Saturday, May 31, 2008

Looking Forward While Looking Back

On the even of Game 4 of the Cup Final. the Winnipeg Free Press took a look at the remaining visages of the Jets in the NHL and how several are reflected in the Red Wings. It's a great read.

It makes mention of the final moments of the franchise and tells of its unfortunate demise - a move to Phoenix is as good as death. There are some Manitoba folks who have been trying to keep the flame alive and return a NHL team to their fair providence - the Return The Jets campaign and Jets Online are two really good sites to check out.

Who knows what would happen if the NHL had been willing to bend over backward to keep the Jets in Winnipeg? The league bent rules to keep the failing Penguins in Pittsburgh until they could fix the draft and bring a saviour back to the town. Don't even begin to pretend that Cindy's draft wasn't a hoax - the one team in the NHL that was in the biggest danger of moving at the time was the Pens and in a draft lottery that supposedly gave every team a chance at "the Next Gretzky," the team that needed him the most to keep Bettman's promise of no franchises relocating after the lockout got him. Disagree? Too bad. The league held the official drawing behind closed doors so they could have done whatever they damn well pleased and they did.

If only he had made that promise not to let any teams fail out of markets back during the last labour problems, we may still be able to enjoy the Jets. And, if the numbers mentioned in this article are true, the league would be in a far better spot financially had they kept the former WHA team around.

So what's the big conclusion? What's the point? I just hope that the bandwagon fans who have returned to fill the Igloo this season realize just how lucky they are, because their fair-weather habits nearly cost them their team. If not for Bettman's work to cover his own rear end, Pittsburgh would have become another in a line of teams that we can only look back on and reminisce. They would have gone the way of the Whale, the North Stars, the Nordiques and the Jets and the sport would be all the worse for having lost them after already having lost so much.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stanley Cup Final Game 3

Disclaimer: I had to tape the game so I avoided all score updates until I could watch the game. I watched intently until Cindy scored to make it 2-0 and then pretty much fast-forwarded through the rest of the game. At that point you knew instantly that the Penguins weren't going to lose at that point and they didn't. As I picked the Wings in five, I figured Pittsburgh would win one but I would rather it come in a closely-contested game rather than a gimmie.

The Wings dominated the first period and came out of it down 1-0. Then they were immediately put back on their heels with a cheap hooking penalty at the start of the second and that was that as the Pens capitalized to double their lead. For as good as the Wings were in the first, they never got the swagger back, even after Franzen's great goal. But the bigger problem was that they weren't the same team that played in Detroit at all. Throughout the game they passed up good shot opportunities and barely played the body. They allowed Pittsburgh to dictate the tempo and that is how you lose, especially to the Pens. The scary thing is that they still could have tied the game with a late power play but were in utter disarray and didn't even get a good chance out of it.

I wish I could say that the coverage by NBC was much, much better than Versus but it was only marginally so. Some thoughts on the network's performance:

*The Edge shave gel wipes were gross money grabs that looked terrible. The company won't sell any more cans and the broadcast looks cheaper for having done it. Everyone railed on Fox when they did the same kind of gimmick during the World Series and All Star game so NBC and the NHL mimics it. For shame.

*I understand the appeal to talk to the coaches during TV time outs but at this time of year - more than any other - we are just going to hear another selection of boring cliches. Its a waste of time that should be better spent with quality analysis or even more billboards (so you don't have to stoop to that wipe nonsense).

*I fast-forwarded through the first intermission feature on Cindy. I understand that the network and the league loves the Cole Harbour Kid - they feel they need a superstar to attract viewers (to a team game) - but if you are watching hockey on a Wednesday night that has both baseball and he NBA Finals, you already know who the Pens captain is.

*HOWEVER, for all of the bad stuff, it was a great idea to get Alexander Ovechkin in the studio for the second intermission. You can't help but love AO. Where Cindy is this benign polished PR machine, AO has a personality and isn't afraid to show it - in spite of his struggle with the English language. He is awesome, even when struggling through awkward moments with Mike Milbury. Too bad he plays on the same team as Tom Poti.

*And from the NHL's talent to NBC's (or is it lack thereof?): The talking heads mentioned how loud the fans were a few times but not once did Doc, or Eddie or Pierre actually shut up so you could listen to them for more than a second or two.

*At no point should a viewer wonder what just happened without a replay or an announcer immediately following it up with the answer. It happened several times, starting with the first Pens penalty (the roughing to Staal). They eventually showed the replay but Eddie O was too busy talking about another less-important play (which occurs all too often with him).

*I also noticed a font/super that was put up without a background - something that should cost someone some pay; amateurish mistakes on hockey's biggest stage are inexcusable. That kind of stuff doesn't happen during the Super Bowl, it shouldn't happen here.

Ok, enough ranting about the broadcast; onto the game:

*Pavel Datsyuk skated through four Pens on the opening play of the game, before making an ill-advised, yet all-too-typical pass to a covered Tomas Holmstrom. Can you imagine how good Datsyuk would be if he got some confidence in his own scoring ability?? Unfortunately it was a sign of things to come as the Wings tried to force passes all night long.

*Chris Osgood was jumpy and got himself out of position numerous times. This was the first game where the Pens put serious pressure on him and he gave up three goals. He was also beaten on three other shots that I counted but the puck hit the iron twice and he was able to dive and stop the puck from trickling over the line on the third. Not a Conn Smythe-worthy performance. When the Wings win he shouldn't get the MVP trophy for the same reason that Marty Brodeur never did - its easy to put up good numbers when you are barely tested.

*Cindy's goal to open the game's scoring was an utter disgrace by the Wings. Not only was it an Lilja-sized screw up by Brad Stuart, Osgood should be shot for letting it go through his legs. Embarrassing.

*Cindy's second wasn't better. After another iffy call the Wings left Cindy alone on the doorstep. Having watched the Rangers leave Crosby open in the same spot and get burned again-and-again-and-again-and-again, I am sick of seeing it. And, to be honest, I thought Detroit was better than that.

*Pittsburgh's third goal came from good-old fashioned hard work and the stupidity of Osgood. The Pens battled hard around the net and Ozzie wandered from the crease. As he was trying to regain his positioning Adam Hall got him with the puck and that was it.

*Where was Nick Lidstrom in this? He got an assist but was almost invisible - when you are winning that is a good thing but when you lose ... terrible.

*NHL Conspiracy Theorists: A cheap holding penalty is called a minute into the game to give the home team a power play. Was it a penalty? Technically, yes. Was it a penalty that was called all season long? Nope. It happened throughout the game and was infuriating to watch, especially as clear bigger calls weren't made. NBC caught Rob Scuderi cross checking Tomas Holmstrom four times in a row, Sergei Gonchar punching Holmstrom in the head several times, Brooks Orpik shoving a Wing into the post to knock the net off (and 'coincidentally' getting a goal nullified), Jordan Staal getting Nick Lidstrom in the face, etc. But at the same time there were non-calls the other way - too many Wings on the ice, Kronwall clearly grabs Ryan Malone's arm ... nothing. So its not a conspiracy, just incompetence?? I would rather give Bettman credit and say that he fixes the games instead of being stupid and employing idiots.

*PHW Three Stars
3-Johan Franzen - one goal.
2-Marian Hossa - two assists.
1-Sidney Crosby - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Franzen - While the Pens went after him at the end of Game 2, he wasn't intimidated and continued to play in traffic. He kept going to the net and he got a his goal because of it.
2-Brooks Orpik - The future Ranger (fingers crossed) played a physical, positionally-sound game defensively that included more than four minutes of work killing penalties.
1-Pittsburgh Penalty Killers - This one includes Orpik but these guys kept Detroit to just one goal on five chances and made the pivotal kill late in the third period. Fleury made a few big saves, Scuderi blocked shots and the forwards - especially Hall and Max Talbot - didn't allow the Wings to get set up or settled.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mandatory Reading

As we slowly get closer to the end of the 2008 Stanley Cup, Joe Pelletier of Greatest Hockey Legends has been plowing through hockey history to bio each team that has won the Cup since 1930.

And now he put up his bio of the greatest of all Cup champions (or at least the most popular), the 1994 New York Rangers. Quality work by Joe, as always. For those that missed them, he also did the 1933 and 1940 Cup winners as well (he just missed the 1928, for that, you have to turn to Legends Of Hockey).

Let's Go Rangers!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Stanley Cup Final Game 2

Not like the Pittsburgh Penguins had much of a chance heading into Game 2 against the Detroit Red Wings, but their coach helped lose the game for them before the puck even dropped. Michel Therrien made one of the biggest mistakes a head coach could make - he panicked. Juggling the lines that got him to the final after one bad game proved to be a mistake. The Pens offense looked disjointed and had little flow as the Red Wings played Detroit hockey and hammered them to the tune of a 3-0 shutout.

Not only was the result great, it also marked the last time we will be subjected to the horrid work of Versus until next season. Thank goodness. The pathetic, amateurish production made watching hockey almost unbearable and for someone as obsessed with pucks as I am, that means it was pretty damn bad. I also bid a not-so-fond farewell to Bill Patrick, Brian Engblom and Keith Jones, whose opinions were as annoying as the way they were presented.

*Was that Valtteri Filppula or Bobby Orr? I wasn't sure. What an incredible goal to put the nail in the coffin tonight. Just, wow; a fantastic display of intensity and skill by the young Finn.

*I busted out my old-school Red Wings barber pole Yzerman jersey to watch the game and through how incredible it would be if the teams went vintage for Game 5 (should it make it that far). That way each team would have two games to wear their usual kits - home and away - and would get a decent amount of merchandise money out of the revival of the classics. The Pens did so well with their baby blue at the Winter Classic that it is rumoured (bottom of that article) to be their third jersey next year ...

*Who was it who mentioned that Brad Stuart's acquisition at the deadline may be the best move made while raving about his Game 1 performance? Oh yeah, that was me. Great goal to open the game's scoring.

*Why didn't Tomas Holmstrom get a penalty instead of the Red Wings goal? He hampered Fleury's ability to stop the puck by slamming it in the net. Sorry, had to go there.

*Is it any wonder that moments after Holmstrom scored the refs find something to call to give Cindy a chance? They did what the Penguins offence could not - create a scoring opportunity. Yeah, all of that conspiracy talk was unfounded ... I wish I was at work so I could listen to the full, unedited postgame presser. And you just know Cindy is going to complain about the officiating since his team lost and looked like the petulant children that they are. What was that saying? A team takes on the character of their captain?

*The second period was painful to watch. It was like a cat batting around a mostly-dead bird before it finally kills it off.

*Gary Roberts: Tough meets classless. What Should Gary Roberts Do? Retire to save some face. Watching him punch Johan Franzen in the head and chase after Pavel Datsyuk at the end of the game was not old time hockey, it was just the last throes of a fading player. Call it a career Gary, you are only embarrassing yourself.

*Check out the picture to the right! I found Evgeni Malkin!! Let's hope that the Penguins don't see it because they could really use him ...

*Eddie O continued his personal public relations campaign for Cindy Crosby and the Pens. He is as inept as a broadcaster as he was a coach so it is of little wonder that there are so many head coaching jobs opening up around the league and Olczyk's name has not been mentioned once.

*If I see that Versus 'competition' commercial one more time I may puke. What kind of competition is hunting? Yeah, the animals really have a chance to fight back against guys with automatic rifles shooting from a blind. I'm not against hunting, I am against calling it a competition.

*While I am talking about the NHL's terrible broadcast partner, I have to give them a bit of credit. It has taken several years and their last game broadcast of the season but I really liked the new-look full screens. They have a nice portrait photo with a smooth animated background and a solid base text font. The info could use a little work, as could the font of the text that flies on, but its the nicest thing Versus has done yet.

*Will Big Z take the Big C? Henrik Zetterberg has been consistently superb on both sides of the ice and is showing off his diverse arsenal of weapons in this series. The impressive thing is that he has been just as good as he was against Dallas and Colorado so he should be a top candidate for the Conn Smythe once Nick Lidstrom raises the Cup.

*Chris Osgood's name will of course be in the running for the Conn but he wasn't really tested. Ozzy had to make a few big saves in Game 1 but Game 2 was pretty much a cakewalk. Plus his flair for the dramatic is just getting annoying. He looks like he is going for Oscar instead of Stanley with all of his embellishments - two in this game and that disgrace against Mike Ribeiro last series. That is why he will have no shot at being a Scotty Hockey Three Star. And speaking of those:

*PHW Three Stars
3-Brad Stuart - one goal and one assist.
2-Valtteri Filppula - one goal and one assist.
1-Chris Osgood - 22 save shutout.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Niklas Kronwall - Just like how he did it in the first game, Kronwall came out and dominated physically early. He sent a message and was rock solid defensively (even with Cindy holding his stick). For the stat people who put value in plus/minus, he was also +3.
2-Brad Stuart - Another fantastic game by the depth defenseman. Stuart was steady defensively and his goal was beautiful - a pin-point slapper as he was sliding backwards towards the boards.
1-Valtteri Filppula - As pretty as Stuart's goal was, Flip's was better. And his line pressed the action all night long - pretty good for three guys not named Zetterberg or Datsyuk ...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stanley Cup Final Game 1

The Detroit Red Wings proved their dominance by handing the woefully inadequate Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-0 loss in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals last night. They did what the Rangers and Flyers proved incapable of: overcoming bad penalties and slanted officiating to play their own game. Detroit took advantage of the many flaws in the Pittsburgh roster to just hammer the league's golden children. It was refreshing and wonderful.

*Dan Cleary's shorthanded goal was one of the most brilliant plays I have ever seen, if only for its simplicity. Win the face off, race up ice while someone bangs the puck in and beat the defender to it. Don't mess around, just put it on net. Fleury didn't have a chance. Immaculate.

*For all the talk about Cindy and Malkin and how they are NHL superstars, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg showed how stardom doesn't necessarily equate with skill. The two Wings were wonderful on both sides of the ice - creating on offense and locking down on defense. I've always considered learning how to be a scout, I should move to Detroit and beg Ken Holland or Mark Howe to teach me because they are clearly the masters.

*On that same note, the acquisition of Brad Stuart is looking like the most underrated deadline deal this year. Stuart played 21 minutes, had an assist and was +3 ... not exactly numbers one would expect from a cast off from the Kings.

*Jarkko Ruutu ... It was one thing for Esa Tikkanen to play dirty because he always won. It was another thing for Sean Avery to play dirty because he can also score and leads his team. Jarkko, however, is a piece of garbage with little redeeming qualities. Sure he can score in a shootout, but let's face it, that isn't real hockey. So in a proper game his only usefulness is to try to hurt players. Right after Mikael Samuelsson scored his second goal there was Jarkko to try to take out his knees. There was Jarkko coming around with a late stick. Someone get this jackass off of the ice before he hurts somebody. If Ryan Hollweg can be placed on a "hit to hurt" list, then surely Jarkko warrants extra attention from the stripes.

*Versus, who undeservedly had exclusive rights to broadcast the game in the United States, had absolutely awful production value. After Helm's 1st period penalty, rather than show a replay they dumped to commercial and then came back to pop the intermission show. They never replayed what the call was. When they went to the intermission, they say they were joined by special guest Mark Messier and then turn to Engblom and then Jones for the first two comments. Yeah, I would rather hear from them too.

*I am not sure which bothers me more - hearing Doc and Eddie O openly laud Cindy Crosby all night or the officials blatantly making calls that favour his team ...

*And don't even start to say that they weren't. If you can't see it - like Jonesie who said the stick was in Fleury's waist when it was clearly on the ice - if you actually believe that Holmstrom was interfering with Fleury's ability to save a shot that was over his shoulder on the disallowed goal then you are a Penguins fan and I would be wasting my time trying to explain it to you. The wheels on that bandwagon are just too loud ...

*Remarkably, in the post-game presser, Cindy had the nerve to say that the Penguins didn't get the calls that they "deserved." He went on to say that "if we're moving our feet, we deserve opportunities, we deserve those calls." Hey golden child, you don't deserve anything. The league shouldn't be catering to your every whining cry. Its hockey, play the damn game.

*It was a classy move by the Wings to have both Stevie Y and Super Mario come out to drop the ceremonial pucks. Two great, great hockey players.

*Evgeni Malkin - Did he even make the flight to Detroit?

*PHW Three Stars
3-Dan Cleary - one goal.
2-Chris Osgood - 19 save shutout.
1-Mikael Samuelsson - two goals.

Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Henrik Zetterberg - Big Z had eight shots and a goal while making Cindy look stupid all night. He was a force on both sides of the ice and should enter the conversation for best all-around player in the league with guys like Iggy, Vinny 04, AO and Big Joe.
2-Penalty killers - The penalty killers on both teams were perfect on 10 power plays - and that is saying something as each were facing one of the best power play units in the league. The only goal came late when the game was already decided.
1-Niklas Kronwall - The young, Swedish version of Vlad Konstantinov did what Georges Laraque could not: physically intimidate. Laraque had a big shift early that ended in a scrum before he disappeared completely. Kronwall had at least three huge hits and was a wall all 24 minutes he was on the ice.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Losing Friends Sucks

On the eve of the Stanley Cup Finals I have again been reminded as to how little it all matters.

I lost another friend today to cancer. Thomas was a guy that I talked hockey and illness with online for most of the last decade. A happy-go-lucky Tampa Bay Lightning fan, he always took things well - whether it be his sickness or the sick way the Bolts played. He fought several forms of cancer with chemo, radiation and surgery and made light of it, saying that 'at least it wasn't AIDS." Thomas had actually pitched the idea of heading over to Prague (in the comments) to root for our respective teams and I was looking forward to at the least grabbing beers with him in the Czech Republic.

He tried blogging but was too ill to keep updating it. As you can see from his MySpace page and another friend's tribute, he is already missed by a lot of people.

My sincerest condolences go out to his girlfriend and his family. As I had once been told, it is better to celebrate the life that was lived, rather than to mourn its passing. Tom, Thom*ASS*, idiot Tampa fan, Thomas Sutra ... RIP.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wow, What A Commercial

It has been easy to jump on all of the inadequacies of the NHL's marketing in recent years. From the NHL store to the broadcasts to the scheduling to the logo change, the league has made many mistakes and has done quite a poor job. But I have to bow down and say that I have been utterly blown away. Puck Daddy over at Yahoo! posted it last week but I just saw it - the NHL's new playoff commercial:

The concept follows the league's commercial earlier this year that followed a play around the rink with players from different eras playing in the different shot changes. It is simply a brilliant idea and all credit is due to the league for coming up with it. Hopefully they plaster it on every sports channel during every sporting event over the next week - not just Versus and NBC during the game.

Digging Through The Archives

I am a pack rat. It's crazy the things I've saved. But, while looking for something tonight I found some of my old articles from back in high school that I don't even recall writing. My guess is that I wrote them for the school paper but don't even remember being published. So, as I keep searching for fun-yet-interesting filler, I figured I would throw an unedited piece up here). I hope you enjoy it; I know I got a laugh. There are a few other treasures, but I will save them for now. This was written back on September 26th, 1994:

As the new school year begins, so does a new hockey season - didn't one just end? The 1993-94 NHL hockey season ended gloriously with the New York Rangers ending their 54 year curse by winning the highest team honor in hockey - the Stanley Cup. For 54 years the Rangers futilely struggled to win the cup coming up short every time. During all that time, a world war has come and passed, man has went to the moon, and the New York Islanders ( who started over thirty years later than the Rangers 1940 cup win ) has won the cup 4 consecutive times. Now, for the first time in a very, very long time, we are wondering if the Broadway Blues can repeat.

With many of their players getting old or injured and their coach gone, chances do not look to good. Colin Campbell, the replacement for the traitorous Keenan - who went to St. Louis to try to win with a talented Blues team ( never thought you'd hear those two words together huh? ), is said to be a more players coach than Keenan. Campbell has never coached in the NHL before and now he gets a shot with the returning champs. On the island, the other New York team is looking to rebound from an embarrassing showing against the Rangers in the first round ( if anybody hasn't heard, the Isles were swept 4 games to none and were shutout twice by the Rangers ).

This year the Isles gave up their experienced netminder, Ron Hextall, in favor of Swedish goalie Tommy Soderstrom. With Soderstrom, the Isles have the goaltenders of both of the last two Swedish Olympic teams ( they drafted Tommy Salo, this years Olympic netminder, in the first round of the amateur draft ). It looks like the Isles have young defence, young goaltending, and a one line offence made up of Benoit Hogue, Pierre Turgeon, and Steve Thomas. The Isles look like they will have little chance this year to make the playoffs with the Philly Flyers and the Florida Panthers rebuilding and improving over the off-season.

As a Ranger fan myself, I sincerely hope that the Rangers repeat and the Isles fall flat on their collective faces. This year I can proudly walk around the school with my Rangers jersey and laugh in the faces of the Islander fans. Our school, although it may be located on Long Island seems to be predominately behind the Rangers, with all of the former Ranger fans and the Islander fans converting. Now there can be no more chants of 1940 and may the Rangers go on to win 3 more so the Islander fans have NOTHING to be proud of! 54 no more! Go Rangers!
Well, the Rangers didn't. We are still waiting for the follow up but there is always next year ... right?!?!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Messiah Delivers Again

As most of you know, I am a sucker for the nice, heart-warming hockey stories. I feel that we pay hockey players (through our tickets, gear, etc.) to entertain us on the ice. That they give back to the community in any way is just icing on the cake. But it certainly does help endear the players to the fans: Adam Graves wasn't one of the the best hockey players, just one of the best human beings and that's why we love him in New York. Well, his old captain Mark Messier did a good thing himself last weekend. Thanks to the CBC's Bring Home the Stanley Cup contest Messier brought the Cup to Adam Bourque, a young man with a disability in PEI (click on the link for the guy's winning entry - it really is quite touching). While I am sure he was compensated for his participation, Mess certainly didn't need the money. He went so far as to tell the Canadian Press that “it’s an incredible experience for me. That’s what the Stanley Cup is really all about, when you see the number of people it touches.”

And it sounds like Mess showed how much he cared by making sure Adam had a good time. Of course, while they played a game of street hockey, Mess had to score a goal on the kid but if he wasn't so competitive, he wouldn't be Mark Messier.

It's a great story on the eve of the Stanley Cup Finals and yet more proof that hockey players are the classiest of all athletes. I love this sport.

Stanley Cup Preview: New York vs. Detroit

You know, denial isn't a river in Egypt: it is the state of being that I am in faced with the thought of the Penguins getting a chance at Stanley's chalice. So, in upholding the dictum that ignorance is bliss, I will happily pretend that the Rangers never lost to Cindy's squad, then went on to beat the Flyers to make the Finals. So, while still a delusion, here is the Scotty Hockey Stanley Cup Finals Preview of the upcoming series between the Rangers and the Red Wings:

New York faced Detroit with Stanley on the line twice and lost both times. Joe Pelletier has the best hockey history site on the web and summed up both series: 1937 and 1950. The first time they did it without their starting goaltender and the second they were without that Gordie Howe guy (great clip of the end here). Terrible. Here is to hoping that the third time is the charm for the Blueshirts ...

Both Tom Renney and Mike Babcock have WHL roots, but Babcock has been close to the top of the mountain before as the coach of the Mighty Ducks, losing the '02 Cup Finals to the Devils in seven games. And this time he is bringing the best team in the league to the final. While he is a candidate for the Jack Adams Trophy, he did helm the best ship in the fleet so more credit should go to Renney for bringing the Rangers this far up the river.

Henrik Lundqvist is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the league and has already won several international titles. Chris Osgood is a likely Hall of Fame goaltender with a fantastic history that includes two Cup rings (along with a horrid stint as an Islander). The two put up comparable stats: Hank had a 2.23 GAA and a .912 save percentage over 72 regular season games, Ozzie got 2.09 and .914 in 43. Because of the workload differences and NHL playoff experience, the edge has to go to Osgood but it is quite close.

The one thing that tilts the table back towards Hank is that he did it behind a vastly inferior defense. There is simply no comparing the Detroit corps and the Rangers. No one wearing blue comes close to matching Nick Lidstrom or Brian Rafalski. Rozy has been our number one but he would be at least third on the depth chart for them. Tyutin comes close to Brad Stuart, Marc Staal and Nick Kronwall are about even in potential, Andreas Lilja makes about the same amount of mistakes as Christian Backman. Dan Girardi edges Brent Lebda or Kyle Quincey but hasn't been as good as he was earlier in the year, leveling the playing field.

Brendan Shanahan is facing the 'kids' who kept him young the last few years in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Unfortunately they aren't kids anymore and have turned into two of the best forwards in the league. Jagr has been dominant these playoffs, but will have to face the reunited Grind Line of Darren McCarty, Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper. This year's John Druce, Johan Franzen, has been out with concussion-like symptoms so here is to hoping he can't return. Lauri Korpikoski's rise to prominence in the end of the Pens series - along with Dawes and Cally - gives the Rangers a stable of young wingers to match up with Valtteri Flippula, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson. While Chris Drury has been willing to play in traffic (and paid the price for it), he doesn't match Tomas Holmstrom's acumen in the paint. The Rangers have to hope that Brandon Dubinsky's cinderella season continues and that Scotty Gomez skates the way he did against the Devils if they have any hope of breaking through the Wings defense.

Well, even in the land of make believe, the Rangers' season ends in heartbreak as they just can't match up to the Winged Wheel's powerhouse of a team. Let's just hope and pray that Detroit's dominance carries over to the real world so they can bring Stanley's silver back to the Motor City. The thought of Cindy raising it gives me nightmares ...

Make sure you check back here during the real Finals for coverage. I busted out my Joey Kocur jersey and am ready to watch the Wings put the Pens in their place!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dosvidanya Barbarian

Amazingly, this news flew under the radar this weekend:
(Chris) Simon, who finished 2007-08 with the Wild, has reportedly inked up with struggling Vityaz Chekhov, a team guided by GM Alexei Zhamnov (who played one season with Simon in the NHL with Chicago in 2002-03).
The team features NHL cast-offs Alexander Korolyuk and Igor Radulov as well as former Ranger mistake Boris Mironov and Islander luminary Oleg "Kill Yourself" Kvasha. Simon the Barbarian will be joining former minor league goons Nathan Perrott and Darcy Verot (511 PIM in 43 games last year for Vityaz!!!) in lowering the class of the Russian side even further. But, from what I can see here, he will fit right in!!

Ya vas nenavìzhu Simon. Dosvidanya.

Scotty Hockey Power Company

Of all of the major flaws with the Rangers, the biggest one that hurt them over the course of the season - outside of consistency - was the power play. Despite having weapons that would have impressed Patton (the general, not the singer), it scored at a meager 16.5% pace: good for 22nd in the league. That number - believe it or not - actually went up in the playoffs, to a whopping 16.7%. Wow, right?

Those numbers simply are not good enough.

Now how about 21.4%? That's better and was the regular season power play for the Hartford Wolf Pack. (Unfortunately, that number also is attached to 8.3%, the pitiful playoff success rate of the special team for the AHL squad, but we will ignore that). Now how does the Pack's success translate to the Rangers and next season?

I'll be honest: I saw the Pack play just twice this year on tv. Very disappointing but Hartford is a long ways away from me and MetroNorth doesn't go there so I can't say that they did right and what they did wrong. I know they loaded the special team with skill guys like P.A. Paranteau and Andrew Hutchinson who could deftly move the puck and were willing and able to shoot. They also had no problem with putting Dane Byers and Huge Bust, I mean Hugh Jessiman, out there to work the paint.

Tom Renney and company were quick to talk about not rushing prospects and how letting them spend time in the minors would allow them to learn the Rangers system. So how in the world did the prospects learn and execute the system better than the Blueshirts? Just what was wrong on Broadway, and how can it be fixed? Let's take a look:

*Assistant coach Perry Pearn stood up at a Ranger Season Ticket Subscriber forum and admitted that he was the coach responsible for the power play. Whether he wrote up the plan that didn't work or couldn't get the players to buy into it, he should be held accountable. Hopefully Florida will take him, because you can be pretty damn sure he won't be canned in Dolan's 'what are you talking about? Isiah was the man!' organization. So if/when he goes, the team should try someone new. I don't think that Ken Gernander is the fix (although he is a personal favourite of mine) so start combing the desert to find fresh ideas. Renney loves the WHL so why not give Spokane's Bill Peters or Tri-City's Don Nachbaur (the WHL coach of the year) a try?

*The power play essentially kneeled before Jaromir Jagr. As he lost a step and some zing off of his wrister, the predictable plan of attack was easily read and stopped. Allowing him to control the power play buried on the boards limited the amount of ice the power play could use. If he comes back (and it looks like he will), you fix it by ignoring the C on his jersey and forgetting his reputation; use him as you would any other winger.

*Get a power play quarterback. Rozy sure as hell wasn't it. Neither was Marty Straka (more on him in a bit). Get a bonafide puck mover/big gun to run the special team from the point. In theory you have a ton of room to work with from the blue line in so the team needs to stop getting itself caught in the corner trying to force passes and shots through defenders who know what is coming. Now Bobby Sanguinetti may hold that role in the future but someone has to step in for next year. Give Hutch a try; if you don't trust his defensive acumen, then put him on the third pairing. Mighty midgets Tobias Enstrom and Corey Murphy both did solid point work in Atlanta and Florida respectively and they can't play a lick of defense.

*Don't let the defenders know what is coming. The Rangers power play rarely cycled and - as I and everyone else mentioned - was exceedingly, stupefyingly, shockingly predictable. Turn on the playoffs; Philly (RIP), Detroit and Pittsburgh were 2, 3 and 4 in the league on the power play respectively and they don't stand still for minutes at a time.

*Put hungry players out there. For all of their many good qualities, Straka and Brendan Shanahan did not play hungry. Straka was the first to defer to Jagr and Shanny too often looked like late-career Brett Hull out there: 'Hey, I can shoot, pass me the puck. I can't stickhandle around many people anymore so I won't try. I'm old and slow so I won't really move to much. But pass me the puck! I can shoot!' Petr Prucha had 16 power play goals his rookie year and saw virtually no time on the power play this season. When he did, he was on the far side from Jagr and few passes made it through the crowd in front across to him. That has to change for next year if he is still going to be on the squad. The kid is a Timex, he "Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking" (did you know they dropped that tag line?!? stupid company), and he has to serve some purpose if he is to hold a roster spot.

Of course, many of these things were said over the course of the year but, after watching the Rangers go one for 18 in their four losses to the Pens, its blatantly apparent to even the blind (Sather) that some change has to be made. Because, let's face it, if the power play was more successful we would be preparing for the Cup Finals right now instead of watching Cindy's squad get a chance at Stanley ...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oops and What Next?

Sorry to anyone who may have wanted to leave a comment on the last post. I must have accidentally turned it off. It's back on so leave some input!

While you are at it, feel free to drop me an e-mail as to what you want to see at this very blog this summer. I am considering a gimmick or two to fill in for those long summer days but nothing is certain.

I also will put something together and cover the Stanley Cup Final. I absolutely loathe the Pens right about now so be ready for some Detroit love. Even if there wasn't a dislike for Cindy's squad, as a Ranger fan, I would feel obligated to cheer for the other Original 6 squad - should they make it past the Stars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

As I continue to mourn the season lost and begin to look forward to our next quest for the Cup, let's take a look at the free agents. Much has already been spoken/written of as to which of the guys the Rangers should re-sign. The Ranger Pundit did a great job of breaking down what fans think and what he thinks will happen.

So I won't tread over well-worn ground. Instead, I will try to take a spin in the impending free agents' skates and look at the pros and cons of keeping a New York address:

Sean Avery, UFA: New York loves him and he loves New York. But he won't stand for being disrespected by someone who dresses as poorly (to him) as Glen Sather. Low ball him, call him names and he is gone to become one of the worst enemies the Rangers have had since Denis Potvin.

Ivan Baranka, RFA: Baranka appears to be halfway out the door, having just signed with Spartak. The details aren't out yet, but as someone on HFBoards pointed out, he may have the typical clause in the deal that would allow him to skip out on the deal if he makes the Rangers through training camp. He is smart because its put-up-or-shut-up time for the Blueshirts - he didn't leave his family and come over from Russia to play in Hartford.

Nigel Dawes, RFA: Tom Renney is like a dad, of course Dawes would sign. Renney placed his faith in him, taught him some hard lessons and gave him a chance to play in the NHL. Why leave?

Andrew Hutchinson, UFA: Well, the Rangers are pretty much screwed because Hutch wants a raise, and not just to the NHL. Two million dollar one-way deal or he walks, at the least. Averaging a point per game while leading a young Hartford team to the playoffs as a puck-moving defenseman and everyone wants puck-moving defensemen who can rack up points. And he has seen what it takes to win the Cup too so that experience has to count for something. If the Rangers don't want to pay, someone will ...

Jaromir Jagr, UFA: Of course, Jagr is the hardest to pin down. His thought process is as enigmatic as his passion was on the ice during the regular season. He really has nothing left to prove in the NHL - well, except for the ability to win without Mario, but in the end people just see the rings on his fingers, not the teammates he once had. Jagr can stay to do what he set out to do (bring Stanley to Broadway) and will have to suffer the indignity of taking a pay cut, or go back to Siberia where the money is tax free and there is zero pressure. No boo birds jumping on him. No Hal Gill jumping on him. Just peace in the east ...

Darius Kasparaitis, UFA: Kasper wants to be re-signed by the Rangers. Why wouldn't he? They paid him not to play. They paid him to go away. Fill the bank account and still get a small shot at returning to the NHL? He's not stupid ...

Marek Malik, UFA: Despite what many fans say, Malik isn't dumb either. He will go, grudgingly. He liked playing with Jagr and seemed to like having his kids in Westchester but playing beneath a rain cloud of boos just isn't fun.

Paul Mara, UFA: Hey man, whatever. Mara liked Boston, but he liked New York too. Whoever will give him the money he feels he deserves can have him. If its here, if its there, wherever ... there are few teams as All American as the Rangers and Mara is an American guy but maybe he could get more minutes somewhere else and everyone wants more icetime ...

Greg Moore, RFA: The Rangers have opened the door for him to the NHL a few times but it doesn't look like there is an assured future on Broadway. If one door opened, there will be others and six games in the big league just aren't enough.

Pierre Parenteau, RFA: P.A. had a good offensive season and yet the phone never rang when injuries hit the big boys. Is that a sign? The Ducks wanted him, the Hawks wanted him, then the Rangers wanted him. At this point, whoever will give him the best chance to skate in the NHL should be good for him.

Michal Rozsival, UFA: Rozy looked absolutely awful against the Penguins so the Rangers won't necessarily be willing to offer him the money he wants - at least initially. If Jagr is gone and they won't pay, why stay?

Brendan Shanahan, UFA: Much like with Avery, Shanny loves NY and NY loves Shanny but is there enough left in the tank to give it another go? The wear and tear will be lessened with fourth line and power play time, but 82 games is 82 games and you can't forget the trip to Europe to start the season ... as with Jagr, what is there left to prove?

Fredrik Sjostrom, RFA: A chance to play more with Henke?? Where can Freddie sign?

Martin Straka, UFA: The broken finger hurt but the lack of production hurt more. If Jagr stays, sure, why not, New York has been good to Straka. But if Jagr goes, it may be nice play less games in the Czech league while bringing the kids back home.

Jason Strudwick, UFA: Struds is a good soldier and getting on in years. There likely won't be many NHL suitors so if the Rangers want him back - even in the same limited role - so be it as long as they keep him on track for that coaching position.

Stephen Valiquette, UFA: Hmmm, there are basically 60 goaltending jobs in the NHL and one of the premier franchises wants to give him one of their two? Hell yes. There is little chance to get more playing time elsewhere, and playing behind Hank has been a pleasure.

But, all that being said, I am not a psychic and - let's face it - the team hasn't given fans that good of a look at the personalities of the players outside of what's on the ice - aside from the occasional "concert." So this may be all for naught but we will see, July 1st is just 48 days away!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Personal Shopping For Sather

Now, I am not that big on math. Sure, I've speculated with some numbers before, but if I wanted to become an accountant (and make my parents happy), I would have. But I didn't. So I won't start throwing around numbers to figure out what the Rangers have now, may have on July 1st or will have left come the start of next season.

Sorry (to you too, mom and dad).

Instead, I went through the NHL Numbers' list of free agents and grabbed some names that Glen Sather should go after and some he probably shouldn't. He did alright last summer but I wasn't blogging before July 1st back then (I started on the 5th) so I couldn't help out. Let me preface the list by who I automatically eliminated: any Islander, any Devil, any center and any restricted free agent. The first two are self explanatory so I will just explain the second pair. The Blueshirts have an unexpected bounty of depth signed down the middle in Dubi, Gomez, Drury, Bettsy, Anisimov and more. As for RFAs, simply said, they aren't worth it. They demand big contracts and draft picks going the other way. The recent track record of the scouting staff deserves respect and giving away picks is simply not the way to go, we have a good, young organization and these guys will further help provide support and keep the team playoff-worthy. So, without further ado, let's get started:

Give these guys a tour:
Joe DiPenta, Anaheim - made $700K - DiPenta is a depth defenseman who was lost in the shuffle in Anaheim. He makes smart, simple plays and has a Stanley Cup ring.
Johan Hedberg, Atlanta - made $1.150 mil - Moooooose is a fan favourite goaltender who can start if need be. Being a veteran and Swedish could help with Hank but he should only be looked at if Vally decides not to re-sign.
Teppo Numminen, Buffalo - made $2.6 mil - The Finnish vet came back from heart surgery late last season and might not be able to quit the game. The former Winnipeg Jet has been around forever and for good reason - he knows how to play defense (something lacking from the Blueshirts blueline). His steady presence could only help a young team and he should have little ties to Buffalo as they tried to screw him out of paying his salary while he recovered from the surgery.
Jason Williams, Chicago - made $1.6 mil - Williams is another guy coming off of injury. He seems prone to groin pulls and hernias, but if he is healthy, he certainly can chip in some points (he scored 36 in 43 games last season).
Ron Hainsey, Columbus - made $900K - Hainsey will certainly be looking for a raise after back-to-back 30 point seasons as a defenseman on Columbus but who knows how good he really is? He played in Columbus. He may be worth the money.
Andrew Brunette, Colorado - made $1.6 mil - Should Shanny call it a career, then Brunette would slip into the same role pretty damn well. One of the most underrated players over the last 10 years, he is slow of foot but with some of the fastest hands in the league and should come pretty cheap.
Kurt Sauer, Colorado - made $719K - Sauer will likely command a lot of interest this summer, and for good cause. He is a young, steady blueliner who has been to the Cup final before (with Anaheim when they lost in '03) and has good cause to come to the Rangers - we already have his younger brother, Michael.
Mattias Norstrom, Dallas - made $4.25 mil - On March 14, 1996 Norstrom was traded with Nathan LaFayette, Ian Laperriere, Ray Ferraro and a draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings for Marty McSorley, Jari Kurri and Shane Churla in one of the worse trades in Rangers history. If he is willing to take a pay cut by, say, a mill, then we absolutely have to grab him to solidify the defense.
Todd Fedoruk, Minnesota - made $875K - I know, I know, Colton Orr almost killed this guy. However, in Minnesota he proved he could be more than just a goon. He went to the net hard and was willing to pay the price to set up in the paint on the power play. We really, really need someone like that.
Brian Rolston, Minnesota - made $2.45 mil - See what I wrote about Brunette and add even more production. I really don't think Minnesota will let him go but he would be well worth the attempt.
Mark Streit, Montreal - made $600K - The Swiss defenseman will command a big raise as he can produce from the blueline. The new NHL kinda demands players like that and he will be much cheaper than Brian Campbell.
Mike Commodore, Ottawa - made $1.3 mil - Commodore is big, solid and willing to do anything for the team. He has a Cup and a helluva playoff beard.
Vinny Prospal, Philly - made $1.9 mil - Vaclav is certainly in for a raise but should prove to be worth every penny. He is one of the few power wingers with great hands and really could compliment Gomez.
Jason Smith, Philly - made $1.9 mil - A true warrior, Smith's heart and grit makes up for his lack of speed.
Ryan Malone, Pittsburgh - made $1.45 mil - If you watched our series against the Pens, I don't even have to explain this one. Malone is 6'4, 225, 28 years old and hasn't even hit his prime yet.
Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh - made $1 mil - There is a lot of informed people out there that say that Orpik is just waiting for the playoffs to end to pull on a Ranger sweater. He is big, he is young and he is tough. He would be a great compliment for Marc Staal.
Mats Sundin, Toronto - made $5.5 mil - If Jagr does leave New York, Sundin should be the team's biggest free agent target. The big Swede never never gives up and stood strong despite playing on the horror show that was the Maple Leafs. He is intense and capable and won gold with Hank.
Matt Cooke, Washington - made $1.5 mil - Washington would be stupid to let Cooke go and we would be stupid not to try to get him, especially if Sather does something stupid like let Sean Avery go.

Don't let these guys in the door:
Kristian Huselius, Calgary - There is a reason Mike Keenan essentially ran him out of town. Huselius can seemingly score at will when he wants but has no heart or dedication and utterly disappeared when the Flames needed him most.
John-Michael Liles, Colorado - Like Hainsey, Liles will garner a lot of attention. Unlike Hainsey, Liles isn't worth it. While the Jacket has persevered despite having little support, Liles has played behind some superstars and has never taken it to the next level. He was also virtually useless during the Aves series against Minnesota when the Wild used their big forwards to go hard at him.
Antti Miettinen/Niklas Hagman, Dallas - The Scandic Stars are both serviceable young forwards but let's face it, we already have better versions of them in the organization.
Andreas Lilja/Brad Stuart, Detroit - Lilja makes huge mistakes and Stuart pretty much failed when he played in the East with the Bruins a few years back. Both will want more money than they are worth.
Rob Blake, LA - Blake is far past his prime and likely won't leave Jack Johnson and sunny SoCal so save the effort.
Ladislav Nagy, LA - One of the biggest wastes of talent in the NHL. Nagy goes on incredible scoring runs before utterly disappearing or getting himself injured. Not worth the aggravation.
Pavol Demitra, Minnesota - Demitra would be a fool to leave Marian Gaborik as his fellow countryman rejuvenated his career. When he played without him, Demitra would get hurt left and right and never made the leap to stardom despite clearly having the skills.
Michael Ryder, Montreal - As far as I know, Hab fans hate Ryder. And as they pretty much know their stuff, I will follow suit. He has been enigmatic as a scorer and a negative player three years running thanks to his inability to see his own side of the ice.
Wade Redden, Ottawa - Redden is great and would provide the Rangers with an actual Number One defenseman. But at what cost? Let's not turn into Tampa Bay and become too top-heavy.
Marian Hossa, Pittsburgh - I don't care what people are saying about Hossa's play this postseason. He will want too much money and the return will not be worth it. Sure he puts up points, but there is more to the game than that and who knows how he would fit in.
Brian Campbell, San Jose - See Redden, except he is softer.
Markus Naslund, Vancouver - Naslund was a helluva player. The key word there is 'was.' As a fantasy player I intently saw him slip further and further away from being the dominant scorer he once was.

And after all of this typing, all of this research, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Sather re-sign all of the Rangers' free agents (even Malik, if only to make us fans look stupid). July 1st is a long ways away so I guess we will just have to sit back, wait and see.

Man does that suck ...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Advertising, Advertising, Advertising

As many of you may have seen, the Sports-Reference folks have gone live with their hockey site to rival the long-standard Hockeydb. It was a good move by them as Hockeydb, while reliable, added annoying pop-up advertising while their site will not. Instead, Hockey-Reference has page sponsorships. Venerable hockey blogger James Mirtle alerted everyone with a post and set off a feeding frenzy. And, of course, I had to get in on it myself.

Scotty Hockey is now the proud sponsor of three pages for a year: one of my all-time favourite players in Joey Kocur, Marek Malik (self explanatory there) and Brandon Dubinsky. I grabbed Dubi as he is truly a rising star for the Blueshirts. Of course, I also did it at five a.m. or so. And thus, the best tag line I could come up with was "May 2007-08 be the first of many solid seasons as a Blueshirts centerman for Brandon ..."

So here is where you guys come in. Much like with what (that bastard who stole Sean Avery) Greg over at Yahoo! (j/k Greg) is doing for Chris Pronger, I would like you to put your ideas in the comments and I will replace mine with the best of the bunch. So get to it!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rangers Report Card

As promised, here are my season-ending grades for the Blueshirts. As you can see by the card, I gave the team a B-. Unlike many people, I do not judge them on a pass/fail because if you do, then 29 teams flunk every year and that just sucks. As The Dark Ranger said, the Rangers were overrated by most everyone (not me, I was just way off on Tampa and Toronto). Yes, the Rangers lost in the conference semis again, yes they had to go on a great run to get into the playoffs. But the roster had some significant changes and the team played some real good hockey at times. Compared to what they could/should be (an A+), I think a B- is a fair grade.

Now, just as with the team itself, the individual players received grades that do not compare them to the rest of the league, but to how they performed in the roles they were given on the Rangers. Inferno, over at Rangers Review, did his own report card based on the team's playoff performance. Mine is based on the entire year's play and I included everyone who saw action in at least one game, even if they were dealt away or spent most of the year in Hartford. I will not do the coaching staff or GM here, as I am still a tad outraged so I would not be fair and would give them all F's. And one last thing before I get to the grades themselves, the New York Times put up the Lamentations of the Vanquished and has my answers for the Rangers. Now here is the rest of my report card:

Sean Avery - A- Yes he disappeared against the Pens before he got hurt, and he was hurt for a few stretches during the regular season, but Avery was Avery and his unmatched passion for the jersey was appreciated.
Blair Betts - B B for Bettsy. He did his job to the best of his ability, and you can't ask for much more. Well, yes, yes you can. He showed the smarts to get into good positions and lightning fast speed but an utter inability to shoot at anything besides the logo on the opposing goaltender's chest.
Dane Byers - INC Byers got five minutes worth of ice time in one game this year (Feb. 2nd vs, LA). He should get a chance to supplant Hollweg in the tough bruiser energy line slot in the fall.
Ryan Callahan - A- Cally could/should have scored a few more goals but other than that, his hard work and dedicationwas heavily appreciated.
Nigel Dawes - B He worked his way into the Rangers lineup and made Mmmmaaaarrrtttyyy look like crap, but he had a eight game scoreless streak in the playoffs and for a scoring line wing, that's just too long.
Chris Drury - B I love to rave about how great he was on the penalty kill, in the faceoff circle and everywhere else, but the fact is that he made a lot of money to do well in the playoffs and he didn't.
Brandon Dubinsky - A Anyone else notice that he was a rookie? I didn't think so. First year first line center, who could ask for anything more?
Scott Gomez - B Gomer was the second-highest point scorer on the team and a dominant force against the Devils in the first round, but couldn't carry that over to the Pens' series. As I pointed out after the Game 3 debacle, "Seeing Scott Gomez grin while being interviewed in the post game interviews is making me sick." He claims to love New York and going forward will need to show he cares; smiling after bad losses just doesn't do it - I'm not saying he has to throw water bottles, but at least be visibly upset that you and your team played woefully.
Ryan Hollweg - C- As I have written, I don't attribute the demise of the Rangers to his bad penalty in Game 3. But it wasn't his first bad penalty of the year. I didn't give him a D or an F because he was one of the few Rangers to give full effort every moment of every shift he took.
Marcel Hossa - F He never recaptured the lightning that he showed over six games late last season and the ties were thankfully cut with him at the trade deadline.
Jaromir Jagr - B- So passionless for so long and then he flipped a switch and came alive in the playoffs. That being said, he still led the team in scoring but, had he played the entire season, then he could have scored over a 100 points again.
Lauri Korpikoski - INC Thrust into the fire, he scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. The spark that he added to that game was tremendous, seeing as the veterans didn't do the same. I look forward to seeing more of him.
Greg Moore - D I wanted to give him an incomplete, but he played in six games and wasn't able to force Renney to make a tough decision and keep him (as Dawes did).
Colton Orr - C He didn't fare too well when battling true heavyweights and never stopped other teams from running at the 'stars', but he made up for the losses by doing some solid checking work.
Petr Prucha - C Renney didn't really put him in the positions where he could be successful and Pru couldn't make anything happen on his own. That being said, he takes hits like a champ and never gives up on plays.
Brendan Shanahan - B In the many dark times during the regular season when the captain was anything but, Shanny stepped up and became the face of the team. But at the same time, his production slipped for the second straight year and he was practically invisible when the team needed him most.
Fredrik Sjostrom - B Shoey (we need to get this guy a real nickname) did solid fourth line work after coming over at the deadline. He showed signs of being able to do more and next year will hopefully begin to fulfill that potential.
Martin Straka - C He had the Scotty Hockey Play of the Year with his shift against Boston where he broke his finger and stayed on the ice. He also got a ton of minutes, many of them on the power play, and put up just 14 regular season goals. It was amazing to see a veteran of his stature have such little confidence in his own skills.

Christian Backman - D He scored some points, which keeps him from getting an F. His utter incompetence in the Rangers' zone led to bad penalties, missed coverages, goals against ...
Ivan Baranka - INC Baranka played just one game back in November and saw nearly 13 minutes of ice time. He collected an assist (on Colton Orr's only goal of the year) and acquitted himself pretty well but couldn't push himself up the depth chart to get recalled again.
Dan Girardi - B- A solid sophomore season was marred by the untimely playoff slump but all in all, he showed good signs for the future.
Marek Malik - F Do I even have to explain this one?
Paul Mara - C Mara had a few tremendous moments amid a season filled with mediocrity. For a man making three million dollars for playing on the third line, he will not be missed.
Thomas Pock - F He played in just one game, going -2 against Atlanta in October. While other players with little action got incompletes, Pock fails because he was never able to earn the position in the Blueshirts lineup that he once held.
Michal Rozsival - C How can I give the team's number one defenseman a C? Because, despite munching up minutes, he didn't excel as a number one defenseman should. He never committed to either offense or defense and it hurt him all over the ice.
Marc Staal - A The Professional Hockey Writers are perpetually engrossed with numbers and that is a shame, otherwise Staal would have gotten Calder consideration as rookie of the year. Bang up work.
Jason Strudwick - B Strudwick did everything that was asked of him to the best of his ability, you can't ask for anything more.
Fedor Tyutin - B I gave his partner a B- but both were pretty bad in the postseason. Tyutin gets the better grade because he made a few less mistakes and made a few bigger hits.

Henrik Lundqvist - B+ The Swede is up for the Vezina for best goaltender in the league and I only gave him a B+. And you know what? That is all he deserved. He had a few horrid stretches during the regular season and was not the goaltender the Rangers needed in the playoffs.
Stephen Valiquette - B I just rewatched one of the Flyer games from this year and Valley was pretty damn good. He sat on the bench for long stretches then played well enough to get his team the win - exactly what you want from a backup. I wouldn't mind seeing him re-signed.

What do you think? Did I grade on a curve? Was I like the kind second grade teacher who gave everyone feel-good grades or the nazi-esque third grade teacher who gave you your first dose of reality?