Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Callahan named 26th Ranger captain

The mantle has officially been passed. In a move that was expected, the Rangers named Ryan Callahan the new captain. At age 26, Callahan is the fifth youngest captain in club history. Ironically, the 26-year old is the franchise's 26th captain. Destiny much?

"Ryan Callahan embodies all the leadership qualities we seek from our Captain," Ranger Team President and GM Glen Sather said.  "He leads by example with courage and a tireless work ethic on and off the ice, which is why he is so deserving of this honor."

Joining Cally as alternates are defenseman Marc Staal and much publicized new No.1 pivot Brad Richards. Staal had an 'A' last year while Richy Rich commands respect as a former Cup winner, who teamed with coach John Tortorella in Tampa. Most reaction was positive with everyone thrilled for our do everything forward who leads by example on and off the ice. Well deserved for 'C'allahan, who registered career highs with 23 goals, 25 assists, 48 points while pacing the club with 10 power play goals and five game-winners despite missing 22 games. A former '04 fourth round selection, the Rochester native is the classic overachiever who does everything well. It's not about stats with Cally but much like recently retired former captain Chris Drury, intangibles. To borrow a phrase from WFAN Ranger talkie Steve Somers:

'Number 24 in your programs is No.1 in our hearts.'

Whether it's diving in front of a dangerous shot for one of his many blocks or dishing out the punishment with a thunderous check despite his 5-10, 190 frame, Ryan exemplifies what it means to be a Ranger. The kind of gritty, in your face, hard working guy who New York City identifies with. Even if you despise the Blueshirts as our rival blogger does, there's a level of respect for how Callahan plays the game. His effort along with Drury's helped Team USA to a silver medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. There's no doubt that this is the right choice for a still young nucleus that boasts home grown products Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov, Henrik Lundqvist, Staal, Dan Girardi and Mike Sauer, going forward. With a core that includes key pieces Ryan McDonagh, Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust along with Richards and Marian Gaborik, Garden Faithful are looking forward to the season.

Some wondered why Dubinsky was passed over for the other 'A,' that was given to a player who's never played for us before. However, I don't think anyone would argue that an experienced player like Richards is a bad choice. He not only won Lord Stanley but was the Conn Smythe winner during the '03-04 Lightning's run to the Cup- posting 12 goals, 14 helpers and 26 points. At 31, the former '98 third round pick who wasn't taken until 64th, has plenty to prove in the Big Apple. He's not just here for show but to try to help lead the Rangers into serious contention. Something we haven't seen since '94 hero Mark Messier teamed with Wayne Gretzky, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Adam Graves and Jeff Beukeboom- making a surprising run to the Conference Final before being overwhelmed by the Legion Of Doom.

Since '07-08 when he was dealt to the Stars for a package that included Mike Smith and Jussi Jokinen, Richards has only seen the postseason that same year when he helped get Dallas to the Conference Final, tallying 15 points (3-12-15 in 18 GP). Despite putting together back-to-back big seasons averaging 26 goals, 58 assists and 84 points, it still wasn't enough to get the Stars into the playoffs where they weren't helped by the competition. With uncertainty surrounding the franchise, Richards bolted for Manhattan. If you've seen the promo, then you know what lies ahead. All eyes will be on him like never before. Can he revive Gaborik, who is mourning the loss of close friend Pavol Demitra? Is he the right fit? He'll start with an 'A' while last year's leading scorer Dubinsky tries to live up to a new contract. So must Callahan.

It won't be easy. Not in a conference that boasts defending champ Boston, Richards' ex-team, the Ovi Caps, the revamped Flyers, improved Sabres and Pens, who hope to have Sidney Crosby back at some point. The East is getting better with the Habs, Canes, Devils and Leafs all expected to be in the mix while a rebuilding Islander club boasts great potential. You never can tell when another team will emerge. In this league, much can change year to year. Expectations are up. Now, it's up to the Rangers' 26th captain and the rest of his teammates to prove they're ready for a new challenge. Let's drop the puck already!

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