As the saying goes, I saved the best for last…
“What it means to be a New York Ranger?” That phrase has been used as a tag line for the Rangers for some time. The shield has been given a renewed sense of pride and vigor ever since John Tortorella became head coach of the team with his infamous edict to “not have players walk on the emblem” in the dressing rooms. It may sound off at first but when you think about that further you realize the new coach was trying to instill a bit of selflessness in his players; to play for the name on the front of the jersey and not the back. And there isn’t a player (other than Brandon Prust arguably) who represents what it means to be a Ranger more than Ryan Callahan. Since coming up through the ranks, Cally has been the heart and soul guy for the Rangers as each season he has matured and is primed to be the next captain when his time is called.
Let’s take a look at his 2010-2011 season:
What We Expected
Coming off a 37-point campaign (19g, 18a) the previous year, the Rangers wanted more offense from their young alternate captain. Every other aspect of Callahan’s game functions at an above average level and to add more offensive production to it would give Callahan, and the Rangers, a better dynamic. His leadership abilities are crucial to the Rangers and his teammates follow suit to him on the ice; when Callahan get the fore-check going the Rangers offense seems to go.
How He Did
Callahan had a career year for himself. In 60 games, Cally had 48 points (23g, 25a), establishing career highs in both. When he was moved to a line with Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky, Callahan’s game operated at its peak. They all quickly established chemistry together and were the Rangers’ best line for most of the season. And, as mentioned before, when Callahan would hit bodies and get the fore-check going, the rest of the Rangers weren’t far behind.
An aspect where Callahan excelled was on special teams. We already know what he is capable on the penalty kill as Callahan is regarded as one of the teams best penalty killers. However, it was his performance on the power play that saw improvement. In his 60 games, Callahan was able to net 10 goals and 5 assists with the man advantage. On a team that struggled all season long to be a threat to score on the power play, Callahan was one of the bright spots in that regard.
You wouldn’t think this because of how well Callahan plays both ends of the ice every night but for the second straight season, Callahan finished with a plus/minus in the negative (-12 in 09-10, -7 in 10-10). Plus/minus is
a misleading statistic to begin with as it doesn’t properly distinguish between defensive prowess and liability. Is it disconcerting to see one of your team leaders a minus? Maybe. But, by no means is it a alarming.
Final Grade: A+
Despite suffering a broken hand & leg and missing 22 games, Ryan Callahan still managed to put up points at nearly a point-a-game pace (averages to 65-66 points in 82 games). If the Rangers needed to get physical, Ryan Callahan was the man to start it. If the Rangers needed a crucial shot blocked, Ryan Callahan was the one on the ice giving up his body. And, for the first time in his NHL career he eclipsed the 20-goal mark; something he should continue to do as his career progresses.
Callahan is also responsible for some memorable goals. The OT goal him and Brandon Dubinsky set up together against the Penguins on November 15th was one of the most memorable goals of the season, capping off an improbable late 3rd period comeback. His 4-goal performance against the Flyers on March 6th was the high water mark for Callahan’s season and I think a window in to what Cally is capable of. The scoring touch displayed by Callahan is something Rangers fans have wanted to see and hope to see more of in the future.
On the list of Rangers’ players who are restricted free agents this summer, Ryan Callahan is one of them but isn’t going anywhere. However, he is due and is well deserving of a raise. The question is how much do the Rangers value all of the intangibles Callahan brings in his game? He’s not a player that can be easily replaced and by no means is a “marginal” player. I don’t for see Callahan attempting to break the bank with contract demands so look for a multi-year deal at around $4 mil per season (4 years $15.2 mil would be my guess), similar to the deal Sabres forward Drew Stafford just signed. In terms of what to improve on, Callahan needs to prove this season’s point totals are more of what to come rather than a one-season wonder.