How will Zuccarello fare this season?
Today it all begins. The Rangers open their season today as the season, tone setting, nine game road trip gets under way tonight in Phoenix. Let’s jump straight into the first Musings of the new season.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Stepan starts tonight. Will he be a step behind? Will the lack of reps, preseason games, training camp, and a new system implementation hurt him? He’s going to be under the microscope and has a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
A player that could thrive under Alain Vigneault’s (apparently) more open system could be Michael Del Zotto. Like so many Rangers, this is a big year for him. Is he finally going to put it all together and be a consistent offensive threat from the blueline? Or does he become expendable after this season? A good year from MDZ likely means an improved Rangers PP.
Most unpredictable player heading into tonight? Mats Zuccarello.
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Best case: Johnson is an adequate depth defender and is significantly better than Stu Bickel in spot duty.
Worst case: Johnson is no better than Bickel and the Rangers are back where they were last year if top-six blueliners get hurt.
Best case: Stralman continues to be an unsung hero for the Blueshirts and finally earns the attention he deserves with a standout campaign, including some gaudy power play numbers.
Worst case: Stralman’s hold on the #6 job loosens and Justin Falk pushes him for playing time. Read more »
Is Ballard worth the risk?
With the NHL draft behind us, the attention turns to the free agency period beginning on July 5th. In the mean time, teams begin to offload salary and make roster changes in anticipation of auction season. One of the moves that has already been made has seen Vancouver place Keith Ballard on waivers (regular waives, not buyout waivers). While the Rangers have already attempted to add blueline depth by adding Justin Falk, the Rangers could consider taking a risk on Keith Ballard.
Ballard has been a marginal player for the Canucks despite having a cap numbing $4.2m cap hit. His contract doesn’t come off the books until after the 2014/15 season. That said, Ballard is only 30, can skate well and is a solid player at both ends of the rink when he’s on his game. Much of the decision here depends on the organization’s intentions with Michael Del Zotto (once again thrown into the rumour mill by Brooks) and the health of Marc Staal. With Mike Sauer no longer in contention, the Rangers would really solidify their blueline if Ballard would pan out.
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Defense was a hallmark of the 2011-2012 New York Rangers. It was arguably the key ingredient in their run to the Eastern Conference Finals. They had an unwavering commitment to shot-blocking and solid play in their own end. Even without a ton of roster turnover, the unit was not as proficient as they were last season, but still had a solid campaign overall. Let’s look at the individual contributions of each blue liner…
McDonagh experienced a slight drop off from his 2011-2012 form, but overall showed off a much more well-rounded game. Although his point totals remained very similar to last season, he showed an increased willingness to jump up into the play and be more involved in the offense. He still plays a top-notch, shutdown defensive game and can eat workhorse minutes. As his offensive game improves, he could develop into a Norris level defenseman. Let’s not forget, he’s only 24. A-
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According to his Twitter account, Michael Del Zotto became the third Ranger to have surgery this offseason. It does not sound like his injury was as serious as the torn labrums suffered by Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin though. Since the type of surgery is unknown, and the team has not formally announced anything, a timetable for a return has not been provided.
Update: The Rangers have announced that Del Zotto had surgery to repair a sports hernia.
Del Zotto needs to improve, and he will be given the time to do so.
Michael Del Zotto is a whipping boy for many, and his underwhelming season hasn’t helped him convince certain groups of fans –and media– of his long-term future being in New York. That said, Del Zotto is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Depending on how the offseason plays out, the Rangers are not exactly blessed with a ton of offense from their blueline, emphasizing the need for an in-form Del Zotto. Unless John Moore’s development is a lot quicker than anticipated, Del Zotto remains the number one offensive blueliner in New York.
Then there is the relatively painful, drawn out contract situation that went on last offseason. Glen Sather doesn’t go through such a protracted –at times public– negotiation if he doesn’t a) believe the player is the right fit for the Rangers, or b) he doesn’t have viable alternatives. Del Zotto should factor into both aspects, as there are a clear lack of alternatives at any level of the Rangers system. Should Del Zotto find some consistency, his game fits well with the Rangers current DNA.
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Photo by Joe Makarski, Bruins Daily.
As some of you may have noticed, the Rangers were awful on the power play again in 2013.
One of the simple fixes suggested by many has been to bring in a guy with a cannon point shot. That’d be a nice luxury to have, but the truth is that there are very few players in the league as effective at Zdeno Chara at
breaking Ryan Callahan’s limbs calmly holding the blueline in the offensive zone while intermittently directing 100+ mph slappers through traffic at enemy goalies. New York has no one capable of doing that – in fact Dan Girardi probably has the hardest shot on the team, which is likely the sole reason John Tortorella has stubbornly deployed him on the man advantage in recent years – but few teams do.
Give me a puck mover like Boston has apparently found in Torey Krug over that point blast any day. Krug may have just enjoyed the best five-game stretch of his career, but he also single-handedly transformed one of the few power plays in the league worse than the Rangers into a high octane unit that converted 33% of its chances against the world’s best goalie. The Bruins already had Chara’s legendary rocket, but it was Krug’s heat-seeking shot, speed, decisiveness and poise with the puck that gave the Bruins a new dimension. Read more »
Plenty of goal celebrations tonight please.
If you think the Rangers media/fan base is bad, you should have seen the stink kicked up by Jake Gardiner’s agent in Toronto. One naughty tweet (“free Jake Gardiner”) created a storm of speculation. Rangers’ prospects should relax knowing they don’t need to deal with the overzealous Toronto market.
Following on from his recent upturn in form, Michael Del Zotto is averaging a point per game against the Jets franchise. The Buffalo game aside (almost everyone stank), it will be interesting to see MDZ on the puck tonight and see whether he can continue to bring the level of poise and confidence he’s had recently. He’s an important part of this team, and when he’s on can make other players around him more dangerous.
Something about tonight’s match up; if the team can’t enter this game motivated, hungry, and with serious energy I’ll be slightly concerned. The Rangers and Jets are 8th and 9th in the standings, with the same points. There is a lot riding on this game. This is the kind of game where the Rangers better players need to step up.
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Del Zotto has been solid lately, much needed by the Rangers
It won’t be a popular topic with many Rangers fans, but Michael Del Zotto has quietly gone about playing some very good hockey since returning from his injury. This return to form is also coinciding with the Rangers recent strong run, which is no coincidence.
Del Zotto’s form has been overshadowed by Ryan McDonagh’s own return to form, Marc Staal’s injury, Rick Nash’s free scoring ways and the partial re-emergence of a powerplay that has begun to make a positive difference once again (finally?). Perhaps this is the best way for Del Zotto. He gets the opportunity to float under the radar, and have the attention focused elsewhere.
In not being blamed for every defensive error committed by the Rangers, and partially forgotten about on the offensive side of the puck, Del Zotto has had the opportunity to play himself back in to form in relative peace and quiet. While other players take the plaudits, Del Zotto has gotten better.
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The Rangers shoot for a season best fourth victory in a row tonight against the Islanders. Naturally, the Islanders love playing spoiler to their big brother neighbours so it should be a dandy. On to the musings.
Where do you stand on the visor front? I’m all for mandatory visors and always have been. Hockey is a fast and dangerous sport why wouldn’t you want to be as safe as possible? It will be interesting to see if Marc Staal changes his stance when (not if) he returns.
Hate to say I told you so: I said on Twitter that the Rangers should go after Roman Hamrlik before he was claimed, and I thought that before Marc Staal’s injury. He’s not what he was at 38 years old, but a rusty Hamrlik is better at this stage of his career than Stu Bickel, or more consistent than Matt Gilroy. Regarding the concern over his skating: Bickel can’t skate either and Gilroy’s skating ability hasn’t exactly helped him establish himself. So Hamrlik still represents an upgrade on the third pair, even with his limited skating ability.
One final thing on Staal; Assuming he misses the rest of the season, by the time next October comes around Staal will have missed a lot of hockey in the past two years. Does that affect him long term? It could go one of two ways; either he’ll benefit from having plenty left in the tank or he’ll have missed so much competitive hockey he’ll not be the same player he was.
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