The coach spoke with half-a-dozen New York writers, including former Newsday colleague, Katie Strang, who will enhance espnny.com with coverage of the Rangers, Isles and Devils:
“(Cally) has the respect of his teammates, the respect of his coaches, the respect of the organization. He does it the right way on the ice, he does it the right way off the ice, and he’s matured into this....Staalsie was going to keep an ‘A.’ We wanted him to have an ‘A.’ There were a number of choices. But I know Brad, we know Brad’s leadership skills. I’ve had him before, he’s been in the situation before. We have two fairly young captain/alternate captains. I think it’s a good mix now with more of a veteran player, and I think Brad’s going to add a tremendous amount to our leadership group. So I think it’s a good fit.”
“What always really hit me, when he (Richards) was a young player – and I had him when he was really young – was his respect for the game. He understands the history of the game, which I think, a lot of athletes forget that. That’s very important for young players in all sports, to understand the history of the game. He respects the game. I just felt he got it right away with the intangibles of the locker room at such a young age, and I think has matured. I haven’t been with him for the past few years, but I know what he brings as far as leadership skills. He’s not a holler guy. I don’t think any of them really are holler guys, but I think the group of them, along with the other group – there’s going to be a leadership group that may not have the letters, but it’s going to be a leadership group – I think it’s a good fit now as far as where we’re going as a hockey club.”
On Callahan having grown to be captain through the system: “We’ve talked about this now for three years, as far as keeping our youth, developing our youth and keep on growing. I think what we did this summer with some free agents, in Richie and Rupp and so forth, we’re at the next stage of our development where we’ve added a couple of veteran guys and I think our young players have grown. We’re going to continue to try to instill even more young kids into our lineup this year if at all possible. But where Cally has gone to, it’s home grown, he’s gone through it and it’s the way it should be done as far as we’re concerned as an organization. He went through the minors, he’s grown, he’s developed, and he’s gained the respect to have this opportunity to be our captain. To be the captain of the New York Rangers, it’s a pretty cool thing. Original Six. He fits it. He fits it, just the way he’s gone about his business.”
“We really, I thought we took some major steps in our identity last year. We’re a straight-ahead team, a hard-working hockey club. No-nonsense. I could be talking about the hockey club – who am I talking about here, the hockey club or Cally right now? That’s just the way he is. It goes along with it.
“It’s being with them every day. You guys see them on the game, you don’t see him in the room and in the weight room. I spend a lot of time watching, watching the locker room. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m watching. The players don’t know. I just look at different things, watch players, how they handle themselves. I think there’s a lot of little things, a lot of intangibles that come into play when you’re looking for your leadership group and your captain. I’ve watched Cally for the past, from the time that I’ve been here, and I think he’s developed into it. It’s not just scoring the big goal or finishing his checks, all the things he does on the ice – it’s the other things he does off the ice, and how he relates to the players, that’s very important when you start getting into your leadership group.”
"I don’t think Ryan Callahan changes. This is why we want him as the captain, because we think he has developed into that. Ryan needs to be Ryan. I talked to him, the one thing I did say to him, when you get into this situation, you’re the captain and head of the leadership group, it’s not always about making everybody happy – it’s what’s best for the hockey club, and how you handle yourself in certain situations. He’ll handle it the right way. That leadership group is a conduit. He has the right to come to me and say, what about this instead of that? And we need to listen, because he’s going to take the voice of the locker room and bring it to us.
"When Dru was out, I went to him a lot. I have questions for them, too. I’m looking for their input. I said, should we take that day off, or should we skate today and take that day off? I want to know what’s best for the team, and what’s best for their bodies, and they’re the only ones that know."
About the timing of the announcement: "You can wait until you have your team picked and then name your leadership group. I’m pretty confident this was going to be it no matter what. We talked about it as a management group and coaches. So I just wanted to, the number of things we have to do in the preseason, and traveling (in Europe), I wanted to get as much of the busy work out of the way and get our team set so we could just concentrate on our day to day business.”