Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scotty's Early Look At The UFAs

The opening of free agency on Thursday is a virtual holiday in Canada but here in New York, Glen Sather has turned it into a day to be dreaded like the arrival of inlaws. There is simply no way of telling what the cigar smoker will do but I figured I would break down the impending UFAs in simple terms - guys I'd want, guys I wouldn't mind and guys I wouldn't want - without too much discussion of salary. In the days coming there will be a similar breakdown of RFAs and possible trade targets.

But we begin with the unrestricted guys; I left out some vets who will either re-sign with their teams or retire as well as many AHLers/nobodies but I think I covered the UFA market pretty well. All of the names were from Capgeek's UFA Finder when I started this a few weeks back (and promptly forgot about it). I added a short explanation beside each player, with a longer reasoning for the guys I would sign as GM. Sorry if it looks a bit jumbled, there is a lot there. It is (obviously) in alphabetical order.

Guys I Want On The Rangers
Steve Begin - Boyle is terrible; Begin would be a great replacement should none of the kids be fit to step into that fourth line spot. He is the kind of guy who would run through a wall for a teammate and is tough all over the ice.

Dan Ellis - Ellis was dealt to Montreal, well, his rights were. Wouldn't riding shotgun for Hank be more preferable to being under the microscope, even behind Jesus Price?

Anders Eriksson - Eriksson proved Leaf fans wrong by showing he is still capable of solid, steady play. He was a fantastic fill-in at the end of the year and would be a good stop-gap should McDonagh decide to head back to school.

Kurtis Foster - He's big, he's pretty tough and that slap shot of his is just so tempting a tool to add to the arsenal and he would be so much cheaper than Sheldon Souray.

Paul Martin - An exception to my No Devil rule, Martin is worth taking because he can eat up minutes, move the puck and play smart hockey. A younger, better version of the Bruce Driver we had ...

Zbynek Michalek - Shot-blocker extraordinaire would be cheaper alternative to Volchenkov. And it would be nice to finally get something worthwhile back from Don Maloney.

Willie Mitchell - If not for his concussion, I truly believe Vancouver would have beaten Chicago. Mitchell is one of the best defensive defensemen in the league and, if his head is ok, would be worth outbidding the Canucks for his services.

Antero Niittymaki - Seeing as the team is ready to crush Chad DosNueve's confidence and bring in a vet instead, the Finn absolutely dominates at times. Even when Finland lost to Hank and Sweden back in '06, Nitty was outstanding. I fully believe that the Finns underachieved in Vancouver because they didn't start him.

Jody Shelley - Grizzled, tough vet is a legitimate enforcer who proved he can play a little. He took steps towards leadership at the end of the season and has been called a great team guy everywhere he has gone.

Anton Volchenkov - Possibly the best shot-blocking defenseman in the league, Volchenkov can hit a little too and would provide some relief to Hank. But only if the cost is not Redden-esque ...

Ray Whitney - The wizard is old but still has the hands that has made him one of the most underrated players of the last decade. Seeing as Grachev isn't likely to be ready for full-time NHL work, Whitney would be the best solution to come in and add instant offense while we wait for the big Russian.

Guys I Wouldn't Mind On The Rangers
Colby Armstrong - Great team guy but not enough offense.
Alex Auld - Did well in short stay, can he handle more?
Eric Belanger - Old-time hockey player - took out his own tooth on the bench! - and is good at faceoffs.
Adam Burish - Already have Sean Avery.
Erik Christensen - Just worked to get a job for next season and then spurned the team when they wanted to give him one. Shmuck.
Mark Eaton - Not flashy but solid when healthy.
Andrew Ebbett - Shown great assist skills with Ducks, disappointed with Wild.
Ruslan Fedotenko - Always tough against us ...
Alexander Frolov - Offensive talent but at what cost?
Sergei Gonchar - Old but so very, very good.
Johan Hedberg - Mooooooose would get lit up from time to time in Atlanta.
Jeff Halpern - Nice Jewish boy but a low-liner.
Shane Hnidy - Gritty defender but slow and no offense.
Zenon Konopka - NHL fight king and a top faceoff guy but I want Shelley more.
Saku Koivu - Cancer survivor sees the ice so well; how much is left in the tank?
Slava Kozlov - Shootout specialist always lights up the Rangers.
Andreas Lilja - When healthy he's solid.
Michael Leighton - Look at what happened in Philly.
Matt Lombardi - Skilled center, but Christy may be cheaper to keep.
Toni Lydman - Quiet Finn loves metal and plays solid D but was hurt last year.
Manny Malhotra - Former top pick turned dependable third liner - would replace Drury well, haha.
Jay McKee - Former shot-blocker extraordinaire might still have some skill.
Glen Metropolit - Hard worker but a low-liner.
Dominic Moore - Eh, forget aboot it.
Owen Nolan - Oldie but goodie; tough as nails.
Sean O'Donnell - Oldie but goodie; tough as nails.
Jed Ortmeyer - Jed!
P.A. Parenteau - Loved the shootouts, underwhelmed by regulation play.
Corey Potter - The Rangers invested so much time in him already, why not give him a real shot?
Ruslan Salei - Belarussian stalwart is getting old.
Henrik Tallinder - Swedish Olympian not flashy but solid and friend of Hank.
Shawn Thornton - Love the toughness but hope to have Prust and Shelley.
Stephane Veilleux - Great penalty killing fourth liner, but no room for him.
Mike Weaver - Quiet but good, smart defenseman.

Guys I Don't Want On The Rangers
Max Afinigenov - Enigmatic Russian.
Evgeny Artyukhin - Oversized, undertalented.
Arron Asham - Dirtbag.
Adrian Aucoin - Former Islander.
Marc-Andre Bergeron - One-dimensional.
Martin Biron - Best days behind him.
Nick Boynton - Slow.
Kyle Calder - Moments few and far between.
Carlo Colaiacovo - Ask a Leafs fan.
Mike Comrie - Hilary Duff.
Craig Conroy - Old.
Joe Corvo - "Oh No!" Corvo.
Matt Cullen - Been there, done that.
Pavol Demitra - Old and injury prone, even if he was buds with Gaborik in Minnie.
Matt Ellis - Depth guy with no upside.
Ray Emery - Goon goalie.
Garnet Exelby - Headhunter.
Dan Hamhuis - Overrated.
Matt Hendricks - Meh.
Chris Higgins - At least he tried.
Andy Hilbert - Islander.
Hugh Jessiman - Ugh.
Aaron Johnson - Mediocre.
Kim Johnsson - Old.
Olli Jokinen - Flyers Stanley Cup Finalists.
Randy Jones - Not the same since the hit.
Milan Jurcina - Really? No.
Paul Kariya - Old.
Ilya Kovalchuk - No defense, lotsa money.
Lukas Krajicek - No vision.
Pavel Kubina - Overrated.
Patrick Lalime - Ask a Sabre fan.
Robert Lang - Old.
Brett Lebda - Spotty.
Manny Legace - Watch out for those carpets.
Jere Lehtinen - Old and injury-prone.
Jordan Leopold - Clueless.
Jamie Lundmark - Sorry.
John Madden - Old Devil.
Adam Mair - Thug.
Paul Mara - Miss the beard, not the player.
Chris Mason - Love the beard, don't need a starter.
Jamal Mayers - Good team guy, but little else.
Freddy Meyer - Islander.
Brian McGrattan - Goon.
Freddie Modin - Inconsistent.
Derek Morris - Overrated and overpaid.
Brendan Morison - This isn't Vancouver '03.
Shaone Morrisonn - Meh.
Mike Mottau - Devil.
Evgeni Nabokov - Choke job.
Eric Nystrom - Hate his dad.
Richard Park - Islander.
Matt Pettinger - Have enough third-line guys.
Fernando Pisani - Our players have asthma, not colitis.
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Look at what he didn't do with Crosby.
Brian Pothier - Never the same since Lucic hit.
Andrew Raycroft - Ask a Leafs fan.
Miro Satan - Belongs in Jersey.
Matt Schneider - Too old for a second tour.
Christoph Schubert - Former Olympian was on waiver wire.
Jon Sim - Islander.
Martin Skoula - Other options for veteran 7th D.
Lee Stempniak - Phoenix aside, not particularly good.
Jason Strudwick - As a coach maybe.
Andy Sutton - Not an expert.
Marek Svatos - Enigmatic.
Petr Sykora - Couldn't keep a job in offense-starved Minnesota.
Alex Tanguay - Declined last three seasons.
Jose Theodore - Three-Or-More.
Raffi Torres - Did nothing for Buffalo.
Vesa Toskala - Ask a Leafs fan.
Marty Turco - Not a backup; hates Avery.
Mike Van Ryn - Injury-prone.
Scott Walker - Lost a step.
Aaron Ward - Scum.
Kyle Wellwood - Tubby Too-Slow.
Jason Williams - Injury-prone.
Brad Winchester - Already have Prust.
Stephane Yelle - Old.

RIP Willie

Willie Huber, a Hamilton resident who spent 10 seasons in the National Hockey League, passed away suddenly from a suspected heart attack yesterday morning. He was 52.
The full obit is here; thanks to Brad Kurtzberg of Inside Hockey for the heads up.

First Walt Poddubny last year and now Willie. Huber was a massive, lumbering defenseman who, frankly, wasn't particularly good. But he worked hard, had a thunderous slap shot and played 266 games with the Rangers (including playoffs). More on his career here. Condolences to his family.

First The Staal Talk And Now This?

"A lot of teams were asking about our kids. There were deals to be made there, they wanted our kids; we stayed steady, we need to continue doing that. It’s not like we want to be in last place, but when you have kids in lineup - and I think we need to have more - there’s gonna be some bumps in the road. ” -- John Tortorella to Steve Zipay today
Wow, talk about lowering expectations.

This comes two days after Sather said the team was a "chasm" apart from Marc Staal on the Blueshirts' best defenseman's new deal. And it comes just weeks after the team demanded season subscribers put at least their first payment in for next season's tickets - something they did with a letter 'written' by Glen Sather saying that their goal was "bringing the Stanley Cup back to New York." So we've gone from winning it all to possibly finishing in last place. Amazing how things turn after they start taking our money.

You know, usually, they wait to give us this kind of nonsensical rhetoric until right before the regular season - look up Torts' talk about accountability last preseason - but this kind of talk leads me to believe that we will find ourselves quite disappointed when free agency opens on Thursday at noon. The funny thing is that Tortorella's words today were what we have been craving for over a decade. But it just kills me when the organization talks out of both sides of their mouth. Either we're in it to win it or we're setting up for a hopefully bright future. You can't have it both ways, it doesn't work and we don't believe you.

The "we need to have more" young players part from today's quote from the coach comes across as completely ridiculous. Last season Torts benched Matt Gilroy to start Anders Eriksson during last season's stretch run, limited Enver Lisin's minutes all season long and never gave anyone from Hartford a real chance on Broadway. Where in that do you find any evidence of a dedication to youth? He was forced to stick with MDZ and his deficiencies when the team PR machine jumped into high gear after his hot start.

But beyond that bit of hypocrisy, the thought of any young player learning how to become a professional from John Tortorella - the man who did this and this and, of course, this - is absolutely frightening.

It makes me weep for our future, both this coming season and beyond.

My apologies to Jim Cerny for using him in the Demotivators photoshop but the look on his face while Sather was talking during the draft interview was utterly priceless.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Draft Day No. 2, 2010

Jess at Prospect Park spends a lot of time watching junior hockey so, as always I recommend you take a look at his take of the day. Funny thing though, he asks for us to have faith and then goes on to rip three of the five guys drafted and point out the folly of the Bobby Sanguinetti deal.

That being said, the Blueshirts claim they wanted old school Canadian grit and frankly that is exactly what they got. Whether it is what will help the franchise in the long term, well we'll have to see, won't we?

If you haven't seen or read we drafted:
Name Round Overall 2009-10 Team Pos. Ht. Wt. Born Birthplace
Dylan McIlrath 1 10 Moose Jaw (WHL) D 6’4” 212 4/20/92 Winnipeg, MB
Christian Thomas 2 40 Oshawa (OHL) RW 5’9” 162 5/26/92 Toronto, ON
Andrew Yogan 4 100 Erie (OHL) C/LW 6’3” 205 12/4/91 Coconut Creek, FL
Jason Wilson 5 130 Owen Sound (OHL) LW 6’2” 205 4/15/90 Richmond Hill, ON
Jesper Fasth 6 157 HV 71 Jr. (SWE-Jr.) RW 5’11” 165 12/2/91 Nassjo, Sweden
Randy McNaught 7 190 Saskatoon (WHL) RW 6’4” 222 8/5/90 Nanaimo, BC
And we dealt Bobby's World to Carolina for the sixth round pick which we spent on that Swedish nobody and for a second rounder next year. The writing has been on the wall for Bobby when the team drafted MDZ and signed Matt Gilroy. The poor kid got a guest spot on Broadway but was banished right back to Hartford after five quick games. It is pathetic when you think about the Rangers dealing the 21st overall pick in '06 away for a second and a sixth. Claude Giroux was picked 22nd, do you think the Flyers would trade him away for that right about now? Glen Sather has made so many solid trades over the last year that it is hard to get too pissed.

No, seriously.

It is in his signings that he has doomed the team to mediocrity so let's accept what happened in L.A. as something to (possibly) dread another day and start focusing on next Thursday. Will Marc Staal hit the market? It's possible. Will Shelley? Will Glen overpay for Frolov?

See! There are plenty of worse things to worry about right now than draft picks and with good ole Glen you know something is going to happen, it is just a matter of what ...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What A Way To Spend A Friday

Billed as a Ranger Draft Party, the Friday night get-together at the Hills was more of a 'cram Ranger fans into a hot hipster lounge where they will drink and wait to be disappointed.'

And disappointed they were. As well as dismayed, angered and utterly baffled.

Three things were lustily booed: Gary Bettman, the Islanders draft table and Glen Sather. Sather garnered the loudest boos ... and that was before the Gordie Clark announced the selection of Moose Jaw's Dylan McIlrath 10th overall.

Afterwards, well, there was a whole lotta shock, some quizzical looks and then some head shaking. Oh, and me laughing my ass off in the back. The Ranger braintrust and I apparently were on the same train of thought as they selected the same player I picked for the team ... just waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay earlier than I would have. They clearly decided to draft for a need rather than picking the best player available and were afraid that that player would be gone quickly. Considering how wacked out the round was after the top few picks, perhaps they were right.

But we will never know.

The Rangers added a big and mean defenseman who, should he improve his skating, could provide a perfect compliment to the skill of Michael Del Zotto. Ryan McDonagh would not have been the partner that McIlrath can be. McDonagh is a strong, solid two-way defender who hopefully will head to Broadway and be a good Blueshirt for a long, long time. But McIlrath could be the Beukeboom to MDZ's Leetch.

When Beuk was out there, Leetchie could freelance all he liked because there was a rock behind him. Should the puck come back the other way, Beuk was the big body to stuff the zone and intimidate the opposition from crashing the slot in numbers. He bought time for the team to backcheck and used his physicality to keep players from getting any rebounds Richter would give up. Trust the goaltender to make the first save, and either clear the puck yourself or keep the bad guys from getting it.

Yes McIlrath at 10 was a huge stretch but it possibly filled a void that desperately needed filling. Plenty of skill was left on the board and there are plenty of holes left to fill but that will be what Saturday is for. So relax for now and know that the franchise is stronger. Is it as strong as it could have been? Well, history will decide that. No use getting angry over a failure that hasn't happened yet and (hopefully) may never occur.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Scotty's Selection?

As if you don't already know, tonight is the first round of the NHL Draft out in Los Angeles. Thanks to the mediocre season that they had and the near-miss of the playoffs, the Rangers have the 10th overall selection.

There are dozens of mock drafts out there, I'm not about to do one. As always, I turn towards Jess at Prospect Park when looking for scouting info and he recommends we take Emerson Etem, a former roller hockey player who had a Fotiu-esque travel schedule to get to training. Jess' first choice was the young Swiss sensation Nino Niederreiter but prevailing thought has him going before 10. If Etem is as dedicated to his craft and is as good as Jess has raved, I don't see why he would still be on the board but we will have to see.

Kitchener Rangers kid Jeff Skinner put up great numbers in the O last season but all accounts say his skating leaves much to be desired and he is a bit undersized. Vladimir Tarasenko may be a better all-around talent but, no matter what Dmitry says about Russians, given our track record I wouldn't waste the pick.

Instead, I would rather see the Rangers trade down. Let them get back a third round pick - they wasted theirs on Brian Boyle - and use a late first round selection on defenseman Dylan McIlrath. I saw McIlrath when I was out west and, as I was trying to root for the home teams in Seattle and Everett, instantly hated him. He was big, he was mean and he seemed dirty. Pretty much everything we need on our blueline. His skating is suspect, but so was Zdeno Chara's when he came into the league (and as a defender it is more forgiving a sin than up front like with Skinner). At best, McIlrath is another Jeff Beukeboom. Beuk sets a high bar so perhaps he could at least be a sane(r) version of Dale Purinton. At worst he is a bust, but there have been plenty of them over the last 20 years - and unlike back then there are actually good, young players in the system already.

Until Glen trades them away.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Are You Kidding Me?

"This season, the Islanders are looking to create an even better Blog Box and are looking to add three established bloggers. If you would like to be one of the newest Isles bloggers, auditions will be held at the 2010 Islanders Draft Party on Friday, June 25 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The selected bloggers will then be interviewed by the Islanders communications staff and the winners will be notified.

We are looking for you, so come on out to the 2010 Draft Party and show us what you can do!"
If you can dance, juggle chainsaws, cut DP in half, guess Doug Weight's real age, then you're in!

Kidding aside, you have to imagine that they meant interview rather than audition, right? Or is this another stab from the 'establishment' that bloggers are shaved monkeys on typewriters in their parent's basements?

What A Day, What A Day ...

After taking a glance at the schedule at noon, I ran out for lunch with an old friend and some errands. Who knew I would miss a bustling afternoon of hockey action ... on June 22nd?!?

Instead of multiple posts, it would probably be best to wrap it all up in a one-stop shop so here we go:

Florida's Nathan Horton was traded with Greg Campbell to Boston for Dennis Wideman, the 15th overall pick this year and a third rounder next year.
Boston got better while Florida jumpstarted their new look/rebuilding process. Wideman was jeered throughout much of the season in Boston for not living up to the standard he set in 2009 but still is a capable defenseman. Horton, who just looks like a Bruin, will bring his scoring tough to Beantown and could make for the perfect center to go with Milan Lucic. Considering Horton only had three goals in his last 10 games against the Rangers, Boston adding him isn't a huge concern. It is quite likely the asking price was too high for Sather's taste and, frankly, I don't think he is fast enough for Torts.

Scott Niedermayer retired.
As much as it hurts to say this about the former Devil, Niedermayer was one of the best defensemen of this generation and should be included in any discussion of the top-15, maybe top-10 all time. Ray Bourque was just as great of a passer, just as great of a defender - but he wasn't a winner like Niedermayer. When it is his turn to be eligible for the Hall, there could be no dissension. (Unlike this year ...)

Hockey Hall of Fame voters selected Dino Ciccarelli, women's players Cammi Granato and Angela James, Detroit Red Wings executive Jimmy Devellano and the late Daryl Seaman.
This is a disgrace. The lone NHL player to get entry to the Hall is not best remembered for his play on the ice but for getting mad that he was a sportsman and shook Claude Lemieux's hand. Sure he was a above-average power forward for a long amount of time but the Hall should be for star players who left an impact on games and Dino wasn't and he didn't. The women getting in is silly, considering they play at a high school boys level but hey, the people want equality so I guess they should get in. Fine. My issue is that it is easier for the old boys club to select women than it is for them to select Russians - that is just shameful. That they didn't put Pat Burns in is worse. Seaman got in because another Calgary owner, Harley Hotchkiss, happens to be the Director of the Hall ... how about that? Then again, they are putting Seaman in posthumously, I guess they are waiting to put Burns in the same way. As for Jimmy D, let's face it, the entire Red Wing front office deserves to be honoured after turning that franchise from '80s also-rans to the archetype for the league.

Tomas Plekanec re-signed with Montreal.
Plekanec helped the Canadiens and my fantasy teams tremendously this season. You know why he was on some of my teams? Because I knew he was in a contract season. You would think that the Habs would realize that too, but they still foolheartedly gave him a six-year, $30 million deal for a season of inspired play. What the over/under is until Canadien fans get pissed at him and beg for him to be traded? This coming New Years?

Brooksie said that the Rangers will not extend a qualifying offer to Enver Lisin.
It really was of no surprise that the Russian speedster would return. As I said in the Facts of Life, Enver rarely had a consistent role and that can cause havoc on experienced players, much less a kid with less than two seasons of NHL experience.

Pat Quinn washed his hands of the Edmonton mess and handed it to Tom Renney.
That Quinn was able to make it through all of last season with his grace and reputation intact is a tribute to the man. Now it will be Renney's turn. As a friend pointed out and I've written here many times in the past, Tom doesn't necessarily coach to win but not to lose. For a young team trying to get their skates under them, that will be enough to buy them some time until they are ready to break out and contend.

San Jose told Evgeni Nabokov 'thanks for your service but don't let the door hit you on the way out.'
A great regular season goaltender who couldn't win the crunch-time games, Nabby will find work and a payday elsewhere, that is for sure. Atlanta seems perfect for him as he wouldn't have to worry about crumbling in the playoffs with them but I could see Stevie Y adding him, hoping for Khabibulin 2.

Pittsburgh re-signed Matt Cooke.
Greeaaaaaaat. Three more seasons in the Atlantic Division for the head-hunting pain-in-the-ass. Just great.

Time To Fill Out Your Calendars

To help satiate our craving for anything hockey, the NHL released the 2010-2011 schedule today. The full Ranger slate is located here and, if you missed it, the preseason games were already released last week. Eleven home games will be on weekends - three are possible NBC games with TBD times, there are two 12:30 starts, one 1 pm start and one 5 pm start.

It is hard to circle some dates (when will Jed hit town?) as free agency doesn't hit for over a week but there are still some notables:

*The Blueshirts can exact some revenge for the final game of last season when they face the Flyers for the first time in Philly on November 4th.

*While we won't get to see much of the Central division (BOOOO), the Northwest teams will come through. That means that someone will hopefully remember to get revenge for last season's Curtis Glencross hit on Chris Drury when Calgary comes in on November 22nd.

*Mmmmmmmaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrtttttttttttyyyyyyyy vs Avery 2010-11 kicks off on October 24th - the seventh game of the season. It ends with the very last game of the season - which luckily will be on Garden ice - Saturday, April 9th.

*Captain Sloppy Seconds will be here with the Leafs at the home opener on Friday, October 15th. The Rangers also face Toronto in Toronto on October 21st and October 30th; January 19th is the second home game.

*The other Original Six matchups? The reigning Cup winning Blackhawks come to the garden on November 1st. We play all four games against Montreal after New Years (1/11, 1/15, 2/5 and 3/18). Boston is scattered across the schedule - October 23rd, November 17th, March 26th and April 4th. We head to Detroit February 7th.

*For season ticket holders, in case you need to sell some games for good money, Crosby comes to the Garden on November 29th, February 1st and 13th while Ovie hits town November 9th and December 12th.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why Not Arnott?

The saying goes that sometimes the biggest moves are the ones you don't make. What usually goes unsaid is that it cuts both ways.

Today the Devils reacquired Jason Arnott in a deal with Nashville for a second round pick next year and right wing Matt Halischuk, a low-level prospect. Glen Sather either did not get in on the negotiations for Arnott's services or he decided that the Predator captain wasn't worth it. Either way, the Rangers are less off for not swinging the deal.

Let's look at why:

*Adding Arnott would have given the Rangers a first line center. Having a depth chart of Arnott-Dubinsky-Anisimov-Drury would have made the middle a position of strength. (Yes, Drury would be manning the fourth line; as he showed at the Olympics, that is where he excels.)

*While his leadership was questioned in Nashville, he still brings 1,205 NHL games, 939 points and a Stanley Cup ring to the table (numbers include playoffs).

*At 6'5, 220 Arnott would have provided size the Rangers need, and at a far higher skill level than Brian Boyle. Boyle should go to Hartford, directly to Hartford, without passing go and without collecting a NHL salary.

*His experience as a big man and his particular skill set would have provided a perfect role model for Brandon Dubinsky, who did not particularly progress in his development last season.

*While waiver wire addition Erik Christensen showed some chemistry with Marian Gaborik, he certainly did not draw the defenders to him. Everyone watching knew Christy was going to look for Arnott 49 times out of 50 before taking things himself - after the defense has secured the zone. Arnott forces teams to take notice of him and is willing to go hard to the slot - something that would open more ice up for our Slovak sniper.

*With one year left on his contract, Arnott would have bought the Rangers a season for Derek Stepan to learn the pro game in either the AHL or the WHL.

*Despite a string of injuries the last few years, Arnott still has averaged better than 0.7 points per game. Drury, by the way, averaged 0.42 last season. And if those injuries were a concern, well, look at Gaborik last season.

*On the Devils, Arnott will make himself quite familiar with the front of the crease in front of Henrik. Not good. Not good at all.

As the move was not made, the Rangers are still without a top pivot. If they want to re-sign Christensen, that works but they can't give the lip service that they are going to make the playoffs and make a run for the Cup. And that is fine - this team is long (long, long, long) overdue for a rebuild. Let Prospal walk, re-sign Brodie Dupont and give him a shot at the roster, bring up Bobby and Dane and Dale (Weise), trade Rozy for picks (or a bag of pucks) and banish Redden from Broadway.

But let's face it, that is about as likely as Dolan selling the team and Sather offering an official apology for his reign of ridiculousness. It is still far, far too early to condemn him for the coming season but letting Arnott go to Jersey may be the biggest move he made.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Russian Ranger Draft Picks

With Gordie Clark telling all of the beat writers that he thinks quite highly of Vladimir Tarasenko as a possible selection next week at the NHL Draft, I figured I would go through the Rangers' history of Russian draft picks. I think I covered pretty much every one and ran it through Russian hockey writer Dmitry Chesnokov of Puck Daddy/Sovetsky Sport just to be sure I got things right. As with picks from any country, it is a mixed bag at best. Of the 29 players, 20 have yet to play in the NHL and only five (of the other nine) have played more than six games for the Rangers.

7th round, 141st overall: Sergei Kapustin (LW): At 29 years old, Kapustin was in the prime of his career but never made it to North America. A shame, as he was a true winner with the USSR dynasty of the 70s.

10th round, 202nd overall: Roman Oksiuta (RW): Had not made it to North America before he was traded to Edmonton in 1992 as part of the Kevin Lowe deal.

5th Round, 85th overall: Sergei Zubov (D):Perhaps the most underrated Ranger ever, Zubov averaged nearly a point per game over his time on Broadway before being unceremoniously dealt with Petr Nedved to Pittsburgh for over-the-hill Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson. After going on to win a second Cup with Dallas in '99, Zubov left the NHL in 2009 and racked up 42 points in 53 games over the KHL last season. He played 1,232 NHL games including playoffs - over a 1,000 of them after leaving the Rangers (1,035 to be precise).

12th round, 244th overall: Sergei Nemchinov (C): Sarge was a rock solid center who could be counted on defensively while adding a little bit of offense. He lasted nearly six seasons on Broadway before going to Vancouver with Brian Noonan for Esa Tikkanen's second Ranger stint and Russ Courtnall.

1st round, 15th overall: Alexei Kovalev (LW): Speaking of two stints, Kovalev played 536 games in all as a Ranger tantalizing and frustrating us fans. Kovy was the first-ever Russian selected in the first round of the NHL draft and he showed why with stellar play in 1994. Eventually, however, his inconsistency sent him packing. Twice. The second being one of Sather's worse trades, dealing him for Josef Balej and a second round pick (that never panned out). He is still playing and pissing off fans, just up in Ottawa.

9th round, 191st overall: Vjateslav Uvaev (G): Uvaev never made it to North America, spending most of his career in Russia before a span in Italy.

11th round, 235th overall: Vitali Chinakhov (C): Never a big point scorer, Chinakhov spent his career in Russia.

5th round, 120th overall: Dimitri Starostenko (W): Two seasons after Starostenko was drafted, he came to the States and gave the NHL a shot. He never made it. The Belarussian (close enough) spent parts of three seasons in Binghamton - and 11 ECHL games (where he had nine goals and two assists) - before giving up and going home. Having lived there, I don't blame him.

10th round, 240th overall: Vladimir Vorobiev (W): When I was in Binghamton I covered Vlad, and saw firsthand his size and ability. At 6'3. 200, Vorobiev had a nice package of skills and some good hands. He just didn't have that x-factor, the push to make himself great. He would get to the show - 31 games over two seasons with the Rangers - but was eventually dealt to Edmonton for Kevin Brown (who?). Vlad was still playing in Russia last year.

3rd round, 61st overall: Maxim Galanov (D): Another guy I would later see in Binghamton, Galanov spent three seasons in the A. He got a six game stint in the show, which was enough for Pittsburgh to decide they wanted him when the Rangers put him on waivers; he went on to play 122 games in the NHL in all and is still playing in Russia. Galanov had good size and skated well but wasn't gritty enough

4th round, 86th overall: Sergei Olumpijev (C): Six-foot-four, 220 pound winger was drafted and came to North America to play in the O. After two seasons of juniors, he started on a minor league career that saw him play on seven teams in four leagues over five seasons. I had to have seen him when he was with Muskegon of the UHL but don't remember; I do recall seeing him with the RHI Sacramento River Rats, where he had just 19 points in 27 games (by comparison his teammate Gerry St. Cyr had 89 points in just one more game).

7th round, 162nd overall: Sergei Kondrashkin (RW): Never came to North America and was out of hockey five seasons after being drafted.

10th round, 242nd overall: Andrei Kudinov (C): Like Starostenko, Kudinov came over to play in Binghamton for a few seasons before going home. He scored 76 points for the baby Rangers in 155 games but, back in Russia would play his final season alongside Oksiuta of all people (kinda interesting coincidence).

11th round, 261st overall: Pavel Komarov (D): Komarov played four games over three seasons for the Binghamton Rangers. The only mention I could find of him with the Blueshirts was getting cut during training camp one season. Judging by his numbers, he was a defensive defenseman who wasn't a fighter but took a lot of bad penalties.

11th round, 268th overall: Maxim Smelnitski (C): Like the last five Russian Ranger draft picks, Smelinitski came over, saw Binghamton and left for home. His tenure was the shortest - just one game.

4th round, 100th overall: Alexander Korobolin (D): At 6'4, 225 you had to think he had some grit but he managed to make it through 21 games in Hartford before running home to Russia. He had one point (a goal!) and 22 PIM.

6th round, 135th overall: Yuri Litvinov (C): Litvinov never played on this side of the world and didn't play much on the other side either; he managed just 133 games over six seasons in Russia before quitting.

9th round, 209th overall: Vitali Yeremeyev (G): Ok, he is really from Kazakhstan but I had to include him. Yeremeyev was the first pick of the 9th round; following him in the same round were Tim Thomas, Johan Hedberg, Evgeni Nabokov, Tomas Vokoun and John Grahame. Yeah. Four games as a Ranger, four losses. He returned to Russia after that and became a cult hero for Dynamo Moscow fans (according to Dmitry, himself a diehard Dynamo fan). Yeremeyev won the championship in 2005 alongside some guy named Ovechkin and is still playing at a good level - 16-11-2, 2.37 and .920 last season for the 10th place team.

5th round, 110th overall: Alexei Vasiliev (D): Like Yeremeyev, Vasiliev is still contributing in the KHL. Before going back there, he played 171 games for the Wolf Pack and helped Hartford win the Calder Cup in 2000. Unfortunately he didn't show he could help the big boys, going pointless with one minor penalty in his one game on Broadway.

8th round, 195th overall: Ilja Gorohov (D): Gorohov played one game here in America, and it was with the Las Vegas Thunder in 96-97. The defenseman returned to Russia and has steadily played there ever since. He played last season with Salavat alongside Vorobiev, Max Kondratiev and Dmitri Kalinin (as well as other familiars NHL renegade Alex Radulov, Viktor Kozlov and Oleg Tverdovsky).

3rd round, 76th overall: Dmitry Subbotin (F): A career Russian-leaguer, Subbotin never came to play for the Rangers or their affiliates and was actually selected off our roster by Columbus in the 2000 expansion draft. He didn't play for them either.

8th round, 226th overall: Evgeny Gusakov (LW): Gusakov is a curious case. He showed up to camp in '99, showed off his massive frame (6'6, 210 lbs) and was promptly sent to Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL. He had a decent time (53 points in 67 games) and would get one scoreless game in Hartford before the end of the season. Gusakov went back to the Q the next season, had 31 points in 32 games and then essentially fell off the map. He went to Belarus in 2001 and played 44 games, then managed 15 games over the next two seasons in Russia. Injuries maybe?

9th round, 254th overall: Alexei Bulatov (LW): Bulatov was on the '99 training camp roster as well but I guess he didn't like it here and the team had no qualms with letting him go home afterwards. He played 21 games for three different teams that season in Russia.

2nd round, 40th overall: Fedor Tyutin (D): Oh Toots. Dealt to Columbus for flash-with-no-substance Nik Zherdev, Tyutin was a strong defensive player and he complimented Dan Girardi well. He actually hit players around the Ranger net and was smart on both sides of the ice. And Glen, in his wisdom, replaced the youngster with Kalinin a day later. Ugh.

8th round, 230th overall: Leonid Zhvachkin (D): Selected right after Aaron Voros of all people, Zhvatchkin went to training camp and was assigned to Hartford but never played in the A. He ended up with Guelph in the OHL alongside Tyutin. Where Toots was gone the next season, Zhvachkin or Zvachkin or Zhvachin (depending on where you look) stayed another year, was traded and went home in the offseason not to return to North America.

2nd round, 54th overall: Artem Anisimov (C): It is fair to say that the jury is still out. After pathetically tepid play for much of this season, Anisimov found his game with Prust and Shelley during the stretch run. Arty said he felt more comfortable on the ice with them there, so of course John Tortorella has already said he will break up that line this fall.

1st round, 17th overall: Alexei Cherepanov (RW): RIP. Cherry dropped down the draft board for some reason and everyone was happy to see a Jagr replacement. But whether it was heart problems (myocarditis) that killed him or alleged steroids, we'll never know if he would have come over here to play and if he would have been any good.

3rd round, 75th overall: Evgeny Grachev (C): After being hailed as another big Russian who will swoop in and save us, Grachev made the jump to the AHL last season and was underwhelming by all accounts. He managed 28 points in 80 games and was accused of disappearing many nights. Whether we chalk it up to a transition season or his true colours has yet to be seen.

7th round, 200th overall: Mikhail Pashnin (D): Pashnin was also drafted first overall by CSKA Moscow and went on to collect five points in 44 games with them. He is signed through next season but will come to the summer prospect camp and the Rangers are still quite high on him.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mark Your Calendars - Preseason Dates

The full NHL 2010-11 schedule will be released on Tuesday (the 22nd) but today the Rangers announced their preseason slate - a trio of home-and-homes. They set up with the rivalry to see which players have passion, they move on to the class to see which players have skill and finish with Ottawa, to see who can win when no one cares.

Day Date Opponent Site Time

Thursday Sept. 23 New Jersey Madison Square Garden 7:00 PM

Saturday Sept. 25 New Jersey Newark, NJ 7:00 PM

Sunday Sept. 26 Detroit Detroit, MI 5:00 PM

Wednesday Sept. 29 Detroit Madison Square Garden 7:00 PM

Friday Oct. 1 Ottawa Madison Square Garden 7:00 PM

Saturday Oct. 2 Ottawa Ottawa, ON 7:00 PM
Training camp opens with players reporting to the Madison Square Garden country club in Greenville on Friday, September 17th.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New York ECHL Affiliate Still Up In The Air

A week or so back I contacted the ECHL to ask if they knew what the future was with the Ranger affiliate in the AA league, seeing as they lost Charlotte (who became the Canes AHL affiliate). Today I got a response:
"At this time, we do not have any information regarding the NY Rangers' ECHL affiliate. The league office does not get involved in the negotiations between teams. If they are in talks with a certain team, the Rangers and that team will make an announcement when a deal is done and that will be the time we know about the affiliation as well."
Seeing as the league has already released their 2010-11 schedule, I think it is safe to say that the dream of a team up here in the metro area have been dashed - at least for the moment.

That isn't to say that they won't have a presence in the circuit; the Johnstown Chiefs moved to Greenville and have yet to reveal their nickname or affiliates. Last season they had a deal with Minnesota but eight teams in the E have multiple NHL affiliations so it wouldn't be a big leap for the Rangers to edge in on that. Increasing the likelihood of that situation, Greenville is about two hours away from Charlotte and is owned by former Ranger GM Neil Smith. But we will have to wait and see.

Dan Girardi, Corey Potter and Matt Zaba all played for Charlotte earlier in their careers (and just fyi, Jody Shelley skated for Johnstown before breaking in to the NHL). Last year the Checkers had former Ranger Jason Dawe as an assistant coach and finished first in their division before losing in the second round of the playoffs to the eventual champs, the Cincinnati Cyclones.

Newbury Will Be Back

New York, June 16, 2010 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with forward Kris Newbury on a contract extension.

Newbury, 28, skated in 18 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) this season, registering four goals and 14 assists for 18 points, along with 61 penalty minutes. He tied for the Wolf Pack lead in scoring with 18 points in 18 games after joining the team on March 6 at Hamilton, following his trade to the Rangers from Detroit, in exchange for Jordan Owens, on March 3.

The 5-10, 205-pounder has skated in 48 career NHL contests with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, registering four goals and three assists, along with 64 penalty minutes. ... The Brampton, Ontario native was originally selected as San Jose’s fifth round pick, 139th overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Meh, minor league thug. At least they didn't deal away Jordan Owens for a rental.

Draft Party 2010

Colour me surprised:

The last Ranger draft party I went to was inside the Garden on June 26th, 1999. Why do I remember so precisely? Because I was talking to Dan Cloutier when team officials came to take him away. He was pulled off the floor and informed that he had just been traded - along with Niklas Sundstrom, a 1st and a 3rd round pick - to Tampa Bay Lightning for their first round pick. Which the Rangers then promptly wasted on one-dimensional sniper/slacker Pavel Brendl. I stuck around until they drafted Jamie Lundmark ninth and left, pissed off and utterly disappointed.

Just in case you were wondering, the Rangers had nine more selections in the draft and not one of them played a single NHL game. Because it is fun to look at who we missed: Tim Connolly was picked right after Brendl, Barret Jackman was picked 17th, Nick Boynton 21st and Marty Havlat 26th. That draft also featured Douglas Murray (241st from Apple Core here in NY, geez), Henrik Zetterberg (210th), Martin Erat (191st), Ryan Malone (115th), Chris Kelly (94th), Mike Comrie (91st), Ryan Miller (138th), Craig Anderson (77th) and Stanley Cup runner-up Mike Leighton (165th, by Chicago of all teams). But no, this was not good ole Glen's mess up, this was Neil Smith's final draft as Ranger GM. No wonder he got canned.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Words Don't Do It Justice

I'v spent the better part of the last day trying to decide how I was going to handle this post. How do you describe the indescribable? The rush of emotions that come with the raising of the Stanley Cup is the culmination of so much energy, effort and passion that it is quite difficult to properly detail.

After good 'ole Gary handed the Cup off to Jon Toews, the media lined up in a queue to rush onto the ice and interview the Blackhawks. The Hawks are jumping up and down, friends and family are joining the rush I ended up standing in line next to former Ranger and current Sportsnet broadcaster Nick Kypreos. I turned and asked him, "you've won one of these - thank you for that by the way - what were you feeling at this moment?" Kypreos turned to me and solemnly said "it was surreal, like you are on a cloud" before turning his attention to his Blackberry.

Now I was at the Finals last year for a few games but was not there to see Sidney celebrate (thankfully); this evening was the first time I've witnessed the Cup awarded in person. As a lifelong hockey fan it has, of course, always been a dream to see Stanley raised and - even though it wasn't the Rangers - the experience was a dream come true. I'm not a religious person but the Cup is like Jerusalem: it means an awful lot to a wide variety of people and much blood was spilled trying to take control of it. Seeing the latest conquerors revel in their victory ... well, it is a religious experience in the church/mosque/temple of hockey.

When they finally opened the Zamboni door to let the media frenzy begin, I looked down and stepped onto the Wachovia Center ice. I would like to say it was like 'walking on a cloud' and that I had a spiritual or mystical experience but I almost slipped and fell on my ass.


After laughing off the near-fall, I waded into the fray and went about business joining in scrums, getting quotes and soaking up the scene. Even with an attempt at focusing on work, part of my head was grossly aware of just how wild things were. One second I am standing there talking with Scotty Bowman, then next I am stepping back from John Madden so he can share the moment with his wife and kids.

I navigated through the scrums to find Antti Niemi talking to a pair of reporters and joined in the interview. While I was waiting for my chance to ask a question, I kept getting hit with something hard in the shoulder from behind - I turned to find that it was the Stanley Cup. The Stanley freakin' Cup. Cristobal Huet was trying to pose with it and his family before a phalanx of photographers and I was in the way.

I think that being shoved with the Cup doesn't count as my intentionally touching it so I still have that going for me. Whew.

But that brings up the point that, if anything, the experience has made me want the Rangers to win the Cup that much more. I want to be one of the fans reaching over the boards begging for a touch. Knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that at that moment, my team is the best in the world. Now that would be surreal ...

Some other notes on the night:

*Jeremy Roenick is coming under fire by some people for what they say is grandstanding with his tearful display on NBC after the game. Personally, I think that is a load of crap. Roenick gave blood, sweat and tears to the organization and was never able to win, so the tears were a culmination of everything - his failure, his passion and the Stanley Cup. I have a hunch that the ones who are maligning JR the most are the ones that don't fully grasp what it takes to win one and what players sacrifice for that chance.

*That being said, he was more emotional than many of the Hawks themselves. They have a lot of young guys who are winning way early in their career so the 'chase' is foreign to them. The vets were a mixed bag. Brian Campbell seemed to be one of the most excited, because he had gone through over 500 games without winning. Andrew Ladd and John Madden had the been-there-done-this attitude while Brent Sopel just seemed to be enjoying his young daughters' wonder. As for Marian Hossa, for all of the hype about him not winning, he said "I am very happy." Now I know that he is European but his english is good enough to articulate his excitement ... had it been the Olympic gold medal, I think he would have been a tad more excited than "very happy." (And that is ok, he just grew up with different priorities.)

*I tried not to be very happy walking along the concourse after the buzzer while seeing Flyer fans openly weeping. It was difficult not to revel in their misery. I hate the Flyers. I hate many of their fans. Why shouldn't I be grinning ear to ear? Because I know that if it had been the Rangers losing, I would have been utterly inconsolable. That being said, I did manage a smirk, haha.

*One fan kept repeating "next year we'll have Carey Price" like the Hab will be the difference maker next year for Philly. Now I am not about to predict the future but I have a hunch that Jesus Price won't be carrying the Flyers to victory in '10-11. At least I hope not.

*I don't believe that goaltending was the difference in this series as both teams got mediocre netminding at best. I do have a bone to pick with Michael Leighton though. I was raving about his five overtime, 98 save AHL performance from a few years back when he gave up the game-winning goal. Nice, right? I turned to the guy and said, "Kane thinks that is in. The Blackhawks are thinking it is in. Did you see it go in? Did anyone? Where is the puck? Oh my. Chicago just won the Stanley Cup. Cool."

By my count, Game 6 finished a season where I caught 72 live games - NHL, AHL, juniors and Olympics - and watched a good number more on tv and the net. What the hell am I doing to do until September? At least we have the schedule release on June 22nd, the draft on the 25th and 26th and free agency on July 1st. Expect the usual coverage from your not-so-humble scribe ...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tread Carefully With Stepan

If Brooksie is right and the Rangers have signed Derek Stepan, let's hope he doesn't make the team. Let him spend a year in the W as the leap from the NCAA is too much ... just look at what happened with Hobey. Matt Gilroy came out of the gates well but clearly ran out of steam by Christmastime, resulting in first the demotion and then the end-of-season benching. It is one thing to star playing against kids two, three years younger than you while playing 40 games and it is another to face professionals over a grinding 82 game schedule.

As we saw in the World Juniors and the Frozen Four, Stepan has skill and it is easy to dream of him centering the first line of the Blueshirts. But let's face it, with few exceptions, making the NHL is a process and the Rangers would be well served not rushing him through it. As always - to our dismay - they will not be rebuilding and will attempt to challenge for a playoff spot. Burdening this kid with that is simply not worth it in the long run.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dane Is Stayin'

Ok, so that doesn't really rhyme but it is some good news:

New York, June 8, 2010 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with forward Dane Byers on a contract extension.

Byers, 24, skated in five games with the Rangers this season, registering one goal and 31 penalty minutes. He notched his first career NHL goal in his season debut on October 30 at Minnesota. Byers spent most of the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL), recording 25 goals and 27 assists for 52 points, along with 100 penalty minutes in 74 games. ... The 6-3, 204-pounder has skated in 239 career AHL games over five seasons with Hartford (AHL), registering 69 goals and 85 assists for 154 points, along with 521 penalty minutes. ... The Nipawin, Saskatchewan native was originally the Rangers’ second round selection, 48th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Ya kinda knew that this (re-) signing was coming when the Rangers included Byers in their 20 Prospects in 20 Days series. I like the kid - I always have - but as I said in the NYR Facts of Life, I don't think he has the speed Torts wants in the lineup. Byers will likely be back in the bus league to captain the Pack but, hey, you never know what will happen - if Prust gets hurt or something ...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Interpreting Sather-Speak

If you have yet to see it, Larry Brooks caught up with Glen Sather (likely in Philadelphia after the GM meetings) and the Ranger GM actually spoke to him. Sather didn't call him out, nobody got beat up at the bus stop ... actual quotes about the Rangers. Now, let's face it, Glen's MO is to ignore the press and do whatever he wants so why now?

Well, the season subscription renewal date is Monday, June 14th.

My guess is that they aren't getting the numbers they wanted so the big brass told Glen to open the door a little to give the common folk a ray of hope. Seeing as the wait list disappeared over the course of last summer and attendance last season was at its lowest since before the lockout, something had to be done.

And that brings us back to the article. Let's go through it, blow-by-blow, and interpret what Sather was saying:

“We can go over and over why we failed to get the one point that would have put us in, we can find a lot of excuses for it, but losing [Ryan] Callahan and [Sean] Avery the last couple of weeks really hurt our forecheck, and not having [Marian] Gaborik at full strength after the Olympics was a major blow for us.
Or 'I built a good team and my coach did a good job butcha can't do nothin bout injuries ... the hockey gods are cruel bitches.'

"But you know, every team can find excuses why they fell short. We just weren’t quite good enough over the course of the season. But if we had won that final game, would we have been tough enough to compete in the playoffs the way the Flyers have? Could we be where they are now? I think so.”
'You do realize that I built teams that have won Cups before so of course this team could have won the Cup, had things worked out.' Do you think he would say anything else? "If we had won that final game"? C'mon. If I had just picked the right numbers, I would have won the lottery.

“We have to get better,” Sather acknowledged. “And the way we’re going to get better is by staying within our organization and giving our prospects the time to grow and the opportunity to play in New York."
'Because we missed the playoffs and lost the extra revenue, Dolan won't let me overspend on any big free agents like I want to so I'm stuck with what we have. And kids are the only ones who will fit under the cap thanks to the contracts I gave Redden, Rozy, Drury, Gabby and Hank.'

“This has been a long process, and it’s ongoing, but as we go into this summer, our plan is to keep our own players. I can tell you one thing — we are certainly not going to overpay for free agents. If we can improve with a signing that makes sense, we’ll look into it, but we want to give our guys the first shot.”
'You have waited a decade for me to build a winner, so what is another year? And if I can figure out a way to sneak a signing past the boss - or can come up with some convoluted excuse - you had better believe that I am spending money.'

“I told Donald [Brashear] this week that he would not be playing for the Rangers,” Sather told Slap Shots. “After the statements he made, absolutely not; that was the end of it.”
'After I gave him that much money, he hurt my feelings and the big meaniehead can rot in the minors.'

On defenseman Marc Staal and Dan Girardi: “Those two guys are part of our core; of course we’re signing them.”
'The options on the market aren't as appealing as these guys, especially since they are RFAs and I can screw them if I want to.'

“We want to keep Shelley, it’s just a question of whether and when we can get it done,” Sather said. “We want to keep Vinny, and I think we should be able to do that if the contract request isn’t out of whack.”
'If these two guys don't want raises, we will bring them back. Vinny has to take a discount though.'

On Wisconsin senior defenseman Ryan McDonagh and junior center Derek Stepan: “We’d like to get them in and have them earn jobs.”
'If McDonagh makes it, it helps justify my Gomez deal and Stepan was good at the WJC so I remember his name.'

“We’re excited to see whether [Evgeny] Grachev and [Dale] Weise and some of our other kids can earn jobs.
'Jim Schoenfeld is excited to see if Grachev and Weise and some of the other kids can earn jobs and he won't shut up about it.'

“We just didn’t have enough last year, and certainly after the Olympics, Gaborik — our best player — was just a shadow of himself. He just didn’t have the explosiveness or speed."
'Damn Olympics, I hope Bettman takes my players out of that silly tournament. The games were past my bedtime.'

“But we’re looking forward. And we’re excited about it. We’re building an organization where we’re going to have serious competition for jobs at training camp. There are 23 spots and they’re going to the best 23."
'Please buy season tickets. Pretty please?'

“A player’s contract isn’t going to get him a spot on the team if he doesn’t earn it, and that goes for everyone. Everyone is fighting for a job. They all know that. If they don’t, they should.”
'Jimmy D threatened my job and shit rolls downhill so someone had better step up because I am sure as shit not going anywhere. Muahahahahaha.'

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stanley Cup Final Game 4: Best of Three Now

As a Ranger fan, walking towards the elevator after the final buzzer this evening was hell. Orange hell. Flyer fans chanting, high fiving ... being happy. Overjoyed even. It was vile and it was all our fault.

Philadelphia held off a late surge by Chicago to tie the series at two with a 5-3 win. It is quite easy to lay the blame for the Philly fun on the Rangers - after all, we let them in the playoffs. But, you know, grudgingly I have to give credit where it is due: we opened the door but the Flyers are walking through and heading right to the Stanley Cup.

Coach Laviolette has them playing simple power hockey and it has carried them to within two wins of the Cup. Sure it is a best-of-three series now but the momentum is all Philadelphia's going into Game 5. Coach Quenneville can say that things are wide open all he wants but until he can figure out the Philly forecheck and motivate his players to pay the price down low, it is nothing more than lip service.

Some notes out of my scrambled train of thought:

*It certainly appeared that the Hawks were too scared of making mistakes while the Flyers went balls to the wall.

*My favourite moment of the three Cup games I went to last year was in Detroit with the Red Wings fans singing along to Journey in unison. This year it may just be the roar of the Wachovia Center when they played a clip from Rocky in the third period - Adrian asking Rocky to win. The place went insane.

*Just under an hour prior to puck drop, the WC aired a Flyers montage on the big board set to ... Guns 'n Roses' "Paradise City." Philadelphia. Paradise City. Right.

*Media scrums of the Stanley Cup scale are truly epic. You have to figure a hundred or so journalists and cameramen cramming into locker rooms meant for 23 players. Healthy scratches walk out unmolested, foreign players have small clusters of foreign press and the rest get surrounded like the Alamo, outnumbered dozens to one.

*Sorry I didn't have a better photo to go with this post, I was trying to soak everything in, hoping the Hawks pulled it out so they could end the series on Sunday. Whoops.

*Jonathan Toews has picked an awful time to go cold. He has one goal in his last nine games and none in the last six. Toews had three great chances - two back-to-back early - and couldn't get the puck past Leighton. He won 24 of 33 faceoffs but didn't record a single hit or blocked shot - he was invisible for much of the evening. Just for the record, his counterpart Mike Richards had one goal in nine prior games but scored in this one, had three blocked shots, four takeaways and two hits.

*Andrew Ladd played nearly 11 minutes and was quite ineffective. Putting him back into the lineup was one of Coach Q's many mistakes on the evening. The Hawks were listless after going down 3-1 and Adam Burish's energy would have been a great weapon to yield. Ladd had several bad turnovers and looked positively tentative at times.

*Chicago, as a whole, tried to play cute hockey for two and a half periods and found that dangles don't work against grownups, I mean, the Flyer defense. Philadelphia crowded the slot and cleared rebounds - two things the Hawks couldn't do in their own end.

*Brent Sopel pointed out that the Hawks need to do a better job protecting the front of their net and it couldn't be more true. As good as Duncan Keith is, he is not Chris Pronger. The Flyers drive in with or without the puck and Sopel believes that better puck movement is key to get out from under the forecheck, as is play as a unit. Both are true when you already have possession but when the disc is off your stick, you have to keep your guy from getting into scoring areas.

*Super Nintendo Hjalmers (Niklas Hjalmarsson) certainly had trouble in front of Niemi, handing Philly two goals himself. It would be easy to jump all over the mental mistakes but it should be understood that the Swede is 22 years old playing his first full season in the NHL. That being said, bad timing for the kid. Bad, bad, bad timing.

*The doors for these Cup games have been two hours before puck drop. It gives fans more time to spend their money on concessions and memorabilia but it is just a bit too much. I saw one guy walk in, take his seat and take a nap.

*Finally, sadly, I'm not heading to Chicago for Game 5. Boo. But I should be back in Philly for Game 6 ...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stanley Cup Final Game 3: Inevitable?

Chicago and New York fans alike - as well as many mistaken others - were ready to write off the Flyers after they went down 0-2 in the series against the Hawks. But, as the adage goes, a series isn't decided until the home team loses and the home team has yet to lose, as the Flyers got Game 3 by beating the Hawks 4-3 in overtime tonight.

Yep, another one-goal game.

It is hard to believe but the more you watch these teams, the more even they are ... despite coming from two different places. Chicago is speed, Philly is power. Sure both have some quantity of the other qualities - they wouldn't be here if they didn't - but the basis of their games are speed and power respectively. Tonight the Flyers' power limited the Hawks speed and they won ... that simple.


*As you can see in the photo, they sold Flyer logo-shaped pretzels at the Wachovia Center. Yes, I had one. But I didn't feel good about myself afterwards. Haha.

*The national anthem in Chicago beats out God Bless America in Philly by a mile. The anthem and it is corresponding ovation is thunderous. God Bless America ... well, Philly would be better served just airing the full Kate Smith recorded version than having Lauren Hart butcher half the song.

*That being said, when the Flyers stepped on the ice to the Rocky theme ... wow. The building went wild. And when the Flyers needed a boost late, the building MC played Eye of the Tiger. Sly Stallone's opus = Philadelphia.

*Philly overcame Pat Kane's arrival to the series, which was unexpected. Kane was physically challenged early and often and responded with a goal and an assist.

*A number of times Chicago just collapsed back into their own end, which was expected. When the Flyers started pressing in the third of the last two games, the Hawks did the same thing they did tonight - gave up the blueline and chased the puck. Coach Q noticed and put Ben Eager out to change the tide - which he did for a minute or so but his teammates weren't able to keep it up.

*For all of the hitting going on by Philly, I'm not sure Ian Laperriere played. Sure the box score has him over six minutes but I didn't notice him once.

*It is amazing what experience brings as Marian Hossa and Chris Pronger clearly had a poise and drive that their teammates couldn't match. Hossa's effort was outstanding.

*Danny Briere had a goal and an assist, was constantly swarming the Chicago net and won nine of 12 faceoffs. Sure glad Glen Sather signed Chris Drury instead, huh?

*But a dumb signing by Sather is inevitable, as was Philadelphia's victory. They had a potential game-winning goal waved off (good call) and, unlike many other teams, kept their heads up and feet on the pedals to press the action. It paid off in the real game-winner when Chicago backed into their own end, lost coverage and left their goaltender out to hang.

After the game Coach Laviolette had this to say: "(Down) 2-0 for us is comfortable. We're ok with that, we know how to battle through it. We knew how imporant the game was tonight. once we wake up tomorrow morning, we know we have to hold serve on home ice."

Yes Glen, It Is Time For A Change (Again)

Back when Tom Renney got canned at the end of February '09, I posted a list of Glen Sather's track record and in honour of his 10 year anniversary today, I felt it was worth re-posting. Mind you, since then Glen signed Donald Brashear and Ales Kotalik but also added Marian Gaborik, Jody Shelley and Brandon Prust - earning a C from me since I saw it as a season where he broke even - after all, the horrific signings of John Tortorella, Chris Drury and Wade Redden were all prior to July 1st, the date the new season begins (for me at least).
Well, now that Glen Sather has managed to shove the blame for his failings upon someone else yet again, I figured it might be good to look at just what he has done. Sather was officially hired by the Rangers June 1st, 2000. Let's take a look at some of his more memorable works - both good and bad - using Outside The Garden's transaction listings ...

July 1st, 2000 - Signed Vladimir Malakhov for four years for $14 million

June 24th, 2001 - Traded Adam Graves to San Jose for Mikael Samuelsson

August 20th, 2001 - Traded Jan Hlavac, Kim Johnsson, Pavel Brendl and 2003 3rd Round Pick to Philadelphia for Eric Lindros

March 18th, 2002 - Traded Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak, 2002 1st Round Pick, 2002 2nd Round Pick and 2003 4th Round Pick to Florida for Pavel Bure and 2002 2nd Round Pick

March 19th, 2002 - Traded Mike York and 2002 4th Round Pick to Edmonton for Tom Poti and Rem Murray

June 26th, 2002 - Traded Theo Fleury to San Jose for a 2002 6th Round Pick

July 1st, 2002 - Signed Bobby Holik for five years for $45 million

July 2nd, 2002 - Signed Darius Kasparaitus for six years for $25.5 million

December 12th, 2002 - Traded Tomas Kloucek, Rem Murray and Marek Zidlicky to Nashville for Mike Dunham

January 8th, 2003 - Traded 2004 4th Round Pick to Chicago for Boris Mironov

February 10th, 2003 - Traded Samuelsson, Joel Bouchard, Rico Fata, Richard Lintner and cash to Pittsburgh for Alexei Kovalev, Dan Lacouture, Janne Laukkanen and Mike Wilson

March 11th, 2003 - Traded Radek Dvorak and Cory Cross to Edmonton for Anson Carter and Ales Pisa

August 14th, 2003 - Re-signed Tom Poti for two years at $5.9 million

September 3rd, 2003 - Signed Boris Mironov for one year at $1,925,000

January 23rd, 2004 - Traded Anson Carter to Washington for Jaromir Jagr and cash

March 2nd, 2004 - Traded Alexei Kovalev to Montreal for Josef Balej and a 2004 2nd Round Pick

March 3rd, 2004 - Traded Briant Leetch and a Conditional Draft Pick to Toronto for Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immonen, a 2004 1st Round Pick and a 2005 2nd Round Pick

March 3rd, 2004 - Traded Petr Nedved and Jussi Markkanen to Edmonton for Dwight Helminen, Stephen Valiquette and a 2004 2nd Round Pick

March 6th, 2004 - Traded Chris Simon and Conditional 2004 7th Round Draft Pick to Calgary for Jamie McLenna, Blair Betts and Greg Moore

March 8th, 2004 - Traded Matt Barnaby and a 2004 3rd Round Pick to Colorado for Chris McAllister, David Liffiton and a 2004 2nd Round Pick

March 8th, 2004 - Traded Vladimir Makarov to Philadelphia for Rick Kozak and a 2005 2nd Round Draft Pick

March 9th, 2004 - Traded Martin Rucinsky to Vancouver Canucks for R J Umberger and Martin Grenier

March 9th, 2004 - Traded Greg de Vries to Ottawa for Karel Rachunek and Alexandre Giroux

August 10th, 2004 - Signed Michael Nylander for three years for $8.9 million

July 29th, 2005 - Paid out Bobby Holik

August 2nd, 2005 - Signed Marek Malik for three years for $7.5 million

August 2nd, 2005 - Signed Martin Straka for one year for $3 million

October 7th, 2005 - Traded Jozef Balej to Vancouver with conditional pick for Fedor Fedorov

January 8th, 2006 - Traded Maxim Kondratiev for Petr Sykora and 2007 4th round pick

March 9th, 2006 - Traded 2006 3rd Round Pick to Anaheim for Sandis Ozolinsh

July 1st, 2006 - Signed Matt Cullen for four years for $11.2 million

July 3rd, 2006 - Signed Aaron Ward for two years for $5.5 million

July 9th, 2006 - Signed Brendan Shanahan for one year for $4 million

February 5th, 2007 - Traded Jan Marek, Marc-Andre Cliche and Jason Ward for Sean Avery and John Seymour

July 1st, 2007 - Signed Scott Gomez for seven years for $51.5 million

July 1st, 2007 - Signed Chris Drury for five years for $35.25 million

July 17th, 2007 - Traded Matt Cullen to Carolina for Andrew Hutchinson, Joe Barnes and a 2008 3rd Round Pick

February 26th, 2008 - Traded Al Montoya and Marcel Hossa to Phoenix for Fredrik Sjostrom, Josh Gratton and David LeNeveu

February 26th, 2008 - Traded 6th Round pick to St. Louis for Christian Backman

July 1st, 2008 - Signed Aaron Voros for three years for $3 million

July 1st, 2008 - Signed Wade Redden for six years for $39 million

July 2nd, 2008 - Traded Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman to Columbus for Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche

Tom Renney came in just prior to the lockout to finish off a terrible season, and then guided the franchise through the "new" NHL and into the playoffs three straight years. If/when John Tortorella fails to bring in a even playoff team this year he will be let off the hook. But no Cup by 2012? Let's hope that Sather is the one to take the fall then ...
Remarkably, Torts got the team to the playoffs (and knocked them out of them himself) in '09 and then failed to make the postseason by a point in '10 and was let off the hook both times. It is the Garden's MO to turn a blind eye to pathetic administration but how could they possibly ignore no playoff revenue?

Well, easily.

Sather starts season number 11 under seemingly the same accountability his coach demanded from his players: none. Looking back at the last decade of epic disasters, I can't imagine what the next 10 years will hold for us. But, that being said, we keep buying tickets for this ride aboard the Hindenburg, despite the fact we've been going down in horrible, burning flames for years so the question is who is the bigger failure - Sather or us?