Glen Sather magically and miraculously got rid of Scott Gomez this summer and signed Marian Gaborik. However, much like going into last season, this year’s Rangers are ruled by “ifs” and question marks.
Sather overhauled the team yet again—does he ever have a plan? (“This isn’t plans one through eight in outer space, this is plan nine! This is the one that worked!”) Maybe this is the team John Tortorella wants though, with his faster, attacking style of play.
Last season Sather tried to replace the offense of Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, and Martin Straka with Nikolai Zherdev, Markus Naslund, and other assorted characters, and it didn’t quite work out.
The 2009-10 Rangers are thin on defense and have a number of unproven forwards—the only constant is the goaltending, with Henrik Lundqvist and Steve Valiquette back again.
Gone But Not Forgotten: Gomez, Zherdev, Naslund, Lauri Korpikoski, Nik Antropov, Fredrik Sjostrom, Blair Betts, Colton Orr, Paul Mara, Derek Morris, and Erik Reitz.
This Year’s Newcomers: Gaborik, Christopher Higgins, Vinny Prospal, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin, Donald Brashear, Brian Boyle, Matt Gilroy, Michael Del Zotto, and Alexi Semenov.
And now on to the “ifs”:
If Gaborik stays healthy, he’ll surely be that much-needed scorer the Rangers lacked last season.
If Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan can keep progressing, they’ll fill some of those top-six forward spots that are question marks. Dubinsky had an inconsistent, disappointing sophomore year, while Callahan improved mightily. Can Dubinsky be a No. 1 center?
If Sean Avery doesn’t do anything stupid, he’ll be a positive on the team. But doesn’t he do something stupid every year?
If Lisin, Higgins, and other promising youngsters live up to their potential, the Rangers will have a lot more scoring this year.
If Prospal and Kotalik produce again, the Rangers will have a lot more scoring than last season.
If the center position isn’t too thin, the team won’t spend the rest of the year trying to find a No. 1 or No. 2 pivot man.
If all the young defensemen can be counted on, things bode well for the future.
If Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival aren’t disasters again, well, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
If the Rangers can get by without a big, physical defenseman, it would be a miracle.
If they turn their power play around, with new faces such as Prospal, Higgins, Del Zotto, et al., it would give them a big advantage over last year’s sorry edition.
If the PK doesn’t suffer with the loss of Betts and Sjostrom, it could pick up where it left off last season, as one of the league’s best.
That’s a lot of “ifs”—and I’m sure there are plenty more I’m missing.
My prediction: eighth place again and fourth in the division.