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Fischler Report: Why the New York Rangers Need a Captain

The Rangers have all the ingredients for a Stanley Cup team, except one key piece. Stan Fischler looks at that, continues his chat with Doc Emrick, shares more thoughts on the NHL on TV and more.
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The Rangers have all the ingredients for a Stanley Cup team.

Except the most important one.

The well-balanced Blueshirts are lacking a true leader. They need a captain. Now!

Granted that some savvy Rangers-watchers -- the New York Post's Larry Brooks, or one – think otherwise. They figure a collection of quasi-captains – guys with "A" on their jersey, not "C" – is sufficient.

Not.

They won't win a Cup without a captain because nobody does anymore. Matter of fact, my Chief Figure Filbert, Al Greenberg, tells me that the last no-captain Cup-winner was the 1972 Bruins, led by Bobby Orr.

The Mave and Greener have this bit of advice to g.m. Chris Drury: Get a captain or forget about Stanley for the 28th straight year.

"Here's one reason why the Rangers need one," Greenberg notes, reaching back to ancient history from another century. "When they last did the trick, Mark Messier was captain and instrumental -- on and off the ice.

"Same for Denis Potvin and the Islanders four-straight run and Stevie Yzerman in Detroit. The last Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh, did one fine job. So, don't tell me there's no one worthy on the current roster to duplicate McDonagh's experience."

A captain need not be a grizzled veteran. Yzerman was just out of knickers when Wings g.m. Jim Devellano awarded him the captaincy.

"Age was not the issue," Jimmy D explained. "Stevie was the best player on the team and we figured he could handle the leadership. And he sure did."

It's happening now. Connor McDavid and Gabe Landeskog were 19 when named captain of the Oilers and Avalanche, respectively. At age 21 Yzerman began his 20-year run leading the Wings at age 21.

The Rangers are conspicuous by the absence of a captain. Former coach David Quinn never considered it a priority but it should be.

Greenberg: "The captain must put the lid on internal squabbles or player-coach issues and make sure it stays in the room. The Rangers room in 1994 under coach Mike Keenan never would be described as a love-den.

"As for the current Blueshirts, it should be noted that many of the captain's functions are not designated to be done by committee. I cite private discussions with youngsters as an example."

The Maven would select Adam Fox for the captaincy for the same reason that Devellano picked Yzerman and Bill Torrey designated Denis Potvin.

"Chris Kreider would be a good candidate," says Greenberg, "as would be Jacob Trouba."

Coach Gerard Gallant's committee approach is the same as the one he used with the Stanley Cup finalist Golden Knights. Gallant is a respected players coach.

Here's where I echo Pal Al's theme: "Gallant's players need a captain!"

I'M JUST SAYIN':

* JACK IN THE BOX: The re-joining of Jack Eichel with his new mates in Vegas has to be a take-your-time kind of thing. Eichel's return as a full time player is not a snap-your-finger kind of thing. Plus, the Knights don't need him. They're that good.

* TUUKKA CHANCE: Talk about a clever job of blueprinting his future. Boston's all-time winningest goalie, Tuukka Rask, took good care of his medical business and figured he'd be ready for a January comeback. Right on time! (And for chump change: $545,000!

* A HOT TIPPETT: Let's all forget about Dave Tippett getting the gate. He'll finish the season or I'll become a New York Americans fan again!

THE CHYCHRUN DILEMMA: I enjoyed colleague Matt Larkin's recent THN piece about the teams interested in dealing for gifted Coyotes defenseman Jacob Chychrun. What caught my eye was one of Matt's points: "The idea of him being available seemed ludicrous even in September 2021."

My point is this: If Jumpin' Jake is the cornerstone of Arizona's franchise, why in the world would the club want to unload him? At this point in his career, Chychrun reminds me of Denis Potvin in 1974-75, the third year of the defender's career.

GM Bill Torrey was building his eventual dynastic franchise around Potvin and never, ever would have dealt Denis. I see the same parallel with the Coyotes.

Or, to paraphrase Larkin's line, the idea of Jake being dealt seems ludicrous to me.

Today, tomorrow and next year.

* A VOTE FOR A WINNER: In case you need another reason why about 30 teams would love to have Tom Wilson on their roster: The right wing's Saturday goal against the Isles was the 2-0 game-winner; plus someone else's open-netter.

* DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE OIL SPILL – YET: While I may be in the minority, I remain convinced that Edmonton will make the playoffs. February would be a more realistic time to press the ubiquitous P Button.

* SORRY MC'D AND D CARTEL: At this moment, forget about the Oilers captain and his trusty sidekick, The Lion Draisaitl, when it comes to Hart Trophy talk.

* NOTHING TO KREI ABOUT: I'm listening: You tell me – Is there a better left wing in the NHL today than Chris Kreider? Please, don't say Gabe Landeskog.

* A GOOD PAIR OF SPECS: Sportsnet's Mark Spector is one of my favorite journalists. His latest double-dip broke me up: "The Oilers aren't just awful. Something South of that!"

* OPPOSITES ATTRACT: As opposed to the clever Mark Spector, the Oilers' insightful Zack Kassian's post-game loss to Ottawa comment was "I'm running out of things to say." (That's a frank admission, and I don't mean maybe either.)

* EVANDER – A KANE IN THE NECK: Before debating whether the controversial Kane deserves another – how many? – chance, better we should wonder which team really wants the lonesome left wing.

* DEPARTMENT OF MINOR CONCERNS: Seriously, do you, or you or you, worry about whether the Salary Cap goes up or down? (Shhh: I'll let you in on a personal secret: My aspirin bottle is not on the table because of that issue.)

* GENO'S GENIUS: In all fairness, how about a standing ovation for Evgeni Malkin's enthusiastic comeback.

* PRESCRIPTION FOR OILERS: If any left wing can spur an Edmonton revival, his name isn't Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but it is Zach Hyman!

MORE ON ESPN PERFORMERS: Our tv critic Jack Eyeon adds a few more comments on ESPN's bulging roster of hockey broadcasters. See what you think of these:

A.J. Mleczko and Cassie Campbell-Pascall: "They've been good fits from Day One. Their commentary is strong and confident. The fact that they've both been in situations as players give them credibility analyzing the men's game."

Emily Kaplan: "It didn't take her long to adapt to an increased on-camera role. She helped move the conversation along in early appearance on The Point and continues to evolve in her work between the benches."

Steve Levy: "He has good pipes with a solid call. He's exceptional as a table-setter for his analysts."

Brian Boucher: "I like his work plenty. He's not flashy but consistently on target. He knows the league well and is getting more recognition than ever before."

THE EMRICK LETTERS: Each week we're honored to run Doc Emrick thoughts on assorted hockey subjects. In this third installment the legendary NBC Hall of Fame broadcaster details some changes in the ice game over the past half-century.

"A good 50 or so years ago there were about six American-born players in the NHL and hardly any other nationality. Now we have something like 20 different countries represented in the NHL.

"When I began broadcasting, the average-sized player was 5-10, 185 pounds. Now it's 6-1, almost 6-2 and over 200 pounds. And they are faster now than ever. And that's not to disparage the game then compared to the game now. It's just different.

"It took a tremendous amount of courage to play the old game. As Islanders coach Barry Trotz told me, the courage to play now is in blocking shots, in driving to the net, in taking sticks and continuing to go back to the tough areas.

"Before, the courage needed was just to survive the night. Discussing the different NHL eras reminds me of a Country Music star who once said, 'You can't put your foot in the same river twice.' It's the same way in hockey; it's always changing.

"I admire the athletes of today just as much as I did in the earliest years. I remember lines such as the Flyers and their famed LCB Line (Reg Leach, Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber) and seeing how much effort those guys and their teammates put into the games.

"It was a harder game then in that there wasn't nearly the protection the players have now. There was a lot of physical sacrifice and permanent scars since there were no face shields and helmets were not mandatory as they are now.

"But the jerseys were just as soaked with perspiration at the end of the night as they are today."

(Editor's Note: In the next installment, Doc Emrick will tell you what it was like for him in the play-by-play booth.)

WHO SAID IT? "Six feet behind the Moose's behind." (Answer below.)

WHAT MAKES COUSIN BRUCIE TICK?

The Canucks surge since Bruce Boudreau moved behind the Canucks bench has folks wondering what sort of magic Double B conjures up to produce a winner.

Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette knows Cousin Brucie well and offers some answers via my guy in Sunrise, Alan (Himself) Greenberg. Check it out:

"Bruce is one of a kind," says Brunette. "He's a throwback to old-school hockey. Call him a 'fun guy' and his enthusiasm – positive-ness – rubs off on his group. He loves offensive hockey and guys love playing that style.

"Also, he communicates with his players every day. He thinks every player should be talked to or at least tapped on the shoulder with a 'Good game' or whatever. He shows a lot of love to his players.

"His motto is 'You're gonna play hockey; have fun, but we're gonna work hard. Plus, his teams are well-conditioned and probably skate harder than anyu in the league a lot of the time. He's just fun to be around."

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Islanders left wing Clark Gillies, asked the location of his hometown of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

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