Friday, June 17, 2011

Chris Drury: A Sad Commentary

Larry Brooks wrote today that the Rangers can't buy out Chris Drury. Because of Drury's knee injury, Glen Sather can't hand him a golden parachute and send him out of town. Instead, should things play out as Brooks expects, Dru will be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve because the knee "will render him medically unable to play next season." So no matter what happens in the next few days/weeks/months - whether Dru is bought out, placed on LTIR or pulls a Naslund and retires - one thing is all but certain: Chris Drury will not play for the Rangers again.

Please, wait a moment before hosting a celebratory pizza party.

Sure, Drury's tenure as a Ranger was not a good one. But the proud man, a winner throughout his career prior to his time in New York, is headed off Broadway as a loser. While being handsomely compensated, the guy lost his job and it was not for a lack of effort on his part. That is the one thing - when all is said and done - that can be said about Drury as a Ranger: he never gave it less than everything he had. And for that we should pause before delighting in his dismissal.

No, seriously, put that slice of pizza down.

It is not his fault that Glen Sather handed him that ridiculous contract, five years at $7.05 million per. It is not his fault that the bar was set in accordance to that contract and not his abilities. Throughout his NHL career he succeeded when he wasn't relied upon to be 'the man' and that role was thrust upon him. Granted, it was shared by the grinning Gomez, but the MexiCan't clearly didn't care. It weighed heavily upon Drury and he did care, except when it was Christmas time.

Ah, the infamous Christmas quote. On December 23rd, 2008 Drury assisted on three of four Ranger goals as they leaped out to a 4-0 lead against the Capitals before blowing it and losing in overtime 5-4. After the game Dru told the media, "“I’m certainly not going to let it ruin my Christmas and I don’t think anyone here is going to let it ruin their break, either."

Now only the insane would ever truly believe that the players, in this day and age, live and die with the results the way fans do. We may want it to be that way - we even may often delude ourselves that it is indeed so - but, deep inside, we know that that just isn't how it goes. These guys are professional athletes doing a job - if you have a bad day at work, are you going to let it ruin your holiday? But the problem is that Drury said it out loud. And, in doing so, he burst our bubble of delusion. And that is unacceptable.

Before Drury was given a sweater with a C stitched on the breast, I wrote that "the C brings with it a legacy and it should not be tarnished just because fans or pundits feel that somebody has to have it." Since that time, especially post-Xmas comment, I called Drury the worst captain in Ranger history. It is a harsh statement but one I stand by. Now that is based on the observations of an outsider; reports say Drury was respected and loved inside the locker room and that is all fine and good. Hell, that is wonderful. But that doesn't change that for us fans in the stands his ability was never apparent. Drury never picked the team up on his shoulders on the ice, never gave impassioned speeches on the bench and was a monotone, benign cliche machine in interviews.

The Rangers had many great captains over the years from Bill Cook to Red Sullivan to Dave Maloney, but the station will forever be defined by Mark Messier. The Captain set a standard that will be, frankly, unmatchable. It will take something and someone extraordinary to simply get out of the shadow cast by him. The sheer skill of Jaromir Jagr couldn't do it and the quiet determination of Chris Drury couldn't do it. We can't blame Drury for that because like his contract, that shadow was not of his doing.

What can we blame him for? For not having Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg around to distract defenses? For not being Mark Messier and willing this team to victories? For not being the exceptional fourth liner that he was in the Olympics? No. We can't blame him for any of that. Say what you want but his character and his effort were completely unassailable.

And because of that the pizza should be put away. Seeing someone with the class and dignity of Chris Drury exit the organization is not cause for celebration. The Drury era was brought about by Glen Sather and now Glen Sather has ended it. Best wishes to Drury and a warning to the GM, for he can't possibly put us through that again.

It might ruin our Christmases.


SideByEach said...

I would not compare any current or future captain of my beloved Rangers to Mark Messier. It's just not fair. You can't hold very many players up to the standards Messier set. Messier, in my opinion, is the greatest Ranger ever. He's not the greatest player to ever wear the Broadway blue, that distinction belongs to the great #99.

I like Chris Drury. He's a quality players on and off the ice. Sure he didn't produce as much as his salary would expect him to. His high salary, well that blame belongs squarely on Glen Sather's shoulders. Really, who's going to refuse a big raise? But Drury is a classy player with a lot of heart. I'd rather have an overpaid Chris Drury then an underpaid Alexie Kovalev, Scott Gomez, Saku Koivu, the Sedins or one of the many, many other tin men out there. Players with heart step up when it counts, not just when they "feel like it". Teams with a good core players with heart win championships.

Garrett said...

Great post! (Although "MexiCan't" makes me cringe every single time you write it - isn't there a better nickname out there?) You're correct to blame Sather and not Drury, and Drury certainly handled himself better than Wade Redden.

As for the comment above me, if you'd rather have an overpaid Drury than an underpaid Sedin you're insane. An overpaid 4th liner rather than an underpaid winner of the Art Ross and Hart trophy? Really?

JM said...

Most of the time, you're contrarian for the sake of being so. You're miserable and probably live in your mother's basement.

However, this piece was excellent and rings resoundingly true. Good for you to rise above the bullshit that freely flies in the Rangers blog-o-sphere.

I wish everyone had the ability to sit back and actually assess the Drury situation with a bit of intelligence as you have.

Well done.

Anonymous said...


How the hell does Saku Koivu make it onto that list of "tin men"? Few active players have embodied "class, character, and heart" the way he has.

David said...

Excellent post and very fitting to separate Drury and Gomez. They were both terrible signings in the same off-season, but the effort of the two players was very different. The upside of all of this is that there will be a new captain for the Rangers. While the "curse" of being named captain is always a risk, Captain Cally did it for most of last season, now he'll finally have the "C" stitched on his sweater. Very well earned.

Anonymous said...

You went soft on me Scotty :(

Sammael said...

I have a Drury jersey, and I still like the guy, he just cannot play anymore. I think all of those blocked shots took a toll.
He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

Captain selfish Me-$$-I-er put you through years of Drury, firing coaches, trading places and missing the playoffs with hockey's most expensive teams.

Just another failed Cablevision contract in hockey's forgotten city.

Anonymous said...

Scotty, I've hated a lot of what you've had to say for years (but I keep coming back...), but this is one of the best things you've ever written. Really great stuff! I've seen Drury from high school on, and it's a shame to see such a competitor not get to go out on his terms. Now if only you wrote for Puck Daddy...god they suck over there