Don’t Mess with the Captain


I was reading some speculation yesterday that, if Captain Callahan gets to arbitration and ends up with a one-year award, he may not get the captaincy. And, well, that just doesn’t make any sense to me. The guy is the captain of the Rangers. It’s his team. The team takes its cue from him. It plays the way he plays.

Callahan is the guy you want to hold up as an example of the identity of the Rangers, and that’s not anything negative in the direction of Marc Staal or Brad Richards or anybody else.

So what if his contract has only one year? They’ll negotiate a new deal during the season, or shortly thereafter. And they shouldn’t screw this up. Though I still think between now and tomorrow’s arbitration hearing, Callahan will sign for four or five years and slightly more money than Brandon Dubinsky got ($4.2 million a year on average).

Which brings me to something that happened 14 years ago today, and I kind of gave it away with the photo.

On July 27, 1997, the Captain walked. Well, he walked the plank, having been pushed, shoved, kicked out the door by an ownership/management group that thought he’d gotten too big, too powerful, and too handsomely paid for too long.

That was the year the Rangers, with Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier reunited, went to the Conference finals. Was that a gigantic over-achievment? Yeah, it was. Was that team trending downward? Yep, absolutely. Three years removed from the Stanley Cup, it was in need of a rebuild, and instead it had gone for The Great One and a shot at catching lightning in a Cup. And it almost worked.

Now, you can argue that if they’d booted Messier and been successful in their offer sheet to Joe Sakic, history might have been different. The truth, though, is that Sakic didn’t materialize, and with Messier — who was still their best forward by a lot — gone to Vancouver, here came the disaster that is getting better, finally, just now.

I mean, these Rangers are headed in the right direction now, but it’s been 14 years of a grand total of seven playoff series: Two of those first-round wins, three of them first-round losses, two of them second-round losses. A total of 15 playoff games won in 14 years.

And it all started by Messing with the Captain.


AP Photo, above.

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  1. Good morning, boneheads!

    Great post, Carp, interesting twist. I , too, think Callahan signs today or early tomorrow.

  2. LinSIGNCALLYNOWPrustBoylahan on


    Nice posting Carpy!

    Hey Carpy, did you know that Jeff Skinner was a figure skater?

  3. Carp, was Neil Smith the GM in 1997? I know management said in not so many words that “How long can we pay Mess for the Stanley Cup”? Was SMith still there or was it Checketts?

  4. AA- Carp is still sleeping…..Neil Smith was the GM at that time, Checketts was president and chief executive officer of Madison Square Garden. But those “famous” words belong to Checketts…

  5. Thank for the painful reminder.

    Also thanks for the heads up on MSG yesterday. It was great to see all the great Richter saves but I also got to see some great Ranger D men out of position or making mistakes. It will make me not be so hard on the current D when I am watching them.

  6. I don’t know what was worse: letting Messier go to Vancouver or getting him back. Like Carp mentioned the downward spiral in oblivion started when they let Messier go. However, when they reacquired him, he was not anywhere near the player that he used to be.

  7. I will say what I have been saying for almost a year…..

    Hello Capt. Callahan.

    Now that we know that the Storl brothers are related, do they get to have a Capt. among the three of them?

  8. That’s a little unclear. I mean…..Do the Stahll brothers have a “Capt. of the Stawells.”

  9. Hate to nitpick but wasn’t that Gretzky guy the best forward on the team in 96-97? Although Churla might get a few votes…..

  10. What could the Rangers possibly say negative about Cally? They wouldn’t have much of a case in arbitration. Proceed to the dotted line, please.

  11. Signing Cally to a long term deal and making him the Captain on opening night at the Garden will be good theater as well as the right thing to do.

    Make Richards/Staal and Dubinsky Alternate Captains.

    I still think we’re weak on defense. I would even make an offer for Komiserek and play him as a 5/6 if we can trade him straight up for Wolski.

  12. That Canucks jersey Messier is wearing in the picture is just straight up awful…

    That should have been reason enough not to sign with them…

  13. If it goes to Arbitration theyll plan the same strategy as the Dubi hearing, present a low figure and refrain from bad-mouthing and wait for the arbitrator to pick the midpoint.

    5 years $22.5m is my guess. $4.5m cap hit (p.s. Eric yours would be $4.4m per)

  14. Based on games missed due to injury I don’t think Callahan wants to have this get down to arbitration. Rangers should sign him at 6 years/4million per!

  15. Doodie Machetto on

    I still curse Fox for what they did to this franchise by signing a TV deal with Colorado.

  16. Doodie Machetto on

    Absolutely among others, but Fox and Liberty Media had an ownership interest in MSG and their broadcasting channels, and instead chose to expand their Denver market at the expense of the Rangers.

  17. Manny

    Glad you used the term best forward re Gretsky.

    But the one without peer was Bobby Orr as best all time defenseman. Who else could it be said of him that ” he changed the role of defense men for all time”?

  18. Carp – I still feel Messier had a bit of culpability in that breakdown. Think about it this way: He was basically bringing players in and chasing them out when he finally left. And is it much to ask for a guy on the downside of his 30s to not ask for a raise? You’ve definitely changed my opinion somewhat, but I still can’t find Messier blameless in all this.

    Vogs – I bet the Leafs would jump on that deal. I’ve heard a lot of negative things out of Toronto on Komisarek. The Leafs have seven defensemen signed not including Schenn. With Liles on board, I’d be surprised if they don’t move him at some point before the season. Just the problem with moving Wolski for him is that it boosts the Rangers’ cap by $800,000 they don’t have, it gets them on the hook for Komisarek for the next three season and it doesn’t really bring in the puck-mover they need. Not a bad suggestion though. He’s also a righty, which the Rangers lack on their third pairing.

  19. phil, yes, and Messier’s power within the organization — on trades, on coaching decisions — had become difficult to a degree. But he had earned that, too. I think the trade for Kurri and McSorley was at his insistence, and was an enormous mistake.

    But the organization grossly underestimated the effect his departure would have on the teammates he left here, and on the fallout that would follow. And that would be complicated when the fallout led to the firing of Campbell, the hiring of Muckler, the firing of Smith (and Tortorella) and, well, you know the rest. It was a disaster.

  20. Wicky (Leeloo Dallas mul-ti-pass) on

    Morning ILB and all!!

    Cally out hits, out hustles, and if he had played the same number of games, would have out scored dubi! He deserves more money than dubi!

    We need some bang on the blue line. The problem with komisarek is the money he currently makes to be a third pair guy is way too much. Only way I trade him is for OPG, to make sure with all the d talent in the system isn’t impeded. You have to trade a d man for a d man!

  21. I never liked Komisarek’s game that much. Sure, he’s a physical presence but, I think we have enough d-men guys in the system to make it work for the next few years. We don’t need to mortage the future of this team with another vet contract. Enough with the veteran contracts! That is not how things should operate going forward.

    Pashnin, Valentenko, McIlrath…that’s the future…

  22. Not being able to play as many games is a reason to not give him substantially more than Dubi. If he gets more at all. The biggest reason to give him more money is that he’s one year closer to UFA.

    And he’s only been on pace to out-produce Dubi in just one season.

  23. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, walking through the streets of Soho in the rain…

  24. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Wicky – “if” is never a good word …. If The Horace Clarke had played hockey, he would have been the best ever….

  25. I think the damage done to the organization by Messier, especially in his second tenure, is always underestimated. To me, who wasn’t affected by knowing him and therefore idolizing him, he overstayed and overinfluenced.

  26. The second tenure was an attempt to appease the fans, so ordered by MSG’s owner. And it diminished what he did in his first six years.

  27. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    In a poll of NHL players, ec was voted, pound for pound, the most likely player to toss a team mate under the proverbial bus.

  28. I’m amazed with Carp non-stop rhetoric about “captain Callahan”. He is a very good second line role player, no more, no less; certainly not ready for captaincy, at least at this point. I completely understand that many years of disasterous management and waves of mediocre players has brought the bar very low, but this is not the reason to loose our minds.

  29. Doodie Machetto on

    I have a strong feeling that just as how I rue our Sakic offer being matched as a result of the ownership playing both sides of the card, I will rue Sather not making an offer to Stamkos.

  30. Doodie Machetto on

    We don’t know that unless we tried. We could have thrown a 12 million a year offer at him. Most of which would be funded by not signing Brad Richards and by buying out Wolski.

  31. With the weather we’ve had, sombrero would be more appropriate, Carp….

    EC for captain! Hey, he played on the first line more than Calahan did…

  32. After Lundqvist, Callahan will be one of the longest tenured Rangers on the team. I see that as a big factor when choosing a captain.

  33. Doodie Machetto on

    We should bring back Isbister or Marcel Hossa. They both had first line minutes here a few years ago.

  34. No, CCCP isn’t Orr….Apparently, he isn’t 3eddie either- his math stinks. $6.1M over 6 years would’ve been $36.6M, not 36.8…:-)

  35. If you prefer to put the words in my mouth (where did I say that only first-liners could be captains?), it’s up to you. I simply gave a fair assessment of Cally’s role on the team. Back to the captaincy question, if I was forced to chose between Cally and Dubi, it would be the latter, but the right and truly honest decision would be to go with several ‘A’s and no ‘C’ at this point, I see no shame in this at all.

  36. no shame. but there will be a captain. and i’m pretty sure it’s going to be callahan. his role is far more than that of a second-liner.

  37. Dubi should be Captain because he talks to the refs more than Callaman. That’s just a fact!

    Torts screams at the refs. Maybe he can be Captain. He can buy another horrific looking tie with big neon green “C’s” going down the middle

  38. NYR_FAN – I’m with you there. And to be honest, I think McIlrath will be every bit as good or maybe even better than Komisarek. The question comes when is he or any of the young assets going to be ready? The players I’d trade for Komisarek are fairly limited to the following: Christensen, Eminger and Wolski, with a small footnote for Rupp(who obviously wasn’t brought in just to be traded). While I think Wolski is a good forward and could rebound nicely next year, I don’t see him as a guy to play top line and I see a glut of forwards on this team, with no place for youngsters like Zuccarello, Weise and Hagelin to slip in. And that’s before you consider the fact that Bourque and Thomas will also be looking for spots.

    I do agree, $4.5 million is a lot to play third pairing. But then again, you could always move Komisarek into Sauer’s spot on second pairing. Nevertheless, if the Rangers did go after him, I kind of doubt that they’d do anything until the first few games of pre-season.

    Carp – The way I kind of summarize it now is greediness on both sides. Messier refused to keep his fingers out of the porridge and let the front office do its job. They could see how critical he was to the lineup. And in the end, it was us, the fans, who suffered the worst. Ultimately, we were the ones that ‘kept needing to pay’ for the 1994 cup. Sad.

  39. DINAMO – I can’t think of a player more deserving of the captaincy than Callahan. Even if you don’t consider him more than a very good second-line player, we saw how badly the Rangers miss him when he’s out last season. They limped through his broken hand in the winter, but were sorely missing him against the Caps. Also, I’d say his experience on Team USA(also the fact he was selected for the squad over a guy like Dubinsky) points to why he’s such an important player. The only other guy I could see getting it is Staal.

  40. lulz Cally is not a 2nd liner. He does everything. If you wanted him to back off on his two-way play, hitting, and pking, sure he could be a first liner and put up more points but that isn’t his role. He brings it every game and deserves the C more than anyone. HE IS THIS RANGERS TEAM and is more than ready to push everyone to play at the highest level they can.

    “Cally out hits, out hustles, and if he had played the same number of games, would have out scored dubi! He deserves more money than dubi!”

    This is a business. “Would have” and “number of games” are key phrases. He may not get more than Dubi but he should get another year or two hopefully.

  41. Sauer is better than Komi now, IMO.

    Nobody wants Christensen or Eminger. And, the Rangers would look to dump Woof’s (Wolski’s) salary for an asset…but they’re not looking to take that much salary back…

    Woof will get his shot and if it doesn’t work for him, no harm done,…he’s on a 1 year deal, he’ll go to CT and come off the books…

  42. lol Sather: “How long do I have to pay for that beautiful OT goal against Pittsburgh?”

    Even if Messier had stayed the damage had already been done. This team was depleted of it’s youth. Guys like Amonte were out in Chicago scoring 40 goals a season while we were relying on signing guys like Tikkanen and Bruce Driver to plug holes that Smith created for himself to fill. The core 4 guys had good seasons statistically that year but they were a .500 team and weren’t supposed to get out of the first round. I believe the predictions went “Panthers in 5” and even in round two it was “Devils in 5” Mike Richter was the biggest reason they got to the conference finals while boasting a .932% save percentage in the post season..unfortunately that would be his last post season.

  43. always right on

    “It’s his team. The team takes its cue from him. It plays the way he plays.”

    So when the Rangers come out playing slow and uninterested on some nights, are they taking their cue from him then too?

  44. DerekStepan21 Done with workout skate tonight looks like it’s off to the xbox… Wish my buddy @RMcDonagh27 would join me in a session #locationlocation

    This kid’s destined for a sophomore slump!

  45. Isn’t there a rule that Goalies can’t wear the “C” when on the ice or something?

  46. Umm that’s horse carcillo about Callahan. The guy played in 60 games and went 23-25-48 while being our best PK guy and having the most hustle on the team. If he plays the other 22 games I’m willing to bet he goes at least 7-5-12 and suddenly we’re talking about how he had a 30 goal/60 point season, a career year and some would even discuss how he’s developed into a 1st line player. This team is young and still growing but it’s trying to do things in the now. Not 4 seasons from now. Let’s give the C to our most important player and move forward while continuing to grow instead of arguing that no one is ready for the responsibility of wearing the C.

  47. Phil and NYR_fan – Komiserek is mean and is the physical presence we could use back there for right now, plus he’s under contract and on the cheap ($3.5) that last three years of his deal.

    He’s American and if he could be had for Wolski and Pashin then I’d consider it.

    By the time his deal is up MacIylrath will be ready.

  48. phil, it’s not black and white issue. I know how essential Cally is for the Rangers and yes, the team missed him badly when he was out as well as they missed Dubi during his out times during last two years. All I’m saying is that in my opinion captaincy demands more than that, although I realize that most of the people here think differently.

  49. true story. i got my first mark messier jersey and 3 weeks later he signed with the canucks

  50. I don’t know if it’s real though, ORR. I agree that Hank should have a letter. I thought he didn’t because of that rule.

  51. Our defense needs a veteran tough guy, IMO. Komisarek might not be that guy, but I thought picking up McCabe was a good move, until I saw him skate, but someone who can play a similar role would be nice to have, perhaps towards the end of the season after Wolski has won us 5 games with his shootout skills.

  52. totally agreed Orr. The reality of it is that our blue line is going to look like this-

    Staal- Girardi


    Del Zotto- Eminger

    With Erixon or Valentenko coming in and out of the lineup in place of Eminger/injury throughout the year. We may not have that “i’ll eat your face if you touch my goalie’s crease” kind of Dman in the line up but we never do.

  53. As many of you, I loved Cally from his first appearance on the MSG ice, who wouldn’t. And yes, he is the face of what our team represents and how wants to be identified. Another words – he is “Le chevalier sans peur et le reproche” (The knight without fear and reproach) to me and most of Rangers fans. Is he ideally perfect as a player? Probably not. Team personality? As close, as you can get. Consistent ability to lead by example on ice and descent articulate skills + long enough contract, he deserved and will most definitely achieve today – make him absolutely the best material for Captancy on existing team. (Some has more talent, some – better talkers, some are aged and more experienced, etc., but he is full, balanced package).
    Two things only I’m afraid of…1. Torts will serve “C” to Richards, despite all this.
    2. The higher we put our idols on pedestal the more painful is fall. The way he is playing, I’m afraid, we will see him exponentially less on ice, due to all kind of potential serious injuries; which has tendency to become chronic, and therefore his captaincy will deteriorate.

  54. If Torts gives the “C” to Richards, I honestly wouldn’t care. Like I’ve always said, leaders don’t need letters to lead.

    It’s really a pointless argument of who should get it, between Cally, Dubi, and Stawl. Like I said, the “C” should be given to the most important player, and that’s Hank. If Hank can’t have it, then it’s a meaningless letter.

  55. always, wrong. you saw how the team played last year, didn’t you? are there going to be off nights and slow starts and blown leads? Of course. But overall there’s an identity to the way a team plays. Callahan is front and center with that identity. And he’s a leader.

  56. vogs = wicky??

    why would we trade a young promising dman (Pashnin) for an old and slow Komisarek?? Oh yeah… cuz Komisarek helped Toronto D so much, right?

  57. I find it funny that the Mariners have a player named “Carp.” I assume it’s our very own Carp….making it more amazing that he can do both simultaneously.

  58. See – Carp is simultaneously posting here and hitting singles in Yankees stadium!

  59. always right on

    What was the Rangers identity last year?

    Maximum effort, hustle, laying bodies on the line to block shots

    What will the Rangers identity be this year?

    If the Rangers struggle this year, end the season 12th in the East standings, and mail in games towards the end of the season, with Callahan is the captain, would that still be a reflection on Callahan?

  60. Carp! You’re posting from first base. I can see you on the monitor on your BB while taking your lead.

  61. Voice, leaders don’t need letters to lead. That’s true. Lundqvist has always been a leader. Dubinsky and Boyle and Prust and Girardi didn’t need letters to lead last year, and they did.

    But it can be a mistake if a team gives the “C” to the wrong guy. (See: Philadelphia).

  62. always right – nose picker! no doubt

    now that he can’t really hate on Dubi, he moved his hate focus on Cally.

  63. Another awesome baseball point.

    Mariners have a guy named “Carp” (in a city known for some stupid fish market)

    Angels have a guy named “Trout”

    Let’s get these guys on the same team?

  64. I think 95% of Rangers fans agree with Carp about Cally…if you watch the games, it’s obvious…

  65. Gift of GAB-orik on

    Regarding Goalies being captains and having the ‘C’…

    “”Goaltenders may not be designated as captains or alternate captains because of the logistical challenges of having the goaltender relay rules discussions between referees and coaches and then return to the crease. The last NHL goaltender who served as team captain prior to this rule coming into effect was Bill Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1947-1948 season.”

  66. unless you sacrifice your spleen for the team… you are not a captain material. So the choice is obvious…


  67. always right on

    So if the Rangers succeed with a hustle, no quit attitude, then it is a reflection of Callahan as captain, and if the Rangers fail with lifeless performances and a quit attitude, then it is not a reflection of Callahan as captain. Seems consistent /sarcasm

  68. I think 95% of Rangers fans aren’t happy unless they have something to bitch about. I mean I love debating but are we really going to argue that there’s a better captain FOR THIS TEAM?! Maybe on the Red Wings or the Bruins Callahan would be a role player and one of those leaders we mentioned who would never have a letter on his chest. He’d still be one of the most valuable players on those teams. Here in NY he has a much more prominent role. Mainly because they’re younger and they don’t have a roster with a couple of super star quality players or even clear cut 1st line players- even with Richards. But is that to say that Gaborik deserves the C? No. Not in my opinion. So I guess it comes down to your criteria for a captain.

    With that I’ll say this much- here’s my criteria for a captain. I want the captain to be the guy everyone looks to when there’s panic or uncertainty on the bench. The guy that can go out there and leave it all on the ice and doesn’t stop skating with 3 minutes to go in the 3rd even if theyre down 5-1. And the guy who isn’t a talker but can get in everyones ear in the locker room. So you Callahan analysts tell me which player on this team is at the front of the line for all that.

  69. Callahan will be great captain, because he plays the same way, night in and night out. Whether he makes a big play or not is almost irrelevant, he puts his head down and plows forward with all his might, every single shift. There’s something so amazing about watching Callahan throw a check on Chara. He’s someone i’d want my kids to emulate, i’m sure he’ll make a fine captain.

  70. always right- are you one of those guys that could sit there and watch the Rangers win 20 games in a row only to lose one finally after which you go “see?! they suck!” ?? Is it a reflection on Lidstrom or Alfredsson or Crosby or Iginla or Nash when their teams don’t play well? Are these guys some of the most non deserving captains in the league because their teams played poorly at times? I don’t think they are. And more to the point I don’t think the fans of their teams sit and debate whether they’re worthy of wearing the C if things don’t go perfectly.

  71. This is probably going to cost them more in the long run. in 3 years he’ll be 29 and probably have a couple of 30 goal seasons under his belt. Depending on what the FA pool looks like at that point in time he may be then what Richards was this July 1.

  72. Mister Delaware on

    “Haha!! How does Dubi get more years? Cally should fire his agent …”

    Both signed away 2 UFA seasons. Same basic deal.

  73. Mister Delaware on

    Signed away 3 UFA seasons, not 2. My mistake. But still same basic deal.

  74. CCCP – who’s Wicky? I don’t know what that means.

    Pashin was a 7th round pick whose way behind others on the depth chart.

    And I think we need a tougher defense because I am tired of watching our goalie get run. Neither Girardi or Staal have shown any interest in preventing that from happening in the past and MDZ and Eminger aren’t going to scare anyone.

    A team needs a tough defenseman in my book

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