Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ryan Callahan Has Taken The Next Step Offensively

Al Bello/Getty Images
Coming into this season, beyond Marian Gaborik, the New York Rangers were full of question marks in terms of finding consistent scoring overall and more importantly finishing in the goal scoring department.  Even with Gaborik in and out of the lineup and failing to consistently score, Ryan Callahan might be changing both of those facts if his play this season is a sign of things to come for him.  Coming into last season I had high hopes for Callahan to have a breakout season offensively.  This was based in large part to how well he closed the 2008-09 season following the hiring of coach John Tortorella, but the results really never materialized.  Instead the New York Rangers got the great all-around play that has come to be standard fare for him and the same 40 point season they had gotten the year before.  There was no uptick in production despite the rise in power play time and production there because it was offset by a massive decline in his effectiveness at even strength. 

From last year’s inability to take the next step offensive despite the added ice time I began to wonder if we had seen the ceiling on Callahan offensively in the NHL.  Was he going to be an excellent character guy who does everything, is a leader, while producing 40-50 points and maybe 20-25 goals a season.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as every team need those kinds of players, but they cannot be the key players on your team if you want to contend for a title.  The question at this point in the 2010-11 season is if Callahan has forced another look into his offensive potential and if he can become a legitimate 30 goal, 60 point player, which vaults him into a completely different category. 

In just 48 games this season Callahan has tallied 20 goals, 19 assists and 39 points.  Those totals put up two shy of his career high in goals (22), over his previous career high in assists (18) and one shy of his career high points total (40) in 33 less games than when he set them in 2008-09. 

Looking at his statistics on a per game basis in the previous two seasons he averaged .26 goals/game, .23 assists/game and .49 pts/game. This season those numbers have soared to .42 goals/game, .40 assists/game and .81 pts/game which is a tremendous advancement in production.  If you calculated Callahan’s totals out over an 82 game season he would be on pace for a statistical line of 34-33-67.  He will not reach those totals this season because of the broken hand that cost him 19 games, but this is more about whether he can keep those kind of projections up through the end of the year and then match this in a full season.

There is no debating that his totals and averages are inflated from a performance like Sunday against the Flyers, but even if you remove that performance he was still on pace for a very respectable 27 goals this season.  The scariest part is he is having this kind of offensive season while still struggling to finish many plays he should convert.  If you believe he can learn to convert some more of those chances, which I do, then seeing him as a legitimate 30 goal threat down the line is very reasonable.

While no one is going to confuse Callahan for Marian Gaborik in the goal scoring or point production departments when both are at their best, Callahan is doing his best to solidify himself as a legitimate offensive option, that other teams must account for, to go with his tremendous two-way hockey player.  If Callahan can become a consistent 28-32 goal guy instead of 20-24 that makes a huge difference to his value and the fortunes of the team in terms of their scoring troubles. 

Has Callahan become a 30 goal type guy or has just had some really good games and is still on average more of a 25 max type player?