Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are Rotating Alternates Best Way For Rangers To Handle Captain's Letters This Season?

Having bought out Chris Drury out of the final season of his contract, the New York Rangers will have a new captain next season; the 27th captain in the history of the franchise.  Regardless of whether Drury was bought out or not the expectation has been that the Rangers would change their captain for the 2011-12 season anyway.  The favorite amongst the fans for months to be the next captain has been Ryan Callahan.  It is possible that if not for the respect Callahan and the coaching staff had for Chris Drury that Callahan might have taken over the role during last season, so the expectation that he will be the next captain is certainly understandable.  While I think Marc Staal is a darkhorse to get the ‘C’ we can go with the expectation of Callahan and work on who else will have letters this season.

Alternate candidates:
Marc Staal: Only Staal and Callahan would fall into the lock to have a letter on their sweater category.  Seeing as how he had an ‘A’ last season and played well in that role there is no reason to expect he will not continue as one of the leaders of the young core.  I think he will get serious consideration for the ‘C,’ but in the end have the ‘A’ on his #18 again this season.

Brad Richards: Since the signing there has been discussion as to whether his previous relationship with Tortorella and his championship experience gives him a window into the top leadership role on the team.   Richards does have experience wearing a letter on his jersey with his time in Dallas, but to think he is going to walk into this group and take over the ‘C’ is somewhat out there.  He will definitely be a contender to wear an ‘A’ again, but that decision might come down to how much of a statement the Rangers want to make as an organization in terms of the young core as the leadership group.

Brandon Dubinsky: Possibly the most polarizing choice amongst the fans in terms of whether he should or should not have a letter on his sweater.  Dubinsky is clearly the most vocal of all the young players in the locker room in terms of saying what he thinks publicly and while that is good for the media and fans to see it does not truly fit with the style John Tortorella seems to prefer in his captain’s.  Giving Dubinsky an ‘A’ would certainly be a nod to his growth both on and off the ice in terms of leadership in the room and on merit was earned last season.

Brandon Prust: Prust earned his spot on this list with his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win on any given night.  He will fight, kill penalties, forecheck and certainly sacrifice his body in the name of winning.  The fact that he played through the injuries he did last season and did not miss a single game is enough to warrant consideration.

Dan Girardi: If you want to talk about sacrificing your body to win, then you have to include Dan Girardi in any discussion because of how he abuses his body blocking shots every night.  In addition Girardi is a top pair defender taking on the best offensive players the opposition has to offer with Marc Staal.  Girardi is also now the aged veteran of the young defense corps and has tremendous admiration from the coaching staff.

Brian Boyle: Boyle is a name that few talk about in terms of the alternate captain spot, but his work ethic is something that doesn’t go unnoticed or unrecognized by the coaching staff.  Proof of that was him wearing an ‘A’ during preseason last fall even before he had his breakout year.  Yes, it was only a preseason game, but the reason for the move was to reward the work he had put in and motivate the rest of the team.  Transforming himself from a fringe NHL player to a key player in many situations for the Rangers last season gives him a chance to be in the discussion for an ‘A’.  

In the end the Rangers are likely to go with:
C- Callahan
A- Staal
A- Richards

Rick Carpinello of Rangers Report Blog suggested a scenario in which the Rangers would have rotating alternates for home and road games, which is the best solution as it allows them to reward more players for their leadership.  This team is very fortunate to have so many players deserving of consideration for letters this season and rewarding more of them will only keep the hunger of the rest of locker room and allow for the organization to truly recognize the leadership group on this team.
What that might look like:

C- Callahan
A- Staal
A- Richards

C- Callahan
A- Dubinsky
A- Prust/Girardi