Coming off a huge win over the Phoenix Coyotes, when Brad Richards scored the game-winning goal with .1 seconds remaining to give the New York Rangers the win and snap a two-game losing streak, the team finds themselves down a defenseman yet again, as Steve Eminger took a check and went shoulder first into the boards during the second period. While we do not know what exactly is wrong, we do know that he left the arena with his arm in a sling, and by looking at the replay, it seems as if he might have separated his shoulder. Severe or not, the Rangers are in a bind. Marc Staal has been out the entire season with post-concussion syndrome and Michael Sauer, more recently, suffered a concussion as well. The Rangers, who, at the beginning of the season, had one of the best defensive depths in the league, are now losing that by the game.
If you want to hear from John Tortorella his reason for why the New York Rangers lost in a dismal game against the Edmonton Oilers, 2-0 last night, you are going to have to take a rain-check. The head coach, who pulls the stunt of not wanting to talk to the media in a post game press conference a few times a year, coming with more regularity as the season progresses, is not helping his image any, one that is already tarnished because of the way his team has started. Though I suppose it was more mature than dropping F-bombs on Larry Brooks, a clunker like the Rangers had last night is one that comes with many questions, two of which included, “Why was Marian Gaborik playing on a line with Dubinsky and Anisimov?” and “How come Richards was centering Stepan and Callahan?”. I know Johnny Juggles has the compulsion to mix up his lines every two shifts, hindering any formulation of chemistry on his own, but is there much sense in putting the team’s best scorer with two players who can’t pass, and putting the team’s best passer with two players who couldn’t hit the ocean if they were standing on a boat?
Sometimes I can find explanations for questionable moves, but the switching of the team’s two best offensive players to lines with zero skill and hockey sense is mind-boggling. Gaborik and Richards have excelled together, so only on the Rangers are they the pair that is split apart. Tortorella is as much to blame for the sloppy play in all of these six games as anyone else. Has there been one game where the four lines he started with actually remained intact? The fact is, the Rangers have not yet had a game this season where they looked decent from start to finish, and had control of the puck for more than a few shifts in a row. The Rangers, who, thanks to overtime’s ridiculous loser’s point, can claim themselves to be a .500 team, have played two good periods in six games. Yes, you read that right; not two good games in six, two good periods. They played great in the third against Vancouver on Tuesday night, where they scored all four goals in their shutout victory over the Canucks, and they looked pretty good in the first against Calgary on Thursday, even though they left the period tied at two. The Rangers have been a dog chasing its tail in these six games, struggling to even get shots on goal.
The Rangers’ two off-season money-makers, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, have had an abysmal start, combining for a goal and three assists in twelve games. Callahan, newly sporting the Captain’s “C”, has been completely invisible, not throwing his body around and being physical, while Dubinsky has stood out for all the wrong reasons. Callahan is a shell of himself, for no apparent reason, and Dubinsky has played downright stupid hockey, which is worse than if he was just playing bad. Anisimov could be added to the list as well, but at least he isn’t making more than $4 million. Then comes Dubinsky’s mindless and undisciplined penalties, but at the risk of ranting even further, I will leave them alone.
As good as Lundqvist, McDonagh, Gaborik, Richards, and even Prust have looked, is as bad as everyone has been, save for Dan Girardi who is logging so many minutes on defense, he is probably going to pass out by January. There is all this talk about Staal and Sauer being out, but the Rangers would not have a different record even if they were in the lineup. Their problems have not been defense, they have been puck control and getting shots on goal. Callahan has been famous for missing the net, even when close by, but it seems to have rubbed off on everyone else, as shot after shot sailed wide past Nikolai Khabibulin last night, when the Rangers had their best chance of the game on a minute-long 5 on 3 in the second period. Then came Dubinsky with a glorious chance to tie the game, at that point, with the puck on his stick just inches away from the blue paint of the goal crease, and he elected to pass it over to Callahan instead, a play never coming to fruition, and no pucks being put on net. The Rangers looked so bad at times that when Lundqvist left his net and went to the bench in the third, I thought to myself that he must have quit and got tired of playing behind these pylons. Thank goodness it was no serious injury, and just a leg cramp, otherwise this season would have really been over.
Tortorella is going to live and die by this team because these are the players he wanted. Six games in is a little too early to call for the axe, but if they are still playing like this in December, I think Glen Sather will have to be on the lookout for a new coaching staff (is Mike Keenan still wandering around MSG?). This is a team without chemistry or control. Maybe we did overreact after the third game of the season, but then we also over-celebrated after the two wins that followed. An actual good game has been elusive for the Blueshirts here, and they better figure it out before their home opener on Thursday (still one more chance in Winnipeg tomorrow night), or else they will get the usual Broadway treatment: cheers during the introductions, and boos during the first intermission.
I am really looking forward to that new show on MSG called Beginnings, where they will profile a different player in each episode, telling us about their life. I am most curious to see who Ryan Callahan’s first hockey coaches were when he was little, you know, the guys that were supposed to teach him how to actually hit the net with his shots.
The New York Rangers are on a road trip from hell. First they traveled more than 11,000 miles to Europe, through Scandinavian countries for exhibition matches, and now back to the United States, where they played one game on Long Island, and are now gearing up for yet another road trip, 3,000 miles to western Canada, to play four games against Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg, before finally returning to back New York for their home opener against Toronto. This schedule, made so because of the prolonged renovation underway at Madison Square Garden, and the NHL’s fascination with having the Blueshirts travel to Europe what seems like every season, left the team exhausted for their first two games in Sweden, which they dropped to the Kings and Ducks respectively, in overtime, last weekend. With the way they played, they were lucky to have even gotten the two points. Lundqvist kept the Rangers in both games, while Gaborik and Richards were excellent together. Unfortunately, the list ends there in regards to players who actually impressed.
The Rangers could have blamed those two losses on any number of factors, which also included not having enough time to get in team practices, and playing four exhibition games on large-size hockey rinks. John Tortorella even exclaimed, “We can’t wait to get the hell out of here,” upon completion of last Saturday’s loss to Anaheim. Before last night’s game against the Islanders, he told the press that, “The season starts tonight.” If that is the case, than both starts to the season were disasters. With an entire week off to rest up, practice regularly, and prepare, the Rangers were flat once again, plagued by the same thing that dragged them down in Stockholm: penalties. The Rangers were shorthanded eight times last night, the Islanders cashing in on two of those chances. The most glaring of these undisciplined penalties came at the most inopportune time, with less than five minutes remaining, and the Rangers trailing 3-2. Marian Gaborik took the most obvious hooking penalty, one reminiscent of a pre-lockout defenseman trying to manhandle an opponent. I yelled at the TV, watching incredulously. This is the most undisciplined team I have ever seen in my life, I thought to myself. After eight last night, eight against Anaheim, and five against Los Angeles, this is not rust we are seeing, but an epidemic of laziness and stupidity.
The announcers on MSG last night mentioned just before the game that Tortorella preached better discipline to the team, and then Brandon Dubinsky takes a tripping penalty a little more than a minute in. Dubinsky, whose play has been less than lackluster all throughout the preseason and these first three games, clearly looks lost and devoid of hockey sense, and has managed to have taken 20 minutes in penalties thus far. Never being a big fan of his I-Play-Good-When-I-Want-To style of play, I wonder what will have to be done to wake him up, as with the money he is being paid, he needs to either start scoring or Sather has to start looking for a new team for the egotistical “power forward”. He is the prototypical third line center being paid second line money, who has a head the size of a superstar—not really the recipe for success, is it now?
People have also blamed these losses on the injuries to defense, because of Sauer’s recent shoulder injury and Staal’s long-term concussion problems. Aside from normal nerves and a bit of shakiness in the first two games, the Rangers young defense really has not been the issue. Would I kill to have those two guys back? Of course, but I don’t see the Rangers having any wins even with them in the lineup, with the way the offense has looked so far, and the amount of penalties that have added up.
And so I ask, is it time to start worrying? It may be only three games, but the Rangers, aside from Gaborik (2 goals) and Richards (1 goal, 2 assists), have been offensively challenged. Its not even the fact that they are not scoring, but they look terrible at times. The penalties have a lot to do with that, because a team cannot develop flow when they spend nearly an entire period’s worth of playing time in the penalty box. Though there is no “reffing” conspiracy against the Rangers as some fans may tell you, there were a few calls last night that were atrocious, including a delay of game call to Brian Boyle when the puck was still moving, and a goaltender interference penalty on Callahan, who had no way to avoid hitting the goalie. That aside, the cat is out of the bag regarding the Rangers. Word is, they are undisciplined and will take stupid penalties, so you know the referees are going to watch them even closer now.
Discipline is not something a team can learn, or hopefully, re-learn overnight. This is something scarier than if the Rangers were shutout in these three games. Lundqvist has been brilliant, and is the only reason why these losses are not blowouts. But what happens when he gets a night off or has a clunker himself? Will the team just implode? Under normal circumstances, a team would welcome a four game road trip, to get out west and get away from everything; it could be a chance to refocus. But the Rangers have been on the road for about a month now, and due to their first three games, this trip is going to be anything but fun. The Canucks have always been tough opponents, and the Flames and young Oilers team will be very tough to beat. The other foe on the swing, the Jets, are still looking for their first win—will it come against New York?
The Rangers need to win two of these four games, what could be an early season-saver. Be it as it may, only mid-October, but if the Rangers drop all four games or only win one, the hole dug will be even deeper. To the people who are not alarmed, John Davidson used to say, “The points you get in October are the points you don’t need in April”. If the Rangers keep losing, playoff chances will diminish, and it does not matter what time of the season it is. At 0-1-2, the Rangers could easily be 0-3-0, so you can imagine what a poor trip out west could mean—the future is really not too bright. With the Penguins and Flyers bound to have good seasons, and the Devils and Islanders set to surprise, we may be looking at the worst team in the Atlantic this season, without a quick turnaround.
While Brad Richards barricaded himself in his Toronto office surrounded by agents, fielding contract offers and visitations from team officials around the league, Glen Sather and the New York Rangers just made a phone call. The Rangers knew that they were going to sign 2011′s top free agent, because of his longing to team up with coach John Tortorella again, who he won a Stanley Cup with in Tampa Bay, and to come to Broadway. It is obvious that Richards had made up his mind all along, and just wanted to be courteous to the other courting teams, because according to multiple sources, he actually took less money to play in New York (the Calgary Flames offered $65 million over the same number of years). The Rangers may have given him a massive contract in terms of years, with nine, but the annual cap hit will be only $6.67 million, bringing the grand total up to a $60 million deal. When you look at what other free agents have gotten, and what the Rangers have gotten for their buck in year’s past, this is an absolute steal.
I am still weary of signing a big name free agent, and I have said many times that I did not want Richards in New York, but when looking at what he can produce, and for the price he came at, it is really hard to not like this deal. The Rangers did not break the bank, and have done what other teams around the league have done, which is lengthen the amount of years, and front-load the salary at the beginning. According to sources, though unconfirmed, he is going to receive $50 million in the first five years, and $10 million over the last four. This is a smart structure, in case he decides to retire.
It seems the Rangers made Richards one offer, and waited for him to accept it—it did not matter what other teams were throwing at him, he was going to sign in New York. This is a feel-good story at a time in the year when we have nothing but confusion and anger over long-term deals. It is nice to know that there are still some players left that will turn down more money to go to a place they really want to play The Rangers needed a top-tier center, and they got one with Brad Richards.
The New York Rangers made their first move of the summer this afternoon, when they dealt two 2nd round picks and prospect Roman Horak to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a very promising defensive prospect in Tim Erixon, who signed a contract with the Rangers immediately after the trade, to beat the 5 pm deadline he was not going to reach with Calgary. I do not know much about Erixon, but many have compared him to current Rangers’ defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
The son of former Ranger Jan Erixon (he was born in New York, and watched his dad play with the Blueshirts), Tim was drafted in the first round (23rd overall) in 2009, and has played in the Swedish Elite League since then. His totals in four seasons with the SEL are 140 games played, with 14 goals and 30 assists. Hockey’s Future had this to say about him in April:
Calgary’s most recent first round draft pick has emerged as one of the organization’s top overall prospects. Tim Erixon turned in another strong season for Skelleftea, averaging almost 20 minutes of ice time per game and playing in all situations in his third SEL season. His point production and role have increased each season and the 20-year-old defenseman finished this one with five goals and 19 assists in 48 games. His 24 points ranked second among defenders, trailing only David Rundblad’s (OTT) explosive season.
Next season’s training camp ought to prove very exciting because of the many young defensemen the Rangers have, in addition to who is already on the roster. This bold move could prove ominous for Michael Del Zotto, and perhaps the Rangers will look to trade him, since analysts across the board are saying that Erixon is NHL ready. It is really hard to get excited about a hockey trade with temperatures above 90 degrees where I am, but this is a solid move, and I think Erixon will improve the team with his speed, and further reinforce a very strong, young, Rangers’ defensive corp.
With the way the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames played tonight, you would they were hated cross-town rivals. For sixty minutes, both teams skated back and forth, throwing checks, getting physical, and causing tensions to rise in the third period, keeping fans on edge. The Rangers would pull out a 2-1 victory at MSG tonight, behind a solid effort by Martin Biron, who made his second straight start, giving Henrik Lundqvist additional time off to tweak his game. Unlike Saturday, where Biron did not have to be great, he actually found himself quite busy tonight, stopping 31 of 32 shots.
The Rangers controlled play for most of the first period, but could not get many quality shots on goal. They would have a powerplay just 14 seconds into the game, but once again, failed to capitalize. The game would then develop a nasty edge as Michael Sauer would check Stefan Meyer from behind, before being jumped by Rene Bourque. Both players would head to the penalty box, and minutes after the penalties expired, Sauer would fight Tom Kostopoulos. Sure enough, the fisticuffs would not end there, and later in the period, Sauer would fight again, this time with Meyer himself. Sauer would win both fights, though not decisively. The first period would end scoreless.
In the second period, the Rangers would finally break through with a goal as Brian Boyle came in on a two-on-one with Ruslan Fedotenko against the Flames’ Brendan Mikkelson. While attempting to get the puck to Fedotenko, Boyle’s (9) pass would deflect off the defenseman and past Miikka Kiprusoff for the game’s first goal. Three minutes later, Brandon Dubinsky failed to get a shot on goal while near the net, and the puck was knocked away to center ice. The Flames would come in three-on-one and after two passes, Jarome Iginla would one-time it over the glove of Martin Biron to tie the game. Things would then get nasty again, as later in the period, Ryan Callahan would lay a clean check on Jay Bouwmeester. Curtis Glencross, who knocked out Chris Drury last season with a blindsided hit, came over and high-sticked Callahan in the back of the head, receiving a penalty. The Rangers would finally come through on the man advantage, when Dan Girardi (2) would take a slapshot off a Derek Stepan faceoff win. Stepan continues to put up points and improve his game, while Girardi finally has a goal to show for all his hard work.
There would be no goal scoring in the third period, but the physical play would continue. As Matt Stajan entered the Rangers zone with the puck, he passed it to his left, and kept looking at it. With Stajan putting himself in a susceptible position, Marc Staal would use that opportunity to level him with a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit, that sent Stajan’s helmet flying and knocked him to the ice. He would be a little wobbly before skating to the bench by himself; he would not return. Tension would then rise to such a level that you could cut it with a knife, however, there would be no more fighting, despite Meyer trying to goad Derek Boogaard into a fight, but he was smart and did not risk taking a penalty. The game would end with the Rangers up 2-1, and victorious for the second straight game.
Martin Biron has now won four games in a row, but will bow out to Lundqvist who has already been announced as Wednesday’s starter. The Rangers have been waiting years to have a reliable backup, and now that they have one and he is playing well, Tortorella decided to go with the hot-hand. A win or a loss tonight, this was the right move, and hopefully it will prompt Lundqvist to improve his play, and cut down on the one soft goal per game he has allowed. Also, in case you have not already noticed, Biron is a fantastic interview—I see him having a job as a color analyst somewhere when his career is over.
As for the defense, they were once again solid. Dan Girardi continued his excellent play, Sauer showed some toughness and strength with the two fights he was in tonight, and Eminger continues to be the team’s most improved player since the beginning of the season, blocking shots and taking the body.
Multiple times this season the Rangers have had a good team effort and win, yet they have not developed any consistency. They will be visiting the Stamkos-led Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night, and they will need an all-around team effort like tonight if they are to stop them.
Marian Gaborik spent eight seasons with the Minnesota Wild, and in the meantime, set records for virtually every offensive category in the franchise’s history. Aside from Jacques Lemaire, Gaborik was the face of that franchise during his tenure there. Tonight was the first time he would get a chance to face his former team, after being injured last season when the New York Rangers faced them. The promotion for tonight’s game was a Marian Gaborik bobblehead, and although that was to pay tribute to him, the fans were a little less kind, booing his name when it was announced for the starting lineups, and then some additional scattered boos when he touched the puck.
For the Rangers, though, tonight they got a very important and much needed bounce-back victory after playing what was arguably their worst game of the season last night in Colorado. The Rangers would get a solid team effort and pull out a decent 5-2 road win in Minnesota.
The Rangers and Wild got off to a slow start, with an uneventful first period that heard some aforementioned jeers directed at Gaborik. But the player known for his finesse and skill showed a bit of an edge early on, with a big hit just seconds in on Greg Zanon, and another one later on. The Rangers would go 0-1 on the powerplay in the first, continuing their struggles, and leave the period scoreless.
In the second period, the Rangers would blow the game open. Artem Anisimov (7) would score a little less than nine minutes in on assists from Matt Gilroy and Mike Sauer. The Rangers would then get their third powerplay of the game, and snap an 0 for 17 streak when Michael Del Zotto (2) shot the puck into a wide open net past goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Derek Stepan fed him with an excellent cross ice pass to continue his recent hot streak, and Dan Girardi would add a secondary assist on the play. Then with one minute remaining, Dan Girardi would take a shot from the point that missed the net (or was it intentional?) and landed on the tape of Alex Frolov’s (5) stick, who finally succeeded in scoring a wraparound goal, a move he tries at least five times a game to no avail. Marian Gaborik would end up with the secondary assist, his first point against his former team.
Early on in the third, Brandon Dubinsky (12) would pretty much ice the game with an unassisted breakaway goal. Eight minutes later, with the Rangers on another powerplay, the puck would come out of the zone to Kyle Brodziak, who skated over the red line with Del Zotto attempting to hip check him, but missed, allowing Brodziak to come in 2 on 1 with Matt Cullen, who buried the puck behind Martin Biron to get the Wild on the board. The Rangers would quickly counter with a Ruslan Fedotenko (4) goal, off assists from Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. For Boyle, this would be his first assist of the season, to add to his eight goals. The game would end with the Rangers victorious, in a desperately needed win to stop a losing streak before it could expand.
Martin Biron played decent until the second goal he allowed to the Wild, scored by Martin Havlat. It was from a bad angle and between his glove and the post, and it was one he should have had. Nevertheless, he was solid and did not have to be that good as the Rangers rallied around him and played some good defense. Del Zotto would unfortunately continue his sloppy play, taking a penalty in the third and making a bad decision that directly led to Minnesota’s first goal of the game.
For Marian Gaborik, this was also an important win as he finally got a chance to face his former team. He only had one assist, but played very physical and had four shots on goal. The Rangers will now get ready for a game against the struggling Calgary Flames Monday night. Expect Lundqvist to be in net, after getting the night off tonight.
For John Tortorella, tonight’s game was his 300th NHL win.
According to a reliable source on Twitter, the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings are actively pursuing Calgary Flames’ right-winger Jarome Iginla. The source, @incarceratedbob, has called numerous signings and trades in all sports, sometimes weeks before they happen, and can be considered a solid outlet for rumors. He is also a regular personality on WFAN. His Tweet, which announced the rumor, came about five hours ago:
**NHL RUMOR** Sources confirm Rangers / LA Kings are actively pursuing Jerome Iginla. Calgary Flames are listening to offers for the sniper.
**NHL RUMOR** Sources have confirmed Rangers have jumped in trade talks with Flames in regards to acquiring Iginla / Talks heating up.
He later goes on to respond to other people’s questions with suggestions that the Flames would want at least one of the Rangers young defenseman, and possibly Derek Stepan. He also notes that Frolov would most likely not be wanted and that there is absolutely nothing imminent just yet—but if Calgary continues to slide out of the playoff picture, it would become more likely.
Iginla, like the rest of his team, is having a disastrous campaign. In 17 games this season, he has only put up three goals and seven assists for ten points, while being a minus-seven. The Flames captain is 33 years old and has played in more than a thousand games, while registering 444 goals and 486 assists. Though he would be a valued voice in the locker room, and would bring additional toughness to a team that is already proving to be more ornery than last season, it would not be worth sacrificing the future to bring him in. He may not be ancient, but he is on the wrong side of 30 and just how much more gas does he have left in the tank?
With two more years on his contract at a cap hit of $7 million per, I would just say no, unless the Rangers can swing a deal that sends Chris Drury north of the border, while sacrificing the fewest prospects and youth as possible. I think the Rangers have some good camaraderie in the locker room but are in desperate need of some backbone. Iginla can bring a Mark Messier-type leadership to this franchise, though this team is nowhere near ready for a championship run.
You may also be asking why Darryl Sutter would want to trade his captain. If you remember correctly, Glen Sather was able to rob him blind last season by dumping Alex Kotalik and Chris Higgins in Calgary for a rental of Olli Jokinen and a solid bottom six forward in Brandon Prust. On top of that, Sutter just traded his own son yesterday—I would say anything is possible.
Though I would take him if the right deal came around, the Rangers should instead be focusing on trying to land a number one center, something that is much more important than adding more depth on the wings.
Last season the New York Rangers found themselves time and time again being hit and tossed around like a bunch of rag dolls, lacking toughness and a firebrand mentality bent on seeking revenge against those who ran into their goaltender countless times, gave their captain a concussion, or challenged the team’s only offensive superstar to a fight where he was then handily defeated.
To be more specific on the above events, and to refresh one’s memory on an all but forgettable 2009/10 season, how many times was Henrik Lundqvist bumped into and knocked over while the defense just stood there and did nothing? Where were the team’s pugilists who chose to not get even for the duration of a game after Chris Drury was knocked out after a dirty hit against the Calgary Flames? And furthermore, when Marian Gaborik was getting his face pounded by Daniel Carcillo in Philadelphia, why did Dan Girardi not come rushing in to his aid, choosing instead to be a spectator from a mere ten feet away?
The answers to these questions are unknown. The Rangers have been a team soft enough to soothe your face like a moisturized Kleenex since 1999 when Jeff Beukeboom, the last feared hitter that called New York his home, retired after he had a concussion and the ensuing symptoms. The Rangers were never able to properly replace him, though they did bring in a boundless amount of physical impostors who did more harm than good. Darius Kasparaitus, Dale Purinton, Ryan Hollweg and Erik Reitz (I actually laughed as I was typing that last one) all had potential to defend and protect the Rangers top stars and goaltenders, all of which had their own faults.
The Rangers, since the lockout, have lacked any kind of physicality or intimidation, sorely missed when playing the scrappy and corporeal Flyers. Tom Renney’s vision of a physical team included Ryan Hollweg running around taking hit-from-behind penalties, Colton Orr losing his breath climbing over the bench to go out on the ice, and Aaron Voros rivaling his face to an Everlast punching bag.
When John Tortorella first took over, one could have assumed that the team’s identity would change, and the Rangers style of play would mimic the personality of their head coach– feisty and determined. For the first season and change since taking over, we saw absolutely nothing that even came close to that inclination. Donald Brashear was brought in to enforce, but it was clear he would be no answer, as an early season injury and no forgiveness from the Garden Faithful prompted an end to Brashear’s Blueshirt career before it even began.
But now, at the start of John Tortorella’s second full campaign as Rangers coach, the team’s personality is changing. Could it be the youth finally getting a chance to show itself? Could it be that the players here last season are simply down to their last straw with opponents taking liberties against them? Or could it be the simple acquisition of Derek Boogaard?
This preseason, the Rangers have shown more heart and hitting than they did for most of last season. Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko are making Tortorella’s choice a tough one, as the final roster cuts that were supposed to be coming before tomorrow nights game have been put off until Sunday. Personally, after watching the last game, Valentenko would have the edge. He has a better shot than McDonagh, but also did something very subtle that drew my attention– he actually cleared the crease.
Towards the end of the Rangers last game at home against the Red Wings, Valentenko could be seen pushing Justin Abdelkader away from Henrik Lundqvist as his sat crouched down in the crease, trying to see where the next shot was coming from. The last defenseman the Rangers had that truly showed any ability to guard the net was Jason Strudwick, but unfortunately, his off-ice coaching skills were better than his playing skills, and he now has a job in Edmonton.
It is not really fair placing the blame for this on the shoulders of Rozsival, Gilroy, Del Zotto, and Girardi, when it comes to hitting and crease clearing, because that is not their game. However, when Lundqvist gets knocked over, or one of the team’s players knocked out, that does not require something learned in order to gets oneself involved, it is simple reflex-action. A teammate gets hit, and the teammate closest by is supposed to be there.
We have already seen this in the preseason as Derek Boogaard can be seen calmly patrolling the waters like a Coast Guard cutter. He has yet to drop the gloves, but his job is not to fight, it is for protection. At the end of last season, with Brashear gone, the Rangers “enforcer” was Brandon Prust and later Jody Shelley, but let me pose the question; would you knock into Lundqvist if you knew you were going to hear from Boogaard later on, or Brandon Prust? The answer is obvious. There is not a player, who in their right mind, would look to fight the six-foot, eight-inch “Boogie Man” unless they absolutely had to.
Boogaard’s presence will be more than enough, and the Rangers have players like Prust and Avery to drop the gloves on a regular basis, or if need be, Brandon Dubinsky. Perhaps Valentenko fights too, but I have yet to see him drop the gloves.
The Rangers finally lived up to their word this season when they gave the kids a chance to make the team and sent the veterans and unworthy’s packing. What this can do for a young player’s confidence level is immeasurable, and now they see sticking up for one another as not something they have to do, but something they want to do. When the Rangers played the Flyers and other tough teams last season, it was the opponent that set the physical pace. This season, though, the Rangers have the chance to set the tone for themselves.
A little bit of toughness can go along way. It not only inspires fellow teammates and propels them to play better, but it makes for very entertaining hockey. I do believe the Rangers will be better this season than what I originally predicted, and the team’s new mentality has contributed a lot to this change of heart.
The New York Rangers may or may not be done for the night, but in all likelihood, we will have to wait until tomorrow before we see any more moves. Today was an exciting day for free agency. It was not as hectic as in years past, but controlled. It seemed that early on, announcements of signings were coming at a nice even pace. That made it really easy for us writers to cover what was going on.
The Rangers made the first splash of the day when they inked goaltender Martin Biron at 12:01pm to a two year deal worth $1.8 million. This was a great move by Sather, who addressed this team’s biggest need right off the bat. Speculation was rampant leading up until noon that it would happen, and it did. Biron had been given permission last night by the Islanders to talk to other teams. Biron has since told the press he wants to push Lundqvist, and be a solid insurance policy as backup goalie. (My article on Biron)
Then came the biggest shocker of the day. Jody Shelley, who most expected would re-sign with the Rangers, fled to Philadelphia for three years at $1.1 million per. The Rangers then went and jumped on Derek Boogaard, and gave him a four year deal at $1.65 million per. Fans have been ripping this signing all day long, but it really is not that bad. Boogaard is an immense physical specimen and will finally provide adequate protection for Henrik Lundqvist and the team’s smaller forwards. This is a good signing, and I am really excited to see him fight wearing Ranger blue. (My article on Boogaard)
The Rangers then welcomed back two new faces in Vaclav Prospal and Erik Christensen. Prospal would sign for an even lower amount than last season, at just $1 million. There is also an additional $1.1 million in bonuses up for grabs. But still, it is a bargain and shows how much he really wanted to be here.
Christensen also took an affordable contract, for one year at $925,000. He will most likely be this team’s number one center this season, unless they make a trade.
When you take a look at how economical the Rangers were, on four players they spent $4.75 million for next season. Meanwhile, Anton Volchenkov himself got $4.5 million from the Devils for next season.
I said last night that if the Rangers could not get Kovalchuk, that they should only make small moves. Kovalchuk is still on the market, and there is no word that the Rangers are interested, and that he is close to signing with the Los Angeles Kings. If that is the case, then expect the Rangers to just re-sign their RFA’s, and call it an off-season.
However, several interesting trade rumors came up on Twitter this afternoon. Early on, the Fan590 reported a deal between the Rangers and Flames was in the works, and this was later echoed by beat writer Steve Zipay. We do not know who exactly was involved, but it seemed serious for a while. Calgary is reportedly done for tonight, so we will see tomorrow if any of this rumors come to fruition.
One last thing regarding the Boogaard naysayers. Let’s take a look at some other contracts dolled out today. Manny Malhotra, who scored a career high 14 goals last season got three years/$7.50 million from Vancouver. What a brutal contract, yet TSN chose not to bash that. Should the Rangers have signed him, they would have been up in arms.
Instead, they focused an entire five minutes, ripping into the Rangers signing, and basically had Keith Jones telling viewers that Jody Shelley was the greatest player to ever don a Rangers sweater.
Same can be said for the Johan Hedberg contract– he got $1.5 million and a no trade clause as a 37 year old backup. Everyone is mum on him too.
Negativity must just be a Ranger thing.