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The Captain is back

Posted By On December 14, 2010 @ 7:00 am In Hockey,New York Rangers | 272 Comments

[1]We expect Chris Drury to play tomorrow in Pittsburgh, and I’m sure those guys who are at practice today will be talking to the captain about his return.

But I want to get the discussion going ahead of the pack.

Here’s my take:

I know he’s not the most popular Ranger among many of you guys, and a lot of that has to do with his salary, and with his monotone personality, and his failure to meet the expectations so far in his Rangers tenure. I think a lot of those expectations were unrealistic — that he would score tons of goals, especially every clutch goal every night. Unrealistic, in part, because he arrived with Scott Gomez, the two best free agents on the market at the time (but, in honesty, B-listers) causing too much buzz and excitement for what the Rangers were actually getting.

But I think the Rangers can and will be helped by Drury’s return. The obvious is that Drury helps, immediately, where the Rangers are weakest: on faceoffs. He will also add another very good penalty killer.

I think he’s better than quite a few players in the Rangers lineup last night, and he will be an upgrade on whomever he replaces. Immediately it will be Todd White, and that’s a no-brainer. When Derek Boogaard comes back, it will be somebody else. And Vinny Prospal will replace somebody, too.

You have to love that John Tortorella has promised that no kids will come out of the lineup. None.

Some of you have reservations about adding a player to what so far has been a terrific mix, of adding a guy we haven’t really seen since last year to what is a new team with a new attitude and a new, tough, straight-ahead, all-for-one, never-stop-playing identity. And that’s fair.

Except that I think the Rangers’ current style fits Drury’s game, and vice versa. Yeah, he’s not terribly tough or fast, but he likes to play the cycling game, he likes to forecheck, he is hard on the puck, he’s a great shot-blocker, which has become one of this team’s strengths.

And the main thing is that his teammates totally respect him as a player, as a captain, and are looking forward to his return.I know that the coach thinks the world of his captain.

I suspect Drury will be better on this team than he was on the previous, more confused, softer, inconsistent teams. This team counts on contributions from everybody, and Drury will contribute more than enough, just like everybody else.

So where does he play, besides the PK and on crucial faceoffs?

That’s the big question. I’m guessing he starts off on the fourth line, because Derek Stepan has been so good with Marian Gaborik recently, because Artem Anisimov is re-discovering his game where he had so much success between Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, and because you don’t want to mess with the Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust combo at all.

So Drury could play on a line with Erik Christensen and Sean Avery at first. Or, if Tortorella wants to experiment and give him a bigger ole, Drury could be tried in Ruslan Fedotenko’s spot with Stepan and Gaborik, or he could be tried in Alex Frolov’s spot with Boyle and Prust.

Whatever his role will be in the near future, and down the road, I think he should be seen as a positive addition. …

Of course, we’ll watch and form opinions that may differ as the games go on, and reserve the right to change our minds (or my mind). I’ve been known to be wrong before.

What do you think?

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