There seems to be this black and white mentality prevalent amongst Rangers fans right now; if everything is not perfect then we must panic. No in-between. Which of course is ridiculous. I think we can find a middle ground; we're not where we want to be yet. This is a start that other teams might be satisfied with, but not a team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season. Not a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Not a team that added one of the elite talents of the NHL in the offseason. I think it's completely okay to admit this while still acknowledging we're in a perfectly stable spot. We're 7-3-1 in our last 10 games. We're in a playoff position and only a few wins out of reach of the division or even the conference. And it's not even a third of the way through the season yet. There is more than enough time to get to where we want to be.
What is necessary to get to that place? Surely the powerplay needs to at least become respectable. A lot of blame has been thrown in the direction of Gaborik and Richards. And it would be ignorant to insist they have earned none of it.
But what about Ryan Callahan? A homegrown product. A guy who has proven he is a consistent 20+ goal scorer in this league and who flirted with 30 last season. A guy who embodies the identity of this team. When you look around the NHL, there are certain teams who gave the captaincy to respectable players; the Islanders and Mark Streit. The Wild and Mikko Koivu. The Stars and Brendan Morrow. And I of course mean no disrespect to those guys, who are hard workers, talented, and are looked up to. But Ryan Callahan belongs to the class of captains who serve as the paradigm of what the organization represents. He is the undoubted leader of this team and he embodies everything John Tortorella and the rest of the coaching staff wants to see. Every minor leaguer and unsigned prospect is told to emulate Ryan Callahan. In how he conducts himself, how hard he works, and how he plays every shift.
Surely, many of the qualities we expect from Ryan Callahan are still there. He's energetic every shift. He throws hits and blocks shots at will. And doing those things definitely gives him some leeway. But for all the (somewhat deserving) criticism that Gaborik and Richards have received, they still have respectable point totals; 11 in 15 games for each. Ryan Callahan, on the other hand, has a whole four points in 12 games. And again, while he has a slightly less offensive role than those two, his offensive contributions have been very underwhelming by his standards.
Moreso than just the tangible statistics, Ryan Callahan needs to step it up in a different way. When onelooks at the elite, successful leaders in New York sports history - Mark Messier, Derek Jeter, and Eli Manning for example - they all have something similar. It's not just ability or even hustle. It's not just about saying the right things. In fact, these guys didn't or don't need to say much at all. In big moments, when the team needed somebody to step up and be The Man all three of those guys did just that. It is inherent in their DNA. They have egos. Their teams were not going to fail under their watch. Of course talent had plenty to do with it, but Mark Messier does not score a hat-trick in Game Six against the Devils without that ego; without that will. Not only were the Rangers going to win the game, but Mark Messier was going to be the guy who stepped onto the ice, put the team on his back, and physically made sure of it. And when Messier returned to the bench after a goal, or Jeter returns to the dugout after an important base hit, or Eli walks to the sidelines after a successful two minute drill, the entire universe (and by virtue, their teammates) can see it in their eyes. We're going to win, I'm going to lead the charge, and you have no choice but to buy in.
Now of course, it would be unfair to expect Callahan to be on par with those guys right now. He's only in his second year as captain, and it's the middle of February; not in midst of an important playoff matchup. I'm not criticizing the job he has done on the ice or in the locker room I'm simply challenging him to move up to that next level. Be even better. The learning curve is no longer existent. He's no longer a kid trying to find his place in the league. He's already been through a season and playoffs as captain of the team. He's 27, a veteran of this team, and established as captain. No, he can't even come close to equaling the likes of Jeter, Manning, or Messier right now in February. But he can take that first step towards their status. The offense is somewhat flat (especially on the powerplay) and Nash's absence makes scoring even more difficult. The energy, effort, and selflessness is admirable and present as always with Callahan, but Staal and Girardi are doing those things as well. Brad Richards is a veteran with a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe to his name. Show why Ryan Callahan wears the "C" and not any of those guys. Be the man. Put home a couple of goals. Score one on the powerplay, or in overtime against a division rival. Put together a streak of games with points. Part of being captain of a team in New York is thriving under the pressure and reaching expectations, even if they are unfair at times. It's about being the man who takes the reigns and produces when the team needs it most. Jeter, Manning, and Messier all did it. Chris Drury was unable to, and regardless of how hard he worked and how key he was in the locker room, his tenure as a captain will ultimately be remembered as unsuccessful. The energy, hard work, and general leadership of Chris Drury has been there with Callahan and maybe he has surpassed it to some degree. But that alone is not good enough. I have no doubt that he wants to reach that next level on the pyramid. Now it's time to execute.
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I don't know if the Blueshirts' success run through Cally's leadership. It sure is a part of it, but supporting cast and role players have to step up and that leadership is through Torts. Cally leads through his work ethic and fearless play. Once the PP starts working the wins will come.....
“@TheNYRBlog: For Rangers to win tonight Callahan needs to step up his game: http://t.co/k1Ft6TVf6Y #nyr” All #NYR fans should read. #LGR
@TheNYRBlog That's ridiculous. The coaching staff needs to step up & teach this team how 2 have a consistent PP for the first time in 3 yrs.
RT “@TheNYRBlog: For Rangers to win tonight Callahan needs to step up his game: http://t.co/hThRIr9NLa #nyr”
This team obviously has it's share of problems, but honestly, Callahan's effort/skill is not even close to being one of them. You don't see Jeter hitting 20-30 home runs or getting anywhere close to 80 rbi's a year. He just does what he does best: hustles, gets important and clutch base hits, makes plays at shortstop when the ball comes to him. Cally won't score 30 goals or get a point a game, but he hits guys, he throws his body in front of Chara slapshots, he forechecks, makes smart plays away from the puck. And sure, he'll score the occasional goal. All of that is what he does best, and so far he's been doing it this year. Richards, Gabby, Boyle, Del Zotto, etc all have to step up their games. Cally? He's already responsible for almost 50% of our powerplay points this year, what more can he do except what he's doing already? Good speech, but there's better things to focus on.
Well said sir. Cally is a great leader and my favorite Ranger. But we're New Yorkers. We're straight-forward, at times unreasonable, and extremely competitive. "Best" is never good enough. There is always "better." Take us to the next level CALLY!
Any Messier comparison is unfair. He was a once in a generation leader, not just on the Rangers but all throughout his career. That being said, Callahan absolutely needs to step up his game, as well as his leadership. I've heard people say that he's just not the fiery emotional leader type. Well guess what, he needs to be. Quiet "locker-room" leaders rarely succeed in any sport. As you pointed out, see Chris Drury. I don't think anyone expects Cally to all of a sudden become a 50 goal scorer, but he does need to play his game the best he can. Then once he does that, he needs to get on the guys that aren't pulling their weight, regardless of their salaries or years in the league. Torts has said that the big guys need to step up their games, well it has to start with the captain!
"There seems to be this black and white mentality prevalent amongst Rangers fans right now; if everything is not perfect then we must panic. No in-between."
I think there are plenty of fans and blog readers that take the middle ground, the in-between, it's just that the panickers and whiners are louder.
That was a cute speech, but I'm really tired of the constant comparison to Messier. They are two completely different guys, who play(ed) different styles of hockey. As in, Callahan doesn't throw flying elbows everywhere he goes.
Callahan can't help that the team around him has taken on a much different identity than the one we saw last year. He's only one man. Remember that Messier also had Adam Graves, and more notably, Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch racking up big points in the playoffs. Callahan can't do everything, although I have seen him literally will the team to wins last season, especially that late season game against Winnipeg.
What the entire team needs to do right now is very simple: play better DEFENSIVELY. Besides juice PP rebounds, Callahan generated most of his offense from smart defensive plays. I mentioned the Winnipeg game: the turning point occured when the Rangers were down two goals and on the PK. Callahan blocks a shot, follows the puck past the defender at the blue line, and skates hard toward the net to take a shot. Del Zotto is right on his ass, and pots the rebound 5-hole. After that goal, the entire team was revved up and ready to go - they ended up winning 4-2.
As I said, the team has to tighten up on defense, like Callahan does, and they will see more offensive chances. They're playing loose hockey right now, and that is in no way Callahan's fault.
Also, the Jeter and Manning comparisons are just ridiculous. "you can see it in their eyes"? Come on man, a little too dramatic.
Callahan's a great Captain and leader. Problem is, this team was successful last year because of a team concept. He can and does set the example every night, but until they re-adopt the Larry Brooksian "Black and Blueshirts" menality and philosophy, they're in for more games like last game.
It starts with the coach. Roll four lines. I'd much rather see Asham and Halpern out there banging than having to watch Richards doing his worst Curly Neal impersonation in the neutral zone. yuck.
If the power play could just get some shots on net that result in rebounds, his production will go up since he's the only player on the team that can play at the front of the net.
At even-strength I'd love to see him back with Miller and Kreider at some point, that line was too short lived. If Torts leaves him with Richards while Nash is still out, hopefully they can find a LW that will light a fire under both their asses. I wish we could clone Hagelin, or just double shift him with Step-Gabby and Richards-Cally. Can't be any worse than what they're already doing.
I think the shoulder is still bothering him. Might be effecting his ability to shoot and make plays.
I don't blame anyone in particular. Cally is a great captain and he has the moxie to get this team where it needs to be. No it is not the same team as last year, but there are a lot of things that are the same. I don't think this team needs to focus on Nash as much as they are. I believe we have strong players that can get the job done just as well. I think they lack confidence. I think they lack energy. I think they lack heart and charisma from last season. They are skilled players and we have a great future ahead of us. Do I think it will be this year? No, but I am hopeful. I have been a fan for a very very long time, and I won't give up on them. I have faith another banner will hang.
I tend to agree. That 2-1 in the third against Montreal was on of those key moments. he puts that in and I think we roll thought the rest of the game. He doesn't have to score every game but there are times where, if doesn't come through then no one else will.
I think Callahan has been playing well and doing all the little things - hitting, blocking shots. Whaddaya want? a guarantee?
I don't get the panic or the constant, unyielding criticism of this guy & that guy. Hey, it's Richards' fault...no, it's Gabby's fault. Wait! It's really all Cally's fault. Puhleeze! When are you guys going to open your eyes and admit that this team is absolutely NOT the same team that was top of the league last year...NOT the same team that (just barely!) made it to the Eastern Conference finals? We have so many new players on the ice, and it seems like there's a new guy called up from the Whale every game. No one should expect the same results from a team that is not the same. I am not in panic mode, but I truly believe I'm the only fan thinking this will be a mediocre "transition" year for this club. Too many changes to really gel. To think otherwise is what's causing your frustration. At least from where I stand, there's room to be pleasantly surprised!
@coontzbloontz -- your speech could use a little more cute
@AnnoyingJoe -- Seriously. What else is the 4th line for? It would be so advantageous to get those guys some more minutes to work over the other team while giving our guys some rest. Halpern is good, Asham skates pretty well, and I'm sure Mashinter could be effective on that line. Give 'em a chance!
@jtf1218 excellent point. Callahan's bread and butter is deflections, rebounds, and picks generally sent towards the slot on the PP. our point guys have done a miserable job of getting pucks towards the net and that definitely has hurt Callahan. Still doesn't absolve him of any ability to contribute offensively, of course.
@jtf1218 Loved Cally with Kreider and Miller that line was great. Torts absolutely needs to reunite them tonight.
Like I said, he certainly has been doing the little things. But coming off of an almost 30 goal season, four points in 12 games certainly isn't preferable. It's not that he has been bad, but that the Rangers need someone to step up especially with Nash out and, as captain, Callahan should be as good of a person to step up as anyone.
@Herman_NYRBlog You're right, he needs to step up and worry about what he can control at even-strength. Kevin is probably right about his shoulder holding him back though, unfortunately. He'll never complain or use it as an excuse, but he just doesn't seem like the same guy.