If/When Drury Returns, Where Will He Fit?March 24, 2011, by
In case you missed it, the Rangers have been without Captain Chris Drury for quite some time this year. He missed a good portion of the early season with a broken finger, and has missed the past several weeks with a knee injury. Without him, the Rangers have developed four solid and well balanced lines with a useful 13th forward, and do not seem to be missing their captain on the ice. However, knee injuries don’t last forever (generally speaking), and at some point, Drury will be back on the ice. If that is this year, then it becomes a question of who, if anyone, sits.
There’s no doubt that Drury’s game has slipped this season, but if it’s because of the knee, we won’t know until he returns. He has clearly lost a step, and was getting beat on a regular basis. But, Drury has been a consummate professional on and off the ice, and has been a great role model for the kids who have taken over the team in his absence. His presence is not missed on the ice, but is missed in the locker room, which may be enough to force coach John Tortorella’s hand in playing the aging center upon his return.
Should Tortorella succumb to the pressure to play Drury, who will sit? Right now, the Rangers seem to have a rotation for the 13th forward with Sean Avery, Wojtek Wolski, and Erik Christensen. Whoever plays the worst sits for a game or two. It’s fairly simple, and the Rangers have been on a five game winning streak since that was employed. Throw Drury into the mix, and then the Rangers have a $7 million Captain who should be in that rotation. Ice time will be reduced significantly for one or even two of those three already in the healthy scratch mix. The question remains though, does Drury deserve to be inserted back in the lineup on a regular basis?
Out since February 4 following knee surgery, the initial timetable for Drury’s return was six weeks. Six weeks has become almost eight weeks, and there is still no indication of when he will return. When he does return, the biggest question won’t be about his ability to play, it will be about where he fits into the lineup. The Rangers clearly don’t miss him on the ice, and while his leadership is important, is his $7 million price tag worth the leadership and declining skills?