New York Rangers coach John Tortorella is one of Team USA's assistant coaches, which is very convenient, as head coach Ron Wilson has done what Tortorella has struggled with: found successful roles for Rangers Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury.
The U.S. easily beat Switzerland in Team USA's Olympic opener. The American team is star-studded, but Callahan and Drury played more of an energy role, coming out in limited minutes to forecheck hard and just kind of punish the Swiss.
But Drury's aggressive checking set-up Bobby Ryan's first goal, giving the Anaheim Duck the space he needed to beat his NHL teammate, goaltender Jonas Hiller.
Under Tortorella's Rangers coaching so far, Drury hasn't had a consistently defined role. He's bounced from line to line, sometimes expected to be an offensive player, sometimes being a fourth-liner, and in general, not playing up to his cap hit.
Callahan has had a more consistent role, expected to be an offensive player, despite the fact he's never scored more than 22 goals in a season.
The fact of the matter is that while Callahan is an incredible forechecker, he's not much of a finisher. He can penetrate deep into offensive zones, but he's not much of a threat once he's there.
Wilson looked at Drury and and Callahan's skill set and saw an immediate role for them: a high-class energy line. Many NHL teams use an energy line to give the other three lines a break. Energy line players usually aren't great offensive or defensive players, but check hard and aggressively. They don't play huge minutes; most of the time they're just trying to wear opponents down a little.
It's not a glorious role, but it's one Drury and Callahan thrived in. And the fact that the two players are much more talented than your average energy player means that if a scoring opportunity presented itself, the two would be very well equipped to take advantage. Since they can both play well defensively, it means there's not much risk in having them on the ice.
It'll be interesting to watch how Wilson treats Callahan and Drury as the Olympics progress. As the two prove their ability as energy guys, Wilson might give them more ice time and more responsibilities.
I'm guessing that as opponents get more challenging, Callahan and Drury will transition out of their energy role into more of a dedicated checking-line role, with the two (possibly with Ryan, but perhaps with checker extraordinaire Jamie Langenbrunner) spending some time trying to shut down top lines, although with teams as deep as Team Canada and Team Russia, it's hard to decide which line is really the top one.
Tortorella doesn't have many quality pieces on the New York Rangers, and he's struggles managing the few good players he does have.
Drury and Callahan in the Olympics is a chance for Tortorella to see his familiar players in a new light and to get some ideas on how to use them effectively.
Hopefully he's watching very closely from the bench and taking lots of notes.
The Olympics could be just the inspiration Tortorella needs to finally get the Rangers on some kind of roll.
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