Woo! Back to serious sports-blogging, a nice break from Rory Photoshopping Wade Redden’s face onto Lucifer’s crotch and the like (although that is awesome, admit it).
So, this coming off-season, before the start of the 2009-2010 season, there are some serious issues facing the New York Rangers. And there have been some serious developments over the last few days. Let’s break this down, yo.
In case you’ve been in a coma since around dinner time on Tuesday, Glen Sather had a rare moment of genius. He fleeced the living hell out of the Montreal Canadiens, trading Scott Gomez and his walrus of a contract, along with a couple of prospects that I’d never heard of, for Chris Higgins, a multi-season 20-goal scorer, and a couple of prospects; one of whom, from reading the Montreal HF Message Boards, makes Bobby Orr look like my Aunt Iris after a few glasses of Chardonnay. So, this is good news for us Blueshirt Faithful.
While we are still reeling from the sheer awesomeness that was the Gomez trade, we now have to realize that we are sorely lacking as far as good centers go. We’re left with Drury and Dubinsky. Nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, but still, that’s two out of four lines; which, just in case you flunked 1st grade math, isn’t that great. This, however, can be rectified with some simple, small signings, or AHL call-ups.
So, this isn’t anything to terribly freak out about. Yet.
Onto another issue which still plagues our beloved Rangers: defense. While Slats was downright brilliant in dumping Gomer, he would have to be the Wizard of Oz to rid us of Wade Redden. Actually he wouldn’t, he would just have to put Wade on waivers and let him rot in the AHL. But, um, yeah that won’t happen—so we’re stuck. At least he showed a tiny bit of improvement under Tortorella and in the playoffs.
Michal Roszival is still around, sucking up more cap space than he should, Paul Mara may not be back, and we’ll most likely have a hole where Derrek Morris was for a while. However, we still have Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, given that Danno regains his form from the 2007-08 season.
But, there won’t be as much riding on the defense this season, with a new coaching system and some new spicy offensive talent, so that’s a bright spot in the dark pit of the Rangers defense corps. The problem is that there are only two good players to fill six spots.
No bueno, mis amigos.
Another issue will be the loss of our penalty kill. The Rangers finished last season with the number one kill in the league. And the majority of that is thanks to the play of Fredrik Sjostrom and Blair Betts. Betts still hasn’t been offered a contract by the Rangers, and Sjostrom has already signed with Calgary.
On top of that, the Rangers recently signed Donald Brashear, who ripped off half of Betts’ head in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs.
I have a feeling that was a "move on" message to Bettsie. Eric will go more in-depth on the Brashear signing in a separate post.
So, not only have the Rangers lost two players with more heart than could be imagined, but they have also lost the core of the penalty kill. Last time I checked, the Rangers roster includes Sean Avery and now Donald Brashear. The two of them on the same team means a lot of time short-handed...which means WE NEED A GOOD PENALTY KILL AND NOW WE DON’T HAVE ONE. This will need to be rectified. But probably won’t, because we’re still dealing with Glen Sather here. And I miss Sjo.
There were some huge improvements: No more Scott Gomez!! Oh, and some guy from Minnesota...Marion something.
I, personally, am still on the fence over whether or not to be excited that Marion Gaborik is a Ranger for the next five years. Just thinking about his offensive ability gives me the shakes. On the other hand, he has a history of injury and fragility, although the severity and long-term threat of this can be, and has been, debated.
According to Sather, the team doctors, and Gaborik himself, he’s as healthy as a horse, and we shouldn’t have to worry. But I’m a Ranger fan. I don’t know how to be confident about something my team has done. So judgment on whether or not signing Gabby was for the best will have to be withheld until around December. Or my next beer. Whichever comes first.
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While defense is a major concern for the Rangers this season, there’s also a huge need for more offense! The Rangers finished 28th in goals scored last season. Only the Islanders and the Avalanche scored fewer goals.
Getting rid of Scott Gomez and his laissez faire attitude was a step in the right direction for this team. The additions of Marian Gaborik and Christopher Higgins give the Rangers more depth at wing. But, as mentioned before, we only have two NHL centers on this team. On top of that, the free agent choices up the middle are pretty slim at this point.
John Tortorella has gone on record saying that he wants a lefty centering Gabby. This takes Chris Drury out of the running for that spot. Brandon Dubinsky is a lefty and Torts hasn’t ruled him out yet. Saku Koivu is one choice still on the market. He’s a lefty and according to former teammate Christopher Higgins, can still play well. The problem is that he is 34, and we all know Glen Sather’s propensity to sign aging players to contracts that are too long and too expensive.
The only other choices that I have heard are to try to trade for Brad Richards from the Stars or Patrick Marleau from the Sharks. I doubt lightning would strike twice for Sather, allowing him to unload Wade Redden for either of these centers. He would probably have to part with a Dubinsky or Callahan to sweeten the deal. I say they would have to trade Redden because Richards comes with a $7.8M cap hit and Marleau has a $6.3M cap hit. Getting Wade’s $6.5M cap hit off the books would have to be done.
While the Rangers have taken steps to improve the offense, I’d say it’s still a work in progress at this point. Once they finish retooling the offense, I’d go as far to say that their terrible, terrible power play would also improve! No more do we have to settle for Scott Gomez constantly holding the puck along the half-boards pretending he’s Jaromir Jagr. And hey, that’s a step in the right direction.
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Entering the 2009 Entry Draft, the Rangers were looking to add scoring and speed, as well as size with skill at the top of the draft. With Chris Kreider they believe they have found that answer. Kreider was graded out as the fastest skater among the prospects so the speed part has been addressed. Whether his talent will equal up to his speed remains to be seen. Kreider is going to a good Division I program at Boston College so in two to three years it is expected he will be ready for the jump to the NHL.
The rest of the Ranger picks were attempts to address holes within the prospect pipeline; Ethan Werek (2nd) brings a physical game, Ryan Bourque (3rd) is a playmaker, Roman Horak (5th) is unknown, Scott Stajcer (5th) adds depth to the goalie position, Daniel Maggio (6th) is a project stay at home defender, and Mikhail Pashnin (7th) is a smallish stay at home defender. Give the Rangers credit. They made an attempt to address needs while making the transition to the John Tortorella era.
Time will really be the final judge as to whether they addressed their needs.
So there you have it, ladies and germs—what Ranger fans will be freaking out about for the next three months, and probably the six months after that. I hope we’ve been able to put some of this into perspective, or at least make you feel better about your own team’s moves this off-season. Unless you’re a Habs fan, in which case, um, good luck with Gainey going absolutely bazonkers—and enjoy Scott Gomez! LGR!!!!