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Why is Chris Drury getting such a bad rap?

February 23, 2010 3 comments

Chris Drury celebrates after scoring a goal.

I am a big fan of the New York Rangers, I watch every game and like most Ranger fans this year I am very frustrated with the teams inconsistent play. But one thing that has always bothered me about people regarding the Rangers, which has now been brought to an international view due to the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, is the little respect that Rangers captain and Team USA forward Chris Drury gets for his play. People have been criticizing Drury ever since his first year on Broadway because of his lack of offense which contradicts his reputation from when he played with the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche. Chris Drury has always been known as a clutch player, someone who would always rise to the occasion in a big moment, and when he came to the Rangers his offense ceased. Is this completely his fault? I don’t think so, I think it is the Rangers coaching staff’s fault. Should he be considered another Broadway bust, along with fellow free agent center Scott Gomez who signed a big contract with the Rangers the same day as Drury?  I don’t think so, not at all.

Moments after the Boston Bruins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers at the third annual NHL Winter Classic held at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day, the roster for team USA in the upcoming winter Olympics were announced. After seeing Chris Drury being named to a team that seemed to be going with a youth movement angered many people who did not hold back their criticism. Chris Drury was by far the least popular choice on the team and people couldn’t believe that they chose him for veteran leadership instead of big time scorers like Mike Modano, Bill Guerin, and even Scott Gomez.

During the first few games of the Olympics Chris Drury has played great and, in my opinion, has been the most noticeable player on the ice. He even scored two goals, one against Norway and the other the game winner in team USA’s thrilling defeat against Canada. Now some people have rescinded their earlier comments about Drury and publicly apologized, Jeremy Roenick. But I couldn’t help but to notice many people who still badmouth him on blogs and in comments on blogs, many of which are frustrated Rangers fans. I read one comment that said “Does anybody want Drury now that his stock is high?” I am here to set things straight for all the Chris Drury haters in the world.

Chris Drury had his best year with the Buffalo Sabres when he scored 37 goals, a career high in the 2006 – 2007 campaign. When Drury played on the Sabres he had Maxim Afinogenov and Thomas Vanek as line mates, and if not one of them Drew Stafford, Tim Connolly, or Jochen Hecht. All of the named players are very talented and when a player, such as Drury, is centering such talent he is bound to score goals, and to his credit he did. He would just skate around the zone, become invisible to the opposing team and then suddenly show up in front of an open net with the puck on his tape, and he would bury it 100% of the time. He did it to the Rangers all the time.

Since coming to the Rangers his offense has steeply decreased there is no debating that, but who has he played with? When he first came to the team they let Scott Gomez play with the great Jaromir Jagr and when that didn’t pan out Tom Renney, Rangers coach at that time, let rookie Brandon Dubinsky play with Jagr. Drury spent his time on the second or third line in which the best player he could play with was Brendan Shanahan, who was already well up there in age and couldn’t get around the ice to set up plays as well as Jagr could. Last year Jagr and Shanahan were gone, Gomez stayed on the fist line and Drury was given line mates such as Markus Naslund, like Shanahan another past his prime sniper, or young Ryan Callahan, who is one of my favorite players but lacks offensive talent. Let’s fast forward to this year, Drury started on the line with Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins, neither of which are still on the team due to their offensive doldrums, then he was on with Callahan and Enver Lisin, and finally Ranger’s coach John Tortarella moved him all the way down to the fourth line to play with Brian Boyle and Aaron Voros.

Why hasn’t Drury been given the opportunity to play with Ranger’s leading goal scorer Marian Gaborik? Or the very underrated and talented Erik Christensen, or even recently acquired goal scorer Olli Jokinen, even Sean Avery would be a good fit with him because he plays great on the boards and he gets the puck to the net. Chris Drury is a great goal scorer when he has great players around him, as we have seen in the Olympics, but Chris Drury is always a great player. By this I mean he’ll willingly give up his body multiple times a game, he will hit when somebody needs to be hit, he will take a hit when a hit needs to be taken, he will fight when he needs to stir his team up, he is the definition of a captain. Now Ranger fans might be spoiled by having two of the greatest goal scorers in history as their last two captains, Mark Messier and Jaromir Jagr, but not every captain is a goal scorer. There is no question that the Rangers are Chris Drury’s team, it was proven two weeks ago when he got in a fight against Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the team rallied around him and squeaked out a much needed overtime win against a division rival.

Chris Drury is just as valuable to the Rangers as Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lunqvist, I know that sounds crazy and you are free to call me names and question my hockey knowledge, but if you sit there and tell me that Chris Drury is a bum, a bust, and overpaid hack, then I have to question your hockey knowledge.

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Team USA stuns Canada with 5-3 win

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Chris Drury after scoring the game winning goal against Canada 2/21

USA! USA! USA!…..The patriotic cheers weren’t as pronounced as that day in Lake Placid 30 years ago, but in the middle of a predominantly Canadian crowd, one could hear the cheers from the small groups of Americans scattered around the arena as team USA defeated team Canada, locking in the 1st seed and a bye for the medal round.

When team USA was announced after the NHL 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston, many people were surprised to not see Mike Madono or Bill Guerin, or Doug Weight or even Scott Gomez. Brian Burke, team USA general manager, and Ron Wilson, team USA head coach, were obviously trying to implement a youth movement for team USA because instead of the aforementioned veterans we saw names like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, and Dustin Brown. Although Burke and Wilson did save two spots for a couple of seasoned vets, Chris Drury and Brian Rafalski, who have paid off as of thus far in the tournament. Drury has two goals including the game winner against Canada and Rafalski scored four straight times for team USA over a span of two games, including two in the game against Canada. After seeing the stacked Canadian and Russian rosters most people were quick to write off all the other talented teams in the tournament including Slovakia, powered by Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa, Sweden, powered by Daniel Alfredsson and backstopped by Henrik Lundqvist, Czech Republic, with former NHL great Jaromir Jagr providing the offense, and even team USA. But after a shaky game against Switzerland and a loss to team USA, team Canada now has to play the maximum amount of games to win the gold. This could be very tough for a roster of NHL players who have already played a very large amount of games due to the two week break needed to play in these Olympic games. Also, team Russia showed some weaknesses in their loss to surprise team, I don’t know why, Slovakia.

While watching the pre game shows, I noticed that many Canadians were very cocky about this game. There is a fine line between cockiness and confidence and the Canadians had stepped well over it. They didn’t give the Americans a chance at winning, it was going to be a rout of the bums down south. NBC analyst, and American, Eddie Olczyk said that he didn’t think that team Canada respected team USA and talked of how it may hurt them. How right he was.

Team USA defenseman Brian Rafalski scored 41 seconds into the game, with a shot that deflected off Canadian cover boy Sidney Crosby’s stick and passed Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur, setting the tone of the game and letting the Canadians know that the Americans showed up to play. This would spark the best game of the Olympics to date.  Canada tied the game up 12 minutes later when Eric Staal deflected a Brent Seabrook shot that went through USA goaltender Ryan Miller. But 22 seconds after Staal’s goal, the US came back into the Canadian zone and after corralling a puck that Brodeur batted out of the air, Brian Rafalski put a soft wrist shot five hole on Brodeur who may not have been set after his crazy baseball play.  The score after one period was 2-1 USA.

3:32 into the second period Dany Heatley scored right around the crease tying the game at two, and after this goal it looked as if Canada might have had enough energy and momentum to win. But shortly after the Heatley goal the Americans showed that they can play in front of the net as well as Chris Drury, captain of my favorite New York Rangers, collected a loose puck in front of the net and put it by defensemen Dan Boyle who was covering for goalie Martin Brodeur who was in the midst of another bad over aggressive play. This took the air out of the Canadian crowd for a bit, at least that’s how it seemed on TV, and it felt like the next goal scored would make it or break it for the Americans, luckily for them it made it. Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner was awarded with a goal for standing in front of the net screening his New Jersey Devils’ teammate Martin Brodeur as a Brian Rafalski shot from the point ticked off his skate and through Brodeur’s legs giving the Americans a two goal lead.

Unfortunately everyone knew that the Canadians were too good to let that be the final goal and Sidney Crosby delivered with a good looking goal right in front of Ryan Miller closing the lead to 4-3 and making things interesting with only 3:09 left in the game. And things were very interesting when the Canadians had the puck in the US zone for what seemed to be 2 full minutes shooting at will. Ryan Miller stood on his head during the entire game but none more than the last two minutes of the game. He had some help from Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan who never hesitate to give up their bodies to block a shot. Due to their great effort the Americans were able to clear the zone which set up the last goal by the US, an empty net one handed diving around the defensemen goal by Ryan Kesler. It was truly one of the greatest empty net goals that I have ever seen. This propelled the United States to their first win over Canada in the Olympics since 1960 when the U.S. won the gold.

Many conclusions can be drawn from this game, some people will say that it is meaningless because it was a preliminary round game but by defeating the highlt favored hometown Canadians, the US team now has a confidence and a swagger to them, they now think that they can play with any team in the tournament for 60 minutes. It also allowed them to seed 1st which is great because now they will play the winner of Swizerland/Belarus in the quarterfinals, which they should win. The Americans wanted to win this game, they wanted to show the other powerhouse teams that they are a force to be reckoned with, and they did just that.

Now for Canada this game brought up many questions. They still don’t have set lines and they have to decide whether they want to keep playing the struggling Martin Brodeur. No doubt he is, as hard as it is to say for me, the greatest goalie ever. That said, his best years are behind him and due to his over aggressive plays, which must have been held up inside of him for four long years because the NHL doesn’t allow such plays by a goalie, he cost his team a win. If they had butterfly goaltender Roberto Luongo in net that would have been a completely different game. Just something to think about.

The USA will next play the winner of the Switzerland/Belarus game on Wednesday 2/24. Until then GO USA!