They’re close to signing unrestricted free agent center Nazem Kadri. He has been patient hoping he could land a big payday. But he might have to settle for less. Nothing is official yet. Stay tuned.

Larry Brooks also recently hinted that Jimmy Vesey could be signing with the Blueshirts. Obviously, he never went on to have the success once thought. His best seasons came in the Big Apple. Then, he carved out a niche as a checking type forward who kills penalties effectively. Something he did for the Devils. Let’s wait and see.

While I still don’t get the Rangers not re-signing Tyler Motte, who remains available, it is what it is. They decided Julien Gauthier was more important along with team ornament Libor Hajek. Why I’ll never know. At least Ryan Carpenter should help replace Kevin Rooney, who signed with Calgary.

A final observation. It’s nice to see Patrice Bergeron returning for one more year with the Bruins. A five-time Selke winner who’s the greatest defensive forward in NHL history, he is a future Hall Of Famer who’s more than just statistics. All you have to do is watch him play the game.

Interesting how Bergeron took only $2.5 million and David Krejci returns after spending a year playing at home for a year at $1 million with performance bonuses. The more you see how business is done in Boston, they get it.

Players taking less to take one last kick at the can. If only more teams had players who do that. It would be better for fans of the sport.

Max Pacioretty out six months due to a Achilles surgery is a big hit for the Hurricanes. Shocking how this comes out less than a month after Vegas unloaded him. Odd indeed.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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