Friday, July 19, 2013

New In Blue 2013

The opening of free agency is in the rear view mirror and Glen Sather largely kept his wallet in his pants. Sure the lowering salary cap had a lot to do with that, as did the need to re-sign several main cogs in the machine, but it was still uncharacteristic of the cigar smoker. It was even stranger as Sather so recently replaced his bench boss with someone who has a significantly different philosophy than the last one.

So what did Glen do for Vigneault? He waived Darroll Powe and Arron Asham and replaced them with Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot. He let Steve Eminger and Matt Gilroy walk and traded for Justin Falk and signed Aaron Johnson. Not exactly major changes to a team that burned out too fast two years ago and flunked so badly last season that they got their coach canned. But they were changes nonetheless, so here's a (late) look at the new boys who'll wear blue:

Dominic Moore (@mooredom): Dom is pulling a Kovalev by coming back to the team that drafted him after a few seasons astray. Everyone remembers this commercial, and in the days since Moore dressed for eight other franchises before coming back to Broadway. He's been in such demand because he hustles and plays an honest game. The Hah-vad grad won't rack up the points - although he has it in him to do so - but he brings consistency to one of the two bottom six center positions. Vignault hasn't been big on rolling four lines but with Step, Brass and Richard$ all ahead of him on the depth chart, it's lookin' like Dom will battle Boyle to be the fourth line pivot. He hasn't played since his wife passed away after a battle with cancer so it will be interesting to see how fast he can find his form and if he still has it in him to skate at the breakneck NHL pace. Hopefully the Rangers do something with him/in his wife's memory for Hockey Fights Cancer - a charity that usually is featured in October, when the Rangers will be on the road.

Benoit Pouliot: Pouliot is a bottom six guy with great hands and a big body he rarely uses, he's like an older, North American version of Arty Anisimov. Inconsistent and prone to facepalm turnovers, the former teammate of Marc Staal in juniors is also capable of breathtaking goals. It is interesting to read post-season reviews of his for the last three seasons - 2010-11, '11-12 and '13 - and we're left to wonder what kind of player will show up this fall. Could he click with Brass and Nash and put up 25 goals? Could he end up waived to the Wolf Pack? Not even gonna wager a guess at this point.

Justin Falk (@juicerfalk): First off, there is another guy with virtually the same name - Justin Faulk - and this guy isn't him. Faulk is a possible franchise defenseman for Carolina, Falk is a quiet giant. The 24 year old is a big boy at 6-foot-5 and is capable in his own end but, frustratingly, is not especially physical. If/when the organization decides McIlrath is not ready for the show, Falk could be a decent No. 6 defender who will cover for Del Zaster's del zasters - Stralman certainly couldn't do it and you don't want John Moore to be ruined that way.

Aaron Johnson: Because the Blueshirts don't have enough former Blue Jackets on the roster, they brought in Johnson. The 30-year-old journeyman is also a former ISLANDER and a junior teammate of Richard$ in Rimouski. Hard to see if he was brought in to help re-ignite Richie, to be a good room guy as the No. 7 defender or just to bolster the blue line in Hartford. Maybe all three; we'll see.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Photo of the Day: What a Babe ...

I know more than a few girls that would love to play some puck with the Rangers and tonight I came across a photo of one who actually did: Babe Didrikson Zaharias. A multi-sport star during the golden age of sports (20s, 30s), the Babe is one of the all-time greatest female athletes. Below is a cool shot of her at a Blueshirts' practice about to take a shot at Andy Aitkenhead.

Original source is here.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Not-So-Free Agents 2013

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 today 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.

There are no goalies listed, as Sather seems convinced Biron's ability in the room outweighs his incompetence on the ice. Speaking of incompetence, I immediately ruled out former Islanders and a number of former Blueshirts - no Redden, Gomez, Dvorak, Woywitka, Halpern, Cullen, Jagr, Antropov, Prospal, Stanley Cup Champion Rozsival or Pooooooootttttttiiiiiii. None of the current Ranger UFAs are worth re-signing either - Clowe, Hamrlik, Eminger, or Gilroy. Clowe has some upside but a well-paid power forward who plays tough that has a concussion history? That's a dangerous wager.

Some guys that are older or have been bought out are included on the list, obviously with the hope that they'll take pay cuts ...

Guys I Want On The Rangers

Name Position/Age/2011-12 Salary - Cause

Iginla, Jarome R PIT 36 $7,000,000 - Iggy didn't mesh with Pittsburgh but that doesn't change the fact that he is everything you want in a hockey player.
Scuderi, Rob D LAK 34 $3,400,000 - The New York native is a solid soldier at the back end and a Cup winner.
Cleary, Danny L DET 34 $2,800,000 - Hard hat guy with a Cup on his resume who is willing to go to the net.
Ference, Andrew D BOS 34 $2,250,000 - Solid soldier at the back end and a Cup winner.
Brunner, Damien R DET 27 $1,350,000 - Virtually no idea of what defense is but so skilled at the offensive end of the ice.

Guys I Wouldn't Mind On The Rangers

Name Position/Age/2011-12 Salary - Cause

Alfredsson, Daniel RW OTT 40 $4,875,000 - Veteran Swede has won with Hank before ...
Morrow, Brenden L PIT 34 $4,100,000 - Like Iggy, didn't fit with Pittsburgh but still one gritty guy.
Roy, Derek C VAN 30 $4,000,000 - Former PPG guy has a lot to prove to AV after stumbling with Vancouver.
Lydman, Toni D ANA 35 $3,000,000 - Fine Finn knows how to play his position.
Schultz, Jeff D WAS 27 $2,750,000 - Cut that salary down a bit and Schultz is a capable big bodied defenseman.
Sullivan, Steve L NJD 38 $2,600,000 - Veteran might be willing to empty the tank for one last run.
Raymond, Mason L VAN 27 $2,275,000 - Speedy forward who has underwhelmed to date but AV knows him well.
Gill, Hal D NASH 38 $2,000,000 - Have you seen his twitter account? And he knows how to use his huge frame to clear the crease.
Larose, Chad R CAR 31 $1,700,000 - Coming off an awful year, could be primed for a rebound.
Bozak, Tyler C TOR 27 $1,500,000 - Not a first line center but wins faceoffs and has some offensive ability.
Nystrom, Eric L DAL 30 $1,400,000 - Consistent bottom-six performer, worth it despite his diabolic dad.
Stalberg, Viktor L CHI 27 $875,000 - Speedy and coming off a Cup.
Hendricks, Matt L WAS 32 $825,000 - Heart and grit.
Blum, Jonathon D NAS 24 $650,000 - Former first rounder can carry the puck and needs a change of scenery.
Kostka, Mike D TOR 27 $600,000 - Certainly not the top pairing defenseman Toronto had him as at times, but a good 5-6 ...

Guys I Don't Want On The Rangers

Name Position/Age/2011-12 Salary - Cause

Grabovski, Mikhail C TOR 29 $5,500,000 - Bad attitude.
Ribeiro, Mike C WAS 33 $5,000,000 - Overrated.
Connolly, Tim C TOR 32 $4,750,000 - Concussed.
Hainsey, Ron D WPG 32 $4,500,000 - Underwhelming.
Komisarek, Mike D TOR 31 $4,500,000 - Slow.
Kaberle, Tomas D MTL 35 $4,250,000 - Haha.
Bouchard, Pierre-Marc R MIN 29 $4,080,000 - Injury case.
Whitney, Ryan D EDM 30 $4,000,000 - One dimensional.
Horton, Nathan R BOS 28 $4,000,000 - Concussed.
Gilbert, Tom D MIN 30 $4,000,000 - Soured real fast in Minnesota.
Kuba, Filip D FLA 36 $4,000,000 - Hamrlik 2.
Zidlicky, Marek D NJD 36 $4,000,000 - Old.
Gagne, Simon L PHI 33 $3,500,000 - Concussed.
Lombardi, Matthew C ANA 31 $3,500,000 - Meh.
Ryder, Michael R MTL 33 $3,500,000 - Will want a raise.
MacArthur, Clarke L TOR 28 $3,250,000 - Inconsistent.
Penner, Dustin L LAK 30 $3,250,000 - Cup winner will cost too much.
Weiss, Stephen C FLA 30 $3,100,000 - Underwhelming.
Filppula, Valtteri L DET 29 $3,000,000 - Insanely wants a raise.
White, Ian D DET 29 $2,875,000 - No Lidstrom, no results.
Clarkson, David R NJD 29 $2,666,667 - Boneheaded minor leaguer.
Murray, Douglas D PIT 33 $2,500,000 - Sadly proved too slow.
Colaiacovo, Carlo D DET 30 $2,500,000 - Don't want to try to type that often.
Handzus, Michal C CHI 36 $2,500,000 - Got his Cup, time to call it a career.
Aucoin, Adrian D CLB 39 $2,250,000 - Thought he had retired.
Zanon, Greg D COL 33 $2,250,000 - Nothing left but the beard.
Corvo, Joe D CAR 36 $2,000,000 - Uh oh.
Latendresse, Guillaume L OTT 26 $2,000,000 - Inconsistent.
Pardy, Adam D BUF 29 $2,000,000 - He made $2,000,000??
Cooke, Matt L PIT 34 $1,800,000 - Criminal.
Ponikarovsky, Alexei L NJD 33 $1,800,000 - Worse than Frolov.
O'Byrne, Ryan D TOR 28 $1,800,000 - Just, no.
Mueller, Peter R FLA 25 $1,725,000 - Great flow, nothing else.
Dupuis, Pascal R PIT 34 $1,500,000 - Fluke season will garner an insane raise.
Fistric, Mark D EDM 27 $1,475,000 - Physical, but not physical enough.
Gerbe, Nathan L BUF 25 $1,450,000 - Midget.
Comeau, Blake L CLB 27 $1,250,000 - Former Islander.
Steckel, David C ANA 31 $1,100,000 - Credit forever for injury Crosby, but nothing else.
Lapierre, Maxim C VAN 28 $1,000,000 - Fourth line penalty risk.
Hannan, Scott D SJS 34 $1,000,000 - Old, slow.

This is, of course, just my opinion so take it as it may. Last year I wanted Taylor Pyatt and didn't want Arron Asham. And look how both failed ... 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Guest Post: A Red, White & Blue Blueshirt

The Pundit was kind enough to pen this for me last summer for a project since abandoned and I felt it would be good to go up today: he remembers a New York Ranger who has faded into the past, one who happens to be a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer. USA! USA! USA! -Scotty

by Mike Savino, aka the Ranger Pundit

Bill Moe came back on my radar in a rather strange way. My Grandson, Nicholas, had just secured a spot on his High School freshman team and was issued a jersey with a number 21 on it. Dad and Nicholas then did a search of Ranger jerseys, past and present to find a #21 to relate to a Ranger. Naturally, Gramps, the Ranger Pundit, came up with the perfect #21. Since Nicholas is a defenseman it was a natural that the #21 would be one of my favorites, the hard checking Bill Moe.

Moe played with the Rangers from 1944-45 to 1948-49. He played with Don Raleigh for two years. He was one of three American players in the NHL. One was Frankie Brimsek, the Bruin goalie also known as Mr. Zero. The other was John Manucci.

Moe was a hard luck player in his five years with the Rangers. He played in only one playoff game and suffered a fractured vertebrae on a check to Detroits Bill Quackenbush. In 1948-49 Moe was involved in an auto accident with four other players prior to the season opener. He suffered a concussion but still managed to play in 60 games. After the season the Rangers traded him to the Bruins who assigned Moe to their AFL affiliate. That ended Moe’s NHL career. In 1974 Bill Moe was installed in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Moe had a unique style of checking. He lined up a player and went low to the ice and clipped him below the knees. The crowd roared at t he sight of players doing cartwheels and landing on the ice on their backs. That kind of check is now outlawed. Its amazing, slewfooting, elbows to the head, sticks across the face are all minor type penalties but the artistic checks of a Bill Moe are outlawed.

I’ll never see another Bill Moe again just as I will never see another “Bones” Raleigh again. I guess I’m an old fogey and a traditionalist as I’m starting to look back more than I am looking ahead. But I look at the Rangers now and we are run by a GM who is in hiding and will start his 14th year without a reasonable run for the Cup. I see a disagreeable coach who wont be happy til one of his players gets disfigured by a shot. The hockey today is boring and well, I digress.

Boy, do I miss Bill Moe, who passed away in 1996 at the age of 80. But he is in hockey heaven where he skates to meet “Bones” Raleigh and his other team mates from the 40’s. God Bless Guys!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guest Post: The New York Rangers 2013 Draft Recap

by Matt Lavanco

The 2013 NHL Draft came and went this past weekend and it was relatively uninteresting in Rangers-land. No draft picks were moved in or out, Glen Sather stood fast and left Gordie Clark to select the players he thought would best help this organization.
Left to his own devices Gordie used his five selections on five projects, none of whom project to compete for a roster spot in fall camp. Fans will have to patient for this current crop of prospects to develop and hopefully we’ll see some offensive output from this class several years down the road. It is interesting to note that the Rangers drafted two players from the QMJHL – the same amount of players selected from the Q since 2007 (in which they also took two).

Here's a look at each of the five:

Clark opened the third round by selecting University of North Dakota commit, Adam Tambellini. Tambellini absolutely dominated his BCHL competition this past season. Tambellini used his size, speed and great shot release to give teams a headache. He’ll have to continue to develop his defensive game and turn into an all-around effective two-way player. He will more than likely spend all four years at NoDak to grow into his body and grow his game.

Pavel Buchnevich, the second of the third round picks, is a wild card. Buchnevich is a highly skilled offensive dynamo. He stood out this year in at the Under-18 tournament in his home country showing off his skill and playmaking abilities. It feels like well-worn territory, but with every Russian draft pick the big question of whether he will actually come to the USA is asked. Buchnevich has two years remaining on his KHL contract so there isn’t much to get excited over just yet. If he does come though, he will hopefully be stronger and physically more mature than he is now.

The selection of Anthony Duclair closed out the third round for the Rangers. The Quebec Remparts winger burst on the scene as a rookie with 31 goals and 66 points in 63 games. Expectations for Duclair went sky high and there were musings that he might be go in the first round this year. However, injuries and inconsistency led to Duclair’s stock dropping sharply. If he can find a groove and add some strength Duclair could be a terrific prospect. The slick winger is an absolute stud in the offensive zone. He has elite speed that allows him to retrieve loose pucks and generate scoring chances. He also has great puck protection skills. Duclair has to improve his defensive game and show better positioning in his own zone. He will be an exciting prospect to follow over the next few years.

There’s not much to say about the Rangers fourth round selection, P.E.I. Rockets’ Ryan Graves. Graves is a work in progress. He attempts to play a physical, intimidating game in a league that is not overtly physical. Graves needs to improve is skating and footwork in order to play the shutdown role he is sized for.

With the Rangers final pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, they chose goalie Mackenzie Skapski of the Kootenay Ice. Now in my preview I had stated that I did not thing where the Rangers were selecting a goalie would be a wise choice. I stand by that opinion. Skapski posted a 34-25 record with an unremarkable 2.78 GAA and .910 Save % for the Ice. He lead his team to the eighth and final playoff spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference – to which Kootenay got railroaded by top seed Edmonton. Skapski did have a fantastic February and recorded four shutouts with a 1.27 GAA and .956 Save %.

Skapski is a big body in the net. He uses his size to cut down angles well, but he needs to work on his recovery. In limited viewings, Skapski seemed slow on rebounds and therefore exposed on second and third shots.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Post-Draft Monday Musings

All sortsa random stuff rattling around my head after spending Sunday in Newark:

*That was the fastest seven hours I've experienced - what a terrific experience. The NHL should stick to the one-day draft extravaganza rather than trying for tv ratings with a two-day affair.

*Oh, New Jersey, you stink. Funny that their fan fest was sponsored by "Stronger Than The Storm" as it was a mess - a ferris wheel that never was completed, an unorganized mini golf 'course' and loads of sand where it didn't belong.

*Really nice to see the prospects celebrating their selection by hugging their families. Really sad to see the prospects who weren't picked hugging their families at the end of the night.

*One reason why the draft was so great was the accessibility of everyone. Saw one kid walking around handing out resumes, which I thought was a brilliant move.

*Alain Vigneault showed his fan-friendliness by stopping and taking pictures with everyone who wanted one. And even Glen Sather was in a good mood, he actually didn't ignore everyone and answered my quick question - Hey Glen, good draft or bad draft? He replied, "Great draft." Not sure he was awake for it and totally aware as to what was going on, but at least he had as good a time as us fans did.

*My draft guy Matt Lavanco should have a pick-by-pick review done in the next few days but personally I was a bit disappointed. No trades for picks, so just five selections - none of whom appear to be NHL-ready for at least two, three seasons. Minimum. My take, in order: NHL legacy Tambellini, Russian Brendl Buchnevich, injury case Duclair, project defenseman not-related-to-that Graves and some goalie Skapski.

*Buchnevich, by the way, is the first Russian selected by the Rangers since I took a look at all of the players from that country/the USSR back in 2010. It is not a good track record.

*Not one of the kids selected Sunday was alive when Messier raised the Cup, with Skapski being born the day after. Feel old? I do.

*Interesting that the Rangers trade for a big defenseman seemingly on the cusp of success (according to the Wilderness guys) on the same day they are rumoured to add Ulf Samuelsson to the coaching staff.

*Hopefully that is the first of many good moves this offseason as our metro rivals improved themselves with trades. The Devils acquired a franchise goaltender in Schneider to replace Fatso for a pittance, their No. 9 pick. And the Isles added some very-needed grit and ability in Clutterbuck for the Swiss problem child.

*Interesting that Brodeur showed up to draft his own son, and the Flyers had Chris Pronger handy when they selected the next Chris Pronger.

*Former Ranger Jeff Ulmer spent six games with Tappara this season and I asked him back then if Barkov was the real deal. He thought that the kid should be first overall, so seeing him go second was not a shock.

*Colorado continued to drive down the road to irrelevance, passing on the defenseman they desperately needed for a flashy center they didn't. But it certainly worked out for Nashville as they add yet another stud defender.

*Darnell Nurse to the Oilers is pretty much unfair. Once that franchise gets a goaltender, they're winning some Cups. Jump on the bandwagon now ...