What it means: The New York Rangers have taken great care to cultivate the identity of a hard-nosed, gritty, blue-collar team and no player represents that better than Ryan Callahan. This was not merely a decision about the next captain, but a statement about what type of team this will be for years to come.
A 2004 Rangers draft pick, Callahan has come up through the system and established himself as the type of player an organization wants to build a team around. The gutsy 26-year-old forward has earned the respect of his teammates, coaches and management alike for his relentless work ethic. This nod is an unequivocal affirmation of his play and commitment.
Alternate side: Both Marc Staal and Brad Richards were also pretty obvious choices to join Callahan among the team’s leadership structure.
Staal has already earned his stripes as an alternate captain and a vital member of the team’s young nucleus.
By virtue of the 9-year, $60 million contract the Rangers rewarded him with this summer, Richards is expected to play like a leader regardless of what letter is on his sweater. The 31-year-old center already has a great relationship with head coach John Tortorella dating back to their Tampa days; the “A” will require him to forge such relationships with his new teammates as well.
Bottom line: Good move by the Rangers, who have essentially identified Callahan as the heart and soul of the team. On a club that prides itself on growing and developing youth, Callahan’s contemporaries must appreciate one of their own filling the post.