Derek Boogaard Makes Rangers Tougher, but Not Better

S BCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2010

EDMONTON, CANADA - MARCH 5: Derek Boogaard #24 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Edmonton Oilers on March 5, 2010 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

The Rangers' signing of Derek Boogaard isn't great news for the team.

Boogaard is an enforcer, brought in to protect Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist.

Donald Brashear was brought in to do that last season, but he proved to be too much of an on-ice liability to be effective.

Brashear's game was incomplete, his fighting wasn't great, and he ultimately proved to be more of an albatross than a safety net. Brashear wound up banished from the Rangers.

The Rangers finished last season with the tough Jody Shelly and Brandon Prust, who not only kept teams from running the Rangers, but who also proved to have flashes of offensive skill toward the end of the season, especially when the two were playing with Artem Anisimov.

And that's the thing about the modern NHL. If you have players like Boogaard, who are only on the ice to fight or to scare opposing teams, you really need a lot of firepower in your top lines. Because when guys like Boogaard are on the ice, not only is your offense grinding to a halt, but there's a decent chance an opposing scoring opportunity will also be yielded.

And the Rangers aren't deep enough to sacrifice offense or defense like that.

No one expects Boogaard to play even 10 minutes a game. Last season for Minnesota, he averaged less than nine shifts a game at around six minutes a night.

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Given the way Rangers coach John Tortorella rolls his lines, it's conceivable Boogaard will play even less.

But then, that raises the question of the value of signing a guy to a four-year, $6.6 million deal if he's going to play a handful of minutes a night?

And that's where the power of Shelly comes in.

Shelly was no offensive juggernaut, but he showed just enough flashes of ability to earn around seven minutes a game for the Rangers, about a minute more per game than Brashear was averaging.

So with Shelly, you had a player who kept other teams honest around the Rangers but who could also play a relatively complete game.

With Boogaard, you might be getting a physically tougher player, but you're losing that overall hockey ability Shelly brought to the table.

Teams like Philadelphia and Chicago were able to make Stanley Cup finals runs because some of their best players were also some of their toughest. No one took liberties when Dustin Byfuglien and Chris Pronger were on the ice (unless the liberties were with each other), because neither was afraid to lay down punches or hits. But at the same time, if you gave them the chance, they could also launch an offensive attack, too.

Boogaard is a one-dimensional player without a lot of upside.

It's great the Rangers GM Glen Sather recognized the Rangers needed to get tougher. And it's great that he wants to protect his best players.

But he also needs to understand the modern NHL game. A designated thug only makes teams want to provoke him to get him out on the ice. After all, with a thug on the ice, you don't have to worry about goals, or even strong defense.

Teams want a guy like Boogaard out on the ice because it means they don't have to worry about the Rangers scoring.

And unless the Rangers suddenly find scoring via trade or free agency, they're not going to be in much of a position to sacrifice any scoring opportunities next season.


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