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McDonagh deserving of captaincy, both on and off the ice

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Ryan McDonagh had to overcome injuries and new challenges in his first season as captain, and he attacked them flawlessly. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

When the Rangers were making the decision of the 27th captain in Rangers history, I was saying Ryan McDonagh from the start. I have been a big fan of him ever since he made his debut in the 2010-2011 season, and I was at the game where he scored his first career goal against the New Jersey Devils.

Last year was a breakthrough season for McDonagh, posting a career high 43 points, scoring 14 goals with 29 assists. He was a shutdown defender, put up points consistently, and led by example after Ryan Callahan was traded. He continued to play exceptionally well in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring 17 points (4-14-17) in 25 playoff games.

The Rangers did announce that Ryan McDonagh would be the next captain of the team on October 6th, with the alternate captains being Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis.

Looking back at the first season with McDonagh at the helm, it’s clear to see that the players and management made the right decision in choosing him to wear the C.

Now this isn’t meant to discredit any of the other players. I’m sure that any of the alternate captains could have been good captains too. But I think they got it right with McDonagh.

Mac Truck’s first season as captain didn’t go very smoothly, with some bumps along the way. At the start of the season, with the pressure of leadership and picking up the slack for the injured Dan Boyle, he wasn’t playing on par with his expectations. He had admitted that he was putting pressure on himself to perform at a superhuman level. This caused him to do too much, which led to mental errors and on-ice mistakes.

On November 1st, McDonagh re-injured his left shoulder after being hit into the boards. He would miss 11 games. When he came back, you started to see that he was finally coming to terms with the role of being a captain. His season took a turn for the better once he settled in and started acting like himself again. The points started coming back, his defensive play was much improved, and the locker room morale was also better.

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As the season progressed, and McDonagh grew more comfortable in his role as captain, his play also got better. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

McDonagh has always been a soft-spoken person, and it took time for him to realize that he didn’t need to change his personality or play. By the playoffs, he was a bonafide leader in the locker room, and knew exactly when to challenge himself or his teammates, like after he called out his teammates following a disappointing 6-2 Game 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

McDonagh would go on to finish the season with 33 points; eight goals and 25 assists with a +23 mark. In the playoffs, he had three goals and six assists, and he battled through a broken foot in the series against the Lightning. While his totals weren’t as high as last season, he was still very effective on both sides of the puck. Now that he has a full season of being captain under his belt, including five seasons and 81 playoffs games, I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpasses his career high totals in the 2013-14 season, perhaps surpassing the 50 point plateau.

McDonagh’s captaincy goes farther than just his leadership on the ice. McDonagh does charity work with the Garden of Dreams foundation, and works closely with the Burke Rehabilitation Center, where he has made a connection with a former patient, Gino Mangiafriadda.

Mangiafriadda was a hockey player at Pelham High School, but saw his playing days cut short after a tragic motorcycle accident that left him wheelchair bound. McDonagh met him after a game thanks to Gino’s doctor, a Rangers season ticket holder.

“He met me at a signing,” said McDonagh, “and he told me about his story and I was instantly hit hard by it…I just tried to set up a way to meet with him and talk with him, and give him some inspiration to keep his spirits up.” (Downtown Magazine)

Mangiafriadda’s first public interaction he had following rehab was at Madison Square Garden for a Rangers game. McDonagh and Gino would form a bond, and remain good friends to this day. Since then, McDonagh has been very outspoken in his gratitude for the work that Burke Rehabilitation Center does, and still works with them.

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Ryan McDonagh speaking after receiving one of the 2015 Burke Awards. Photo courtesy of Haylie Born/Downtown Magazine.

According to Jim Cerny, the Rangers beat writer, McDonagh has all the tools that it takes to be a fantastic leader for years to come, starting with his passion for the team and fans, which all stems from his upbringing.

“His heart and intentions were always in the right place,” Cerny wrote on blueshirtsunited.com, “which are qualities you want in your captain. There is no questioning how deeply McDonagh cares about the organization, his teammates, and the fans. They are all an extension of his family – yet another quality you want to have in your captain.”

“Intelligent, well-spoken, exceedingly well regarded by his coaches and teammates, and an absolute warrior on the ice” Cerny continued. “And still improving by the day, not even in his prime as of yet despite that Norris Trophy talk in 2013-14. Plus he has learned first-hand from well-respected leaders like Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Martin St. Louis, Staal and Girardi, among other veterans.”

McDonagh has proved to his teammates that he is a more that capable on the ice through his play over the past few seasons. This year, he proved that he is capable of being a leader of the New York Rangers.

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Posted on June 19, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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