It’s that time of the year again, Rangers fans. The weather gets nicer, the sunlight endures longer, and the Rangers have to scramble in the last handful of games in order to make the playoffs. But the end of the regular season also means that it’s time to elect this year’s Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner. The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award goes to the player who “goes above and beyond the call of duty.” Jan Erixon was the first to ever win the award in 1988 and since then we’ve seen hard working Rangers such as Jed Ortmeyer, Sandy McCarthy, and Mark Messier get the award. Not surprisingly, Adam Graves has won it five times, more than anyone else. Let’s look at who the candidates are this year:
Ryan Callahan- I have to start with the guy who has won it the past two years. Ryan Callahan is more or less a lock to be the 26th captain in New York Rangers history, and for good reason. When the Rangers have needed a big goal this year, he’s the guy that got it done many times. Prior to his injury that put him out over a month, Callahan led the NHL in hits. Even now, despite missing 15 or so games, Callahan is 14th in the NHL in hits. Despite missing those games, he’s also 11th in the NHL among forwards in blocked shots. The Rangers are one of the youngest teams in the league, and their captain Chris Drury missed virtually the whole season. Callahan has been incredible in filling those shoes. You certainly can’t complain if he does win for a third year in a row.
Dan Girardi- He might not be the first name that pops into your head, but I believe that Girardi should, at the very least, get his name thrown into the discussion. Marc Staal got the All-Star Game invite he deserved. Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh are the “new shiny toys” that Rangers fans are excited about, but Dan Girardi has been an unsung hero of sorts. He’s done a very good job paired with Marc Staal. He’s played like a veteran on a team that is swimming with inexperienced defensemen, despite being only 26 himself. After last year’s incident where he watched Dan Carcillo attack Marian Gaborik, Girardi has upped his physicality this year and has knocked the opposition off their skates when they get near Lundqvist. He’s made no excuses about his play, and the times that he’s messed up he’s taken responsibility for it. Girardi is 27th in the NHL in hits and is first overall in blocked shots. I’d argue that any other year Girardi would be a top candidate for the award, if not the winner itself.
Brian Boyle- It’s something of a miracle in itself that Boyle even made the team this year. Tortorella has been on record in multiple instances saying that he and the rest of the coaching staff had him penciled in for the AHL to start the year. Instead, Boyle was the first Ranger to break the 20 goal mark this season. He’s one of four guys to play every game this season. He’s 10th in the NHL in hits, 3rd among all forwards in blocked shots, and has been one of the team’s best forecheckers this year. Boyle is still relatively raw, and there are nights where he makes mistakes. Still, even in his worst games, you could not question his drive. He brings 110% effort every game. He wants this team to win badly. He’s the first guy to go to the reporters and tell them that the team “has to play better” whenever they slack off. He’s the first guy off the bench to congratulate Zuccarello on his first NHL goal in overtime. He’s the first one off the bench to congratulate Lundqvist on a victory. He’s the one in the front of the line fist-bumping everyone on the team before they get on the ice. Boyle has stepped up in the games where the Rangers needed someone to step up, and especially in the games where key forwards were missing. Boyle without a doubt put in the extra effort in the offseason to become the player Los Angeles drafted him to be, and it’s paid off.
Brandon Prust- “The Crash Test Dummy” is my pick for the Extra Effort Award this year. Here’s a guy that was essentially a man without an identity and came to the Rangers and bought into the system. Prior to this season, Prust had 6 goals in 115 NHL games. This season he has 11 goals, 5 of which came short-handed, and almost all which were the result of him doing the dirty work. Prust has stepped up and been the team’s enforcer. He’s fought guys who are much bigger than he is and thus has no business fighting. He’s gotten banged up and injured in majority of the games this season and yet he hasn’t missed a single game yet. Despite very little offensive talent, Prust is tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals and leads in shorthanded points. Prust knows very well that he isn’t going to stay in this league because of his skill, so he literally puts his health at risk on a nightly basis and works his ass off to make up for his lack of skill. Callahan might be captain material and the better player, but nobody plays every shift as hard as Brandon Prust does. There are many good candidates for the award this year. This is probably the hardest working, high character roster the Rangers have had in at least a decade.But I’m going to be slightly disappointed if Prust doesn’t win the award. He has absolutely gone “above and beyond” what the Rangers could reasonably ask of him.
You can go here to vote for the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner. The choice is yours, Rangers fans!