It’s a musings day folks. With little Ranger specific news let’s just get into it and talk about anything and everything, ok?
What side of the CBA war do you side with? It’s hard to link arms with the owners and the league, a league that has come across as incredibly greedy through the media. Are they greedy? Was the last CBA that bad that they had to resort to extreme measures?
Is there a public figure or leader – in sports or entertainment – with as negative a public reputation as Gary Bettman? He’s actually done a solid job over the years. Despite stretching it too far, expansion has been a relative (and necessary) success for the league; he has grown the sport immeasurably and has proven a strong leader in the face of challenges such as the KHL and on matters such as the Olympics. That said, if his reign ended tomorrow he’d be considered greedy, too stubborn and arrogant.
Do you think the public appearance of players such as Crosby, Ovechkin or Lundqvist influences the NHLPA’s position or media and fan bias in the CBA talks?
We discussed how the Flyers may be a competitor for the Rangers for blueliners going forward. Right now the Canadiens cannot get PK Subban to ink a new deal. Well, is there anyone more suited to the Flyers mould than? Cocky yet talented, considered a pretty dirty player but an offensive threat Subban may be more of a target for Flyers than Michael Del Zotto would be.
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Much debate was made over the weekend regarding what the Rangers should give up in a trade for Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. The rumors were circling, and the general consensus is that the Rangers will need to include Derek Stepan in a package that will land either scoring winger. Both the Ducks and the Blue Jackets covet Stepan as a current #2 center, with the potential to be a #1 center.
Whether the Ducks and Blue Jackets are ranking Stepan appropriately is irrelevant. What matters is that the Rangers need a scoring winger, a big hole for them. There is hesitance to deal Stepan, as there should be, but the Rangers hesitance to deal him is about opening a hole at center to fill a hole at wing. That’s not how to build a team or how to “win” a trade.
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Though it has repeatedly been reported that GM Glen Sather considers Derek Stepan “untouchable,” that hasn’t stopped many from debating whether he should be included in trade offers for superstars like Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan.
Anaheim is specifically seeking a #2 center-man as part of a package for Ryan and has almost certainly requested Stepan from the Rangers (if the Ducks considered Artem Anisimov or Brandon Dubinsky to be suitable second-line pivots, it’s very likely that Ryan would already be a Blueshirt).
So should Sather actually consider dealing Stepan for Ryan? There is an argument to be made for each side.
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Everyone assumes that Brandon Dubinsky will be the one ‘major’ piece to move if the Rangers acquire a high priced/elite forward through a means other than free agency. Non free agency acquisition likely means Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. One of the major issues here is that Anaheim likely wants a cheaper piece than Dubinsky and Columbus wants a lot more in addition to Dubinsky.
The demands and desires of the clubs possessing the shiny new toys the Rangers crave mean there’s a chance that the Rangers might need to keep Dubinsky and move other pieces such as Derek Stepan or Artem Anisimov. Derek Stepan’s level of organisational security depends on how desperate Sather and co. are for the big time scorer they need. Only people internally truly know the answers.
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When trade rumors begin to surface, many begin to panic. It’s not unexpected to see this panicking, as the Rangers were so close last season to playing for the Stanley Cup, it makes you wonder what management will do to make that next step. Per Larry Brooks, the organization has dubbed seven key players as “untouchable” in their search for scoring:
The Rangers, who are believed to have quarantined Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Derek Stepan (in addition to Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist)…
Mentioning Cally, Girardi, and Lundqvist is just a formality, as these are guys in or entering their prime who are core pieces for the Rangers. As for the first four mentioned by Brooks, those names are expected to be deemed as “untouchable.” If the Rangers were open to moving any of them, the return would have to be monstrous.
McDonagh was a given for the status of untouchable because of the impact he’s made on the roster. McDonagh emerged as a top pairing defender when Marc Staal went down with his concussion, and stayed there even when Staal returned. The pairing of McDonagh and Girardi is one of the best shutdown pairs in the game today. Throw in the fact that McDonagh has yet to tap into his offensive potential, and we could be looking at a Norris winner in the future.
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Interesting debate on Twitter the other night: who would you rather have: Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique or Chris Kreider? I think I’d take Henrique, but the Twitterverse seemed split between Landeskog and Kreider. I may have a slightly biased audience…
This offseason was wacky even before it officially began. Prior to the Kings victory on Monday: Nicklas Lidstrom retired, Tim Thomas decided to take a hiatus, Edmonton shockingly won the draft lottery (again) and Marian Gaborik was lost for six months.
It would be just like Detroit to replace Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Brian Rafalski (a year later) with Ryan Suter, Justin Schultz and Brendan Smith. That franchise reloads better than anyone.
It seems like many have soured on Derek Stepan after he failed to break out this season and was again a no-show in the playoffs. It’s perhaps a little unfair to expect a kid to handle such a heavy offensive burden at the tender age of 21, but that’s the pressure Stepan faces in New York. I still fully expect Stepan to blossom into a consistent 50-to-60-point player though.
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That the Rangers are two wins away from the Stanley Cup final is down to the impressive work rate, team ethic and application of the roster and the coaching staff. That the team is almost running on empty and may perhaps fall short of the Finals is because of the way the team plays, the style and energy required to play that way. That said, whatever happens the rest of the season it has been a hugely successful one. More importantly, the way the Rangers play promises so much for the future.
Teams can be blessed with skill and can fall short because of a lack of heart, character or work ethic. It’s hard to acquire those traits. It’s easier to acquire talent. The Rangers have gone about it the right way and that is why this team should be a contender for the foreseeable future.
That the team (currently) struggle to score goals consistently is down to the fact the club has a lack of in their prime skill players – Gaborik and Richards aside. Players like Stepan and Anisimov, Kreider and Hagelin are still developing. This is one of the youngest clubs in the entire league. Players such as Ryan Callahan need to be complemented with skill. It’s this combination of youth however that should develop in to quality scorers even if it’s not happening just yet.
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Derek Stepan has been a bit of a revelation for the Rangers. The first homegrown prospect that came in as a legitimate offensive threat, Stepan has dazzled many with his tremendous first two seasons in New York. He has played a full 164 games in those two seasons, and has put together a very nice line of 38-58-96. He has been better than expected over the course of the regular season. But it’s the playoffs that have many worrying.
In nine playoff games thus far, Stepan has failed to record a point. Even worse, Stepan has barely been noticeable. Anton Stralman has usurped control of his spot on the point on the powerplay, and Stepan has even seen time on the fourth line this series.
Stepan is scoreless in his last nine contests, and has just four goals since March 1. This could be written off as a rough patch, but the problem is that this happened to Stepan last season as well. In the final month of last season and the first round of the playoffs, Stepan again only record four goals. If last season was a result of the proverbial NCAA wall, then what is this season?
Looking deeper into the numbers, Stepan may be a bit invisible this postseason, but he’s not exactly “useless” as so many people are saying. This postseason, Stepan has been facing the second highest quality of competition among the forwards (Qualcomp of .370*). Despite facing higher quality of competition, Stepan still maintains a high RCorsi (puck possession metric) of 14.6*. While not the best on the team, it is still a high positive number, which means Stepan and his linemates have had the puck more often than the opponent.
*- Small sample sizes
Both his Qualcomp and RCorsi are up significantly from the last postseason. Stepan is improving, even if we don’t necessarily see it on the scoreboard. So if his metrics are good, why the scoring issue?
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So the Rangers lost another heartbreaker last night in overtime. It’s their second loss to the Senators in the series, both coming in overtime. The fan base is on edge, and for good reason. The Senators are a good team, and a team that the Rangers do not match up well against. It’s going to be a stressful series, that’s for sure. But enough of that, let’s get to the musings for the day.
I’m in the process of reading a book called “Losing the Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers”, and there was a great quote in the book, from none other than Mark Messier:
“Leadership isn’t about the win, it’s about how you rebound after the loss.”
This statement is more true now, in this series, than ever before. The Rangers have more leaders on this team with Cup experience than the Senators. It’s time for the leaders to take charge. In fact, one of the leaders –Mike Rupp– almost won the game for the Rangers in overtime with his forecheck in the Senators zone. People still rip on Rupp for no reason whatsoever. Maybe it’s the contract, but I get the sense that it’s a feeling of “he doesn’t do anything for this club.” That is so false, it pains me every time I see it. Hockey is more than goals and assists. It’s about dirty work, especially playoff hockey.
Speaking of playoff hockey, is last night’s game what we are reduced to? There were a toal of 12 penalties last night totaling 24 PIMs. Some were legitimate calls, but I can point to two penalties, one per team, that were questionable at best. Ryan McDonagh’s “trip” on Zenon Kenopka in the first period and Zach Smith’s “interference” on Ruslan Fedotenko in the second period were very iffy calls. But such is the life after a dirty first two games. The refs aren’t going to allow this stuff to fly. This is now a special teams series, and that makes most people nervous.
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Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you know that Carl Hagelin was suspended (questionably) for 3 games for elbowing Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson in the head during game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Due to this turn of events, the Rangers have lost a key cog in their top line, and one of their biggest speed/forechecking threats.
Chris Kreider was inserted into the lineup in Hagelin’s place for game 3 and acquitted himself well for a pro debut in the middle of a playoff series. By the third period, however, Torts felt that Kreider wasn’t ready to be that guy for the top line and inserted Derek Stepan. The question remains going into Game 4 on Wednesday, who is the right guy to take Hagelin’s spot on the top unit?
Let’s take a look at some possibilities…
- Ryan Callahan- Captain Cally does just about everything for the Rangers, so why not install him on the top line? He could be a huge boon to the forecheck and allow for Richards and Gabby a little more room to operate down low. He also has an unfailing nose for the net, and if those two can generate shots on goal, Cally is a good bet to bang in some rebounds.
- Brandon Dubinsky- Last season’s leading scorer, Dubi would seem to possess the skill set to complement the top line nicely. He has a decent set of hands and can bring some jam to a finesse unit. However, he has had trouble finding the back of the net this season, and has often looked lost between passing and shooting. But, who knows, maybe playing with talent like Gaborik and Richards is just the thing to light the fire under Dubi’s offensive game. Read more »