Rangers' Redden, Zherdev, Naslund Give Critics the Proverbial Middle Finger

PJ EdelmanCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2008

Reading New York Rangers predictions this past summer has been bittersweet. 

On the plus side, Ranger hopefuls wrote in-depth analyses of the outlook for the Rangers' top new players, namely Nikolai Zherdev, Markus Naslund, and Wade Redden. 

It was rare, however, to see a posted comment reflect this positive aura.  Instead, critics lambasted Zherdev's moody ways, Naslund's reluctance to play tough in the middle, and Redden's rapidly declining skill.

If these three players had read the critiques on them this summer, I'm sure they would have a response ready.

Although it has only been four games, the Rangers' best players have come from this top crop.  Zherdev and Naslund lead the Rangers with four points each, with Zherdev's plus-three rating leading the team.  Redden has three points, tied for second most on the Rangers.  He has two goals on three shots, and a plus-one rating.

Just about 1/20 of the season is gone, which is barely a drop in the bucket.  But don't sell their effort short.  Look for the "Big Three" to continue adding cups of ice if they keep up their strong play.  Zherdev shows a knack for creativity and awareness, as well as some new-found hustle.  Redden possesses a quiet leadership and experience.  And Naslund exhibits his excellent vision, along with clean passing and smooth skating.

It's almost as if they heard all the negative commentary this preseason and decided to band together, putting their hands in the air and exclaiming that they were No. 1.

They just might be using a finger other than their index to illustrate the number.