Chris Drury after the un-called High Stick by Ryan Malone during the 2008 playoff run.
Chris Drury might have the toughest expectations to live up to as a captain for the New York Rangers. Not that all captains don't have expectations put on them, but when a player is given a C for the Blueshirts, it's something a little different if you ask me. With Markus Naslund gone and an Assistant role opened up, I wondered if there would be murmurs of changing Drury our as captain, as I have seen different rumblings from fans about Drury not being up to par as a Rangers captain over the season.
This can mostly be attributed not to Drury's actual on ice play, but to the ten years that The Captain played for the Blueshirts from 1991 through 1997 and then again in 2000 through 2004. Mark Messier left such a mark on Ranger captaincy history that every Captain that follows in his huge footsteps will be compared to him, at least until the ones that remember the spring of 1994 like it was yesterday are gone. People forget this fact as well; Messier was such a good captain and leader that he now has an award named after him that he actually gets the final say on who it goes to. The Mark Messier Leadership Award was given to Chris Chelios in its first year (2006-2007), and Mats Sundin last season. One thing I'm sure of is that neither Chelios nor Sundin had career or Crosby/Ovechkin-esque years when they won the award, which leads me to Drury.
We all know Drury's pedigree; that any sport he has picked up he has basically won at it. We also know that he grew up in Connecticut a Rangers fan, and that the guy is a class act in general. Drury is a lead-by-example guy, much like Brian Leetch was when he took over the Captaincy from Messier when he left. This is not a problem, and for most teams it works because what really matters is what goes on inside the locker-room, but for New Yorkers and Ranger fans it sometimes doesn't make the grade. They want the brash rough and tumble captain who will come out to the media and make his voice heard if necessary.
Picking a bone with Drury because he essentially isn't Mark Messier never really made sense to me. Sure, he doesn't come out like Messier did and predict wins and make some statements that rubbed some people the wrong way, but all of that doesn't matter in the end. What matters is what happens on the ice and inside the locker-room, two places where all of us are not. Drury put up 24 goals and 34 asssists for 56 points this season. He was third in scoring, and actually had an average season by his standards. Going into this past season he averaged 24.2 goals per year, 33.7 assists, and 57.8 points. So sure, he had a down year, by one point.
I don't disagree with those who say Drury looked lazy and lackadaisical at some points during the season. He made some mistakes that I've never seen him make; as he does a lot of the little things right that win hockey games (which you guys know is big to me). I attribute some of this to the system and coach he played under for the first two-thirds of the season. Tom Renney, as I have said before, is a smart guy who knows his players. Drury is a great two-way player who has really played solid defense while chipping in on offense in two seasons thus far for the Rangers. But I think Renney was too passive for our Captain. Drury has mainly played for Bob Hartley, Daryl Sutter, Lindy Ruff, Tom Renney, and now John Tortorella. Which one sticks out like a sore thumb in that bunch? Renney, as he is the most defensive and the least blunt of that entire group. The Captain-Coach relationship is very important to a successful team, and I think Drury could stand to benefit next year with a new system and a coach to which he is more accustomed to in terms of attitude.
So what's the meaning of all this? As a fan of the game and the Rangers, none of us have a right to nitpick Chris Drury about his Captain role. He is scoring like he usually does, and from my experience playing the guy who leads by example is the loudest in the locker-room when it matters. He is determined and tough, as we all know, and if you ask me there isn't a player on the Rangers right now more deserving of the role of Captain than Drury. The role of Captain on a hockey team is about knowing your team and leading them to success. Leading a team can take on many different roles as well, but it's something I am confident Chris Drury knows how to do.
So what do you guys think? Should someone else be Captain next season? Is Drury up to par in your book? Mad that he isn't the second coming of Mark Messier? Let me know in the comments.