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Regarding the Rangers, who will stand pat for Tuesday night’s Garden invitational against the Devils, and yes, that means Tony DeAngelo will sit out another one:
1. Allow me to be the first to toss Jacob Trouba’s helmet into the ring as a candidate to become the 28th captain in franchise history following the decision to go into the season with four alternates. (Haven’t checked the internet; maybe I’m the second or third with the nomination.)
Surely there were concrete reasons for the call not to anoint either Mika Zibanejad or Chris Kreider, the two obvious options, to the post. Though the rationale has been kept in-house, the judgement does not necessarily reflect poorly on either man or either man’s character. But if not now, then probably never. Those within the confines of the organization obviously understand the dynamic with far more insight than those on the outside.
By the way, I do not believe that management has a plan to keep the captaincy open until 19-year-old Alexis Lafreniere grows into it, either. I think this has been more of a time-and-place decision, not one to keep the position — a significant one by any measure — vacant for years on end.
Trouba will turn 27 in another six weeks. He is in eighth NHL season and second as a Ranger with six years to go (including this one) at an annual $8 million cap hit on a no-move contract that morphs into a no-move/modified no-trade for its final two seasons. In other words, he is perfectly positioned as far as age and experience and he will be here for quite a while.
But Trouba’s attributes exceed the calendar and contract. He’s finding the sweet spot here, familiar and confident with his surroundings and his place just as the Rangers are turning it over to the next generation. He is now partnered with Ryan Lindgren in an unmistakable first match-up pair that can and will eat major minutes.
What’s more, and perhaps what recommends him most pertinently, is the blue-collar mentality he carries game-in and game-out onto the ice. Even when No. 8 struggles, as he did plenty a year ago in his inaugural season on Broadway and even in the opener with K’Andre Miller as his partner, the effort is always apparent. If anything, he can be prone to fall victim to the “trying to do too much,” disease.
David Quinn made a point of singling out Trouba for his work in the room between the 4-0 bagel the Rangers suffered on opening night courtesy of the Islanders and the 5-0 bagel they stuffed down their rivals’ throats 48 hours later. The coach also cited Zibanejad, Kreider and fellow alternate captain Artemi Panarin for their work, but the sentiment was clear.
Trouba, who can seem like kind of a goofy guy who appears to allow everything to roll off his back, insisted that his words to his teammates hadn’t been anything special. Just one of those, “Hey, it’s only one game, let’s not overreact,” things.
“It was nothing crazy,” said No. 8. “A lot of guys stepped up.”
You would never expect Trouba to toot his own horn. The Post has confirmed, and is reporting with the player’s consent, that the defenseman contracted COVID-19 in early December. The effects of the virus prevented him from skating or maintaining his training program for three weeks leading into training camp. He has worked assiduously to catch up. Management, the coaching staff and his teammates have all kinds of time for him.
“One of things about him is that he always competes,” Quinn said. “I loved his intentions the other night. Like I said, one of the things we really benefited from with him was the way he handled the situation and stepped more into a leadership role after Thursday night.
“We’ve talked about that as an organization and as a group that we need that from a lot of guys, especially guys in that age bracket who have been in the league a while but are still young. Off and on the ice, he did everything we needed him to do and was instrumental in us making such a dramatic switch in our play from Thursday to Saturday.”
The season is young. There are miles to go. The captaincy may remain open for the remainder of the year. But when it is filled, Trouba could be the one.
2. So, OK, DeAngelo, who practiced with the big boys on Monday after his temporary assignment to the JV: When you win 5-0 and the defense plays nearly spotless hockey, there is little incentive to reinvent the wheel two days later. That is why No. 77 will sit out a second straight.
“The discipline piece is done and over with,” Quinn said. “It’s much more about sticking with what works. Five-nothing and play the way we did, we want to build off that.”
3. Keep this in mind, because Quinn and management will be obligated to as the season evolves: the Blueshirts need to get current taxi-squad resident Anthony Bitetto into 19 games this season so that the team meets the expansion draft requirement for exposure.
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