Mostly it's an honor in name more than anything else. Wearing the C brings a few additional responsibilities, particularly with the media, but all in all, it's not the biggest deal in the world if you have a captain or not. Certainly it doesn't guarantee anything on the ice to have the letter engraved on the chest.
However at this time of year, when the trophies are being handed out, being the captain has its benefits. Specifically, you're the one who gets presented with the trophies.
This has the Rangers in an unusual position as we saw when they were awarded with the Prince of Wales Trophy on Thursday night as the champions of the Eastern Conference. Instead of one captain coming up, the three alternate captains -- Brad Richards, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi -- were summoned. Immediately, they waived on the entire team behind them.
When they got to the trophy they took the more common of the two approaches and didn't touch it. Each team seems to have their own feeling about touching the trophy or not -- the thinking on not touching is that the only one that matters is the Stanley Cup -- but the Rangers were clearly on the no-touching side.
Of course it doesn't really matter one way or the other. Plenty of teams have touched the trophies for winning the conference before, including Mark Messier in 1994 and that worked out OK for the Rangers.
If the Rangers are able to pull off the upset and win the Stanley Cup, it will be interesting to see how they receive it and who will take it first (we're sure there will be betting odds as/if that time approaches) but right now the Rangers will just worry about making that dilemma an actual issue.