It’s not about simply appointing a captain. It’s about appointing the right captain.
Mark Messier, who knows more on the subject than anyone who has ever worn the blue shirt, believes Rangers made the right choice in appointing Jacob Trouba as the 28th captain in franchise history.
“Leadership, in most cases, is never appointed but earned,” No. 11 told the Post via text message, after sending a congratulatory text to Trouba earlier in the day. “As Abe Lincoln said, you have to earn the right to lead someone.”
I thought that was a quote from Emile Francis, but the point is well made. And there’s a consensus across the organization, from President/General Manager Chris Drury to head coach Gerard Gallant to his teammates in the room, that the 28-year-old defender truly deserves this appointment.
Because although the Blueshirts were quite famous for their six-alternative approach last season — their fourth series without a captain following Ryan McDonagh’s 2018 deadline trade to Tampa Bay — it seems like Trouba was an equal of equals.
At the practice track press conference, Drury and Gallant both said Trouba essentially served as the de facto captain for the last year, if not more. Chris Kreider sent a message on social media: “If you ask the guys in that dressing room 100 percent will tell you he’s been our captain for the last few years without actually wearing the ‘C’.”
Jacob Trouba (center) with Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury (right) and head coach Gerard Gallant after Trouba was named the 28th captain in team history. Karl Wenzelberg
Trouba is a nine-year veteran beginning his fourth year on Broadway after spending six years in Winnipeg after being selected by the Jets for the ninth time in 2012. He’s a hard-edged advertisement for the way Gallant expects its teams to compete. He may not always be in his game, but he always puts everything on hold.
Always stands behind his teammates.
And he always seems to be himself. Always seems genuine and comfortable in his own skin. These are probably the two most important intertwined qualities a leader can possess. You can’t have a cheater in this position. You can’t give the post to a player who might be worn down by the weight of the sewn “C” just above his heart.
You don’t want a player changing as captain any more than you want the captaincy changing a player. McDonagh has denied that the captaincy weighed on him in the nearly four years he served in that role, replacing Ryan Callahan, but that’s a lonely opinion.
And McDonagh is just the latest example. Brian Leetch didn’t seem particularly comfortable captaining in the three seasons between Messier’s two terms. Jaromir Jagr never really desired the captaincy.
Rangers don’t want to be in that position again. This, and the club’s metamorphosis through rebuilding coinciding with McDonagh’s exit, contributed to management’s decision to pursue an alternative approach where leadership was a shared exercise.
Jacob Trouba was named the 28th captain in team history on Tuesday. Charles Wenzelberg
“That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit,” Trouba said when asked if this additional responsibility might change him. “The two times I can look back in my career, my sophomore year, I thought I was going to be a different player and I struggled that year.
“Then come here [in 2019] with the [$56 million] After being traded and all that, I tried to be someone I wasn’t I guess and struggled that year. So when I’m at my best, I’m myself.
“I will not change who I am. The reason this all happened is because I was myself and true to myself,” No. 8 said. “I intend to be the same person.”
The defenseman said he first dreamed of becoming an NHL captain when he was a youth growing up in Michigan, even noting his ambition in a journal he kept. It’s clear this isn’t an ego thing for Trouba, whose physicality and open ice threat became one of the signatures of the Eastern Conference finalists. It’s an enhanced opportunity to contribute to another run at the Stanley Cup that has eluded Rangers for 29 years.
From what Messier has observed, Trouba is ready for it.
“I think he’s old enough and experienced enough not to let it happen [the captaincy to change him]’ Messier wrote. “You see that in players who aren’t ready for this position and who don’t know themselves yet, let alone the people who are supposed to lead them.
“From the outside it looks like he’s earned that honor on and off the ice. He just has to be himself, be authentic and consistent.
“Seems like a good choice.”