First of all, we’ll miss Petr Prucha a lot. He always worked hard, and his 90-pound bag-of-bones body was thrown around the ice like a ragdoll, but he always got up, dusted himself off and forechecked like a bastard, and would even get into a fight or two.
We’ll kind of miss Nigel Dawes. But we won’t miss Dmitri Kalinin. See ya in the funny papers, Dmitri. But all three are free agents to be and weren’t in the Rangers long-term plans.
They’ve been replaced by Sean Avery, Nik Antropov and Derek Morris. Antropov and Morris, both somewhat of career underachievers, will be free agents also, so the trades consisted of rentals for rentals. Is Avery better than Dawes? Yes. Is Antropov better than Prucha? Yes. Is Morris better than Kalinin? Yes. (Is anybody better than Kalinin? Yes.)
So the Rangers improved themselves, and didn’t mortgage the future, unless Prucha turns into a consistent 30 or 40 goal scorer (highly doubtful). They sent Toronto a second-round pick and a conditional pick, but with the Rangers track record of draft picks, maybe it’s best if they have as few picks as possible.
Avery looked rusty in his Blueshirts debut, but did draw a penalty and didn’t lose his cool. He has a bull’s-eye on his back, and every Islander took a turn treating him like a punching gag, but he didn’t do anything stupid. He’s going to have to get used to that, as everybody in the league can’t stand him, and they’ll all line up to take a shot at him. He didn’t even say anything stupid after the game, either. Maybe he has changed.
It’ll take a few games for Antropov and Morris (and Avery) to blend in with the team, but they add size, grit and toughness, which the team had been lacking. If anything, the Rangers shouldn’t be so easy to play against anymore.
The whole roster is learning to play under John Tortorella’s system, so they’re only a few games behind. The best thing that’s happened the last couple of games is that the top line players are playing like top line players. All of a sudden Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Nik Zherdev and Markus Naslund are scoring. And the power play is looking better and better.
The team was outplayed by the Islanders for much of Thursday’s game, but they didn’t fall apart like they have in the past when things got tough. They actually won pretty easily. Every time the Islanders scored to get close, the Rangers scored themselves. Good teams have to win even when they don’t play well.
And they did that on Thursday (with a lot of help from Henrik Lundqvist—thanks Hank). It’s only the Fishsticks, but they play hard and attack like a bunch of piranhas. Maybe they’re trying to impress their future fans in Kansas City.
Tortorella’s attacking system looks like a good fit for the Rangers. They actually play like they care now and don’t look like a bunch of deadbeats going through the motions. There’s a whole new energy and outlook to the team. They scored 10 goals and only let in three against the Isles and Colorado. We’ll see how they do vs. a real team on Sunday, when they play the Bruins. Now if only they could have gotten rid of Wade Redden on Wednesday...
Bag-O’-Knuckles-O-Meter (51 fights, 6th in the league)
Colton Orr: 14
Aaron Voros: 10
Brandon Dubinsky: 6
Paul Mara: 6
Ryan Callahan: 3
Dan Girardi: 2
Petr Prucha: 2
Erik Reitz: 2
Marc Staal: 2
Nigel Dawes: 1
Markus Naslund: 1
Wade Redden: 1
Nikolai Zherdev: 1