Monday, September 1, 2008

NHL Four-cast: New York Rangers

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Did you enjoy high school science class? You know all of those chemistry experiments where you get to see if the light bulb goes on or stuff bubbles and blows up? That's the 2008-09 New York Rangers. There are a slew of new faces and with them will be a new philosophy on the ice. What's worth watching is seeing how the formula works out. Will the alchemy work and create Stanley's silver or will it just fizzle out? But if seeing red goo ooze out of a paper mache volcano isn't enough for you, then tune in for Nik Zherdev, who can be incredible when he wants to be.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? It is so, so very difficult to say. My initial instinct is worse but the building blocks are there to make something great - it will just take them all coming together lego-style to create a winner. The foundation is still the same, but at this point, who can really say what is built on top of it?

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? As I said, the foundation is still the same. Henrik Lundqvist has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy three years running and there is little reason to think it won't happen again this year. It's true he list the only crease-clearer on the team in Tyutin, but Tom Renney's defensive philosophy remains. That being said, one hopes that the reigns will be loosened for the mercurial Zherdev, who can flourish alongside Scott Gomez if he works hard. Even if Zherdev bags it, Gomez should be good for the same 70 points he got while sleepwalking through last season. Little Leaguer Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky and Michal Rozsival should all benefit from a new, more aggressive power play bereft of Jaromir Jagr's puck-hogging, time-wasting possession. As for the big signings - Markus Naslund and Wade Redden - I would say wait and see since they both appear on the down-swing of their careers but may be rejuvenated in a new setting. Then again, they may just be happy to collect their over-inflated paychecks ... but at least Naslund is saying all the right things.

4 - If they are my favourite team, why am I so down on them? What can I say? I'm a pessimist by nature. If you look at the recent Stanley Cup winners you can see that all of them were built from within. Instead of fostering that development, Glen Sather reverted back to the open wallet policy and that scares me. But no matter how much I disagree, they are the still Rangers and I love them. Awwww.


Anonymous said...

It is nice to see someone who actually pays attention and is in touch with what is going on with some of those 'bottom feeding' teams! Very nice analysis. Coming from a jackets fan it is refreshing to see someone who is paying attention. Nice evaluation!

Anonymous said...

Whoops, sorry, you might want to delete that first comment. Someone hijacked your format and replaced it with blue jackets content...I thought it was you who wrote it.

Regardless, enjoy Zherdev, he will pull some sick moves no doubt, the real challenge is whether or not he decides to play the full year. He played 82 games last year for the jackets but only actually showed up for about 55.

I have heard he is not off to a great start--apparently he showed up for testing the other day with a pot belly. :( Strenth and conditioning has never been his forte and if he doesn't have someone riding him, he just won't do it.

He is good enough that he will score between 20-25 on skill alone, but in the end, I am not sure Gomez and Drury are going to enjoy picking up his slack.

His linemates in Columbus found him hard to play with because he was so unpredictable and unreliable.

He will score some highlight reel goals for you, but in the end he hasn't developed into a guy you can really count on. Hitchcock had made some strides with him and Renney is similar in the sense that he won't tolerate much b.s., but if his conditioning has slipped that much this summer, the rangers have their work cut out for them.

The Dark Ranger said...

You know JUST how to touch on those heart strings Scotty...


Anonymous said...

Oh man, I really mucked it up! You DID give that analysis of the jackets and you DO deserve the credit. The way it was noted over at the CBJ blog that I frequent had me all confused.

Nice blog by the way, it really looks like you care about what you right and do the research to back up your views. I think I might put this blog on my rotation!

Anonymous said...

Hey, anonymous, where did you hear that Zherdev showed up with a pot belly at testing??

Please provide a link so we Rangers fans can read it for ourselves, we have high expectations for this kid.


Scotty Hockey said...

Anonymous folks - are you ashamed of your names? Can't come up with handles? So not fun ...

Anon 1 - thanks for the credit and I hope you are wrong about Zherdev. I agree with Anon 2, where did you hear about him packing on pounds? Not like I am surprised ...

TDR - mad skillz man, mad skillz.

Anonymous said...

Scotty, Anon2 here, sorry, I have to re-register for a new nickname, my current name is quite inappropriate due to my registering to post on The Pens Blog near the end of last season. Let's just say the name I chose back then wasn't exactly "family friendly", especially not to Penguins fans.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I was responsible for the first 3 anonymous posts--the credit to you, the muck up as well as the bit about Zherdev, and the one after the dark ranger.

Are you kidding, do you think that bit about Zherdev is public? That is some juicy insider for ya!:) People can take it or leave it for what it is and question it's validity at will. My source is a reliable one.

If you recall last season, Howson and Hitchcock had Zherdev come to N. America early to train. For the first time ever, he did. Howson even paid him a visit to where he was training in Ottawa. Unless anyone from the NYR did the same he likely didn't do any training other than the standard. He is a rink rat so he probably skated a lot though.

Be excited that he is a Ranger because his puck handling skills are 2nd to none and he will make some moves that will make your jaw drop, but as far as him being a guy you can count on, you better lower your expectations radically. Who knows, he may be but I wouldn't expect him to be.

You have to consider why a team like the jackets, who were desperate for goal scoring, were willing to let this guy go. Tyutin is a great addition and the jackets fans who know what this guy is about are thrilled to have him, but why would the jackets give away the only other guy in their top 6 who scored in the double digits?

Some will say: he isn't a Hitchcock-type player, yet Hitchcock was instrumental in getting Huselius signed, a guy who some would say didn't exactly fit the Hitchcock-type either.

The big thing with Zherdev is if he feels trusted and that there is something to play for, he will play. Hitchcock gave him more than fair minutes, tried him on the PK AND put him on the ice in the dying minutes on several occasions. He was a good player some nights, fair others, invisible sometimes and other times he was the best player on the ice for both teams. The disheartening thing for jackets fans was that when we really needed him to come to play in February on, he cashed in.

Post trade deadline, the jackets were basically an AHL team with a few NHL'er's mixed in. They played hard, hard enough that Hitchcock said he was proud of them, but they just didn't have the manpower. Zherdev could have really played a big part in at least trying to propel them forward except him fizzled. Why? Knew they weren't going to make the playoffs so he packed it in? Personal issues? Partying? Who knows, whatever it was, it was strange and very noticeable.

Some will say that when Fedorov got traded he lost his way a little bit. That is B.S. He and Feds weren't buddies, didn't hang out and Feds is a mountain away from being a mentor.

I am as curious as any ranger fan to see what he does in Manhattan. I wish him well in NYC and hope he finds his way. Bottom line is, he wasn't going to work in Columbus and the fact that we got a solid d man for him is great.

I am just wondering how, if he has a big year, the Rangers will swing his big raise. I am not really in touch with the Ranger cap/salary situation. If he has a poor year, however, it wouldn't shock me in the least to see him head back to Russia to play.

Regardless, I will be watching him!