Evan Grossman | NHL.com Staff Writer
Jan 17, 2007, 12:00 PM EST
Brendan Shanahan has been the Rangers’ MVP – their Most Veteran Player. But the 37-year old has also been their most valuable player, too.
Shanahan will also be the oldest player on the Eastern Conference All-Star team next week in Dallas, proving that age is just a number. The veteran power forward has made the transition to a new team and a new city a seamless one and has shown no signs of slowing down in his advanced hockey playing age.
The Rangers have been up and down all season, as many teams have battled the newfound parity that’s engulfed the league. But with Shanahan in uniform, the Rangers have put together impressive stretches of hockey over the course of his first year in New York. "Shanny" has never had a problem scoring goals and is on pace to pot 43 this season, but the Rangers seem to have gotten a lot more than just goal scoring from No. 14 since they signed him over the summer.
The first recipient of the Mark Messier Leadership Award earlier this season, Shanahan has arguably made an even bigger impact on his new team in leading by example and providing the kind of guidance and direction not seen on Broadway since Messier was playing there.
Shanahan has scored plenty of big goals this year for the Rangers and his 12 power-play goals in 46 games were among the league leaders in that category. There are plenty of stats to keep track of Shanahan’s abilities. But earlier this season, the most notable impact he made on his new team was in an act of old-school toughness that isn’t so much recorded in fantasy leagues or record books.
For most of the year, the Rangers had a difficult time protecting captain Jaromir Jagr. He was being bullied in just about every game the Rangers played, and for one reason or another, the abuse Jagr was taking for weeks at a time went without a response from the rest of his team. The game against the Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 30 was shaping up to be just another one of those nights with enforcer Donald Brashear leading the charge.
Until Shanahan had seen enough.
In a rare show of old-school toughness and the forgotten code of NHL frontier justice, Shanahan challenged Brashear to a fight that ignited the home crowd (they chanted “Shanny! Shanny!” as the two wrestled at center ice) and the home team.
“I thought this was a game where our team needed a little extra in different areas,” Shanahan said. “I think the opportunity presented itself with some of the things he did to Jaromir throughout the game. ... I went to the faceoff, I asked him to fight, and he did. That’s as simple as it was.”
Simple yes, but the result of the scrap wasn’t as simple. In fact, that show of courage and concern for a teammate lasted over a week as the Rangers reeled off four-straight victories stemming from Shanahan’s show of leadership. You could say they got four for fighting.
“I don’t know if it means an awful lot, or if it’s just like you said, symbolic of something. I didn’t put too much thought into it,” Shanahan said. “It’s been a long time. It’s been several months since I had one of those and I’m a little out of practice. But it’s still fun while you’re in ‘em. I’ve always liked those.”
Shanahan has made an immense impact on the Rangers this season, but when he refused to turn the other cheek against the Capitals that night, it served as one of those special moments a team can rally around during the long NHL season.
“It’s just one of those things when you’re out there, you stick up for each other – in big ways and small ways,” defenseman Aaron Ward said. “I listen to what he has to say, he leads by example. That’s great. Sometimes you look for moments that can be a catalyst for going forward. It doesn’t always have to be the captain. It doesn’t always have to be the assistant captain. It just has to be one guy that says, ‘Come on, follow me.’ That’s a key component to a team’s success, knowing it doesn’t have to be one person, but that it can be everyone.”