Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Not-So-Free Agents 2012

The opening of free agency 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 on Sunday but I figured I would break down 60 impending UFAs in simple terms - guys I'd want, guys I wouldn't mind and guys I wouldn't want. All of the names are from Capgeek's Free Agent list. Sorry for the clutter, don't have the time to make it too pretty.

Even with the names below, the best idea I believe for the Blueshirts is to stay out of the free agent insanity and let the kids play. Mercenaries, by and large, have not worked too well for this franchise - just look at some of the names included in the poll on the right. There are kids coming up, Sather should not block their development with hired guns. The one exception being Justin Schultz, as he is a prospect himself; he is not included on the list below of UFAs as he has no NHL experience. They REALLY should sign him.

Guys I Want On The Rangers

Name Position/Age/2011-12 Salary - Cause

Adam Burish C DAL 29 $1,150,000 - Not quite Steve Ott but still a quality, defensively conscientious pest.
Shane Doan R PHO 35 $4,550,000 - If Coyotes leave Phoenix he may leave the Coyotes; hell yes. He takes losing personally.
Paul Gaustad C NAS 30 $2,300,000 - Imagine Boyle, but good at things like faceoffs and fighting and remaining consistent.
Jiri Hudler L DET 28 $2,875,000 - Great secondary scoring as long as the rate is reasonable.
Jaromir Jagr R PHI 40 $3,300,000 - Still scoring after all these years so as long as he isn't captain I'm ok with it,
Daymond Langkow C PHO 35 $4,500,000 - At a pay cut he could help balance out the lines a bit with solid, simple play.
Travis Moen L MTL 30 $1,500,000 - Blood n' guts team guy with a Cup to his credit.
Dominic Moore C SAN 31 $1,100,000 - Don't forget aboot it, the former Ranger is capable.
Shane O'Brien D COL 28 $1,100,000 - Tough, loved by teammates. Dammit, re-signed.
Jed Ortmeyer R MIN 33 $585,000 - It's Jed, I mean, c'mon! Jed!
Zach Parise L NJD 27 $6,000,000 - He's kinda good. I guess. Maybe.
Taylor Pyatt L PHO 30 $1,000,000 - Goes to the front of the net, the Rangers need that.
Steve Sullivan L PIT 37 $1,500,000 - Heart and soul and a little bit of scoring.
Ryan Suter D NAS 27 $3,500,000 - There's a reason why there will be a bidding war for this blueliner.
Ray Whitney L PHO 40 $3,000,000 - Worship the Wizard.

Guys I Wouldn't Mind On The Rangers

Name Position/Age/2011-12 Salary - Cause

Bryan Allen D CAR 31 $2,900,000 - Decent shutdown guy blocks shots and kills penalties.
Sheldon Brookbank D ANA 31 $750,000 - Gritty, solid citizen.
Ryan Carter C NJD 28 $750,000 - If you can't beat him (or beat him up) ...
Brett Clark D TBL 35 $1,500,000 - Veteran shot blocker.
Jason Garrison D FLA 27 $675,000 - First half was great, will want too much moolah.
Hal Gill D NAS 37 $2,250,000 - Slow but tough.
Jochen Hecht C BUF 35 $3,525,000 - Quite capable when healthy.
Kristian Huselius L CLB 33 $4,750,000 - Could be Vinny Prospal 2.0 if he can avoid fluke injuries.
Zenon Konopka C OTT 31 $700,000 - Fights, wins faceoffs. Also takes bad penalties though.
Michael Leighton G PHI 31 $1,550,000 - Helped the Flyers get to the Cup Final before being dumped.
Antero Niittymaki G SAN 32 $2,000,000 - Hank's rival in Turin; might be seeking redemption as he's sucked since.
Sean O'Donnell D CHI 40 $850,000 - Plenty of experience but quite slow.
George Parros R ANA 32 $875,000 - Can you imagine that mustache in NY??!?
Dustin Penner L LAK 29 $4,250,000 - After that playoff performance, who can turn down pancakes?
Bryce Salvador D NJD 36 $2,900,000 - As with Carter, if you can't beat him ...
Sheldon Souray D DAL 35 $1,650,000 - That slap shot, wow. But besides that, what's left?
Lee Stempniak R CGY 29 $1,900,000 - Average, two-way winger. Meh.

Guys I Don't Want On The Rangers

Name Position/Age/2011-12 Salary - Cause

Arron Asham R PIT 34 $775,000 - Man do I hate this guy.
Adrian Aucoin D PHO 38 $2,000,000 - Oooold.
Alex Auld G OTT 31 $1,000,000 - Auuuld.
Jason Blake L ANA 38 $4,000,000 - Former Islander scum.
Brad Boyes R BUF 30 $4,000,000 - Was never worth that money, still isn't.
Andrew Brunette L CHI 38 $2,000,000 - Oooold and sloooooow.
Matt Carle D PHI 27 $3,437,500 - Will want too much money.
Scott Clemmensen G FLA 34 $1,200,000 - Capable but cheaper options are available.
Ty Conklin G DET 36 $750,000 - Conk can't block a beachball anymore.
Joe Corvo D BOS 35 $2,250,000 - Uh Oh Corvo, no.
Radek Dvorak R DAL 35 $1,500,000 - Oooold.
Dan Ellis G ANA 32 $1,500,000 - Don't need his problems.
Kurtis Foster D MIN 30 $1,800,000 - Not the same since the broken leg.
Nicklas Hagman L ANA 32 $3,000,000 - Waaay too much money for waaay too little.
Scott Hannan D CGY 33 $1,000,000 - Far past his prime.
Mike Knuble R WAS 39 $2,000,000 - Sadly far past his prime.
Andrei Kostitsyn R NAS 27 $3,250,000 - An enigmatic Russian scorer? Why I never.
Filip Kuba D OTT 35 $3,700,000 - Older, slower, probably will stay in Ottawa. Or should.
Pavel Kubina D PHI 35 $3,850,000 - Soft Czech defenseman, been there/done that.
Sami Lepisto D CHI 27 $750,000 - Not much more than a seventh defender.
Torrey Mitchell C SAN 27 $1,366,667 - Low-line grinder.
Scott Nichol C STL 37 $700,000 - Old low-line grinder.
Cory Sarich D CGY 33 $3,600,000 - Play has dropped off dramatically.
Alex Semin R WAS 28 $6,700,000 - Heartless, gutless, enigmatic.
Jaro Spacek D CAR 38 $3,833,333 - Injury-prone and old.
Brett Sutter L CAR 25 $525,000 - Darryl's kid hasn't made the leap yet.
Colin White D SAN 34 $1,000,000 - Remember when he was a Devil? Yeah, no.
Dennis Wideman D WAS 29 $3,937,500 - Too expensive for a 3-4 defenseman.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quick 2012 Ranger Draft Recap

Gordie Clark, Glen Sather and the rest of the Ranger brass went to Pittsburgh and came away with four Future Blue.

Last year Sather swapped his sixth rounder from this draft for Nashville's sixth rounder in that one and this time around he made two more moves with the Preds for picks. He got a third round pick for next year and a fifth round pick in this draft for this year's third rounder and a fifth next summer. Got all that?

While it is highly unlikely we will see any of the kids that were called in Consol for the next two, three seasons, let's take a lil' look at 'em anyways:

Brady Skjei - 1st round, 28th overall - You can never have enough defensemen, right? Especially ones that are favourably compared to Ryan McDonagh... Skjei is headed for Minnesota, where he will hopefully take the next step towards becoming a NHL defenseman. Keith Ballard, Paul Martin, Alex Goligoski, Erik Johnson, and Stu Bickel all played at Mariucci Arena since the millennium, showing how the Golden Gophers program can produce capable defenders.

Cristoval “Boo” Nieves - 2nd round, 59th overall - As Matt mentioned in the preview, Boo dominated the draft combine so he should be able to handle Camp Tortorella (should the coach still be around when the kid comes out of Michigan). While it will be a while before be becomes a Ranger, Nieves will grace the Garden ice this year when he skates for the Wolverines against Cornell on November 24th. Red Berenson is a former Ranger and a brilliant coach who bequeathed us Ortmeyer and Hagelin so there is cause for faith. Matt, an avowed UofM fan, offered more: "The one knock on him is he's too much of a perimeter player at times, Red will work on that though. His hands are silky smooth, Rangers have not had a prospect with the stick-handling control that Boo possess."

Calle Andersson - 4th round, 119th overall - Reports about Andersson read like he is a right-handed, Swedish version of Skjei - good skating, good size, good vision - just with more of an offensive edge. His dad was a fourth round Ranger pick himself but if Andersson he can follow another Calle's career path - former Cap Johansson - we'll have one workable defender in a few seasons.

Thomas Spelling - 5th round, 142nd overall - The Danish winger did quite well playing against men in his home country's highest league last season. Spelling helped the Herning Blue Fox to the title with four goals and seven assists in the seven-game championship series against Odense, including a goal and two assists in a 4-0 Game 7 victory. While the natural scorer is from the same hometown as Peter Regin and Frans Nielsen (BOOO), he likely won't be facing them for a while - Spelling will spend this season helping Rogle in the club's return to the Elitserien. He is listed at 6'1, 165 so he definitely needs to bulk up if he is to make the leap over the pond eventually.

Surprisingly Clark and company didn't select a single goaltender yet again, which is a bit of a cause for concern. Chad Johnson and Martin Biron are both UFAs and Cam Talbot is a RFO. That leaves Hank, Scott Stajcer and Jason Missiaen - not exactly organizational depth. Stajcer put up personal-best save percentage despite being a backup in the OHL and Missiaen did well as Greenville's starter (ECHL), but both of them are years away from the show. That position will have to be addressed by Sather soon - perhaps by signing camp-invitee Troy Grosenick - but that is a post for another time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Preppin' For Some Pickin'

by Matt Lavanco

Scotty Hockey Note: This was due to run on the NY Rangers Blog but seeing as Kev called it quits for now, I offered to put it up. Matt is a friend of the blog and a diehard Ranger fan with an appreciation of the amateur game. Some good stuff.

The draft is a day away and it is my favorite event of the offseason. I do not claim to be a pro scout – I simply enjoy amateur hockey and looking at players that might help the Rangers for years to come. One of the main things I like to consider is who may be a good fit with the current make-up of the Rangers squad. Unfortunately where the Rangers pick at 28th, the odds of selecting a dynamic offensive scorer or an elite puck-moving defenseman are slim. Additionally the Rangers are organizationally thin when it comes to goaltending prospects. But, with only four draft picks in seven rounds, I don’t feel it’s appropriate for the Blueshirts to use a first round selection on a goalie.

So if a 30-goal scorer or a power play quarterback are not within reach, I think Gordie Clark and company could certainly look to add some toughness to their lineup. The Rangers were pushed around, knocked off the puck and just flat outworked along the boards all too many times during the playoffs. Right off the bat, or the puck drop, there are two potential draftees with familiar last names that play a tough, physical game that could contribute to the top-9 set of forwards.

First off, Stefan Matteau (Matteau! Matteau!) is a hard-nosed kind of player who is not afraid to go into the dirty areas and is a physically strong kid for his age. Matteau spent last season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, where he played all three forward positions. He has the skills to contribute offensively but would be better suited on a checking line. He has backed out of a commitment to play at the University of North Dakota and will head to the QMJHL next season to skate for Blainville-Boisbriand, where the elder Matteau is working as assistant coach.

And secondly Henrik Samuelsson has travelled a fair amount over the last 18 months. Ulfie's boy was playing with Matteau and the USNTDP until he followed his dad to MoDo in Sweden. After being dropped to MoDo's junior club, Samuelsson returned to North America to join 2011 Rangers 4th round selection Michael St. Croix on the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. Samuelsson jumped onto the Oil Kings' second line and contributed right away with 10 points in his first 8 games. At 6'3 young Henrik is a big body in front of the net and has a mean streak not unlike his pops. Samuelsson might have raised his draft stock with 14 points in the playoffs, which doesn’t include the five points he put up in four Memorial Cup games.

After toughness, the other glaring weakness that really lasted the length of the Rangers season was faceoffs. The team lost too many draws all over the ice, especially in their own defensive zone. Colton Sissons is a player I think would help with depth down the middle. Sissons plays a smart two-way game, is a quality faceoff man and has an NHL-caliber shot. Sissons served as the captain for the Kelowna Rockets (Gordie Clark loves character!) and finished third on the team in scoring despite a concussion-shortened season. He was able to return in time for the playoffs and by all indications has had a full recovery.

Should the team decide to shore up the blueline, there are two defensive draftees that project in the final third of the first round that interest me. The first is Dalton Thrower. Thrower has a particular snarl to his game that a team can never have enough of and he is unafraid of all physical aspects of the game. True to his surname, Thrower is ready and willing to fight to defend his teammates. His offensive skills might be underrated as well, as he is more than capable of chipping in offensively. The second defenseman is another USNTDP product in Brady Skjei. Skjei plays a solid well-rounded game, but his skating is what really sets him apart as he is one of the better skating defenseman available. At 6’3, Skjei has good size and played top-pair minutes for the gold medal winning Under-18 U.S. team.

If the Rangers do look at a goaltender – Malcolm Subban, Andrei Vasilevski and Oscar Dansk are at the top of this year’s goalie class. Subban is the most athletically gifted of the three and has worked hard in the OHL this past season to round out all areas of his game. Vasilevski is the most technically sound but his status playing in Russia might scare off some teams. Dansk is a big-bodied Swedish goaltender that plays somewhat deep in his net and is known for his intense focus. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Now I’m not saying he’s as good as our beloved Hank, they just have some similar qualities. It’s hard to say if any of the three will be available in the second round, and it's even harder to determine if any are worth a first round pick.

Other options for second round and beyond include: Derek Stepan's cousin Zach. Zach is a two-way center that is starting to get some attention, is coming into his own both offensively and defensively. He does not project to be as offensively talented as Derek but would certainly be an asset. Cristoval "Boo" Nieves, a Michigan Wolverine-commit, would also be worth a look. Nieves has slick hands and a solid 6'2 frame to grow into that he has used last few years playing prep school puck in Connecticut. He also dominated the draft combine finishing in the top-10 in most fitness categories. Defensively, Shayne Gostisbehere is a name worth knowing (and knowing how to spell). Gostisbehere is a true puck-moving defenseman who played quality minutes as a freshman for the Union College Dutchmen. He showed real poise down the stretch for Union and was one of the better defenseman in the entire NCAA tournament.

These drafts are always impossible to predict as one never really knows who will be selected or when. Personally though, I like Colton Sissons. I think he does a lot of the little things that are needed for a team to be successful and most importantly could help this team in the face-off circle. I also think Boo Nieves could be a solid pick-up in the second round as his ceiling is still rising.

Whoever the Rangers draft, they certainly will be well scouted. Gordie Clark and staff have certainly done a good job the past few years and we are beginning to see the returns of their labor at the NHL level with Stepan, Hagelin and Kreider. Here’s to Mr. Clark and co. surprising us with a player we can get excited about and look forward to pulling on that blue sweater.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Grading The Brass 2011-12

Seeing as the players saw the red pen earlier, here are the grades of the men in charge. Their explanations are a little more in depth and, for the first time, Hartford's head honchos are included. For comparison's sake, here are the grades for '09-10 and '10-11.

James Dolan: As usual, Dolan represents upper management, because he himself has nothing to do with the team ... aside from making outrageous, idiotic Cup claims after someone showed him the standings. So this is perhaps more Scott O'Neil and his minions than Dolan but whatever. The Garden made money hand over fist yet again, raising prices across the board and getting suckers like us to pay them. The first phase of the renovation finished with positive reviews: the West Balcony was beautiful - even if it obstructed the views of several rows of blue seats - and fans seemed to enjoy the Delta Club and it's zoo-exhibit glass walkway for the players. Sather was green-lit to make whatever moves he deemed necessary, with the NHL's salary cap being the only limit. I don't know the numbers but surely the Garden of Dreams had a banner year and the Crown Collection of Lundqvist apparel (with proceeds going to the charity) was a hit. B

Glen Sather: As with the old Facts of Life that I used to do here on the blog, you have to take the good and take the bad. Sather signed Brad Richard$; Sather signed Mike Rupp. Sather gave Ryan Callahan a three-year, $12.8m deal; Sather gave Brandon Dubinski a four-year $16.8m deal. Sather added Anton Stralman off waivers; Sather added Jeff Woywitka off waivers. Sather didn't trade Chris Kreider away; Sather traded for John Scott. All that being said, good ole Glen promised victory in the Winter Classic and somehow got Mike Rupp of all people to make his claim come true. As president, Sather is likely the one who signed off on the European start to the season and that was a success as the team played in packed arenas while bonding better than they would have had they stayed stateside. B-

Jim Schoenfeld/Ken Gernander: As GM of the Whale, Schoenfeld made some inspired signings like Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Marek Hrivik. Kelsey Tessier, Scott Tanski, Jared Nightingale and Jordan Owens were solid citizens, if unspectacular. Gernander dealt with the hand he was given by Schoeney (including Aaron Voros and an agitated Avery) and did well with it. The Whale grabbed the sixth seed in the playoffs after a 36-26-14 regular season and made it to the second round of the Calder Cup before being steamrolled by the Norfolk Admirals, the eventual champs. The coach taught the Ranger philosophy to guys like Hagelin, Mitchell and Deveaux, allowing them to jump right into the show and not look out of place. And whether it was Kenny G or Schoeney or the players themselves, the decision to make Wade Redden captain clearly worked out as every young call-up credited the former Broadway Blunder with help becoming a professional. B

John Tortorella: The egomaniacal blowhard yet again helped send his team spiraling to its demise with dubious decision making. Benching the top scorer in a tight game in the playoffs sent one message - the coach's way or the highway, damn the consequences - a repeat of the Avery benching back in 2009. Tortorella's entire idea of accountability was warped as he clearly played favourites, with guys like Del Zaster and Mitchell rarely drawing the coach's ire while poor Stu Bickel was publicly abused time and time again. Torts yelled, he screamed, he couldn't get his team to start playing at puck drop, he couldn't get the power play to work, he screwed with chemistry all the way through the playoffs and he never got them to turn the screw once they took a lead. The entire Avery saga was perpetuated by the coach, and it robbed the team of what would have been a valuable weapon in the playoffs. On the other side of it, his faith in his old friend Ruslan Fedotenko was repaid in the postseason. And, after he threw 'safe is death' out the window, he managed to get the guys to buy in to the shot blocking, counterattacking philosophy that helped get them as far as they did. But Tortorella's press conferences were the worst kind of theatre, car crashes that showed he could care less about the fans as a whole. Individually, his treatment of/friendship with Liam - the handicapped diehard - was really good stuff. C

Rangers Report Card '11-12

As I've done in the past, I graded each of the 2011-12 New York Rangers based on expectations, performance all season long and performance when it counted - NOT performance compared to other players. I am, admittedly, a tough grader. Guys with less than 10 games received incompletes.

If you feel so inclined, you can refer back to the report cards for the last few seasons: '07-08, '08-09, '09-10 and '10-11.

By my math this season's grades worked out to a 2.4 GPA, which is between B- and C+. Yes, I'm well aware that the team finished atop the conference with 109 points - two shy of the President's Trophy - and made it to the conference final. That's why I boosted the overall team grade up to a B.

And that is being charitable. Sure the numbers looked pretty but rarely did this team come close to their potential. At no point was this team dominant, they did not put forth a single 60 minute effort and the postseason was a horror show - two seven game series against inferior opponents and a massive failure against Fatso. The Rangers got as far as they did and racked up as many points as they did on the backs of a few; there were plenty of passengers on this ride.

Still raging about the B? If this was pass/fail, unlike the majority, I would have failed the team outright. Twenty-nine teams fail every season and there was certainly no glory in this season's ignominious end. So, a reminder: these guys are graded against themselves and their own limits/abilities, not against other players.


#42 Artem Anisimov: Confidence has always been key and it came and went all too often. Mostly went. Flashbacks of Vlad Vorobiev, talent wasted by glaring deficiencies that can and should be corrected. C

#16 Sean Avery: Dealt with the slap in the face from the franchise the first time, but the second broke him. Just a damned shame. D

#22 Brian Boyle: Big contract, small drive. Rarely used his size and the moment he got things going, he got hit in the head and went back to being a waste of space. C

#24 Ryan Callahan: Lived up to that letter. A

#40 Erik Christensen: One shootout goal did not make up for Mr. Softy the Backstabber's halfhearted, lackluster play. F

#33 Andre Deveaux: Not the smartest, perhaps the slowest, but did his best. INC

#17 Brandon Dubinsky: First year in a big contract syndrome. Disappointing from start to finish; a shadow of the impact player he should have been. F

#19 Ruslan Fedotenko: After a middling regular season Feds wanted to win in the playoffs and it showed. What a warrior. B+

#10 Marian Gaborik: Sneaky, sneaky scoring ceased with a bad benching and a bad shoulder. A-

#62 Carl Hagelin: Bork! of a start but the numbers faded fast and never returned. Apologized too much for his hit on Alfredsson and earned a bad reputation. B

#20 Chris Kreider: Stepped from campus to the chase for the Cup and showed more than most of the veterans around him. A

#34 John Mitchell: Saw far too many minutes for a AAAA guy but earned the coach's trust for his honest play. C

#45 Kris Newbury: Reckless play caused Newbury to fall out of favour despite positive skill set. INC

#8 Brandon Prust: Grit, he has it. Team responds to his heart and his hammering of opponents but his light scoring touch got even lighter. B+

#19 Brad Richard$: At times earned that contract (0.5 seconds). At others, not so much (no goals vs. NJ). Point total decreased for the second straight season but still was second on the Rangers. B+

#71 Mike Rupp: Hilarious that he had the nerve to call anyone else irrelevant. Had one good game. Did not intimidate opponents, did not fight for teammates, did not block shots, did not come through in the playoffs. F

#28 John Scott: Six games, one fight, one shot. So not worth that fifth round draft pick. INC

#21 Derek Stepan: Held off his sophomore slump for as long as possible, but not long enough. One goal in his last 25 games, 2 in 30, 3 in 41 is unacceptable. B-

#86 Wojtek Wolski: Far more time in the tub than on the ice. And when on the ice looked like he wanted to be in the tub. INC

#36 Mats Zuccarello: Couldn't convince the brass to call him up for too long. Once up, Zuke looked to have improved in all areas (he shot the puck!) before getting hurt blocking a shot. B-


#39 Brendan Bell: One game, -1, whatever. INC

#41 Stu Bickel: For a recent ECHLer who is slow as molasses, Stuuuu had himself a heckuva season. Made Staal comfortable upon his return and made teammates comfortable with his willingness to fight. B

#4 Michael Del Zotto: Some flashy numbers aren't enough to make up for the same old mistakes. He's sloppy with the puck, he's indecisive with it, he had little idea how to ice his position, he hits for contact and not possession, he flops far too often ... Del Zastrous. F

#44 Steve Eminger: Half a season of half competent play. Occasionally laid down a decent hit but was trusted less than Bickel and Stralman. Pretty much says it all right there. C-

#5 Dan Girardi: Top flight defense throughout an All Star campaign filled with far too many minutes of ice time. A

#27 Ryan McDonagh: Haha, Bob Gainey, ha ha ha. All around excellence. Finished with just nine less points than DZ despite playing 271 less man advantage minutes. A

#38 Michael Sauer: A solid soldier who helped the Blueshirts survive without Staal, Sauer sadly didn't snap the clasp on his chinstrap on December 5th and it may have cost the Rangers the Cup. B

#18 Marc Staal: Took a while to re-gain his game but eventually got there. B+

#32 Anton Stralman: Moments of impressive play from the Swede but lots of lapses. C+

#6 Jeff Woywitka: Slow skater couldn't play the coach's game. F

#53 Tim Erixon: Showed signs of good things to come. B-


#43 Marty Biron: Teammates loved him, but so did too many opposing shooters. His .904 save percentage on this team was atrocious. C

#30 Henrik Lundqvist: Not his best season but still among the best of the best netminders in the NHL. A

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Del Zastrous Season

The Rangers put together a top-5 moments for Michael Del Zotto yesterday so today I figured we should take a look at the rest of his campaign, in photo form: