The New York Rangers have announced that Ryan Callahan has been named the 26th captain in the team’s history. Callahan will be taking over the captain’s role from Connecticut’s own Chris Drury, who was bought out and subsequently retired this past offseason. Callahan becomes the first “home-grown” prospect to be named captain since Brian Leetch was given the honor back in the 1999-2000 season.

Although there was speculation that newly-acquired center Brad Richards was in the running to be the next captain, to me the correct choice was always Callahan. He does everything you would expect a captain to do, and always has – he plays the game the way a leader should, does whatever is needed to win, and is well respected by his teammates as well as around the NHL.

After the jump, I’ll tell you why Callahan was the right choice to don the “C” on his sweater.

The best captains lead by example, rather than by voice. Yelling and screaming on the ice and in the dressing room without backing it up with play on the ice makes you nothing more than a promoter, nothing but a hype man. The best of the best provide that example in multiple aspects of the game: 5-on-5, special teams, late-game situations, etc. Callahan has long been lauded for his versatility in every aspect: Leading the team in shorthanded ice time for forwards; playing 24 shifts a game, also tops among forwards; and scoring a team-leading 10 power-play goals last season (in 60 games, mind you). He’s on the ice in every imaginable situation, busting his ass and setting a tone for his entire team.

One of the most important roles of a captain is to provide a medium between the coach and the rest of the team. Someone who’s not respected by his teammates and his coaching staff will gradually fail more and more miserably in this role. For Callahan and for the organization as a whole, this isn’t a problem whatsoever. The players respect Callahan and just as importantly the coaching staff does as well.

As I mentioned there was a case to be made for Richards, as well as Marc Staal (who were both named as the team’s alternate captains). By virtue of his experience, contract, and expectations, there is no question Richards is an essential leader of this team. Richards has a nine-year deal, has a familiarity with coach John Tortorella dating back to their days in Tampa, and will provide a valuable channel of communication between the coach and the dressing room. It’s not “his” team – it’s clearly Henrik Lundqvist’s – but he’s extremely important and valuable (and still will be as an alternate captain).

Staal is signed through the 2015 season. Just like Callahan, Staal plays in every situation and hauls ass all night – and plays close to six minutes more than Callahan each game (25:44 of ice time). Staal would have been a solid choice, and one that would have been very symbolic of the Rangers’ loaded talent along the blue line.

On the topic of contract length, Callahan goes unrestricted in 2014 after signing a 3-year extension this summer. But unlike Richards (31), Callahan is only 26-years-old, which means he hasn’t even entered his prime yet. As a result, he gives the Rangers a captain for the long-term. This is significant for two major reasons. First, Callahan will now lead this wave of a youth movement to its completion. Every young kid in the Rangers’ system now has a role model in Cally to look up to. And second, he’ll be around to lead this team to the cup run this organization hopes to make in the near future.

In it’s proper context, assigning the role of captain is a move that should symbolize the team’s overall persona. Tortorella’s teams are known to grind for every inch of the ice regardless of what the scoreboard reads. They’ll never get outworked, whether it be blocking shots, in the corners or in front of the net.

The captain of this current Rangers team – and this organization as a whole – should embody the ability to lead by example, while displaying courage and a tireless work ethic.

That is Ryan Callahan, and that is why he is the Rangers’ new captain.

It’s a perfect ending to a fantastic off-season for the Rangers’ organization.