Baseball season is over in New York, and football season isn't off to the most promising of starts. Sports fans in the Big Apple still have reason for optimism, though, at least according to the analysts who spoke during the MSG Networks' kickoff party.
The new NHL campaign got underway this week, and the NBA is on the horizon, so MSG brought together its analysts to discuss what to expect. New York Rangers color commentator Joe Micheletti and New York Knicks play-by-play man Mike Breen were both bullish about those teams' chances.
Ken Daneyko, who covers the New Jersey Devils, and Butch Goring, from the New York Islanders' coverage, also spoke at the event.
Last season, the Rangers finished sixth in the Eastern Conference during the lockout-shortened season. They eliminated the Washington Capitals in the opening round of the playoffs but were no match for the defensive-minded Boston Bruins.
Micheletti believes the Rangers, who ranked in the middle of the pack in goals scored, will be far more dangerous offensively under Alain Vigneault.
The biggest thing people will notice when they watch this team is that the philosophy of playing the game has changed…as opposed to chasing the puck, (Vigneault) wants to have the puck, he wants his team to skate. I mean, you hear him when we watch practice; he is yelling at his team to skate, move the puck, get shots on goal, and so he has more of an offensive flair to the way he feels that you need to play in this NHL to win a Stanley Cup.
It will be a while before fans can see the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, though. The team opens the new season on a nine-game road trip that began with a loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in the opener on Thursday night.
If it is going to have a better season offensively, Brad Richards will need to bounce back. The talented center has fallen off his usual point-per-game pace since heading to New York and needs to shine for the Rangers to thrive.
As for the Knicks, they finished second in the Eastern Conference behind the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat. Finding a way to dethrone LeBron James and Co. is a task every team in the league is trying to accomplish, but they are among the contenders.
Breen pointed out it's just not the Heat that the Knicks have to worry about, however. The entire conference is expected to be more competitive, especially with the return of Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls, but he thinks the team is up to the challenge:
No question (the Knicks) are a better team than last year but the Eastern Conference, I think, is probably as tough and as deep that I've seen the Eastern Conference since the mid-90s. The competition is going to be very tough, but I think they are up to the task. I love the pieces they have added and the continuity that they have from the core players who have been around now for several years. I think it's going to make a huge difference."
Carmelo Anthony will continue to lead the charge for the Knicks, which are slated to start the preseason next Wednesday and the regular season on Oct. 30. But the team has added some much-needed depth around him, including Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih.
Only time will tell if it's enough to keep pace with the Heat, but it should ensure the Knicks are ready for the tight battle in the East. The Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets are among the other teams they will have to contend with.
All told, the high expectations should lead to interesting seasons, both on the ice and on the court in New York.
Quotes via MSG video/press release.