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.