This year I decided that the three stars awarded by the Professional Hockey Writers after each Ranger game were grossly inadequate. The PHW all-too-often made their choices based upon statistics rather than actual performance. So, I took it upon myself to award the Scotty Hockey Three Stars based on toughness and impact. Well, the time has come to tally up all those stars.
As per the typical model, I gave three points to each player when named as the First Star, two points for Second Star and just one for Third. As I regularly awarded co-stars, each of those players were given the points; if they NHL can give three points for some games and two for others, I can be free with my points. As I had no issue being sarcastic, duh, I also gave negative tallies for those smart-alecky stars.
There were three games that I did not make picks due to, well, I can't remember -- all were losses in the first 10 games so I will pretend that they didn't happen. That means that I had 89 games worth of reports to tally up and thus, my excuse for it taking so many weeks after the boys were eliminated to get to this. After doing the math, my brain hurts. I mean, after doing the math, here are the results:
*Opposing players earned 183 points, led by - who else but - Evgeni Malkin. Malkin put up 14 actual points against the Rangers this season in 13 games. He earned 10 'star' points - a tally that would certainly be higher because one of the three games that I missed was against the Pens and he scored the lone goal of the game. As I mentioned, my stars aren't based on statistics so I won't automatically give him first star (the PHW made him second star for that game behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 36 saves and if I recall, Hank had a great game too so who knows?). Like I said, I will pretend it didn't happen.
*Three opposing coaches got points - Ted Nolan (10), Claude Julien (6) and Wayne Gretzky (3).
*Tom Renney took just two points.
*That was because the coach was one of four Rangers to get negative/sarcastic points: Renney, Jagr, Straka and Rozy. Actually, Rozy was the only Blueshirt to end up in the red at -3. All four hurt the team severely at various times over the season. Renney made tactical mistakes as well as poor lineup choices. Jagr didn't start leading by example until the playoffs, and his moodiness early on while he tried to get used to his buddy Nylander not being around led to a slow start that cost the team a better playoff position and force them to burn a ton of energy down the stretch just to get into the playoffs. Straka is a good soldier but for someone who gets as much ice time as he does - especially on the power play - 14 goals (including just two in January, two in February, and two in March) is just not enough. As for Rozy, he was shoved into the No. 1 defenseman slot and didn't play like it. His defensive play slipped from last season, leading to an even plus/minus and for all of the talk of his offensive skills, he had just two (actual) points in the entire month of March (13 games) and just one goal in his last 36 games (including playoffs).
*Just two Rangers who played in 10 or more games earned no stars, purely because I couldn't bring myself to even give them negative ones: Marek Malik and Christian Backman (surprise, surprise).
*Even without the dynamic duo, the Blueshirts put together 363 points. That includes vagaries like "penalty killers," "the kids," "defense other than Rozy" and "the iron behind Hank."
*One retired player earned a star: Brian Leetch.
And without further ado, the Scotty Hockey Three Stars of 2008-08:
Brandon Dubinsky/Chris Drury: 37 points - The two Americans were great in their first seasons as Rangers. Dubinsky was a star in 22 games, Drury in just 15. While Dubi is growing into into his role as a leader with just two first stars, Captain Clutch came up big to grab first in eight games. Hopefully their sophomore seasons in red, white and blue will be even better.
Sean Avery: 42 points - Despite missing 11 games due to injury, Avery still managed to come in second. I named him a star 18 times and nine of them were as number one, the most of any player. But that is of no great shock as his importance to the team is well acknowledged. Now we just have to hope that Sather realizes it as well and makes a solid-enough offer to him to ensure another command performance.
Henrik Lundqvist: 57 points - If there is anyone more important than Sean, then it would be Hank. He was a star 29 times thanks to his brilliance and the ineptness of the team's defense. Further proving how valuable goaltending was on this team, his backup Stephen Valiquette was a star in seven of the 13 games he played in.
While the 2008-09 season is sure to feature a few fresh faces, many of the primary characters are under contract and will be back. The moments this year that made these players stars showed just how great the team can be so the thought of Stanley making a return to Broadway is not so far fetched.
One hopes ...