It is not just about the appointment of a captain. It’s all about appointing the right captain.
Mark Messier, who knows more about the subject than anyone who wears a blueshirt, believes Rangers made the right choice. Named Jacob Troba as the 28th captain in franchise history.
“Leadership, in most cases, is never appointed, but earned,” Number 11 told the Post by text after sending a congratulatory text to Troba earlier in the day. “As Abe Lincoln said, you have to earn the right to lead someone.”
I thought it was a quote from Emile Francis, but the point is well taken. And there is a general consensus across the organization, from chairman/general manager Chris Drury through head coach Gerard Gallant to his teammates in the room, that the 28-year-old defenseman has really earned this calling.
Although the Blueshirts were quite famous last season with their six-alternative approach – their fourth straight without a captain in the wake of Ryan McDonagh’s 2018 deadline trade at Tampa Bay – it seems as though Trouba was most equal among equals.
At the practice rink press briefing, both Drury and Gallant said Trouba was essentially serving as the de facto captain last year, if not longer. Chris Creder sent a message on social media: “If you ask the guys in that locker room, 100 percent will tell you he’s been our captain for the past few years without actually wearing a ‘C’.”
Trouba is a nine-year veteran, entering his fourth year on Broadway after spending six years in Winnipeg following his ninth-overall pick by the Jets in 2012. That’s a rude advertisement for the way Gallant expects its teams to compete. He may not always be on his game, but he always keeps it all on the ice.
Always have your teammates’ backs.
And he always seems to be himself. Always seem genuine and comfortable in their own skin. These are probably the two most important qualities a leader can have. You can’t be fake in that situation. You cannot rank a player who is worn out by the weight of the “C” stitched just above his heart.
You don’t want a player to change into a captain, as much as you want a captain to change a player. McDonagh has denied that captaincy weighed on him for nearly four years in that role as Ryan Callahan’s successor, but that’s a stand-alone opinion.
And McDonagh is the latest example. Brian Leach was not particularly comfortable as captain for the three seasons between Messier’s two stints. Jaromir Jagar never took the lure of captaincy.
Rangers don’t want to be in that position again. In addition, the club’s metamorphosis through a rebuilding coinciding with McDonagh’s exit contributed to the management’s decision, as well as, an alternative approach in which leadership was a communal exercise.
“It’s really something I’ve thought about a lot,” Trouba said on whether this additional responsibility could turn him around. “I can look back twice in my career, in my second year I thought I was going to be a different player, and I struggled that year.
“Coming here again [in 2019] with [$56 million] After having trade contracts and all that, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t, I guess, and struggled that year. So going into it, when I’m at my best, I’m on my own.
“I’m not going to change who I am. It all happened because I was myself and was true to myself,” No. 8 said. “I intend to be the same person.”
The defender said he first dreamed of becoming an NHL captain when he was growing up in Michigan, even noting his ambition in a magazine. It’s clear it’s not a matter of arrogance for Trouba, whose physicality and threat of open ice became one of the Eastern Conference finalists’ signings. This is a better opportunity to contribute to another run in the Stanley Cup that has kept Rangers from running for 29 years.
From what Messier has seen, Trouba makes up for it.
“I think he is old enough and experienced enough not to allow [the captaincy to change him]” Messier texted.
“From the outside, it looks like he’s earned this respect on and off the ice. He just needs to be himself, be authentic and consistent.
“Seems like a great option.”