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After having the final year of his contract bought out by the Rangers, Captain Chris Drury decided to hang up his skates. Drury was a natural leader, a great two-way power forward and ace penalty killer. He has been a top-6 forward throughout his career with a good scoring record. He’s scored 255 goals in 892 games in his NHL career. He’s captained both the Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres, and represented USA in three Olympic Games-winning silver in ’02 and ‘10. More importantly for the Rangers, he was a mentor for all the younger Rangers, most notable Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Callahan’s game is very similar to Drury’s. He took up a leadership role in Drury’s injury plagued 2010-11 season and really became one of, if not, the top defensive forwards on the Rangers. As good as Callahan is, he will never put up the same offense numbers as Drury. Drury will probably never be appreciated as much as he should, especially in New York. People will look at his underwhelming numbers for the Rangers and think of Drury as a failure in New York. His real success in New York should hinge on the development of Dubinsky and Callahan. With Drury gone, the Rangers are looking for a new captain.
Ryan Callahan has quickly established himself as a hardnosed two-way player, becoming a crowd favorite in the process. He is certainly the crowd favorite to be the new captain. The case against Callahan is probably more convincing than the case for him. While he is a fan favorite, and a terrific player, he finished dead last on the team in +/- at minus 7. Plus/minus might not be the best indicator of importance to the team because there are outside factors, the play of your teammates, sheer luck, and matchups. Because of Callahan’s defensive prowess, his line is generally always matched-up against the opposition’s top line and that contributes to his low +/-. That being said Callahan sure looks like the favorite, though he may not be the best choice, to be named the new Ranger captain. The Rangers leaned heavily on his leadership qualities in Drury’s absence last year.
The nine-year, $60 million man, Brad Richards comes to the Rangers as a top-three forward. In Richards, the Rangers landed perhaps the best free-agent on the market. The signing of Richards probably led to the buyout of Drury’s contract. The Rangers simply couldn’t afford to pat Drury $7 million this year. As far as the captaincy is concerned, Richards and Rangers’ coach John Tortorella have had previous success together, winning a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. His experience and history of winning makes him a viable candidate to be the next captain of the Rangers.
The Rangers have a ton of defensive talent; defense is their strength. They have a bunch of talented defensemen and none better than Marc Staal. The 24 year-old stalwart is the anchor for the Rangers defense. Staal and Callahan, alternative captains last season, led a hardnosed, gritty, and defensively tough team to the playoffs last season in spite of the offenses shortcomings. Compared to Callahan, Staal played to a plus 8 rating while largely playing against the other’s team’s best units. He logged the most ice time for the Rangers, almost 26 minutes in the regular season, and 28 minutes a game in the postseason. Staal has developed into a shutdown defenseman and I would argue he is the Rangers’ best player outside of Henrik Lundqvist. The best player doesn’t always make the best captain, but if I were given the choice, I’d go with #18 in defense.