I wanted to leave that letter up over the weekend and in the meantime a lot has come to pass in terms of Ranger news so please bear with me as there is a bunch to cover. Before I get to it, I just wanted to say thanks to Patrick Hoffman and the Four Habs Fans. Patrick interviewed me yet again and the Habs Fans asked for my input on their two new additions - Paul Mara and Scott Gomez (yet to be posted, but you can be sure it isn't positive). Well, time to look at all that has happened and sadly, a lot of it isn't positive either:
*"Shut Up & Play" huh? It's not a bad motto for the 09-10 Ranger campaign but it is certainly no Commit To The Indian. Of course, I'm not so sure it was decided as a modus operandi so much as a veiled threat at Brandon Dubinsky. (Thanks to Andrea for the graphic!)
*Which leads to Dubi and his contract situation. I am not sympathetic at this point. It was a nice try, playing hardball and all, but it was bound for failure. Especially when you are in no position to negotiate and you are bargaining with a hard-line Hall of Famer who's untouchable and arrogant. Sather called Sean Avery a detriment to the team after he turned them into winners, think about what Glen has to have said to Dubi. Is Dubi asking for too much? Probably not, especially considering the contracts that Voros, Rissmiller and Brashear all were handed. But at the same time, Sather had to seduce them to come to Broadway and he has Dubi bent over a post. The kid has an opportunity to shine with Gabby, if he sucked it up for a season and racked up the points, he could improve his bargaining position. For now, he's just screwed. You know that in a non-salary capped world Sather would have brought someone else in already anyway ...
*Kyle McLaren's bad back screwed up his chance at a NHL job so the Rangers are trying out the massive Alexei Semenov. Semenov's size is certainly needed and appreciated but his distinct suckiness is not. Yes, I said suckiness. This guy was the bane of San Jose fans' lives because he lumbered around the ice. Sure, he fought on occasion - so he has something over former sasquatch Marek Malik - but Sather signed Brash so we don't need to have two oversized, underskilled wastes of roster spots.
*Sather's insistence on bringing in outside assistance for the blueline speaks volumes on his opinion of the prospects of the Ranger youth. Why bring a McLaren, Semenov, Seidenberg, Babchuk, whoever when you have six, seven legitimate defenders? Unless you don't think they are legitimate (and perhaps one isn't as he is already crying)... but this goes back to the whole refuse-to-rebuild-from-within mental block that Sather has and we should expect it by now.
*While I love the thought of seeing Dan LaCouture back in a Blueshirt, the same veteran vs. prospect thing goes for him too. I loved watching LaCouture play the first time around because he hustled like hell and he stood up for his teammates. Well, he still does both but someone like Dane Byers can do it better as he has an offensive upside as well as a few years on his side. LaCouture might be a good veteran presence for Hartford though, so let's hope that he can hang on and earn a two-way deal.
*The Wolf Pack are playing the AHL Devils at the Rock on Wednesday afternoon in a free game as part of a day/night doubleheader with the big boys. Seeing as the first wave of Ranger camp cuts isn't until Thursday, it will be quite telling to see who they choose to put in Pack jerseys. The bigger question is, aside from a hockey geek like myself who already took the day off, who the hell is going to show up for a 1 pm hockey game in Newark?
*Anyone else see that Ryan Hollweg was invited to the Coyotes camp? Too funny. Damn shame that kid had no restraint because he had potential to be a good checking forward with his speed and persistence. Other interesting invitations are Panthers decision to give Christian Backman a shot (somehow I don't think he can be an adequate replacement for Jay Bouwmeester, just a hunch) and Calgary doing the right thing to let Theo Fleury attempt to redeem himself. I'll definitely be rooting for him.
*It is kind of surprising that Atlanta hasn't given Nik Zherdev at least a tryout. Brooksie said Z was back on Broadway begging for a deal but Atlanta makes so much more sense. First, Z clearly was uncomfortable in the limelight here in NY and there really isn't much light at all on southern hockey. Management down in the A-T-L is catering to Kovalchuk in an effort to get him to stay after next season and you have to imagine that he likes the thought of a line with him on one side, Z on the other and Borat in the middle.
*All the invitations mean little as there simply aren't many spots up for grabs in most organizations. Of course, there appears to be several positions up for the Rangers - third defensive pairing, fourth line center, first line center, first line winger ... oh wait, we have that Gaborik guy. Yeah, like I said, that spot is up for grabs. The guy is already sore and sitting out and he has hardly stepped on the ice! Not a good sign at all so I'm setting the over/under at 20 games played this season. That's three more than last year and I think trainer Jim Ramsay can duct tape Gabby together for at least that many.
*Getting back to the Dubinsky thing for a second - should this thing really drag out and the kid is forced out of the lineup, what do you think about trying Michael Nylander in a waiver acquisition a la Avery? Sure he is slow and frustrating to watch and entirely not a Tortorella-type player but he always managed to produce. For the games that Gaborik does dress for, he will need a center to get him the puck and there aren't many alternatives out there. And once Gabby goes on long term injured reserve, the Rangers can grab Jagr back after the Olympics and put the band back together!! (Only a little sarcasm there.)
*Perhaps Glen can think up a trade. Personally, I've always liked the thought of Jason Spezza as a Ranger so why not make something happen? Given their deal with the Sharks, the Senators seem quite willing to write off the next season or two and Dubinsky plus Rozy and a high pick (one of the packages bandied about for Heatley) could be enough to get Spezza, right? Reports out of Ottawa said he was a disappointment last season and a slow start this fall could wear out the rest of his welcome. Dubi and the pick would help boost the Sens youth movement with Foligno, Shannon, Lee and company while Spezza would give the Rangers a legit first-line center. I can dream, right?
Luckily the dream of a new season is just beginning as the puck drops at the Garden tomorrow. Oh baby, let's get this party started!!!