Few hockey writers have a track record such as Adam Raider. A former member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, Adam has been featured on Beckett Hockey, Blueshirt Bulletin, Hockey Digest, The Hockey Magazine, The Hockey News, and USA Hockey Magazine.
On top of that, he is the co-author of 100 Ranger Greats, the book being featured in a trivia contest on this blog right now. He also has two books coming up for publication, one on the defunct Minnesota North Stars called, The Green and the Gold, and the other on the Dallas Stars titled, Hockey Night in Texas.
Below, Adam and I discussed the weekend’s NHL draft, the Rangers upcoming free agency, and a little about his career in writing. Here is our conversation:
GC: Many fans are up in arms about the Rangers first round draft selection of Dylan McIlrath. What do you think of this pick? Also, how would you rate the Rangers overall draft, including all subsequent rounds?
AR: Since Jeff Beukeboom retired, the Rangers have really lacked a big, physical presence on defense. You realize how much a player like that is missed when you see opposing teams crashing Henrik Lundqvist’s net night after night. So on the one hand, I understand the thought process behind why the Rangers drafted McIlrath.
He certainly has the size and the nasty streak that’s been missing, but I question whether a player like that was worthy of a tenth overall pick. He’s really, really raw and it will be a few years before he’s close to being ready for the NHL. We won’t know whether this was an inspired pick or a disastrous pick for a long time.
New York’s second round choice, Christian (son of Steve) Thomas, is an undersized right wing whose chances of making the NHL are about 50-50. But if he has half of his father’s tenacity, this could be a decent pick.
The rest of the players drafted last weekend seem to be long shots of ever making the NHL, but that’s not unusual. The vast majority of players drafted by NHL clubs will never make it beyond the minor pros.
GC: With the Rangers in need of a steady backup goalie, do you think they will target a free agent, re-sign Auld, or give Chad Johnson the job?
AR: Backup goalies are not usually a high priority but if the Rangers are serious about reducing Henrik’s workload – and they should be – then I think they need to sign a veteran like Alex Auld. It won’t be easy, though. Thanks to some really bad contracts, and the need to resign some of their restricted free agents, they’ll have to pinch every penny this summer. Auld was fine in limited duty last year so I’d have no problem giving him 15-20 starts to take some of the pressure off Henrik.
GC: Is there any chance that the Rangers can sign Ilya Kovalchuk? And if not, what forwards will they pursue in his place, if any?
AR: With the Rangers, there’s always a chance. The question, though, isn’t whether they will, but if they should. The Rangers don’t have a great track record when it comes to investing millions of dollars on hired guns from outside the organization (Marian Gaborik being a recent notable exception). Plus, Kovalchuk is a one-dimensional goal scorer. Other than a lot of pouting, what will he give you during the inevitable cold streaks? Under the circumstances, and given the anticipated price tag, I don’t think that signing him is a risk worth taking.
Greg, I’ve said it many times before, but I guess it warrants repeating: the big problem with the Rangers isn’t that they lack a 50-goal scorer. It’s that they lack chemistry. Free agents come and go so the club never gets a chance to develop any kind of bond or sense of brotherhood. The Rangers have had lots of talented players but they rarely gel into a cohesive unit.
You can’t buy chemistry, no matter how deep your pockets are. It only comes with time, patience, and smart drafting. Rather than buy a player like Kovalchuk and hope he fits in, the Rangers should put in the hard work to draft and develop their own superstars. If that means another rebuilding period, so be it. It worked for Pittsburgh and Chicago, didn’t it?
GC: Given the recent news about the contract negotiations between Staal and Sather, is there any chance things will go awry? And what kind of contract do you think Staal deserves?
AR: Last season proved that Marc Staal is still trying to figure out what kind of player he’s going to be. His role is still a little fuzzy, though part of that might stem from the coaching change. It’s obvious that he has the tools to be a very good defenseman in the NHL for many years to come, but I wouldn’t pay him more than $3.5-$4 million a year.
However, Staal’s agent, Bobby Orr, can point to the insane contracts Glen Sather lavished upon Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival and say “My client is more valuable than those two, so why should he earn half as much?” In a way, it’s a valid argument. Ultimately, I think the Rangers will find a way to keep Staal but they will end up spending a lot more than they had originally planned.
GC: Moving to your writing career, you have two books coming out, one on the Minnesota North Stars and one on the Dallas Stars. What can you tell us about these, and when will they be released?
AR: This was originally one very long book that was to have been released in 2004. It was a complete history of the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise covering everything from expansion in 1967 to the Stanley Cup championship in 1999. Of course, it also included a lot of background on why the team moved to Texas and had profiles of fan favorites like Mike Modano, Dino Ciccarelli, and Brett Hull.
But then the NHL lockout happened and we had a change of plans (or, more to the point, my publisher at the time got cold feet). So I decided to re-edit the whole thing and break it up into two books. Think of it as a great hockey story, told in two parts.
I’m not sure when the first book will be released. I learned from my work on 100 Ranger Greats that things in the publishing industry tend to move very slowly, so I’ll just need to be patient and hope it happens before the NHL expands into Europe … or the Rangers draft a 50-goal scorer – whichever happens first.