The Curious Case of Ryan Callahan

So what makes Callahan so valuable?

Goals. Callahan had 29 this season. That’s more than Claude Giroux, Thomas Vanek, Anze Kopitar, Martin St. Louis, Eric Staal, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler and Dany Heatley.  For the record, Callahan played fewer games than any of them.

Minutes per game. Callahan averaged 20:47 this season. That includes significant short-handed and power-play time. Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, David Backes and Ryan Kesler all averaged less.

Clutch performances. Callahan scored 9 game winning goals this season. Only Steven Stamkos, Johan Franzen and Radim Vrbata had more.

Heart. In December 2010, Callahan missed 19 games with a broken hand after blocking a Kris Letang slapshot. In April 2011, his season was ended when a Zdeno Chara slapshot broke his ankle. This past season, Callahan came back to block 88 shots. Amongst NHL forwards, only Brooks Laich and Darroll Powe blocked more.

Leadership. In his first season as captain, Callahan led a team of big egos and even bigger paychecks to a 109 point season and first place in the Eastern Conference. At a time of year where “leadership” becomes a nightly buzzword, this component cannot be overstated.

Ultimately, in a league chock-full of specialists, a player possessing any one of the aforementioned assets could be the determining factor in a team’s quest for the Stanley Cup. And because of that, finding a single player possessing all of them (at a cap hit of less than $4.3M) is nearly impossible.

And that’s what makes Ryan Callahan’s case so peculiar. He possesses all the characteristics an NHL general manager could want. He plays in the media-hotbed of New York City. He’s the captain of the best team in the Eastern Conference. Yet, for some odd reason, he simply fails to generate any significant media attention.

Because of this, the relative anonymity of Ryan Callahan might be the most compelling NHL story we’ve never read about. And for now, maybe that’s fine.

But it certainly won’t last much longer.

I’d guess June, at the latest.