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No declaration from the Rangers regarding their intentions whether to fill the role of captain that has been vacant since Ryan McDonagh was sent away at the 2018 trade deadline.
“We’re going to continue to evaluate that situation,” David Quinn said on Sunday while the Blueshirts completed their pre-camp physicals. “It’s something that’s been talked an awful lot about since I’ve been here over the last three years and it’s obviously a topic that people want to talk about.
“It’s an organizational decision and it’s something we take very seriously here. There are candidates we feel we have here on the team but right now we’re just going to continue to sit where we’re at and at the right time name a captain.”
Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider are the leading candidates for the post. The two forwards and Jacob Trouba are the three returning alternates in the wake of Marc Staal’s trade to Detroit and Jesper Fast’s free-agent signing with Carolina.
Combined with Henrik Lundqvist’s departure from the organization, the Blueshirts are short 34 combined seasons of institutional memory. There’s a gap to be filled.
“I think sometimes when you have people who have been here for a long time like Hank, Staalsy and Jesper Fast, I mean, those guys were so instrumental in a lot of great success here within our organization and had such great presence in the locker room, but sometimes when they move on, it gives people an opportunity to step forward and really grab hold of that leadership role,” the coach said. “Sometimes people are a little more reluctant to maybe take on a leadership role because you have those types of personalities here.“I think it’s going to fall upon some of the guys who are in their mid-20s, the veterans we have here to take advantage of the opportunity to grab a leadership role and maybe have more leadership throughout the roster because of it.”
The players will operate both during camp and through the season under strict COVID-related protocols. This will present more of a challenge and take more discipline than did adapting to the bubble last summer.
“There’s certainly a lot of self-policing in this situation and we have all the resources here to put the players in a position to work under a safe environment,” said Quinn, who will be required to wear a mask while behind the bench. “[Medical trainer] Jim Ramsay has done an incredible job managing this situation. It’s been a very difficult nine, 10 months here for everybody, especially for people in pro sports who are trying to allow their teams to participate, stay healthy and be successful. It’s an incredible balancing act.”
“He’s done a phenomenal job, he and his staff, but the onus does fall on the players when they leave here. They’re only here for three hours, so for the next 21 hours they are on their own and they’ve got to make good, rational decisions and understand that every decision they make needs to [put them] in the best position to remain COVID-free and to be able to start and finish the season.
“So there is certainly a lot of self-responsibility in that situation.”
The Blueshirts have scheduled a pair of 7 p.m. scrimmages on Thursday and on Jan. 11 in an attempt to duplicate game conditions as closely as possible.