There has been much speculation about who the New York Rangers will choose as the 27th captain in the history of the franchise. Andrew Gross at the Bergen Record discussed how Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Brad Richards are the main candidates for the job. The difference in the assessment Gross makes to the assumption that most have is that he believes Richards may have the inside track to wearing the ‘C’ instead of Callahan.
Gross believes that Callahan’s deal being shorter than both the ones Staal and Richards signed hurts him in the running for the captaincy. There is also some reading between the lines based on what coach John Tortorella said about the position right before free agency began.
Tortorella was asked June 30 — two days before the team signed Richards — about his selection process for the new captain. "I think those decisions will come about come camp," Tortorella said. "We'll have our talks, we'll see. Maybe our team changes even more this summer, along the way."That last sentence could be interpreted as a vote in Richards' favor.
This could be a case where Gross is reading too much into things, or he could be right on the money with where Tortorella is thinking about going with the decision. It is not a stretch to think that Tortorella would give the leadership of this club to a player who wore an ‘A’ for him in Tampa Bay and helped win him a Stanley Cup with a Conn Smythe performance. That doesn’t mean it would be the right move for Richards or the team.
Giving Richards the captaincy could send the wrong message to the young core that has been so talked about by Tortorella and the coaching staff as being foundational to the organization in the future. This would be a scenario where a player who has come up through the organization and done everything that has been asked of him is ready to assume the leadership of the team and is passed over for someone yet to wear the ‘C’ in his career or the Rangers sweater.
The level of scrutiny that comes with the captaincy would be yet another level of pressure for Richards to live up to and would clearly put the burden of the how the team fares on his shoulders, as if it wasn’t already. I still believe Callahan will get it, not simply because it is what the fans want, but because he epitomizes what Tortorella says he wants this team to be, but discounting Richards in the race for the captaincy would be a mistake.