With fans around the NHL waiting for the likes of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to decide where they are going to be spending the next decade, give or take a few seasons, other teams are busy making smaller, depth-related moves. Just before former New York Ranger Jaromir Jagr signed with the Dallas Stars for $4.5 million, the Blueshirts added a solid bottom six forward in Taylor Pyatt, who comes over from the Phoenix Coyotes. For people worried that the Rangers would be losing fighting ability, checking, penalty killing, and hard work, all due to grinder Brandon Prust signing with the Montreal Canadiens, the Rangers made up for his loss, first with Arron Asham two days ago (and to a lesser extent, adding Micheal Haley, which will most likely end up being an AHL move) and now with Pyatt, who is a hitting machine that can kill penalties, and also put the puck in the net on occasion.
Mike Milbury, an in-studio analyst for NBC and their newly formed network NBC Sports, has long been a critic of the New York Rangers. For years, his slanted, biased pre-game, intermission, and post-game anti-Ranger tirades have polluted the airwaves and have come with such regularity, that normally, they do not even upset or surprise me. Coming out of the lockout, Milbury never ceased to amaze, as he tore into then-Rangers superstar winger Jaromir Jagr all season long for being soft or not having what it takes to be a leader, even in the midst of his franchise record-setting 54-goal, 123-point season. One would think that the bias shown in those years bordered on xenophobia, but thankfully, we have Don Cherry up in Canada for that. More recently, before last night, that is, during the pre-game show of the Winter Classic, when describing the Rangers and using their nickname “Blueshirts”, he just so happened to leave the “r” out of the word, causing him to call the team an expletive. Accidental? Probably. But a Freudian Slip? Most definitely.
This is not really a post-game recap, just my general thoughts on yet another amazing and magical Winter Classic that the NHL has put on for us, between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. Surprisingly, for what seems like the first time in the brief five-year history of the event, there were no ice malfunctions, and the passing and skating was pretty smooth early on. Though the game did slow down in the second, I would definitely rank the overall pace of this afternoon to be one of the better ones yet. And of course, there was plenty of drama with yet another photo finish—something that seems to happen every year, which I will elaborate on later.
At the culmination of the 1993/94 NHL season, the New York Rangers snapped a 54 year Stanley Cup drought, with their thrill-ride seven game series victory over the Vancouver Canucks. This team, the assembly of which, is one that people only dream about today,and has perhaps gone unmatched in hockey over the last 17 years, with its combination of veteran leadership, superstar power, clutch goal-scoring ability and goaltending, and a much less talked about presence of skillful youth. This is the one lineup, that, if given the opportunity, any fan of this team would ask for. However, two seasons later, the Rangers arguably fielded an even better team, but one that is largely forgotten, due to it being sandwiched between the Rangers’ Stanley Cup victory and the ensuing lockout, and later, the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in New York, to re-team with Mark Messier, a duo which won four championships in Edmonton. The mid-1990′s was the most exciting time to be a Rangers’ fan since probably the 1970′s. Anyone who has read Losing the Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers (Pub. 1995), by Barry Meisel, knows that GM Neil Smith was poising his team to become a dynasty, but unfortunately, it never happened, and the Rangers would have to settle for only one. The 1995/96 season had even more promise at the start than 1994 did, and although they finished lower in the standings, this had all the makings of another championship.
Does it sting? Hell yes, it stings. Despite being thirty-nine years old, I wanted Jaromir Jagr back in New York Ranger blue. In the seasons after the lockout, he single-handedly brought the franchise back to respectability. How was he repaid? He asked for a two-year deal in 2008 and Glen Sather would not back down from a one-year contract. And so they parted ways, with no ill-will towards each other. Jagr went to the KHL and became a king with Omsk Avangard, proving he can still play professional hockey, and excelled at the last Winter Olympics. A few weeks ago, when it came to be known that he wanted back in the NHL, I was expecting the Rangers to take him with open arms. After all, the situation would have been perfect: he would get a one year deal for $2-3 million, and would not be the captain or under any pressure because he would not be the team’s go-to guy. He could have scored his 20-30 goals and sailed off into the sunset the way he was meant to.
The Penguins then entered the equation, and it made even more sense, figuring Jagr would want to end his career where it began. As more teams, included the Red Wings, became interested, the Rangers sat silent, causing Jagr to tell the press that they did not even call him. Then today came the bombshell…Jaromir Jagr has signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. They seemed to have come out of nowhere, how a lot of signings happen nowadays, leaving a lot of people either scratching their heads in confusion, or gnashing their teeth in anger. He has made a strange decision here, alienating fans of both the Penguins and Rangers. The Pens would have more of a reason to be angry, though, since Jagr’s camp was actually in contact with them for a few days.
But as for Rangers’ fans, why is there so much anger? As soon as it was announced that he signed with the team’s Pennsylvania rival, all hell broke loose on Twitter and message forums. All that Jagr meant to this team for those four seasons went out the window, and all of a sudden he became money hungry, a headcase, and locker-room cancer within minutes, none of those being true. Jagr is in Philly because he wants to play hockey, and they wanted to have him there. The Red Wings and Penguins withdrew their offers, and the Rangers never even made a call. Why be angry at him? This fan base has an obsession with youth, and I was quickly told by people on Twitter that signing him would have robbed a roster spot from a young player. This too is false, as the Rangers do not have any promising young players at the right-wing position to be ready this season, especially one that would have added another element to this team. At thirty-nine, Jagr would have come here, kicked ass, and taken prisoners. Whether this is a testament to how good he is or how bad the Rangers are, I do not know—bottom line, he would have been this team’s best player, but if he did fail, there would have been little risk attached. But in getting back to the youth movement, that is the direction the Rangers are heading in, despite my warning that all teams still need a veteran presence. The Rangers do not see the need for such an old player, and therefore, they did not bring him here. Please do not label Jagr a traitor, because I absolutely believe that if the Rangers wanted him, he would have signed here in an instant.
And so I wish Jaromir Jagr all the best in Philadelphia. It pains me to say, but I would like to see him succeed, despite the Flyers being near the bottom of my list in likeable teams. I cannot speak for everyone, but I harbor no hard feelings towards him in any way. It would be nice to see him score 30 goals, just to shut up all the people who say his career is over. Best of luck, Jaromir, you will still be one of my favorites.
When last season ended, New York Rangers’ coach John Tortorella knew he had to change things. The hot-tempered firebrand of a coach, who was used to yelling and having conniptions to get his way, realized that his way of coaching was falling on deaf ears. I once said that Tortorella makes a good team better and a bad team worse, and with the Rangers in the middle of the pack, how would he react? At the end of last season, I would not have minded the Rangers letting him go. He gave it a shot and failed, and although I love the passion he brings to the game, it was not suitable for the type of team the Rangers were going to field, a team loaded with rookies and inexperienced youngsters.
But this season, that all changed. Tortorella morphed into someone a little more coddling, and a little more calm. Though he still kept up his heated, look-of-death exchanges with the media, it seems he took his foot off the gas in the locker room, realizing that he had a hard-working team that bought into his system. Instead, he nurtured and instructed his players, rarely blaming their greenness as a reason for a loss. The result was taking this team that was supposed to finish near the bottom of the standings to a playoff berth, and giving a team they had no chance of defeating a run for their money.
Tortorella was rewarded for this effort, as we have learned this morning, with a three-year extension. The rumor is that the deal was actually signed months ago, and just not announced until today, but that is unconfirmed. All I can say is congratulations to Mr. Tortorella, because he deserves this contract. We are all upset after yesterday’s loss, but it is an important step in the road to building a real team. There was an old saying that a team cannot rebuild in New York, because the market demands a winning team, and rebuilding years rarely give results in the standings to smile about. But this year nixed all of that—I call it a success all the way. The rebuilding Rangers finished with a 44-33-5 record, their most wins since the Jagr/Renney-lead Blueshirts in the season after the lockout.
We got to see the emergence of Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer as legitimate rookie defenders, the confirmation that Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are one of the best shutdown pairs in the league, the advent of Ryan Callahan developing into this team’s next captain, and finally, a breakout rookie season for center Derek Stepan, who put up 21 goals and 24 assists. All this coming during a warlike campaign from October through April that saw injuries and disappointments left and right. One cannot help but think of what this team would have looked like if Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan did not get injured, Alex Frolov found a way to score 20 goals, and if Gaborik repeated what he did last season, with more than 40 goals and 40 assists—these are things that cannot be blamed on the coach.
There are going to be those out there that disagree with this extension, but I must ask you, who would you rather have? Who would be a better fit than Tortorella? The Rangers have a habit of bringing someone in, then after a cup of coffee, getting rid of them. The Rangers had success after the lockout because they believed in and stuck with Tom Renney and played his system. These players are young and wanting to impress, and we know they have already bought into Tortorella’s. It would be extraordinarily detrimental to disrupt that now, and for that, I tip my cap to Rangers’ brass for making the right call.
In three seasons with the New York Rangers, John Tortorella owns a 94-73-18 record, with two playoff appearances.
The jerseys that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be wearing in this year’s winter classic have been photographed and released, and I just happened to catch a glimpse of them for the first time only minutes ago when I noticed them posted on someone’s Facebook. My immediate reaction that it was a joke—someone had photo-shopped a hideous jersey in an attempt to make fun of the Penguins, who have never really had a nice jersey. Then I find out that these jerseys are indeed real. Have a look for yourself:
The goal behind this monstrous creation was to take a little something from every jersey they have ever worn and combine it into one. This would not be a bad idea if every jersey the Penguins have had were actually good. There were the baby blue jerseys they sported in their inaugural years that were replicated for their appearance in the NHL’s first winter classic four years ago (not terrible). Then their black and yellow jerseys which featured a cartoon-like Penguin were laughable, and that design has shifted over the years. In my humble opinion, the picture below is the best jersey they ever wore—a very sharp black and yellow with the word “Penguins” down the center. Notice how it is not flashy, just very traditional:
But is this the ugliest jersey ever designed? The NHL is a league that has had their share of doozies over the years. From the mid-1990′s Los Angeles Kings wearing a jersey nicknamed the “Burger King”, to the New York Islanders having a center patch that was a mirror image of the Gorton’s Fisherman, only holding a hockey stick. Oh, and who can forget this design thunk up by the St. Louis Blues before Iron Mike Keenan shot it down and vetoed it? (Thank you, Mike!)
Year after year teams come up with awful designs, most recently teams beginning to use nicknames like the Lightning have with “Bolts” and the Senators with “Sens”, both of which can be seen in gigantic, unrepentant patterns right across the crest of the jerseys.
The Winter Classic is one hockey game that tops all others for viewership every year in its existence, and this is the best that the Penguins could come up with? Not only is it just an ugly clash of colors, but it contains that same cartoon penguin in the center and about three too many stripes on the bottom and the sleeves. To be frank, it looks like it was designed by someone who went into an acid-driven coma in the 1970′s and woke up this year to create this jersey.
It’s about time that teams stopped trying to stretch their creative minds past what they are limited to, and get back to simplicity. Each of the Original Six teams still wear jerseys identical to or slightly changed to what they wore when they debuted. I don’t hear anyone complaining about them.
So what do you think is the ugliest jersey ever? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
When the New York Rangers selected Russian-born winger Alexei Cherepanov in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, they took a huge gamble. Teams are often cautious about selecting Russian players because there is always that chance they will stay in their home country and play for the KHL, while ignoring their commitments to the NHL team that drafted them. But with the Rangers drafting at seventeenth of that year, and a player of Cherepanov’s caliber still available, they jumped at the opportunity and proudly selected the player touted as the “Next Pavel Bure” and nicknamed the “Siberian Express”.
The Rangers received criticism for this, but as Cherepanov spent the next year developing, and insisting that he could not wait to be a New York Ranger, it subsided and the choice was finally regarded as a steal. With Jaromir Jagr leaving the Rangers after the 07/08 season, he signed with Omsk Avangard of the Kontinental Hockey League. This is where Cherepanov would play, and Jagr said he would teach the young player everything he knew. He said he loved being a mentor to a possible future franchise player for the Rangers. The relationship was mutual, as Cherepanov too loved having Jagr around.
With the Rangers desperately needing offense, fans could not wait until the next season, when Cherepanov could finally arrive and be the driving force of the team’s offense. It was almost too good to be true— the Rangers finally had a piece of homegrown talent they could call their own, and one that was going to be a superstar.
But then tragedy struck. On October 13, 2008, two years to this day, Cherepanov was nearing the end of a game against Vityaz Chekhov. He finished skating a shift with line-mate Jaromir Jagr, spoke a few words on the bench, and then collapsed. He was quickly treated on the bench before being carried into the locker room. Because the game was near completion, the ambulance on hand for all games had already left, and it took doctors fifteen minutes to get to him. Once they got to the locker room, they found out that the defibrillator they had was almost entirely drained of battery. The ambulance arrived back on the scene and after twenty minutes, he arrived at the hospital. His heart was started five separate times, but after what looked like each revival, it stopped again.
Two hours later, Cherepanov breathed his last. The Rangers future superstar was dead at age 19.
Had the medical staff been more properly trained and the ambulance not left early, perhaps he would still be alive today; maybe not playing hockey, but alive. However, what is done is done, and so many little things went wrong, combining to form a disastrous situation.
I still remember where I was when I heard the news, downstairs watching an Islanders afternoon game. I received a text message from my friend alerting me of what he heard happened. I stayed to watch the game a little longer, hoping the announcers would have any news, but I then made my way upstairs to the computer and a Rangers Forum I used to frequent. There, all the members logged in at the time were in a thread discussing what may or may not have happened. There was no clear news for at least an hour, just speculation. The situation would unfold before our very eyes that the player we had been waiting a year to see was dead, and it would not sink in for days. It was perhaps the saddest day in Rangers history.
You can imagine how hard it was to believe. Every scouting report of the Rangers farm system, every prospect update, every preview of the future, all of those contained a mention of Alexei Cherepanov. It was not a matter of if he would help the Rangers, but when, and now that was all gone.
Over the next few days, more news came out about what happened. It was originally reported that he collided with Jagr on the ice before collapsing, but this was proven false. Jagr himself was heartbroken and as Rangers fans, we mourned because he was going to shortly be apart of our “family”.
It’s been two years now, and I often wonder how he would have succeeded in the NHL. Would he be playing alongside Marian Gaborik? Maybe leading a line of his own? Would he have broken any offensive records for a rookie? These are all questions, unfortunately, we will never know the answer to. The two years ago seems like it was yesterday— it is incredible how fast time flies.
With what seemed like a record low in attendance for a Rangers-Islanders game this afternoon, it did not deter the players from both sides from putting forth a spectacular effort that lasted from start to finish. Rarely early on in the season are games as fast-paced as this one was, with the Islanders coming out on top 6-4 over the New York Rangers.
Once again there are many positives and negatives that can be taken from the Rangers second game of the season. As great as their offense looked once again, was as bad as their defense looked. The rangers forwards surged this afternoon, for the second straight game, giving the team ten goals now on the season. However, the defense and goaltending has allowed nine, and although this is still very early in the season, the Rangers need to nip this problem right now, before it becomes a year-long occurrence.
After today’s game, there is no doubt left in my mind that the Rangers need defensive help. Aside from his goal and an assist, this was a game to forget for Michael Del Zotto as two sloppy plays he made directly led to goals. The rest of the corps was not much better.
The Rangers got off on the wrong foot, after allowing a goal to Blake Comeau 12 minutes in. But they would answer right back, on the powerplay, with Dubinsky’s third goal of the season—assists went to Del Zotto and Rozsival. Less than three minutes later, the Islanders would grab the lead again, on a goal from Josh Bailey.
We would also see a fight between Brandon Prust and Zenon Konopka, which lasted over a minute and was a very even bout.
The Rangers would carry the flow of the game in the second period, as they scored two goals, one from Del Zotto, also on the powerplay, and a wrist shot from the blue line by Dan Girardi. With momentum elevating, the Islanders would inflate it by scoring with less than a minute to go, tying the game 3-3.
With ten minutes to go in the third period, I left for class but listened to the rest of the game on the radio. Artem Anisimov scored his second of the season on assists from Gaborik and Callahan, but then the roof would cave in as the Islanders scored three unanswered goals (two on the powerplay, to which both calls were called “questionable” by Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney), to defeat the Rangers 6-4.
With two games in the books, it is imperative that the Rangers acquire some defensive help. Switching Gilroy in for Eminger will achieve nothing, and the Rangers have not just been lethargic or flat-out bad, but sloppy. Perhaps they are too worried about creating offense, something they have done to the teeth for two games this season, but the defensive corps needs to stop worrying about joining the rush and settle down to play some defense. The Rangers now have four days before their next game, the home opener against the Maple Leafs, and that should be enough time to work on their game.
Sean Avery also had an excellent game again, crashing the net and creating chances. His incident with James Wisniewski will no doubt be looked at by the league, and Wisniewski should game a one game suspension or at least a fine. If Avery did the same thing, we would have a catastrophe on our hands. If he gets away Scott-free with this, it will be NHL hypocrisy at it’s finest.
I am impressed, however, with the platoon-scoring the Rangers have shown in two games. With 10 goals scored and not one from Gaborik or Frolov, the Rangers now how secondary scoring for the first time since Jagr and Shanahan in 2006/07. I am not worried in the least about a lack of production from the two top guns, as they will both wake up—Gaborik will score his 40, and Frolov will get his 25-30. But secondary scoring is sometimes hard to come by, so if you had to take one positive out of today’s matinée, that would be it.
A 50th anniversary is something special, and the gift to be given is usually gold. After all, 50 years is quite a long time for anything, whether it be marriage or the amount of time a company or franchise has been around. 75 years is something even more momentous, and can be awarded with gold as well. 100 years is something that is monumental, and can be awarded with a 10K diamond. But 85 years is something that goes right between the last two major anniversaries.
According to About.com, the 85th anniversary is something that can be commemorated with diamonds or sapphire. The New York Rangers will be commemorating their 85 years in the National Hockey League this season, and have only four diamond rings of their own to show for it. That is roughly one championship every 21 and a quarter years. Why is there a celebration of this?
The Rangers are not the only team obsessed with nostalgia. The Montreal Canadiens seem to be honoring someone every season, and their schedule is chock full of games with pre-game ceremonies. But they can, after all, they’ve only won 24 Stanley Cups. They can honor the equipment manager from 1946 if they want.
But the Rangers never seem to let go of the past. In the last 85 years, just look at the names who have donned the Broadway Blue: Andy Bathgate, Eddie Giacomin, Brad Park, Phil Esposito, Harry Howell, Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Wayne Gretzky, and Jaromir Jagr, to name just a dozen. All those marquee names, all that firepower, and only four measly Stanley Cups to show for it.
In 85 years, the Rangers have had 39 coaches behind the bench, 57 Hall of Famer’s lace up skates, and they have only reached the playoffs 52 times, not to mention a recent seven-year stretch without one single playoff berth.
No matter what team they assemble, whether it be a team of greats or scrubs, there have always been complications. Good offense-bad defense, good defense-bad offense, great team-bad goaltending, great goaltending-bad team, great team-bad coach, great coach-bad team, too many stars, not enough stars, no voice in the locker-room, too many voices in the locker-room; the list just goes on and on.
Again I ask, what is there to celebrate?
The Rangers have the right to honor their history; pay homage to the “founding fathers”, so to speak, and of course, pay tribute to the 1994 heroes. But giving respect is not the same thing as ramming ’94 down our throats, the last great achievement this franchise has reached, and essentially the only one of note in the last 70 years. All this talk, all this rehashing of the same events over and over again from 16 years ago, at the same time as waiting more than thirty years to retire the numbers of Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell.
Out of the “original six” teams, let us look at the amount of years they have been in the league, the amount of Cups they have, and how many championships per season they have won:
1. Montreal Canadiens- 24 Stanley Cups in 101 years (1/4.21 years)
2. Toronto Maple Leafs- 13 Stanley Cups in 94 years (1/7.32 years)
3. Detroit Red Wings- 11 Stanley Cups in 85 years (1/7.72 years)
4. Boston Bruins- 5 Stanley Cups in 86 years (1/17.2 years)
5. Chicago Blackhawks- 4 Stanley Cups in 85 years (1/21.25 years)
5. New York Rangers- 4 Stanley Cups in 85 years (1/21.25 years)
The Rangers are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for lowest amount of Cups won for an “original six” team, as well as Cups-per-season ratio. The Blackhawks are coming off a championship this season, their first since 1961. That distance of 49 years is just shy of what the Rangers went through from 1940-1994, their longest Cup drought. The Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have not won since 1967, the longest current streak in the NHL.
The Blueshirts may have won 16 years ago, but if you look at the broader picture, it is one Stanley Cup in the last 70 years.
The only reason I can think of for the Rangers picking such an odd year for a commemoration is because the older Rangers legends are just that– getting older. The Rangers have been very lucky to have some of the franchise greats live into old age, and still be capable of coming to Madison Square Garden and even appearing on television and radio from time to time. Emile Francis is 84, Eddie Giacomin is 71, Andy Bathgate is 78, and Harry Howell is 77. In my grim assessment, it is reasonable to assume that the Rangers are going to choose this year, rather than wait until the 100th anniversary for some fan fare, because those aforementioned players are in great shape and are still able to appear and revel in the team’s history. Fifteen years from now, will these greats still be around for the century mark of this team’s existence?
I can only hope that in the next fifteen years, the Rangers will add at least another Stanley Cup championship. As teams around them continue to get better, and the Rangers evenly tread water, how would it look for the one hundredth anniversary, to still have only four Cup banners raised to the rafters? The Rangers could then have a very even one championship for every quarter century they have been in the league.
The Rangers have many bright young prospects in the minors, and perhaps the best farm system they have ever had. The Rangers will be under pressure in the next few seasons to put a winning product on the ice, but not just one that can get it done in the regular season, but one that can thrive in the playoffs and push for a championship.
So as the Rangers unveil their new shoulder patches, jerseys, and center ice logo, I hope they will not only look to honor their somewhat disastrous past, but strive for greatness in the future. The fans of this team have stayed loyal all these years, and with prices never decreasing, they deserve to see a better product on the ice, and be proud of their New York Rangers.