New York Rangers fans are still upset about the trade of Ryan Callahan. They use reasons such as his leadership, that he was homegrown and that he was a physical presence on the ice to justify keeping him. It’s unfortunate that Chris Kreider wasn’t ready to join the Rangers sooner, because he’s showing the team and fans alike what being a physical presence really is. While Callahan would hit everything that moved, he would bounce right off. 5-foot-10 and 190-pounds doesn’t knock down most NHL players, but 6-foot-3 and 230-pounds gets the job done.
Callahan’s physicality and effort are what made him a fan favorite. It’s unfortunate because Callahan’s physicality was negated when he tried to hit players bigger than him. Most players in the NHL can stand up against Callahan’s frame. His willingness to battle down low and give his best effort is appreciated by every NHL fan, yet that doesn’t mean he should have stayed a Ranger. Signing him to a contract anywhere near the reported $6 million that Glen Sather offered him would set New York back for years. Callahan said that he is going to bring in effort, physicality and a penalty killing presence to the Tampa Bay Lightning. That doesn’t warrant the salary of a first line scorer. Simply put, today’s NHL is a business. This is more apparent because of the salary cap, which has led to parity around the league.
Enter Kreider. The rookie is a force to be reckoned with. He can do it all in the offensive zone. Fast as a jet and stronger than a bull, Kreider is the real deal when it comes to forechecking and physical play. He not only hits, but he hits hard. When Kreider goes into the corner, the other player visibly shies away from physical contact. It got to the point where one of the most physical defenders in the league, Dion Phaneuf, fought Kreider to remind him that his hits won’t go unnoticed by opponents. Yet Kreider has persevered and continued playing with that gritty edge. He scores goals from five feet out and from the top of the circle with his excellent shot. He continues to skate in on the forecheck and make defenders pay. Rangers fans should realize that they wish Callahan was this size and had as much skill as Kreider does, because he’s the real type of player the team wants.
Kreider also has much more offensive potential than Callahan did. While Callahan topped out at 29 goals under John Tortorella where he was playing top line minutes, he was never going to reach that total with a better overall team like this year’s Rangers. Kreider is only playing a tick over 16 minutes per game and is on pace for a respectable rookie season of over 40 points. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Kreider is only 22 years old and can only go up from here. As long as he is given opportunities, which he will with Alain Vigneault as head coach, he will grow into one of the strongest and most dangerous scorers in the league. Fans shouldn’t be upset about losing Callahan when Kreider does everything the former Ranger offered and that much more.