Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rangers Report Card '08-09

Last season I broke out the grade book gave the Rangers a midterm review and a final one. This year I did a midterm so here is the final report. Some grades have gone up, some have gone down and appeals are allowed but changes are rarely made - it isn't like you guys are as good as I was with my pushover professors back in college. Seriously, I had mad skills. Now how about the Rangers? Where do their skills and performances rank? Here are my opinions; feel free to chime in down in the comments ...

Forwards:
Artem Anisimov: One regular season game and one playoff game isn't enough to judge the kid. He looked wooden in the regular season game and barely saw the ice in Game 7 against the Caps. He led Hartford in points and is likely to get a spot on the roster next season. INC

Nik Antropov: The Rangers got the big size up front they wanted at the deadline but Borat barely used it. He did play very well at times, making his lack of physicality acceptable, but he disappeared at others - a routine Leafs fans knew all too well. Just one point over the last six games of the Caps series just wasn't enough. Still made a good case to be re-signed, if he has a reasonable demand. B

Sean Avery: The only numbers that matter are 14-10-1 - the Ranger record with Avery in the lineup (including playoffs). They went 5-2 against divisional rivals thanks to him and the performance that he gave in Game 7 was simply incredible, especially given the referees' disposition towards him. He did some real silly stuff that just made us shrug but his benching was the likely catalyst for the Blueshirt downfall against the Caps. Ranger haters can bash him all they like but even they can't deny that he leaves it all out on the ice. A-

Blair Betts: People scoffed when I called for Betts for captain but the fourth line center was one of the hardest workers on the team. His blue collar effort would have led by example and it could have shamed his higher-paid, higher-profile teammates into showing up every once in a while. He came to play every shift of every game and helped the Rangers to the best penalty kill in the NHL. If the Selke Trophy was truly for the best defensive forward in the league (not high scoring forward who knows what his own zone looks like), Betts would have been a finalist. His absence at the end of Game 6 hurt beyond compare as the Caps scored two power play goals. A

Ryan Callahan: Cally's tenacity was second to none. Where Betts excelled in the defensive zone, Cally starred in all three. The only thing he couldn't seem to do was score on the power play - netting just two of his 22 goals on the man advantage but he didn't see a ton of time on that unit and rarely played with the same two linemates two games in a row. He was well deserving of the Extra Effort Award and still has yet to reach his potential. A+

Nigel Dawes: A Tom Renney favourite, the undersized winger played even smaller than his 5'8 frame and he disappeared for long stretches at a time despite getting every opportunity to excel. He saw second line and power play time and was a shootout regular but never turned into the sniper the Rangers needed. D

Chris Drury: I didn't think Drury should be given the C and he never really lived up to the letter. His comment that he wouldn't let the 5-4 OT loss to the Caps ruin his Christmas was infuriating. He seemed to step up his game against the Islanders - which is great, don't get me wrong - but rarely played that well against anyone else. If he was so incapable of shooting and passing with a broken hand in the playoffs, the captain should have been smart enough to pull himself from the series. D

Brandon Dubinsky: What kind of player in Brandon Dubinsky? The pillar of power that started the season, the frustrated youngster who couldn't do anything right and went 23 games without a goal in one stretch or the tough battler who used his size and strength for good in the playoffs? The thought to cut in and use his size and positioning to free Avery from the boards set up the lone goal in Game 7 and was a clutch veteran move. Should he continue to progress and find a scoring touch with some consistency to go with the dedication to his teammates, that C should be his in a season or two. B-

Dan Fritsche: To be fair, Fritsche never got a fair shot at being a regular on Renney's roster but he didn't do anything with his limited ice time to warrant it. Dealing him for Reitz was good for him and for the team at the time. D

Scott Gomez: The smirking Mexican't led the Rangers with 58 points in 77 games. His obnoxiousness in interviews was infuriating, as was his instance to work the power pay from the short boards despite not having the shot or physical capability to do it properly.Gomez got a ton of ice time and spent much of it circling, putting his teammates offsides or skating into three or four skaters before meekly dumping the puck in the corner and either peeling off to let a winger go fight for it or just abandoning it to make a line change. He was paid first line center money and simply wasn't one. When the Rangers needed him most in the playoffs, he was no where to be found. F

Lauri Korpikoski: The Korpedo was rarely given a definitive role and thus never found his niche. Sometimes he would be a low line center, sometimes a winger, sometimes he would kill penalties, sometimes he would be used to forecheck. He made some rookie mistakes along the way but stepped up his game when Torts came to town so a full season under a coach with a clue could only help the Finn further. C+

Markus Naslund: I said it a number of times over the course of the season but do you remember when Naslund would dominate? He would get a head of steam, use his power to burst in from the wing and use his incredible hands to pot goal after goal. That was a long, long time ago. The Naslund who played for the Rangers was a dim shadow of that player and the result was his fifth straight season of declining production. Forty-six points for a first line winger who plays first unit power play is pathetic. F

Colton Orr: The Colton Orr who started the season wasn't the same one who finished it. Orrsie stepped up his game in a big way and was a huge physical force during the first half. Alongside Bettsy and Sjostrom, the team had a legitimate shutdown line for the first time in forever but, as the heat rose under Renney, the coach had less confidence in him. Tortorella had none and turned him back into a bench-warming goon - a move that burned him. The decision to scratch Orr for Game 6 was one of the biggest mistakes of the season which says a lot for one of the best pugilists in the league. B

Petr Prucha: Ah, Pru. All Prucha wanted was some ice time and Tom Renney didn't want to give it to him. The coach said that Pru was in the best shape of anyone on the team, then turned around and said that the kid didn't have the strength to play every game. Well, it looked like he did have the strength as he came out flying at every opportunity before being unceremoniously shipped away for a mediocre #6 defenseman. That was a damn shame. A

Patrick Rissmiller: One of the free agent f-ups signed by Sather over the summer, Rissmiller never really did anything. He was nonexistent in the preseason games and the two regular season games that he played in so he was sent out to pasture. Apparently he was a good influence for the kids on the farm but up here it is impossible to give him a real grade. INC

Fredrik Sjostrom: Sjoey + Bettsy = best PK pair in the NHL. So why did Betts get a better grade from me? Because Sjostrom clearly has a scoring touch and he struggled to find it. Going 19 straight games without a goal to end the season isn't good for someone that fast and that good in shootouts. However, he gave up his body and more than a little blood to make plays every night and that counts for a lot. A-

Aaron Voros: And to think I was so ecstatic when the Rangers signed him. I mean, he looked so good alongside Gaborik in Minnesota, he could he be bad here? Well, he proved how. After collecting seven points in four games (games 2-5 of the season), he had nine points over the next 53 games - including four playoff games he had no right playing in. Big, dumb and slow, Voros plodded along and got his ass kicked when he tried to fight. F

Nikolai Zherdev: Aside from Henrik, Zherdev is the most talented player on the New York Rangers. He has vision, hands, agility and speed that are to die for. It is just a shame he has no heart to pull the other parts together. He rarely fought for pucks, refused to get his hands dirty along the boards, gave up on the puck when the opposition put a body on him and refused to go remotely near the front of the net. F

Defensemen:
Dan Girardi: Girardi had a tough season. He started alongside Wade Redden and was forced to do too much to make up for his partner's gaffes. It set his development back months and when he was united with Marc Staal he was able to find his game and gained a new lease on life (wouldn't you if you got away from Redden too?). Because the kids were so good, the coach leaned on them a little too hard and they simply didn't have enough gas left by the end of the Caps series. Yes the Rangers needed them and we called for it, but Torts shouldn't have played them 26, 27 minutes a piece, they weren't ready for it. B

Dmitri Kalinin: Kalinin would have been the perfect replacement for Malik had Redden not proved to be a colossal mistake. The Russian was able to fly under the radar a bit and avoided most of the ire of the Garden faithful, who hated him, but not nearly as much as Redden. The signing of Kalinin was a mistake from the start and he showed it waaay back in the Victoria Cup when he kept insisting on passing to his former Metallurg teammates, helping them to that 3-0 lead. F

Paul Mara: What. A. Beard. Based on his facial hair, Mara gets an A. His play, however, gets a little bit of a lower grade. He was the most consistent blueliner of the bunch and was actually willing to hit people and stand up for his teammates. He also got a ton of power play time and had just three points (all goals) on the special team. B-

Derek Morris: While it was nice to get rid of Kalinin and Dawes, there really was no reason to deal for Morris. His day has long past and he was doing just fine withering away in the Phoenix sun. The limelight of New York didn't do him any better and he was completely unable to form any chemistry with his friend Mara. Sather brought him in to add a big shot on the power play and, in the rare instances that he actually unleashed it, he missed the net by miles. Morris did collect 10 assists in 25 games but both Potter and Sauer proved they could handle his role and it would have been nice to have had Prucha in the playoffs. C-

Corey Potter: Potter had a good showing in preseason and had good poise in each of his five appearances. He certainly showed he is capable of NHL-caliber play and perhaps we will get to see it next season. That he got sent down to Hartford the day after scoring his first NHL goal was ridiculous. INC

Wade Redden: Sather's folly, Redden was the worsT signing in the NHL over last summer and his deal ranks among one of the worsT contracts in league history. I will fully admit that he picked up his play in the playoffs but he was still terrible. Even Sergei Fedorov was surprised that Redden gave him so much room to shoot the game-winner while screening his own goaltender. Redden is the albatross Sather put around the Rangers' necks and something, anything has to be done to throw the dead bird overboard. F

Erik Reitz: It was tempting to give Reitz a INC as he played 11 games but he acquitted himself pretty well. Not particularly fleet of foot or the brightest bulb in the box, Reitz was willing to hit and fight - two things the defensive corps desperately needed at the time he was brought onboard. Sather actually deserves a lot of credit for acquiring him for the overpaid Fritsche and then dealing him away with a broken foot for a fourth round pick. C-

Michal Rozsival: At times last season Rozy looked like a legitimate top pairing defensemen and without Malik weighing him down, he should have been able to flourish. He didn't. It took months for his body to heal from offseason hip surgery and his confidence never seemed to completely come back. Rozy was tentative with the puck and turned it over time and time again for shorthanded goals. F

Mike Sauer: Sauer got the shaft from Tortorella. After playing two solid games, Sauer's partner Mara had two horrible mistakes in the opening minutes of Sauer's third game and the coach took it out on the rookie. Sauer saw less than two minutes of ice time in the game and was banished back to Hartford. If his confidence was not completely ruined, Sauer showed he was certainly able to man the Ranger blueline next season. Too bad that is a big if thanks to Torts. INC

Marc Staal: I could basically copy what I wrote for Girardi here. Staal had to overwork to make up for the hobbled Rozy early, then was given too much responsibility too fast. He showed that he can handle it at times - especially in those epic battles with Ovie - but is too young to be leaned upon as a top defenseman just yet. Give it time. B+

Goaltenders:
Henrik Lundqvist: What can you say? Hank was great. Yes, he allowed a soft goal every game or two but without him, the Rangers are in the draft lotto. The King made many saves he had no right to make and shouldn't be hung on the cross for the early exit from the playoffs. He certainly could have been better, but the same can be said for everyone not named Avery, Betts or Callahan. He was robbed of what should have been his fourth straight Vezina nomination, especially considering that none of the guys that made it played behind such porous bluelines. A

Stephen Valiquette: Valley wasn't nearly as good as he was last season and the unfortunate luck to be in the net for two of the worsT games of the season - the 5-2 blitzkrieg loss to Toronto and the 10-2 stampede in Dallas. He is a decent backup and, from all accounts, a good team guy but since Wiikman and Zaba did well in Hartford, Valley's time is likely over in NY. C

12 comments:

Benson said...

Zherdev, the Rangers LEADING scorer, an F? Wow, what a joke.

Lets see 23 goals, 35 assists, 58 points, +6, and a fight with Steven Stamkos. Take away those 58 points and see where the Rangers end up.

Sure, he didn't have a good playoff, in fact, he was awful - but he's a hell of a lot more valuable and had a MUCH better season than Prucha, who is a complete joke yet for some reason you drool over thanks to one Jagr-inflated season.

Anonymous said...

drury had outstanding seasons in b-lo but it was the time and place. the team was loaded with talent, the game was wide open, but he couldn't bring a cup to the buff. come to think of it, the rangers are the second team he's captained and y'all have zero to show for it

Amit said...

I honestly cannot understand how you get so many links and pimps as the Rangers blog to go to.

Your analysis is really, really, weak.

It's a shame that widely viewed sites choose you as the go-to Rangers source.

Scotty Hockey said...

Benson - you really think the fight with Stamkos months ago was worth mentioning? Aside from that hitch in your argument, I went back and looked at Z again. I had given him a B for his midseason grade and admit that the final F was a bit harsh. I remember three games this season where he played to his talent level and went back and found four more where I had actually thought that he starred. That's seven games out of 89, really not a good ratio when you are talking about a first line winger. Yes he tied Gomez for team lead in points but that isn't saying much, 58 points isn't anything special nowadays. And, as your elementary grade school teacher probably told you, these grades aren't meant to compare you to your friends, they are based on how you did compared to how you could do. Pru got a good grade because he played the best he could - Z didn't.

Anon - kinda sad, right?

Amit - Sorry you think that way, feel free to go somewhere else as there are many, many others who - over the last two years - have felt differently.

Anonymous said...

Scotty,

I've got to say that overall, I feel you're a bit harsh on the boys in blue and quite often I find myself disagreeing vehemently with what you say.

However, those times are greatly outnumbered by your dead on observations. Zherdev (I hope) earned himself a ticket out with his disappearing act during the playoffs and I think Blair Betts is invaluable to this team.

I would like to see what Torts is capable of doing with a team from beginning to end, but there is clearly some dead weight that needs to be trimmed. I'd say the only thing I agreed with in Benson's statement was "the."

Daniel said...

i think that some of these are accurate and some are not. Starting with forward, Even though it was a screw up, without markus naslund, he did get some important goals in the regular season that would lead to wins, C-. Sean avery gets an A, i just cant describe it. Chris drury with a D? thats a little harsh. He may not have any leadership skills, but lets be hones Captain Clutch comes through when he needs to, C. Nik Antropov with a B+, for being randomly placed on a team that sucks, he proved that he wasnt as incosistent as the leafs made him out to be and was the only thirty goal scorer. I would have agreed with you on Brandon Dubinsky, but at the end of this season, i would give him a B+ or A-. This guy is about to explode and that was clear at the end of the season and the playoffs, he gets SO many chances, but waits to long, look out. You were definitely way to hard on gomer, he may be overpaid, and 58 may be measly but you are comparing a guy to dan fritcshe, i dont like him either but he contributes, C. Even though everyone else wont agree with me, Prucha gets an F or a D. I mean i think you are still living in his early years, where he got thirty goals, this guys career is and was over as soon as his thirty goals were up. I hate to say it but he was a huge upset and even when we gave him the chance, he never WOWED me. I hate Rozival as much as the next guy, but you gave him the same grade as wade redden, D. Staal, mara and girardi all deserve to be upped a grade, they were the only rock solid defensemen who were constantly consistent, especially mara. Valiquetes gotta go and that was made clear this past season. He lost more than half his games and let a 10 TO 2 LOSS. He cant keep up, so hes gotta go, we need someone younger, who may not be rock solid, but has to be able to stop a puck when hank cant.

Schram said...

Your report card was very accurate from my point of view of watching the game, but I do have some small changes especially with the defense.

Staal and Girardi should get A- since they were the only two you could really depend on, plus they are young so you should expect them to make some mistakes. They rose to the occasion in most games, and played like veterans in others.

Redden deserves an F-.
Rozsival deserves a D

I'm still debating if we should bring Mara back, I'm for it if we can't find anyone else. If we bring up Sauor or Potter or Del Zotto then he's free to go.

Ryan McFadden - The Manic Ranger said...

Talk about ruling with a sledge hammer.. you gave Drury a D? Naslund an F? Zherdev an F?

I love prucha but how does he get an A?

Scotty Hockey said...

I graded based on expectations, performance all season long, and performance when it counted. Prucha stepped up and played his hardest when he got a chance to. He didn't disappear, he skated his ass off and he hit everything that moved - no matter how much bigger they were. It has nothing to do with his 30 goals two years ago. Pru proved how wrong Renney was to bench him at every opportunity.

Drury barely showed up this season. He did well against the Isles and in two of the games against Philly. That's it. He, Naslund and Zherdev were all part of that horrendous excuse for a power play. Naslund was either completely useless or an outright liability before popping up for a goal or two. And I explained about Z earlier in the comments.

Graying Mantis said...

I mostly agree with your grades. Some may want to grade on a curve based on the team but let's face it, the Rangers stank offensively.

Mike Green - Caps defenseman --> 73 points. Yes, he may be an abberation, but he would have been the Rangers' leading scorer by far.

For a team that barely broke 200 goals, I don't think anyone earns an "A" for their offensive efforts.

As for Staal & Girardi, even when they were paired together, they had some bad nights -- but they were carrying similar pressure that Henrik was because they knew that allowing more than 2 goals in a game would likely mean a loss.

There are several Fs but that indicates the players who did not live up to their perceived potential. If they deserve anything above a "B", then they should be eliminated from the team forthwith.

Unfortunately, the team is being affected by the biases of the two coaches. Renney was beholden to the underachieving vets who then betrayed him with their play.

I am hoping that Torts remains true to his word and learns the strengths and weaknesses of each player when training camp opens. Then he should play or dispose of them accordingly. But don't let them regress (like Orr) or mess with them (like Sauer).

Schram said...

By the way, you didn't give your ratings of:

Glen Sather
Tom Renney
and John Tortorella

Scotty Hockey said...

Schram - that was because all three would be abject failures. Sather built this monster, Renney misused it and the hypocrite Tortorella blew a 3-1 series lead with his incompetence.