FAN-FARE: CAPTAIN WHO…

New York R

BY: Adam Gavriel

Undoubtedly when the New York Rangers kick off their 2011-2012 campaign they will do so without Chris Drury. The Trumbull, Connecticut native served as Rangers Captain since the 08-09 season after Jaromir Jagr departed for the KHL the previous off-season. Drury was the 25th captain of the New York Rangers, in October; someone new will become the 26th captain of the Blueshirts.

There seem to be two obvious choices for this role. Both options come from the new heart and soul players that the Rangers are building their future around. The team constantly refers to them as the core.  Among those players are Marc Staal, Derek Stepan, Brandon Prust, Artem Anisimov, Dan Girardi, Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh. There are two other members of that elite group who seem to rise above the others as having displayed the most potential to be the future leaders of the team, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.

So with the need for selecting a new team captain, who do they choose? It’s a very difficult choice, but these are the kind of problems every team wants to have. Like the ‘06 – ‘07 San Jose Sharks, who had two capable starting goalies Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabakov, the ‘11 – ‘12 New York Rangers have two talented players both of whom are capable of being excellent captains.

First, Ryan Callahan.

The clear fan choice would be Cally. He is already entrenched in many Rangers fans hearts as the undisputed leader of this team. When Drury’s injuries caused him to miss most of the season this past year, it was Callahan who took over. The Rochester, NY native started the season with an “A” on his chest and took the honor to heart and never looked back. Experts and fans alike are quit to point out that the playoff series loss against the Washington Capitals would have been a very different series had a broken bone not removed Ryan Callahan from the New York Rangers lineup.

Callahan does it all. He hits. He scores. He back-checks hard. Callahan embodies the blue collar worker that every Rangers fan admires. It’s Callahan that inspires. It’s Callahan who gets the team’s most ardent and rabid Blue Seat fans excited just about every time he steps on the ice.

If there was one criticism to the right winger, it would be his on-ice emotion, as in there isn’t much of it to speak of.

Fans are not privy to what goes on in the locker room or on the lane or in the hotel and so on. They can only make their judgments based upon what they see on the ice.  Only a fool would deny the level of commitment or passion that Callahan gives every time he puts on that sweater and hits the ice. However, for the uniformed, that intensity, or fire that make for a fan inspiring leader in Callahan can be hard to see. Callahan’s on-ice and off maturity keeps his emotions during the game in check. It doesn’t get the best of him. It’s there that Chris Drury’s influence has had an impact.

Not every leader needs to be General George S. Patton to be effective. There are an equal number of leaders in NHL history with rings who were soft-spoken. While it sure would seem like Callahan will do more over the course of his career on the ice than Drury did for the NYR, it’s highly unlikely that Callahan would draw the same criticism as his predecessor did in his reign wearing the “C.”

But much like their fiery own personality, New Yorkers are craving for the kind of outspoken captain to rally the troops that has been absent since Mark Messier left.

Is Ryan Callahan that guy?  Not likely.

Then there’s Brandon Dubinsky.

Like his linemate, Dubinsky will step on the ice and give the team his all every shift. Like Callahan, he too hits and scores. He’ll score fancy goals. Like his linemate, he will fight when need be and he plays a strong two-way game.

While both are similar in terms of what they bring to the team in terms of their talent, what differentiates Dubinsky from Callahan, is that the Anchorage, Alaska native is a FAR more emotional player on the ice. He’s more animated. More intense and certainly knows how to celebrate after a goal…especially a key goal. That’s the kind of fire that lights up, not only The Garden Faithful, but his teammates as well.

There is no denying that the stigma that the New York Rangers has been a retirement home for has-been veterans to come to cash out before heading off into retirement. But NOT this team. No. This is a young lunch pail mentality who are hard-working and dedicated to being a “team.”

But despite have a fiery outspoken coach in John Tortorella, his tenure as Rangers head coach has been somewhat less than dynamic as he’s now 0-2 in the playoffs and has also missed the playoffs under a full season of his leadership.

It’s time for a change of pace. The team needs a spark-plug captain for their fiery coach. Then fans will be able to sit back and watch the fireworks.

Dubinsky and Tortorella would make a great combination. Tortorella would benefit from being able to delegate more of the emotional leadership to a player like Dubinsky rather than the more laid back style that Callahan displays would benefit the team more in the long run.

As an aside, it’s also worth noting that Dubinsky and Tortorella have seemed to be on different pages at times since Dubinsky and Sather had their troubles working out his contract before the ‘09 – ‘10 campaign. How that plays out with in this decision we’ll never know.

The best part about this however is that there is no wrong answer. Either Dubinsky and Callahan would make great leaders as both command the respect of the rest of the players in the room With even more young guys on the way, neither choice will be wrong.

It should also be noted that this past season when there were plenty of ‘A’s to go around due to injury, but Dubinsky never saw a letter sewn on his chest.

Given what the team and the Faithful want to see from their captain, for the ‘11 – ‘12 the New York Rangers should throw an ‘A’ on both Dubinsky and Callahan, and Staal as well to start the year. Let them battle for it. When a clear cut leader emerges, then put the “C” on the jersey.

However it all turns out, it’s a safe wager that whoever gets the privilege to lead the team will be embraced by New York Rangers fans are the team should expect a great change of pace from the days of captain Chris Drury.

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