Forgive the lateness of this article, written long after the events to be detailed. But those events, the fateful hockey week of June 29, shocked me into a brief coma.
The only thing that was able to bring me back out of the tunnel of light was an intravenous solution consisting of the blood, sweat, and tears left on Madison Square Garden ice after Game Seven of the 1994 Cup Finals. This miraculous solution, now in very short supply, has (allegedly) healed the many sick and wounded from last year’s playoff disaster.
After a relatively unexciting draft, where the 19th pick ended up being a player with a lot of potential, but unlikely to have an immediate impact, the Rangers did not seem to be a major player heading free agency. The high payroll, the eternal albatross of many a New York sports franchise, would prevent the Rangers from picking up a much needed star to bolster last year’s putrid offensive production.
So when Glen Sather, once on the short end of a pure fire sale in Edmonton where he got little to nothing for many pieces of other teams’ puzzles, brought his albatross to work and dumped it on the Canadiens, I was speechless. And when the Rangers followed that up by reeling in Marian Gaborik, the biggest fish in the free agency pond….well, read the first paragraph again.
Gomez, who scored a lucrative contract with the Rangers in 2007, was not a bust as many have said. He was simply an overpaid player, considering his skill set and previous production.
Only once did Gomez score more than 20 goals in his career and only once did he reach the 80-point threshold. If the Ranger fans were disappointed with 58 points last year, they should have known better. Gomez excelled as a role player, on a team consisting of role players.
A change in uniform and a chance to play to a sold-out arena at home games certainly did nothing to increase his production. Dumping him for a younger (30 to 26) and cheaper ($8 to $1.9 million) version was a steal. Even if Chris Higgins does not rise above the 20-goal scorer that he is right now, the Rangers essentially traded Gomez for Gaborik.
A few minor moves by the Rangers sealed the deal. The productive veteran Ales Kotalik and exciting young Enver Lisin provide speed and scoring punch. The contract extension for Ryan Callahan was a smart move as well. But perhaps the most interesting part of the upcoming season will be Sean Avery and Donald Brashear, a potential dynamic duo of disruption, working together for the first time.