I am participating in a Bible study on the book of Daniel currently. Beth Moore, the instructor via DVD, mentioned that Daniel was conspicuously missing from the firey furnace scenario that involved his three friends: Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael (aka Abednego, Shadrach, and Meshach). She added it was a divine set up for a step up. In other words, without their fearless leader, the threesome had to decide for themselves to obey God.
That idea reminds me of one of my absolute favorite parts of LOTR--The Cleaning of the Shire. Yes, the Hobbits were now without their fearless leaderS and had to take charge and purge the Shire of evil themselves. Gives me chicken skin (goose bumps to non-Hawaiian locals) to think about that scene. (If you are wondering where that is in the movie, unfortunately it is not there! Read the end of the trilogy, and you'll see what I mean.)