Forget the dollars and sense. Big contract or not, the New York Rangers need Chris Drury. Perhaps now more than ever.
While the breakout seasons of many of the Blueshirts young guns, such as Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, have paved the way for Head Coach John Tortorella to lead the youth movement, as we embark on the second half of the 2010 - 11 NHL season, the Rangers need leadership and veteran presence on the ice.
Last night, the Rangers held a convincing 2 - 0 lead on a far-depleted Pittsburgh Penguins lineup. They allowed three goals in a head-shaking nine-minute span of the second period and then couldn't close in the third or overtime.
Make no mistake, Tortorella has had every right to play the young Rangers over veterans like Drury. Their play has dictated it and it shows a commitment to the home-grown direction that the franchise is trying to take.
However, with the Rangers reeling or needing a goal or a big faceoff, Drury has been absent on the ice. In fact, the coaching staff has looked to Brian Boyle moreso than Drury when it comes to a late faceoff, even in the defensive zone.
Last night was a perfect example. Drury didn't see any ice-time in OT nor was he selected for the shootout. How can he be successful without the opportunity to prove himself?
If the Rangers feel Drury isn't valuable in clutch situations such as important faceoffs, power plays, or the waning moments of the game, then what is his role?
It's easy to say Drury is a penalty killer, but you don't relegate your big salary Captain to merely penalty killing and the occasional fourth line shift.
Others will say that Drury is a leader in the locker room and the consumate professional.
But disrespecting him by essentially eliminating his on-ice role demeans his ability to lead. How can Drury lead if he cannot go out and do what made him successful in his career?
Drury has a lost a step, which happens with all veteran players. But the look in his face shows that he is poised to bring himself from the depths of this season. Now he needs the opportunity.
Don't discount the effect Drury's success would have on the rest of the roster, particularly the young guys. He is a well-liked captain and his improved performance would take much of the pressure off the younger guys and allow them to perform without pressing.
With the playoffs approaching, the Rangers cannot solely rest on the play of their younger players. They need the veterans to balance the lineup and Drury must be a part of that.
When Tortorella is faced with a late faceoff or needing a goal in the final minute, he should look toward the end of the bench.