The New York Rangers are one game away from completing their first month of the season, and currently sit atop the NHL with 19 points and a record of 9-2-1. I have graded all of the players based on their performance, to the best of my ability.
Nikolai Zherdev: A+: Zherdev’s play on the 2nd line with Dubinsky and Voros carried the Rangers for a significant period of time, and he rejuvenated the 1st line in the last few games.
Brandon Dubinsky: A+: I think Duby is responding to the question, “But how good is he without Jagr?” The answer is “Very Good.”
Aaron Voros: A+: The guy plays a physical game and scores in front on the power play. Renney has found his replacement for Sean Avery, without the distractions and lack of discipline.
Henrik Lundvist: A: As one of the premier goalies in the league, King Henrik manages to keep the Rangers in the game every single night, making great saves in the process.
Stephen Valiquette: A: What more could you ask from a guy who knows he is rarely going to play in games not against the Flyers. He has been phenomenal in his two starts so far, including a shutout in a typical win against Philadelphia.
Avery is dead wrong, as Valiquette is no minor leaguer.
Scott Gomez: A-: Gomez, like last year, will end up with a plenitude of assists, especially on the power play. On even strength, however, he needs to start to click with Dawes and Callahan.
Markus Naslund: A-: At times he shows flashes of his great play in Vancouver, and at other times, appears to be mediocre. He needs to play more consistently. He has been great on the power play though.
Daniel Girardi: B+:After a few years of development, this looks like the year that Girardi really shows that he is one of the better defenseman in the league.
Ryan Callahan: B+: He is not repeating last year by starting out slow. He is skating well, playing a very physical game, and scoring.
Paul Mara: B+: Mara came back to New York with less money and years in his contract than other places in order to win the Stanley Cup. He has stepped up his game and passion immensely, and has done a good job replacing Tyutin as the team’s physical defenseman.
Blair Betts: B+: Probably the most underrated and overlooked player on the Rangers, Betts continues to win faceoffs, play great defense, and kill off penalties. He has even
stepped up his offensive game from last year.
Fredrik Sjostrom: B+: On most teams, Sjostrom would be getting much more ice time than a 4th line left winger. Using his speed, he creates scoring opportunities every time he is on the ice, and continues to excel in the shootout.
Marc Staal: B:Staal is still not even close to playing up to his potential, as he is still learning and developing, but is still playing very well. He is getting better and better every game and rarely makes mistakes.
Colton OrrL B:Orr worked very hard in the offseason to develop his offensive skills, and has become so much more than a 4th line checker and fighter.
Michal Rozsival: B-: Although with Jagr out of the picture, he is shooting the puck a lot more, he has not played to the level he did last year that earned him his huge contract.
Wade Redden: B-:He has not done a great job at quarterbacking the powerplay. Like Rozsival, he is not yet close to playing up to his contract.
Chris Drury: C+:Drury has not played terribly this year, he just has had trouble putting the puck into the net and creating scoring opportunities. He had a great game against the Islanders, and his line seems to be clicking with Zherdev replacing Gomez.
Dmitri Kalinin: C+:Kalinin has essentially played average all season. He makes good plays on occasion, and makes mistakes sometimes as well. He has not played well, but has not played that good either.
Nigel Dawes: C: Dawes started off the season very slowly, but after being benched a few games by Renney, he has played very well. He seems to be fitting in well with Gomez and Callahan.
Dan Fritsche: C-: Fritsche has not played bad in his few games in the lineup, but he has not done anything to stand out to remain in the lineup. He is very talented, and as he plays more with Korpikoski in Hartford, he should find his game.
Lauri Korpikoski: C-:Although he had a stellar training camp and preseason, as well as a goal in a playoff game, he clearly is not yet ready for the NHL.
His season in Hartford last year was not phenomenal, and as he now returns to the AHL, he will further develop his skills, get a lot of ice time, and score a lot.
Petr Prucha: C-:Prucha has played better of late, but continues to not be able to find scoring opportunities. He has rarely scored since he was on the power play during his rookie season.
Prucha seems to have no confidence (probably because of his constant presence on the healthy scratch list), and it would be best for him to find a new home.
I am sure that Sather has been trying to trade him, but teams are reluctant to take on his contract.
Patrick Rissmiller: D: He played terribly in his two games, with multiple costly turnovers, resulting in him being put on waivers. He is not as bad as he has played, but there really is no spot for him in the lineup, and he has not done anything to deserve one.
The only reason his grade is not an “F” is because he essentially replaced Ryan Hollweg, and he still played better in his 2 games than Hollweg would have.
OVERALL TEAM: A-: The Rangers have played great and have won a lot of games, but that was mainly because of their 2nd line, defense, goaltending, and penalty killing.
Their newly formed lines have played well so far, but they need to show consistency. Their powerplay has been terrible, and that is their primary concern.