Ryan Callahan is the heart of the Rangers organization, or so some people think. I wouldn’t entirely disagree with them. Yet, I think the Captain “C” on his jersey is for being a leader and one of the most respected guys on the team. There’s no shame in that.
Then there’s the Sean Avery-Connecticut Whale situation. I make no secret that I am an Avery fan. Yet, if you go on Twitter or follow the Blue Seat Hooligan Brigade (hey, I’m a part of it too when I go to games), you’d think Avery was the rug that tied the room together. I’m not saying he wouldn’t help but…to think that losing a game on a shootout like they did on Saturday and Avery would have somehow avoided that is missing the larger picture. For one, and I didn’t see the game, but I do notice that as great at King Henrik is, he tends to get complacent with a big lead. Again, I don’t know how flukey the goals were that scored but I do know that I’ve seen it up close and personal (at the playoffs last year, where I sat through horrific overtime and witnessed a fist fight between TWO Ranger fans who were like 50 years old), so I wouldn’t just absolve Henrik of his responsibility. Even though, he had been doing his best to carry the team on his back.
John Tortorella might be the bane of existence for certain fans, but not this one. When I miss Tom Renney, that’s totally my problem (and something that I don’t think any human should admit), but for the most part, I don’t think that firing the coach is going to do much, plus it’s kind of cutting off one’s nose to spite their face.
Sean Avery was placed on re-entry waivers today, but that doesn’t mean he will be picked up. He’s got a lot of heart and soul, and I love his gutsy play, but he’s far from the best player on the team, or someone who is a difference-maker.
You know who has been missing? Marc Staal.
Staal has been out of commission since after a hit sustained by his brother in a game from February last year. I’ve detailed that here at this site, how strongly I feel about concussive disorders, especially in sports. No matter what, they seemed to be handled all wrong. But with good reason. I mean, we’re talking about a BRAIN INJURY folks. They can’t be handled too lightly, in my opinion.
What concerns me though, is how quickly he’s recovering. Eric Lindros is a perfect example of someone who had a brain of mush figuratively when it came to hits on the ice. It took him an incredible amount of time to recover. Same with Pat LaFontaine who had to retire after sustaining too many concussions. I totally agreed with how the Rangers handled his symptoms by not having him go with the team to Europe, which was essentially the beginning of a long road trip and spending a lot of time in the air. But I have to ask the question: is he coming back this year? I know concussions are really tricky, but it suggests to me that perhaps he rushed back last season, or maybe was handled differently.
I know in baseball, players don’t want to be DL’d and some guys would want to play with limbs hanging from their bodies, but at what expense? To hurt the team overall when they play hurt because they are not 100%? Is that what happened in Staal’s case? Or did he feel fine, then didn’t after returning? It just boggles me.
Perhaps it’s his durability, since he’s rarely missed a game in these last few seasons, that is missed. Perhaps it’s that he’s a 6’4″ 208 lb muscle man who can protect his goalie to the extent that Henrik doesn’t have to do it all on his own. Perhaps it’s the lack of set-up passes to the centers and wingers who can shoot the puck. Perhaps it’s his leadership, the je ne sais quoi that maybe Cally doesn’t have? Nothing to knock my boy Ryan, but I’m just grasping here. Staal is 24 years old, and it would be very tragic if his career had to end suddenly because of a fluke hit by his own brother nine months ago.
At the end of the day, one of the reasons why Rangers fans were so excited about the prospect of having Brad Richards on the team was that perhaps he could pick up Marian Gaborik, who had a noticeable drop off in goal scoring in 2010-11, over a 30 goal differential. The Rangers no doubt need that goal scoring potential; then again, they didn’t make the playoffs when Gabby was shooting-and-scoring, and they did when he did not.
Perhaps it is Marc Staal who is the missing link, who needs to be back to tie the room together much like the rug in the Big Lebowski. All I know is whatever it is the Rangers are missing, Sean Avery nor firing the coach nor benching Henke will help. Staal has been the missing link this entire season. Yet I have to wonder if he’s going to return this season.