Captains who yell and scream in the locker room without backing it up on the ice are just hype men, the hockey equivalent of that dude who got paid to dance around the stage during Mighty Mighty Bosstones shows.
The best captains lead by example, and the best of the best provide that example in a multitude of situations: 5-on-5, special teams, late-game situations.
Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers has long been lauded for his versatility: Leading the team in shorthanded ice time for forwards, scoring a team-leading 10 power-play goals last season in 60 games and playing 24 shifts a game, also tops among forwards.
He's out there in every situation, hauling ass and setting the tone.
He's earned the captaincy, and on Monday Callahan was given the 'C' by the Rangers.
From the team on Callahan, the 26th captain of the Blueshirts :
New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that forward Ryan Callahan has been named the 26th captain in franchise history. Brad Richards will join Marc Staal as the club's two alternate captains.
"Ryan Callahan embodies all the leadership qualities we seek from our Captain," Sather said. "He leads by example with courage and a tireless work ethic on and off the ice, which is why he is so deserving of this honor."
There was a case to be made for Richards and Staal to get the captaincy.
By virtue of his experience, his contract and his expectations, Richards is an essential leader on this team. You can't go as far as to say it's "his" team, being that it's Henrik Lundqvist's team, but he's that important. And as a communication conduit between his coach and the rest of the room, he's valuable (and still will be as an alternate).
Richards has a 9-year deal. Staal is signed through 2015. Callahan, meanwhile, goes unrestricted in 2014 after inking a 3-year extension this summer. Like Callahan, Staal plays in every situation and plays around six minutes more than Callahan does per night (25:44). If you're someone that prefers the captaincy on a defenseman -- raises hand -- Staal would have been a solid choice, and also symbolic of the Rangers' loaded talent on the blue line.
But Callahan feels right, if you're going to look at the captaincy in the proper context, which is as a symbolic move with regard to a team's persona. John Tortorella teams might lose 1-0 or win 7-1, but they'll never get outworked: in the corners, in front of their net or in blocking shots.
Callahan broke his hand blocking a Kris Letang shot and then fractured his leg blocking a Zdeno Chara shot (never a good idea). Some might see that as disregard for one's well-being; the Rangers, correctly, see it as a captain's courage.