“Some fans don’t like me? … Oh no!” </sarcasm>
There’ll be no Marc Staal defence’s today (kudos Suit), no long-winded rants, just lots of discussion. I’m feeling concise today so let’s get straight into the Le Musing (ooh, very French…)
Michael Del Zotto: The young and oft maligned blueliner is off to a great start to the year. He’ll never win over all his critics but he’s been the Rangers best blueliner at both ends so far. For a unit that struggled early on, and for a player with much to prove, he’s doing exactly that. Several big plays already this season.
Glen Sather deserves a ton of credit for Del Zotto’s start. Sather challenged Del Zotto to earn a bigger deal. He called him out while at the same time ensuring he publicly acknowledged the young defenseman’s worth to the franchise. He doesn’t speak in public much but Sather hit this one on the head. Sather dealt with the MDZ situation perfectly.
If I were to personally grade Marian Gaborik after 6 games, I’d probably be harsher than most people. I’d give him a B+ where some people would see the totals and assume excellence. I’m one of Gabby’s biggest fans, but he’s at times dominated and at times been found wanting. Of course, the times he’s impressed have outnumbered those he’s struggled in. The only thing missing from Gaborik’s season thus far is that elite level of consistency.
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Per Bob McKenzie, captain Ryan Callahan is out 10-14 days with a shoulder subluxation, which means that Cally’s shoulder popped out of its socket real fast, then settled back in. This could have been a lot worse, but the Rangers will definitely miss Cally while he is out for those two weeks.
While he’s out, expect Carl Hagelin and Taylor Pyatt to get a lot of time with Derek Stepan.
If you weren’t watching the game, then you missed the big news that captain Ryan Callahan left the game in the third period with an apparent left shoulder injury. Following a scrum with Max Talbot, Cally headed straight to the locker room and pointed at his left shoulder. The scrum itself didn’t involve any punches, it just looks like it was tugged awkwardly by Talbot.
No word yet on the severity of the injury.
Ranger fans left The Garden disappointed tonight, as the Blueshirts dropped their home opener to the Penguins, in particularly brutal fashion, 6-3. In a game we saw The King pulled in the second period, Rick Nash’s first Ranger goal, and continued sloppy, disjointed play, the good guys fell to 0-2-0 on the young season. Let’s break down the goals…
Penguins 1, Rangers 0: Only seconds after Aaron Asham kicked the game off with a solid tilt with Tanner Glass, Brad Richards took an undisciplined interference penalty just :37 into the game. On the ensuing Pittsburgh powerplay, after some pressure, Marc Staal failed to the clear the zone as his attempt was picked off by Kris Letang. The Pens continued to move the puck and eventually caught the Rangers running around. James Neal was left alone in the slot, and he rifled a shot low to the glove side and past Lundqvist. There may have been a small screen there, but I think Hank will want that one back.
Penguins 1, Rangers 1: Around the nine minute mark, the Rangers were starting to buzz offensively. An aggressive forecheck lead to a Simon Despres penalty for holding. On the faceoff, Brandon Sutter took a penalty for playing the puck with his glove. Apparently this is a new penalty this year. Just ask Sam, he’ll tell you all about it. This lead to a full two minute 5-on-3 for the Rangers. The Pens decided to play two forwards and one defenseman and collapse the front of the net. This allowed the PP unit the opportunity to move the puck freely around the perimeter and seek openings down low. After alternating the two tactics, Richards drifted down into the high slot and ripped a half slapper toward the net. Tomas Vokoun was unable to control the rebound and Captain Cally banged in the rebound as it was bouncing for the equalizer. Read more »
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Two summers ago (2011), we started writing posts titled “Reasonable Expectations.” The idea behind these posts was to outline what we should expect from some of our core youth on the Rangers. It’s natural to expect every player to turn into a first liner, but that’s not reality.
When we wrote these expectation posts two summers ago, they were obviously for last season (2011-2012). Now that the season has come to an end, Suit brought up a good idea to track how we did with our predictions. Since it was my idea to start with the Reasonable Expectation posts, it only makes sense that I go first.
Beginning in February of the 2010-2011 season, I wrote three Reasonable Expectation posts: one for Michael Del Zotto, one for the Brandon Dubinsky/Artem Anisimov/Ryan Callahan line, and one for Tim Erixon. Considering the players I wrote about, it looks like I have a kiss of death. Apparently if I write a Reasonable Expectations post about a player, he has a 60% chance of being traded for Rick Nash.
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A lockout gives Ryan Callahan additional time to rest his bruised and battered body.
Sometimes a hockey player’s effectiveness (and career) comes to a halt because their bodies simply cannot take any more. One excellent example of a player whose body let him down is Adam Deadmarsh, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche. Unlike Eric Lindros – perhaps the most skilled player to be let down by his body – Deadmarsh, while talented, was known more for his work rate, physicality, and leadership. There are obvious similarities between Deadmarsh and Ryan Callahan.
Deadmarsh, like Callahan (a regular 20-30 goal forward in the NHL), eventually had to retire because of health problems. Enter the lockout. Ryan Callahan is a player that leads by example, that always finishes his checks, plays fearlessly and who is the hardest of hard-working players. He is exactly the type of player who stands to benefit from the unfortunate situation that is the NHL lockout.
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As we approach the lockout deadline – faster than most people would wish – lets jump straight into another episode of Musings and talk about non – CBA, Rangers orientated stuff.
Personally I’m somewhat underwhelmed with the Steve Eminger re-signing. Yes, he fits in well with the club and has had partial success with the Rangers however the Eminger and most, if not all, veteran defenseman available would have limited offers at this stage. My preference would have been to invite Eminger and a couple of other veterans to camp (if there is one) and have an open competition. Everything seems pretty safe and secure now, heading into camp.
NHL.com recently started discussing fantasy options (getting ahead of themselves?) and they talked about Chris Kreider as a strong sleeper candidate. Kreider is exactly that. He can’t be a sure fire draft pick and his actual (non fantasy) production can’t be projected too closely, despite his playoff exposure. But Kreider has tremendous potential next season; for fantasy owners and the Rangers.
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No question, the Rangers made a huge splash this summer with the acquisition of Rick Nash. Thanks to the move the Rangers find themselves with more (legitimate) elite talent than they have had in well over a decade but at some stage even top line players need offensive support. Even the dominant Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s had role players step up when needed.
With the loss of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov the Rangers lost two core role players. They lost two home grown Rangers that proved they had offensive ability, even if they lacked consistency. Unfortunately you have to give to receive. With those two gone however, it offers a bigger chance for another player or two to step up. Forget Callahan, Stepan and Kreider. All three could be needed in the top six and will be counted on to various degrees.
The opportunity that presents itself is a perfect chance for Brian Boyle to reassert himself as a critical piece in the Rangers line up. Boyle needs a good season. While he came on toward the end of last year, offensively he wasn’t as effective as he was during his breakout season a year prior.
Despite continuing in his role as a defensively reliable player Boyle will need to offer more up the other end of the ice given the Rangers’ up and coming array of centers in the system such as Steven Fogarty, Mike St Croix and Oscar Lindberg. Each offers legitimate NHL potential either as an offensive player or as a checking center while offering the benefit of significant cap savings as opposed to Boyle.
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One of the keys to remaining an elite franchise in the NHL – or any sports league for that matter – is the ability to continually evolve, integrate players, coaches and systems and build a solid foundation on which a club grows. In the NHL, the best example in recent times has been the Detroit Red Wings.
Despite never enjoying the benefit of lottery draft picks, the Wings found ways to win Stanley Cups and be a consistent contender thanks to routinely excellent decision making and timely roster management. They are in many ways the model NHL franchise.
The Rangers have begun to show the same traits as the Red Wings over the past few years and it is therefore no coincidence that the Rangers boast a quality prospect pipeline, have their most successful season in recent memory just behind them and a bright future ahead of them. The Rangers however, need to continue with their evolution to remain successful and it is this reason why the club should seriously consider moving Marc Staal.
There are many reasons Staal is a ‘keeper’. There may however be more reasons to trade him. No one foresaw the rapid development of Ryan McDonagh. The young Ranger is arguably already the best defenseman on the team; is a future perennial All Star and has a more rounded game than Staal. With Dan Girardi and Mike Del Zotto fixtures on the blueline going forward and the likes of Mike Sauer and Dylan McIlrath in the mix the Rangers can afford to move Staal if the return is favourable.
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Although the Rangers are likely to benefit from a lockout –due to the injury to Marian Gaborik– there is still a solid chance that when the season starts, the club will still be without their top scorer from last season. Gaborik, who had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in June, is said to be out five or six months recovering from the surgery.
The acquisition of Rick Nash actually gives the Rangers tremendous flexibility when dealing with this injury. Nash is a rare forward that can play both wings, and play them at a high level. This gives the Rangers the ability to fill the spot opened up by Gaborik’s injury on either the left side or the right side.
The players that are likely to play on the top six –alongside Nash, Brad Richards, and Derek Stepan– are the ones you would expect: Carl Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, and Chris Kreider. All three played on the top two lines in the playoffs, and are either decent offensive threats (Cally), or players with some great offensive potential (Kreider, Hagelin).
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