Wednesday, September 30, 2009

As Expected ...

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent defenseman Alexei Semenov.

Semenov, 28, skated in 47 games with San Jose last season, registering one goal and eight points, along with 57 penalty minutes. He established career-highs in games played, assists (seven) and points. In addition, Semenov skated in his 200th career NHL game on March 7 at Vancouver.

The 6-6, 245-pounder has skated in 211 career regular season contests with the Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks, recording seven goals and 26 assists for 33 points, along with 249 penalty minutes. In 2003-04, Semenov represented Edmonton at the NHL All-Star Weekend as a participant in the NHL YoungStars Game, registering one assist in the contest. As a rookie in 2002-03, Semenov notched his first NHL assist on January 20 at Calgary and tallied his first NHL goal on February 7 against Calgary.

Prior to joining the professional ranks, Semenov skated in 158 career OHL contests over three seasons with the Sudbury Wolves, registering 30 goals and 80 assists for 110 points, along with 269 penalty minutes. He captured the Max Kaminsky Trophy, as the most outstanding defenseman as voted by the OHL general managers, following the 2000-01 season.

The Murmansk, Russia native was originally Edmonton’s second round choice, 36th overall, in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
Wow, Glen Sather signing a Glen Sather draft pick. What a surprise. Semenov has showed some skills during the preseason but has also shown just how bad he can be. He will be fine for a seventh defenseman but I have a bad feeling that he will become Igor Ulanov and end up as a hated part of the regular rotation. At least he comes cheaper than Ulanov did; Gross says one year, just over 500k. Still, he isn't a defenseman opposing coaches have to plan against ...

Scotty Nostradamus '09-10

Just like last season, I am going to shake the magic sno-globe and see where everything lands. It is kind of ridiculous - let's face it meteorologists have science on their side and they stink at predicting the future. But we all like to play prognosticator so I will step into the role again. Granted, many of my predictions last season were wrong, but what the hell?

Eastern Conference
1. * Washington - Ovie, Backstrom, healthy Semin, healthy Green, Mike Knuble ... even Poti can't pull them down.
2. * Boston - Even without Kessel they can score and Timmy T and Mount Zdeno make sure other teams don't.
3. * Philadelphia - Pronger's elbows help make up for Emery's woes.
4. Pittsburgh - No Scuderi hurts more than expected but Cindy, Gina and the Flower are still around.
5. Carolina - Staal bounces back and hits 100, while the Wizard Whitney continues his mightily unappreciated wizardry.
6. New Jersey - Mmmmmmaaaaaarrrrrtttttyyyyy. Mmmmmmaaaaaarrrrrtttttyyyyy.
7. Buffalo - Population of Pominville surges back to norm while Miller makes his case for Olympic starter.
8. Toronto - Strong defense gives the Monster some confidence and Kessel comes out strong ... in December.
9. NY Rangers - Tortorella's tough talk can only go so far with a flawed superstar and a overburdened goaltender.
10. Montreal - MexiCan't can't make up for Steve Penney Carey Price and Cammalleri is no Kovalev.
11. Tampa Bay - Healthy Mike Smith with an improved defense helps Vinny04 find his game again.
12. Atlanta - Offense will have more punch but no XLB and weak goaltending spells doom.
13. Florida - Loss of Bouwmeester and Anderson hurts. A lot.
14. Ottawa - No Heatley, injury-prone goaltending and Jarkko Ruutu aren't a recipe for success.
15. NY Islanders - Too many kids, too terrible a defense but I have a bad feeling that they will be damned good in the near future. And that's one helluva bad feeling.
* = Division Leader

Western Conference
1. * Detroit - They're the Red Wings, 'nuff said.
2. * San Jose - Regular season stars yet again.
3. * Calgary - Top three D can't be beat as Sutters star in home province.
4. Dallas - Healthy captain Morrow doesn't let Turco slide, proves that the Avery distraction was indeed the reason they sucked.
5. Vancouver - Improved defense helps Lou chase Stanley silver along with Olympic gold.
6. Chicago - Twenty-Cent leads charge in last season before cap woes kill dream.
7. Anaheim - No Pronger, no problem as Hiller is no Swiss cheese.
8. St. Louis - Prepare to get Oshied as JD's brats come up big again.
9. Columbus - Even Hitch can't stop Mason from pulling a Price.
10. Los Angeles - The kids are alright. Not good, not bad, alright.
11. Nashville - No Radulov, no goals. No Zanon, no blocked shots.
12. Phoenix - Off ice turmoil too much, even for Captain Canada Shane Doan.
13. Minnesota - Lemaire was there for a reason. Can't attack without any offense.
14. Edmonton - Two coaches not better than one, especially if twitchy Bulin Wall crumbles.
15. Colorado - Everything will be downhill after the Sakic ceremony.
* = Division Leader

I won't do individual awards but here are 10 other shots in the dark:

*The NHL will have more than three 100 point scorers. And Zach Parise will be one of them.
*Bobby Ryan will score 45 goals.
*Jeff Carter will not.
*The Olympics will cost the Detroit Red Wings the Stanley Cup.
*Mats Sundin will return to the NHL, and will play for the Rangers.
*Mmmmaaarrrtttyyy Brodeur will get injured again.
*Los Angeles will trade for a goaltender at the deadline, thinking they can run for the playoffs.
*Jacques Martin won't last the season in Montreal.
*Versus and Direct TV won't come to terms, screwing hockey fans yet again.
*I will finally make it to Philly for a game and will escape without a criminal record.

Now for some personal certainties: Aside from crossing Philly off my arena list, I am also going to get out to a few Olympic games in Vancouver - have tix to two Russia games, one Sweden, one Finland and trying to get one for a USA game as well. While I am out west I will catch my first junior game (Seattle vs. Vancouver) and may even get a NCAA DI game in this season to; I may not hit the Winter Classic this time around - no one worth rooting for - but will try to get to Fenway for BU/BC the next week. Fingers crossed.

Here on the blog I have no big plans for new types of content: no podcasts, radio or video shows. If you can think of something you want - aside from me to stop hating on Brashear - feel free to chime in. I hope to have a new masthead hopefully by the end of the weekend though. Peepin' Foes for the Pens and for the Sens will both be up by Friday afternoon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Preseason, Washington 4, New York 3

Well, at least that's over. Preseason came to an end with Sunday's 4-3 loss at the Phone Booth in DC. Hank was scheduled to play the entire game but after lackluster play by his teammates resulted in a 4-0 deficit through 40, he was pulled for Valley. Once Valley came in, the Rangers put on a little pressure and Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov gave up three bad goals on open shots from the circles. The Blueshirts made it look respectable but that was about it. But let's face it, it doesn't matter.

What matters is that no one got hurt, and that the regular season starts Friday night in Pittsburgh. Before then management has to decide what direction they want to go in with these lines and make the personnel moves to help get them where they need to go.

*The first was sending Geno Grachev to the Pack. Grachev has run hot and cold in these exhibitions but in the 'what have you done for me lately' mentality, he scored a goal. We like goals, goals are sexy. But he isn't going to score many goals from the third or fourth line so it is likely for the best.

*Should the whole accountability thing that Torts spews be legit, we will see Grachev take Ales Kotalik's job sooner rather than later. Sure Alice has that incredible shot, but when he isn't using it he is virtually useless. This afternoon he had a perfect chance to tie the game against the Caps in the waning seconds but didn't seem to be paying attention to the play and wasn't in the right position to re-direct a perfect slap-pass into the goal.

*And as soon as Alice is kicked to the curb, Rozy should follow. What a horrific turnover to set up the first goal of the game. It's like he isn't paying attention. Sure he went on to make a good feed to Anisimov for the Ranger power play goal but defensemen need to be able to play defense. That simple.

*People want to dream of a Calder Trophy for Matt Gilroy but that just is not going to happen. If Drew Doughty didn't get it last season - despite playing a lot of minutes and putting up respectable numbers on a bad team - a defenseman has little chance. A safer, underdog selection for rookie of the year would be Arty. Then again, his preseason success still won't translate into top-six status so the likelihood of him getting into the big spots where he can shine isn't too hot.

*Donald Brashear scored. He also didn't fight Sugden for the sake of fighting Sugden. Then again, with the Rangers down 2-0. 3-0, 4-0, a fight certainly would have been warranted to help turn around their fortunes. But, it's preseason. Plenty of time to complain about him not doing his job during the regular season.

*Is it me or does it look like Aaron Voros is skating in mud? He is still working quite hard but this camp certainly has cost him a step. Loved, loved him starting with Tom Poti at the end of the second period. I mean, what coulda happened? Voros letting Poti keep hitting him, yelling "you brute" (2:11 mark)??

*I always liked Mike Knuble. It's just a damn shame he keeps bouncing around in this league and that now we will have to hate him as a Cap. Hard-working, honest hockey player who is willing to pay the price to get the job done. Still can't believe that Neil Smith traded him away for Rob DiMaio.

So, now there is just four days left until the regular season. Somewhere in that span I will put out my predictions (likely Thursday), a Peepin' Foes for the Pens (Friday morning) and who knows what else so keep on coming back!

He'll Be Back

22 Active Players Remain With The Club

New York, September 27, 2009 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced
today that the club has assigned forward Evgeny Grachev to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League
(AHL). The Rangers now have 22 players remaining in training camp, including two goaltenders, seven defensemen
and 13 forwards.
Grachev has size and skills, he will be on Broadway at one point. Likely once Tortorella strangles Kotalik.

Oh, and game wrap of today's match forthcoming ...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fans Are Fans And We're All Fans

As I pointed out in the game wrap of the Rangers/Wings game, a guy showed up to the Garden wearing a Penguins Bill Guerin jersey and was given the proper Garden reception. Well, in case you didn't see it in the comments of that post, Stan said hi and I thought it was worth a post on it's own:
I am the guy who was wearing Billy G jersey. First of all i must thank all the Rangers fans for a great night! Even though i was rooting for Rangers and i know you guys like to feel important but its was not about you that night. It was about Detroit. Hope you guys enjoyed my Lets Go Pens chants, Geno Malkin score updates, and tons of other good stuff. I definately put on a show for all of you! I am Russian and a huge hockey fan and yeah i love Penguins and yeah we won the cup! The girl i was with was not my girlfriend though :-) Was at MSG last night as well watching Rangers take on Ovie great game. After the game met Marc Staal (Jordan's bro of course), Vinny Prospal, Michael Del Zotto, and Brian Boyle. Here is a link enjoy:
I'll be seeing you on Nov 30th when Pens take on Rangers! Hit me up on twitter @usbzoso
I have to admit, I can appreciate that: rub it in the Wings' faces that you beat them when it counted and root against them the first chance you get. Sure he shouldn't have been rooting for a division rival, just against the Wings (not the same thing) but that's ok. Stan had fun with the situation, didn't get upset and didn't act stupidly. Luckily (surprisingly) no Ranger fans acted stupidly either so it was just an enjoyable jousting.

Hockey pride is hockey pride and proud fans should certainly be appreciated.

As long as they aren't fans of the Islanders. Or the Devils. Or the Flyers.

Preseason: New York 3, Washington 2

The Rangers put together a fun, fast 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. I don't know about with you guys, but I found it flew by and was vastly more entertaining than anything last season. Granted, the Rangers iced essentially their opening night roster (minus Marc Staal) while the Caps had plenty of Hershey Bears in the lineup but it was still a good time at the Garden.

I have to keep it short so let's just take a look:

*Brandon Dubinsky made his return to the Garden ice and he played quite well - especially considering how much of camp he missed. Dubi skated hard, went to the net and he got knocked down by Jurcina and still got the puck to Chris Higgins for the game-winning goal. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the lineup.

*Marian Gaborik ... wow. The shortie he scored to open the night's scoring was a work of art. Gabby picked up a loose puck at the Ranger blueline and took off to score on a breakaway. It was very Pavel Bure-esque. His second came in traffic, which was great to see but certainly nerve-racking. As I said when we got him, "We will enter every game with baited breath - what will Gaborik do tonight? What kind of goal will he score? Will his groin go again or will it be something else?"

*His old buddy Aaron Voros continued to prove all of us wrong. We have written him off time and time again (and will likely again soon) but he was one of the strongest Rangers on the ice. He hit, he forced the action, got scoring chances and managed to avoid getting his face punched in. Great work by the big guy.

*Now, I will continue to grind the ax against Donald Brashear. Brash took two bad penalties and had two fights against minor league thug (and underground hero) Brandon Sugden. There was no real reason to fight - he wasn't protecting teammates - maybe he felt he owed it to Sugden to give the guy an opportunity to make an impression with the Caps. Brash took a few punches and fell in the first tilt, then got hammered in the second before his fight strap (mysteriously) snapped and allowed him to punch freely and win the back half of the battle. The Garden, with few exceptions (me being one) cheered him heartily. Sheep.

*And at the same time, these folks booed Wade Redden every time he touched the puck. As is well chronicled here, I dislike Redden. He hits like a girl, he loses his coverage, he can't shoot and can hardly pass. But honestly, in this game, Redden didn't deserve to be booed mercilessly.

*The Scotty Hockey Three Stars will return with the regular season but I have to question Redden as tonight's choice for third star. I can admit that Redden had a perfectly adequate game, but he wasn't the third best player. He wasn't even the best Ranger defender; that was Matt Gilroy. Gilroy continued to jump into the rush and made a fantastic play standing up Alexander Ovechkin (which ended up in the Ranger net thanks to his oafish partner Semenov). Even Dan Girardi was stronger and steadier than Redden.

*Bobby Sanguinetti was sent down to Hartford before the game on Thursday. It was probably the right move, but certainly a sad statement about his development. Geno Grachev may follow him to the farm. He was largely invisible in this one, as was Arty Anisimov. Anisimov didn't score another highlight reel goal - or any goal for that matter - but he drew a penalty, so that's a plus. Grachev ... I didn't notice he played until I saw the box score.

*Ales Kotalik was a waste of a jersey on this night, but that is to be expected. He is an enigmatic player with zero defense but every game or two his slap shot will hopefully be felt. Hopefully. At least enough to justify part of his insane contract.

*Alex Semenov will certainly get the seventh defenseman slot on his size alone. As you saw, I was impressed in his work to earn that position the previous games but in this one he was horrid. Semenov was culpable in both Washington goals and took a dumb penalty to boot. No wonder the folks in San Jose were so frustrated.

*Hank was a wall. The stellar Swede showed he is in regular season form with several big saves and he could hardly be faulted for the goals against. Just like last season, and the season before, and the season before.

*Just a quick note on the Caps - their penalty kill was really good. They kept the Rangers on the outskirts of the zone, when they were even able to get into the zone. It was quite impressive.

We'll see how they do on Sunday, when the teams meet again in the preseason finale.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let's Go Already

I wish I had something brilliant to put in this space but frankly, at this point I am sick and tired of preseason and ready for the real puck to drop. Sure, the final cuts still have to be made but those are just tweaks. Frankly, if it was me I would keep everyone that is left into the first two weeks of the season, then return MDZ and Geno Grachev to junior after their nine games are up (if they play more, they need a real contract that would count against the cap).

Don't get me wrong, both are highly talented and will be NHLers, but both can be replaced for this season, so why rush them? Detroit has built a dynasty by letting their prospects gestate as long as possible. And, let's face it, if there is a blueprint to follow, the Wings' is the best out there.

There really isn't much of a difference in MDZ's and Bobby Sanguinetti's performance. Sure MDZ has been drooled over by the announcers and has shown a fearlessness with the puck but Bobby can do everything that the kid can do, and he has more experience to rely upon when times get tough. Grachev definitely has the size edge on Enver Lisin but Lisen has shown a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Not to mention his breakaway speed ...

I'm sure we will see plenty of all four players over the remaining two preseason games. Honestly, I think they are just ridiculous money grabs for the franchises. Everyone showed up to camp in shape, so what are seven games needed for? Hank has said he wants to play both games but to what end? Why risk an injury at this point? What is to be gained that can't be flushed out in the four days of practice between the second Caps game and the opener in Pittsburgh?

The only thing that I can think of - in terms of benefits from the remaining preseason games - is that now Tortorella has all of his ingredients, he will get to play with his chemistry set. Everyone online is trying their hand at creating a monster for the playoffs and Torts will get to do it for real.

Lucky bastard.

My unsolicited opinion? The offense is a lot like what they practiced with today, just with a few changes:

Voros-Boyle-Brashear (vs. the Pens, Devils, Ducks and Leafs in Toronto)
Voros-Anisimov-Grachev (vs. the Sens, Caps, Kings and Leafs at home)

The defense would be totally different; I wouldn't retard Gilroy's development by putting him with Redden, as Renney stunted Girardi's growth last season in that manner - same with Staal/Rozy. So I would go with:


Yes, I put Semenov rotating with Rozy. If Torts wants to claim accountability, we can dream of a day when he follows up on it - contracts be damned. Like I said, dream ... it will be put to the test soon enough.

Oh, before I get outta here, I wanted to send congrats out to Manny Malhotra for getting a job with the Jed and the Sharks, and congrats to Olie the Goalie for a job well done. The comparisons between him and Adam Graves are well warranted - both worked tirelessly for their teams and their community and both were unceremoniously dumped by said teams. Both will go down as all-time fan favourites with numbers in the rafters. Good luck to the goalie so big in net - both in size and in demeanor - that they named him Godzilla.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Preseason: New York 4, Detroit 2

I think that we were given a glimpse into the future on Monday night of what this season holds for the Rangers. The highs (the first period), the lows (the second period) and the boring, slightly nerve racking but adequate (the third period). Of course, it all game against a top flight franchise's B team so it isn't a true measure of our destiny but I think it was a fair one.

Since it is too late for me to get metaphorical or any deeper, let's just get into some Monday night notes:

*Marian Gaborik. Gabby started the game, got checked by the Mule and came right back with his best Jaromir Jagr impersonation. Gaborik started with strong work on the quarterboards, held off a defenseman, swooped around the net and sent the puck back to an open Enver Lisin for an easy goal. After that, he was pretty invisible for much of the evening but that is ok, it was just a preseason game.

*Someone should let John Tortorella know that it was indeed just a preseason game. Sure, 'safe is death' and all that, but you don't have to be stupid. When you are holding onto a one-goal lead at home in a meaningless game, there really is no need for you to put your injury-prone superstar on the ice to sit pinned inside his own zone right in front of Nik Kronwall's cannon of a shot. Really, it's not necessary and, frankly, it is stupid. Gabby escaped uninjured, but why take the risk??

*And why the hell would someone come to the Garden wearing a Penguins Bill Guerin jersey with a Stanley Cup patch on it?!? This clown sat in section 327 or so with his girlfriend and took abuse much of the evening. The highlight was his Ranger-fan girlfriend being serenaded with chants of "Dump Your Boyfriend." I love the Garden.

*Walking out of the building after the game was Donald Brashear and Brandon Dubinsky. They left out the front entrance with everyone else and hustled out like their lives depended on it. Dubi denied a girl's autograph request along the way - a girl who was wearing his jersey to boot. I guess once you get paid you don't have to be nice to the little people who will provide that money. And no, the Rangers didn't have a charter to catch - they are practicing in Tarrytown tomorrow.

*Andrew Gross of the News said that they will be working on the power play, which is always great news. After two stunning, early goals that nearly had me in cardiac arrest, the power went out of their play and it became pedestrian yet again. They did show some willingness to enter the zone and go right to the net, which is so very much better than the Renney years when the blue line seemed to come with a stop sign.

*There is no stopping Ryan Callahan. Dude. What a goal. Cally got a great pass from young Grachev, got knocked down and still banged the puck into the net for a goal. Hoooo-weeeeee, what is it with these highlight goals in meaningless games? It's just not fair!

*Even though it was an empty netter, Anisimov scored again. Feel free to pick him up in deeper fantasy leagues but don't go too nuts, there is no indication he will get anything more than third line time.

*Grachev played well but I still don't think he should start Opening night. Why give him third line minutes and limit his spots when he can get play in all situations on the first line in Hartford? It isn't like he is that needed here with at least one of our centers already needing to shift to the wing (Dru, Prospal, Dubi, Arty, Boyle).

*I can honestly say that I hardly saw Dru and Boyle out there tonight. Boyle drew a penalty with hard work, and Dru won a few faceoffs but otherwise, nothin'.

*Speaking of nothing, Pierre Paranteau and Bobby Sanguinetti. Poor PA has played up and down the lineup and has done most things well but nothing great and can't seem to score. Looks like another season in Hartford for him. Bobby saw some power play time tonight and grabbed an assist on that Lisin goal but it is crystal clear that he has been passed on the depth chart by MDZ and Gilroy. By a lot.

*That Aaron Voros is still on the depth chart at all is a testament to his hard work. While I think that ultimately he will be the useless shell of a player that he was at the end of the season, he started this fall as well as he did last year and will be rewarded with a job. More power to him.

*I think Voros was saved from a savage beating by desperation. Dan Cloutier is so desperate to get a job that he refrained from turning Voros into Tommy Salo late in the second period. It is a shame, because it is almost certain that Clooch has no shot at getting a job so it would have been great to see him go nuts like old times.

*Other things on the Red Wings: When Datsyuk turned on his top gear - which he hardly did in this game - he was the best player on the ice and a world class talent. There is nothing to worry about the Wings in term of form; they hit a few posts, took a few bad penalties and yet still nearly tied the game. Johan Ryno would have the coolest name in the league if it was pronounced Rhino and not Ree-no. Ville Leino scored one great goal (a high wrister over Hank on just Detroit's third shot of the game), which is great for me as I spent good draft picks on him in most of my fantasy leagues.

*You may be able to get Gilroy or MDZ late and they should be good for some points. If anything has been clear the last few games it is that they have serious potential. There are certain to be growing pains, but both will be bona fide NHLers sooner rather than later. They are even making Wade Redden look good - what a feat!

*And finally, for now, why is MSG airing their Season Preview show prior to the game against the Caps on Thursday? Why not sometime next week when the roster is set and there are no games for us to immerse ourselves in? Curious.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sad State Of Affairs

If you care, here is the link it went to in the e-mail we got ... but they are begging for subscribers - after going on and on about the wait list just a few years back. Maybe if they didn't RAISE prices in a down economy, they wouldn't have to pull an Islanders and give out free autographed jerseys. WEAK.

Ice Hockey In Arlington?

It sure would make one helluva rink, right? From its Wiki:
Cowboys Stadium is a domed stadium with a retractable roof in Arlington, Texas, for the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys. It replaced the open-air Texas Stadium, which opened in 1971, as the Cowboys' home. It was completed on May 29, 2009 and seats 80,000, but is expandable to seat up to 111,000.

The stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world, has the world's largest column-free interior, and the largest video screen hung from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. [9] The facility can also be used for a variety of other activities outside of its main purpose (professional football).
Tickets would have to be quite cheap to get over 100,000 people to pay to watch the Stars but still, what a sight that could be. Maybe they should keep the Winter Classic up north but what about something special? I know the All-Star Game was in Dallas in 2007 so it isn't due to come again anytime soon but - should the NHL bail out from the Olympics and should they revive the World Cup of Hockey - Cowboys Stadium would make for a mighty host for the final game ... What do you think?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just A Little Trim

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has assigned the following five players to Hartford (AHL): goaltenders Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba; defensemen Ilkka Heikkinen and Corey Potter; and forward Paul Crowder.
The only thing that could be qualified as a slight surprise is Potter. He has NHL experience and is defensively sound. But, given Tortorella's ambivalence when it comes to defense, it isn't a shock that he keeps both MDZ and Hobey Gilroy in camp. They've said from the start that Heineken needs North American experience and he will get it in Hartford. Despite showing some wonderful hands, Paul Crowder's fate was sealed with the signing of another center in Brandon Dubinsky. Besides, Crowder needs to pack on some weight and strength if he is to survive the grind of the NHL - dude looked like a stick when I saw him at the rookie game. And finally, the two goaltenders were never going to upset Valley for the backup job. Still, all credit given and due for Chad Nueve-Seis as he certainly positioned himself as the first call-up should anything change in the Ranger crease.

Preseason: New York 5, Boston 2

What an odd Saturday, right? A 4pm start and a 5-2 win over the Bruins. Sure it was preseason, sure Boston ghost-skated through the third period, but it sure is nice to beat an Original Six rival. And it came just after the Brandon Dubinsky signing, so this are looking rosy (definitely not Rozy) in the Ranger's Universe right now. There still is a long way to go before the season even starts so let's just enjoy the moment.

*The Rangers opened the scoring with a power play goal. MDZ to Prospal to Kotalik, one-timer goal. Holy cow. It was a power play goal. By the Rangers. Tic-tac-toe, goal. The Rangers. The New York Rangers. I needed five, 10 minutes to collect myself. I still don't think that the shock has worn off fully.

*I finally collect myself and Arty Anisimov scores a stunner of a shorthanded goal. Granted, it was on some scrub Bruin defender - Jeff Penner? - who can't carry Chara's jock but damn. Two days, two highlight reel goals. For once (once) I agree with Micheletti - Anisimov made the team with that one. Let's hope he can score like this when it counts.

*Matt Gilroy certainly has earned a spot as well. It is far, far too early to call him the next Brian Leetch (and let's not, given how well Tom Poti turned out) but seeing a Ranger defender willing and capable of carrying the puck 180 feet is simply fantastic.

*There is still some question on MDZ, who got speared by Milan Lucic. Lucic had been running around for a period and a half hitting Rangers and Donald Brashear was no where to be found. MSG never had a replay so we can't see what exactly happened but they cut to the incident with MDZ on the bench. If he came off from being hit, why didn't Brashear jump on to get revenge? We are supposed to fall in love with this goon for defending his teammates and he doesn't do the job two days in a row. If anything, he looked confused standing there on the bench. Yeah, high class.

*Early in the game Aaron Voros got creamed on the boards, then elected to fight and use his face to block punches again. And, as he got up off of the ice, he was smiling. That's comedy. I think that the Rangers are going to keep him for this season for comedic relief alone.

*Avery! Avery! You know, let the other 29 teams and their fans hate this guy. For us, he is a star. He causes havoc and he rubs it in with a goal to make it a 2-0 game. And, unlike in New Jersey, he was treated like a regular player as the Avery Rules were nowhere to be found. It was a nice change of pace; too bad it won't happen on most nights this year.

*Valley starred against the Bruins in the preseason opener but he gave up a piss-poor goal midway through the first period of this one. After MDZ turned his head and lost track of the puck, Savvy was able to throw it at the net from behind the goal line and banked it in off the netminder. Weak. The second goal in the second period wasn't much better. Sure Valley was left alone on a turnover, but he flopped across his crease and the puck was slid under his stick. While he still is not going to lose his job to Chad Nueve-Seis, he needs to be better.

*Nueve-Seis starred right after he came in mid-second period as the Rangers had to kill a long 5-on-3. He was perfect stopping 12 shots and has been a nice revelation this preseason. Chad definitely looked better than Tim Thomas, who was far from the U.S. Olympic goaltender that he usually is.

*Now I don't get how they got that aforementioned two-man advantage. I understand the Semenov elbow, the guy is massive so when he leans into a check, his elbow leads the way. But how did the Bruins get a power play in the first place when Steve Begin breaks in to fight Dane Byers, who was challenging someone else? Last I checked, third man in was a major penalty. And Begin jumped in to cross check Semenov after the Ranger defenseman dumped someone but Begin escaped without a call there. It is preseason for the refs too I guess.

*Byers made one helluva drop pass to P.A. Parenteau for the fifth Ranger goal. While it doesn't look like he will play in New York at all this season, Byers certainly proved that he worth keeping in the organization. Perhaps he will get a shot next year ...

*Brian Boyle will be a Blueshirt this season. After playing so poorly in the first two preseason games, he has steadily improved. I still think Blair Betts would be better, but Boyle's size is tantalizing.

*If you didn't think YES announcer and ESPN Radio personality Michael Kay could get any more annoying and obnoxious, you were wrong. Those commercials for him in the bank with big fan Glen that were aired seemingly every break were worse - far, far worse. Perhaps they thought that the only way he could look good was to get someone that bad to join him in a spot. What next? A special commercial with Kay alongside Joe Micheletti?

*Yet again, Micheletti was completely outshone by Dave Maloney. Once they bring Al Troutwig back into the mix, they really should get rid of Micheletti entirely.

*Why must MSG continue to bring up Marian Gaborik's five goal night against us? Yes, he is on our roster now, and that may prove to be terrific. But there is no reason to keep picking at an old scab again and again and again. What next? MSG will air the Montreal Massacre again?

But on a happier note, there are three preseason games left where the Rangers will make their final cuts and set the opening night roster. It will be interesting to see what Torts, Sather and company decide as there have been so many players stepping up for the open slots. You can pretty much write off Byers, Paul Crowder and Corey Locke but who do you pick from between MDZ, Bobby's World and Heineken? Parenteau scored here and has been as good as needed in all situations but hasn't starred; do they keep him as an extra forward? And how does Arty's success alongside Lisin and Grachev boost their stock? As soon as the Rangers release their cuts, I will put them up. I wouldn't want to have to decide ...

It's About Time

MSG reported at the top of their Boston telecast that Brandon Dubinsky re-signed with the Rangers and was given a two year deal. Here is the official release from the Rangers:
New York, September 19, 2009 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has agreed to terms with restricted free agent forward Brandon Dubinsky.

Dubinsky, 23, has skated in all 82 regular season games in each of the last two seasons. In 2007-08, his first full season, he led all NHL rookies in hits (196) and ranked seventh among rookies in points (40). He tied for sixth on the Rangers in goals (14), ranked fifth in assists (26) and sixth in points (40). Dubinsky ranked third on the team in faceoff winning percentage (51%), winning 512 of 995 faceoffs. He also skated in 10 post-season contests, finishing tied for second on the team in goals (four) and ranked fourth in points (eight). Dubinsky was named MVP of the NHL YoungStars Game at the 2008 All-Star Game, notching two goals and an assist. He was also selected as the winner of the Steven McDonald award by the fans, given to the player who performs “above and beyond the call of duty.”

Last season, Dubinsky registered seven multi-point efforts, including two three-point performances. He led the team in faceoff winning percentage (53.6%), finished fifth in assists (28) and sixth in points (41). He ranked seventh in the NHL with 251 hits. Dubinsky also appeared in seven post-season contests, finishing with one goal and three assists for four points. He was selected to appear in his second NHL YoungStars Game at the 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend.

The 6-1, 205 pounder has skated in 170 regular season contests with the New York Rangers, recording 27 goals and 54 assists for 81 points, along with 193 penalty minutes.
Zipay says two years, 1.7 mil this year and two mil next. A bit of an increase from the 500+ that was initially offered ...

I guess MSG's smear campaign worked ... the wrong way. Good for Dubi. Now here is a thought - what kind of welcome will he get at the Garden when he plays his first game? In this economy, how many people were siding with a spoiled kid who refused to work until he got paid more money than many will make in their lifetime?

Another question is what kind of shape is he in? Can he play Monday night against the Wings?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Preseason: Detroit 4, New York 3

What a tale of two games, huh? For two periods the Rangers completely dominate the pace and location of play and then the Wings remember that they are the Wings and kick the crap out of the Blueshirts in the third to come from behind and win 4-3.


*Hank was hot early and showed the form that will be needed this season as he stopped several odd man rushes.

*His replacement, Matt Zah-ba, was strong in the second half of the second period but fell apart in the third. The first and third goals came on shots that he had a clear lane to see, the second was a bad angle that caught him off the post.

*Michal Rozsival was terrible, again. He interfered relentlessly and was busted for a bad penalty for his effort. Offensively he had one or two nice passes but he avoided contact as much as possible. I was about to type that Wade Redden was actually playing adequately but then Afro-Gator scored to make it a 4-2 game with Redden standing right there so that ended that. As I mentioned in a thread over at Blueshirt Banter about John Tortorella calling Rozy and Redden onto the carpet: there is a big difference between talking about accountability and carrying through with it. We'll see what happens.

*Should they be benched or sent to Hartford, the Rangers could still ice a solid blueline, judging by what we've seen this preseason. Heikkinen and Potter were both good against Detroit, if unremarkable. For Potter that is ok as that is his game (steady, smart defense) but I think for Heikkinen to avoid the bus to Hartford he needs to be step up and be great. It is hard to say but Alex Semenov was solid (bad penalty nonwithstanding) and did more to raise his stock than Bobby Sanguinetti did.

*Staying in the hate-to-give-credit-but-grudgingly-will department, Donald Brashear proved why the Rangers chose him over Colton Orr. He was very good with the puck, even tenacious. Ok? You guys happy out there? Brash still didn't stand up for Voros when he got cross checked in the last minute. Maybe that was because it was a one goal game with the Rangers pressuring but - seeing as the result of the preseason game doesn't matter - showing that he will stand up for his teammates would have been something that would carry over into the regular season. Yes, I still loathe him but I did offer compliments.

*After playing like a scared stiff to open the preseason, Arty Anisimov had a helluva goal. He showed off great hands going inside/outside as he entered the zone and used a screen to fire off a laser of a shot. It really was quite impressive and what we have been hoping to see. Double-A backchecked, fought for loose pucks and hustled. How the hell did that happen and why can't this magic be spread around?

*The same can be said for Grachev, who went hard to the net and limited turnovers. It was his drive that allowed Enver Lisen to make it a 2-0 game in the second. I still think that he needs serious seasoning before stepping on Broadway.

*The chemistry between Chris Higgins and Ryan Callahan was striking. We are going to love watching this pair work this season. Two honest, hard-working guys battling every shift. And Chris Drury didn't look too bad in the middle. I am not sure if Dru is the long-term solution there (funny to say it but Dubi actually might be a better fit) but he made room for his wingers to go to the net. I still wish we could hire a hypnotist for him so he imagines he is playing against the Isles every game.

*As I said in the Kessel piece earlier, MSG is clearly doing their best to bury Dubinsky. They read the statement from his agent - which seemed reasonable - then proceed to air an interview with Torts trashing him and have their on-air talent rip the hell out of the kid as well. How soon until they realize that 23 year old Brandon Dubinsky at $1.5 million (or so) is a better solution than someone like Robert Lang at 39 years old and three or four million?

*It truly is striking how smooth and entertaining Dave Maloney is, especially compared to Micheletti. He has a slower, less excitable tone with more accessible and interesting information. And he makes far fewer mistakes, but that goes without saying.

*On the MSG talent topic, they announced that Mike Keenan will be guesting as a studio analyst for the first two regular season games. Let's hope he doesn't pull any punches ... I still think he is a greedy traitor though. He doesn't leave for St. Louis and the Rangers had a chance at another Cup; he bounces to the Blues and Colin Campbell sticks the knife in that results in the slow, bleeding death that lasts for the next 10 years.

*My distaste for the Potvin Sucks whistle is well documented in this space - against anyone other than the Islanders it is ridiculous - but I have to admit that hearing it sound with six minutes left in the second period of a preseason game in Detroit brought a smile to my face. We Ranger fans travel well.

The Rangers travel to Boston Saturday. My report may be delayed, but there will be one so stay tuned!

Kessel To Toronto

TSN has the story:
The Boston Bruins have traded their disgruntled sniper to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 1st and a 2nd round pick in 2010, and a 1st round pick in 2011 pending a trade call which is currently underway.

Kessel and the Maple Leafs then quickly agreed to terms on a new five-year, $27 million deal.
So much for the three-way trade with the Rangers that was floated earlier today. Dubi's agent is still fighting with Sather for a deal, with MSG doing their best throughout tonight's broadcast to side with Sather. (No surprise there.)

As for the trade that did go through, both teams win. Toronto gets a big, young scoring threat. Sure Kessel is coming off surgery but if he could come back from cancer, he can come back from a shoulder surgery. Boston, meanwhile, will be in a good position to draft Marc Savard's replacement for when Savvy leaves for greener pastures as a UFA next summer.

Frankly, I didn't think that the Rangers needed Kessel, they need a center and a power play quarterback (and a coach who helps win games for the teams, rather than loses them). Simply said, the Blueshirts hitched their stars on Marian Gaborik - for better or worse.

Kyle Are You OK?

Kyle are you ok?
Kyle are you ok?
Are you ok Kyle?

Kyle are you ok?
Kyle are you ok?
Are you ok Kyle?

You've been hit by ...
You've been hit by ...
Sloppy seconds.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cuts, Cuts, Cuts

No surprises as the first slice of cuts are made. I think Klassen and Weise will make the big boys next year ... sad to see Maccarone's mustache leave town though:

Goal: Miika Wiikman
Defense: Trevor Glass, Brent Henley, Sam Klassen, Mike Sauer, David Urquhart, Nigel Williams
Forwards: Andres Ambuhl, Daniel Bartek, Devin DiDiomete, Brodie Dupont, Dan LaCouture, Matt Maccarone, Justin Soryal, Dale Weise

Goal: Scott Stajcer (Owen Sound, OHL)
Defense: Tomas Kundratek (Medicine Hat, WHL)
Forwards: Ryan Bourque (Quebec, QMJHL), Roman Horak (Chilliwack, WHL), Ethan Werek (Kingston, OHL)

Goal: Chad Johnson, Henrik Lundqvist, Steve Valiquette, Matt Zaba
Defense: Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi, Ilkka Heikkinen, Corey Potter, Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Bobby Sanguinetti, Alexei Semenov, Marc Staal
Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Tyler Arnason, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Donald Brashear, Dane Byers, Ryan Callahan, Paul Crowder, Chris Drury, Marian Gaborik, Evgeny Grachev, Christopher Higgins, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin, Corey Locke, Jordan Owens, P.A. Parenteau, Vinny Prospal, Patrick Rissmiller, Aaron Voros

Preseason: Devils 3, Rangers 2 (Shootout)

I had the day off today and I spent it in Newark. And that isn't the precursor to a tale of woe or ill repute. It is one of pure puck positivity - day/night doubleheader of hockey. And the Rangers came from behind to force overtime in each and made it all the way to the shootout in both. They won one and lost one ... notsobad if I do say so. There are no pics t go with it, Yahoo's photos are acting wacky and the battery on my camera died early in the day.

I wrote about the rookie game earlier so let's get onto the nightcap:

*Just what was John Tortorella trying to do when he decided to start Sean Avery against the Devils instead of the Bruins. Does he want Avery to get injured and be knocked out of the lineup, before the season even starts? Is there any bigger single achievement for a Devil (Star, Islander, etc.) then to take Avery out? The guy skates around with a target on his back, so why would the coach intentionally put him in the line of fire in a meaningless game?

*And the new-look, new-mentality Ranger power play? Same as it ever was: 0-for-7.

*I honestly, seriously said that I was going to come into this season and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Honest, I did. And then Wade Redden started trying to hit Devils with his purse while Michal Rozsival was helping them score. If Tort's rhetoric is to be believed (and it isn't) then both would have taken solid steps towards being off the roster. Redden was better than Rozy, but that is no great shakes.

*And a penalty kill of Rozy, Redden and Brian Boyle was my nightmare come true - only it was just a preseason game rather than the Cup Final. Thank goodness for small favours.

*Speaking of unholy triumvirates, I got home and turned on MSG+ to hear Doc, Chico and Joe Micheletti all together in the broadcast booth. What, Fran Dresher wasn't available?

*Mike Maccarone and his mighty mustache seemed to barely see any ice time. What a shame. But, seeing as he was in the Ranger lineup rather than the Pack, perhaps he has indeed played himself into an AHL contract. One can only hope.

*The other humongous human being in the lineup was defenseman Brent Henley, a late add to training camp. Henley skated well for his size, got into a decent tilt and got screwed on a slashing call (another case of a composite stick snapping after being touched). He may be a project player but it is nice to dream of a Chara-esque rise to stardom.

*Aaron Voros also fought in the game. Well, Voros yet again did his best to stop punches with his face. While I still want to see how he would fare with Gaborik (should Gabby ever get healthy enough to play), the performance of several of the kids during rookie game and that of Jordan Owens in this one proved that Voros is certainly expendable.

*MDZ and Matt Gilroy both played, and Gilroy was clearly more comfortable. MDZ certainly has shown skills in these two games but, as Jess from Prospect Park has said all along, another season in junior is clearly warranted. Gilroy had no problems going into traffic, and certainly none jumping into the play. His goal, dare I say it (dare, dare), was very much like that those scored by that Leetch guy who we used to have. Highly impressive.

*Grachev was better than he was against the Bruins but I think the same goes for him as for MDZ - a year dominating in junior will be better than a year riding the bench in the pros or riding busses in the A.

*All credit to Chad Nueve-Seis. Johnson came in and gave up a goal on the first shot he faced but rebounded to play well all the way to the final shooter of the skill competition. He continues to impress. Hank played earlier and was Hank - calm, cool and solid. With Matt Zaba, Miika Wiikman and Scott Stajcer all looking like solid prospects, the goaltending future of the organization looks good. Quite the change from the Guy Hebert/Kirk McLean/Mike Dunham years.

*Remind me again why we signed Ales Kotalik? If I recall it was because of a stellar shot and the skills to star in the shootout. He can't seem to hit the net and his shootout attempt was pathetic. Vinny Prospal looked a little bit better but the rust was clearly there.

*It was kind of surreal to see Brendan Shanahan wearing the captain's C for the Devils. Seeing as Jamie Ranger-killer is hurt, Shanny took the letter and wore it well. I saw it with a tinge of sadness as I always thought/hoped that he would have it on a Blueshirt. Ah well, cest la vie.

And for those that are missing the Three Stars, don't worry, they will be back with the regular season.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Preseason: Hartford 4, Lowell 3 (Shootout)

I have to make this quick as I am on a pay-by-the-minute computer that is slower than hell.

Can't freakin' believe that I had to pay full price yesterday - $112 for two seats - to watch that terrible clunker of a game and today's game was free. The teams were made up of all of the young guys fighting for spots and they worked their asses off, it was one of the most enjoyable games I've seen in ages (that wasn't NHL playoffs).

The Ranger brass was all there - Graves, Schoenfeld, Messier and Sather sat together a few rows behind me, Torts was on the opposite side talking to Gordie Clarke. Heard some of the Torts conversation, sounded like a scouting report on Michael Sauer. Sather spent his time chomping on his cigar on his blackberry. Messier was interrupted by every Ranger fan so I went and spoke to Schoenfeld, said it was nice to have him stay behind the bench. Schoeney gave me shit for booing Brashear, saying root for the guys who wear the jerseys now, not the ones who used to wear them. Sage advice, but Brash is still loathesome. He laughed. When I said how disappointing Boyle was, he said that Boyle was just one of the guys fighting for that spot, and that the team may still make a deal as "there are still some guys out there we're looking at."

As for the game itself, Heikkinen was every bit as impressive as Gilroy and MDZ were carrying the puck up from the blue line. Another defender, Sam Klassen, was my favourite player on the ice, at least until Dale Weise tied the game with a shorthanded goal in the last minute to force overtime. In the shootout Corey Locke and Paul Crowder had sexy goals - it was a best of five, not best of three, which was odd.

But it was great to win. More later on this one and on tonight's tilt between the big kids.

Preseason: Boston 2, New York 1

This has to be brief as I am going to attempt to head to the Rock in the morning for that Wolf Pack/Lowell Devils exhibition - which I was told is not considered a preseason game. Strange.

Ok, tonight. There is absolutely no feeling in the world like walking into the Garden, feeling the cool air hit you and watching the pre-game Garden montage. The best word for it - for me at least - is bliss.

The game that followed, not as enjoyable. As someone in section 328 yelled in the second period, "I thought we fired Renney?!?" Much of the evening was Renney hockey - the Bruins fell back into their defensive shell and the Rangers let them. There were few scoring chances, passes went to no one in particular, the defense abandoned the goaltending in close and the players took stupid penalties. But, as Mr. X from the Blue Seats insisted, the game was a complete success because no one got hurt.

Other notes:

*Another buddy of mine pointed out that preseason used to be for fighting for spots, often literally. There was more physicality in the Yankee/Blue Jay game than there was on the Garden ice and that's just sad.

*How much would it have cost the Garden to give out rosters? Apparently too much because there were none to be found. Not a good thing when there are so many unfamiliar names and numbers.

*The Garden was mostly empty at the start but a good number of people showed up by the third period. It was a bit surprising. Also a bit of a shock was that the first Potvin Sucks didn't come out until midway through the first period. (Thank goodness.) It was just pathetic that they constantly kept trying to sell us tickets though. If things are so bad, perhaps they shouldn't have raised prices ...

*Loved that the Garden booed Brashear along with me. Just sad that it won't last much longer. I yelled that I hated him during warm ups and he smiled. Good times.

*My hatred aside, Brashear had the best pass by a Ranger all game, a smart cross-crease feed in the first five minutes that someone bumbled; I couldn't see who it was. Like I said, if Brash puts up a 20/20/200 season, or ends the careers of Tavares, Pronger or Crosby, then I will root for him. Nothing less.

*I had been a big proponent of Dane Byers previously and he did absolutely nothing to justify that faith. He wasn't particularly good, but many forwards weren't.

*Evgeny Grachev certainly was among them. He had three terrible turnovers and I can't remember a single shot, much less scoring chance. At least he wasn't Brian Boyle, who took stupid penalties to boot.

*MDZ and Matt Gilroy seemed willing and capable of carrying the puck but didn't do much with it. Perhaps when they get more comfortable we will see more. They were just as good as Marc Staal and miles beyond the massive traffic cone that was Semenov.

*Ales Kotalik brought his booming shot with him from Buffalo, but he seemed to think he was shooting at a goal that was upstate as well.

*Mike Maccarone had the greatest mustache this side of Jason Strudwick. That alone should help him get a spot.

*Chris Higgins has the inside track at being my fav this season. He hustled all over the ice and his persistence paid off in a goal. I just think that, like in Montreal, that style of play will get him injured.

*Marco Sturm helped set up the first Boston goal and for all of you fantasy folks out there, he will be available in late rounds. Given the Kessel situation, Sturm will get plenty of power play time and the German is capable of taking advantage of it.

*I just turned on the Ranger replay and really dig the new MSGHD graphic package. I still cringe at everything Joe Micheletti says.

And on that note, I am calling it a night. Sure, the game was a sleeper, but it was a Ranger game and a bad Ranger game is still better than most everything else. Let's go Rangers!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's The Most Wonderfuuuuul Time Of The Year

It was wonderful tonight, being able to root against the Islanders and watch them lose 2-1. Ah, the cool smell of fall, the warm feeling of hatred.

The Isles helped open the NHL preseason with a game against the Vancouver Canucks in a small Canadian town named Terrace, British Columbia. Terrace won a contest put on by the Kraft cheese people and was named Hockeyville as the top small town that is dedicated to pucks as a way of life. You have to imagine the conversation that was had when they found out:
"Terrace, congratulations! You are Hockeyville!"
"Thanks! So ... what do we get for this honour?"
"Well, some money to help revitalize your arena?"
"That's swell!"
"Oh, and that's not all! You will get to host a NHL hockey game!"
"Ok, ok, calm down, it's only a preseason game."
"Well, still! That's fantastic, eh? Who's coming?"
"We are going to send you the Vancouver Canucks!"
"That's ah-may-zing! Roberto Luongo is my hero!"
"No, no Roberto Luongo. Andrew Raycroft. It is a preseason game."
"That sucks, eh? But how about Cody Hodgson? Heard he's tryin' to make the team and he's mighty skilled!"
"No, no Hodgson. Got some other prospects though that I'm sure you'll love."
"I'm sure I will. So who are they going to play?"
"The Islanders."
"But you said it was NHL! Gee ... at least we get to see that Jon Tavares. I watched the World Juniors and that goal he scored - heck, that was stellar."
"No, no Tavares. But there will be another Jon there! Jon Sim!"
"God dammit."
Despite the possible disappointment, it truly was a great event for the NHL and the town. As they said constantly through the broadcast, many of the 1,400 1,200 1,100 fans were kids and they got to see (semi) professional hockey played in person. That really has to be a dream come true for those kids and when you combine the game with the time they got to spend with the players off the ice, you have memories that last a lifetime. As for the pros, the Canucks were able to spread goodwill within their home province and the Islanders were able to have their prospects get used to playing to a small audience, and to losing.


Man, I'm so happy hockey season is here!

RIP Derek Sutton 1952 – 2009

Sure, you were over 30 years old on the Mustangs but your age gave you the wisdom to teach Rob Lowe the ropes (but not how to act) and you rightfully laughed at your idiotic french canadian goaltender Keanu Reeves.

We'll miss you captain.

Don't worry, we'll get revenge on that Racki fellow ...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Catching Up

I wanted to leave that letter up over the weekend and in the meantime a lot has come to pass in terms of Ranger news so please bear with me as there is a bunch to cover. Before I get to it, I just wanted to say thanks to Patrick Hoffman and the Four Habs Fans. Patrick interviewed me yet again and the Habs Fans asked for my input on their two new additions - Paul Mara and Scott Gomez (yet to be posted, but you can be sure it isn't positive). Well, time to look at all that has happened and sadly, a lot of it isn't positive either:

*"Shut Up & Play" huh? It's not a bad motto for the 09-10 Ranger campaign but it is certainly no Commit To The Indian. Of course, I'm not so sure it was decided as a modus operandi so much as a veiled threat at Brandon Dubinsky. (Thanks to Andrea for the graphic!)

*Which leads to Dubi and his contract situation. I am not sympathetic at this point. It was a nice try, playing hardball and all, but it was bound for failure. Especially when you are in no position to negotiate and you are bargaining with a hard-line Hall of Famer who's untouchable and arrogant. Sather called Sean Avery a detriment to the team after he turned them into winners, think about what Glen has to have said to Dubi. Is Dubi asking for too much? Probably not, especially considering the contracts that Voros, Rissmiller and Brashear all were handed. But at the same time, Sather had to seduce them to come to Broadway and he has Dubi bent over a post. The kid has an opportunity to shine with Gabby, if he sucked it up for a season and racked up the points, he could improve his bargaining position. For now, he's just screwed. You know that in a non-salary capped world Sather would have brought someone else in already anyway ...

*Kyle McLaren's bad back screwed up his chance at a NHL job so the Rangers are trying out the massive Alexei Semenov. Semenov's size is certainly needed and appreciated but his distinct suckiness is not. Yes, I said suckiness. This guy was the bane of San Jose fans' lives because he lumbered around the ice. Sure, he fought on occasion - so he has something over former sasquatch Marek Malik - but Sather signed Brash so we don't need to have two oversized, underskilled wastes of roster spots.

*Sather's insistence on bringing in outside assistance for the blueline speaks volumes on his opinion of the prospects of the Ranger youth. Why bring a McLaren, Semenov, Seidenberg, Babchuk, whoever when you have six, seven legitimate defenders? Unless you don't think they are legitimate (and perhaps one isn't as he is already crying)... but this goes back to the whole refuse-to-rebuild-from-within mental block that Sather has and we should expect it by now.

*While I love the thought of seeing Dan LaCouture back in a Blueshirt, the same veteran vs. prospect thing goes for him too. I loved watching LaCouture play the first time around because he hustled like hell and he stood up for his teammates. Well, he still does both but someone like Dane Byers can do it better as he has an offensive upside as well as a few years on his side. LaCouture might be a good veteran presence for Hartford though, so let's hope that he can hang on and earn a two-way deal.

*The Wolf Pack are playing the AHL Devils at the Rock on Wednesday afternoon in a free game as part of a day/night doubleheader with the big boys. Seeing as the first wave of Ranger camp cuts isn't until Thursday, it will be quite telling to see who they choose to put in Pack jerseys. The bigger question is, aside from a hockey geek like myself who already took the day off, who the hell is going to show up for a 1 pm hockey game in Newark?

*Anyone else see that Ryan Hollweg was invited to the Coyotes camp? Too funny. Damn shame that kid had no restraint because he had potential to be a good checking forward with his speed and persistence. Other interesting invitations are Panthers decision to give Christian Backman a shot (somehow I don't think he can be an adequate replacement for Jay Bouwmeester, just a hunch) and Calgary doing the right thing to let Theo Fleury attempt to redeem himself. I'll definitely be rooting for him.

*It is kind of surprising that Atlanta hasn't given Nik Zherdev at least a tryout. Brooksie said Z was back on Broadway begging for a deal but Atlanta makes so much more sense. First, Z clearly was uncomfortable in the limelight here in NY and there really isn't much light at all on southern hockey. Management down in the A-T-L is catering to Kovalchuk in an effort to get him to stay after next season and you have to imagine that he likes the thought of a line with him on one side, Z on the other and Borat in the middle.

*All the invitations mean little as there simply aren't many spots up for grabs in most organizations. Of course, there appears to be several positions up for the Rangers - third defensive pairing, fourth line center, first line center, first line winger ... oh wait, we have that Gaborik guy. Yeah, like I said, that spot is up for grabs. The guy is already sore and sitting out and he has hardly stepped on the ice! Not a good sign at all so I'm setting the over/under at 20 games played this season. That's three more than last year and I think trainer Jim Ramsay can duct tape Gabby together for at least that many.

*Getting back to the Dubinsky thing for a second - should this thing really drag out and the kid is forced out of the lineup, what do you think about trying Michael Nylander in a waiver acquisition a la Avery? Sure he is slow and frustrating to watch and entirely not a Tortorella-type player but he always managed to produce. For the games that Gaborik does dress for, he will need a center to get him the puck and there aren't many alternatives out there. And once Gabby goes on long term injured reserve, the Rangers can grab Jagr back after the Olympics and put the band back together!! (Only a little sarcasm there.)

*Perhaps Glen can think up a trade. Personally, I've always liked the thought of Jason Spezza as a Ranger so why not make something happen? Given their deal with the Sharks, the Senators seem quite willing to write off the next season or two and Dubinsky plus Rozy and a high pick (one of the packages bandied about for Heatley) could be enough to get Spezza, right? Reports out of Ottawa said he was a disappointment last season and a slow start this fall could wear out the rest of his welcome. Dubi and the pick would help boost the Sens youth movement with Foligno, Shannon, Lee and company while Spezza would give the Rangers a legit first-line center. I can dream, right?

Luckily the dream of a new season is just beginning as the puck drops at the Garden tomorrow. Oh baby, let's get this party started!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An Open Letter To Those At Camp 2009-10

Hello, and welcome to the New York Rangers,

There are some things you need to know before you get the 2009-2010 NHL season started as a member of the Broadway Blueshirts. I will attempt to lay them out for you to make your transition to New York easier. If you keep these in mind, your stay will be an enjoyable and, hopefully, productive one. Best of luck.

1- First and foremost, being a Ranger requires respect. Respect for your teammates. Respect for the jersey. Respect for the fans. Respect the Rangers. Everything else on this list falls under this dictum. Respect. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's a complete way of being that will require hard work but the payoff is virtually limitless.

2 - Always, ALWAYS have your teammate's back. There is nothing worse than seeing a player get hit in a vulnerable position without retribution. That especially goes for your goaltender.

3 - I mentioned hard work. That is what is expected of you. Anything less - let up for just one moment of one shift - and the results would be disastrous. During that lapse a goal may be scored against the Rangers, or it may not. Either way, someone will notice. The Rangers are the most scrutinized NHL team not in Canada, both by the media and by the fans. You do not want to let up in this town. At the same time, even if things aren't going your way - go without scoring for games at a time, whatever - if you are visibly working hard you will given a pass. You may look around at the fans by the ice and see the nice clothes, the Blackberries and the models, but don't be fooled: this is a blue collar fanbase that expects and appreciates hard work.

4 - Meet the fans, greet the fans. They are your best asset on the ice, better than any newfangled composite stick or heated skateblade. You may have played in the Garden in the past, you may have not. But you have never felt anything like it when you have 18,200 people getting your back, helping you up, pushing you forward. At the same time, that 18,200 can be merciless. This goes back to No. 2, if you don't show maximum effort, you will face the ire of the fans and trust me, you won't enjoy it.

5 - Do anything but sit back and watch when the Islanders, Devils or Flyers are in town. Those are the times to be proactive. Very proactive. There is no faster way to the hearts of the fans than through the franchise's biggest rivals. In this day and age of free agency (which may have brought you here), rivalries are harder to cling to for players - you may have friends on the other team - but they are grossly important to the fans. Go out to dinner with them, go on vacation with them, whatever - from the second that puck drops, you had better be out for blood. Players come and go but that jersey that you pull on has been around for a long time and that means something. That Blueshirt comes with the baggage of hatred for wrongs past. It may sound petty, but it is a part of life. And, if you use it right - through the aforementioned hard work - then it is a very, very good thing.

6 - You know that quiet guy who is hanging around practice? The mild-mannered fellow with his name and number nine in the rafters. Listen to him. If he says something, it's for a reason. If he acts a certain way, it's for a reason. And that reason is always the betterment of the franchise and, honestly, the betterment of yourself. Pay attention to Adam Graves. You will not find a better role model in your search for what it means to be a Ranger. There is a reason why he is beloved in this city, and what he did on the ice is only part of the explanation. And that new guy in the office? Messier? Yeah, him too.

7 - Give not to temptation. New York never closes and there is fun to be had no matter what your vice may be. But if you give in to it, then you are breaking No. 1 on this list. There is a time and place for everything, and while you wear that jersey the time is not right for nefarious activities.

8 - Spend some time reading up on the past. The more you read about the 83 year history of the franchise, the more you will understand just how important No. 1 on this list is. A lot of people have put their blood, sweat and tears into building the Rangers and the least you can do is know who they were.

9 - Don't be afraid to speak your mind because honesty is indeed the best policy. Silly, right? Not at all. When speaking to the media or to the press, one of the worse things you can do is speak in benign cliches. There is no such thing as 110%. You can only take things one game, or one day, at a time. And you don't always get the bounces. We know that; tell us how, tell us why. You can't be afraid to show your personality, because that is who you are and we want to know you. We want to root for you. We want to see you succeed.

10 - Don't believe the hype. There are a lot of people playing pundit, a lot of people shooting their (our) mouths off. Expectations aren't as high as they have been in the past due to the roster shake up but this is still New York and success is always demanded. But that will come if you work hard, listen to the coaches and play your game to the best of your ability.

This list may seem daunting, but you will be pulling on a Blueshirt and these are the things that come with the jersey.

Let's Go Rangers.

-Scotty Hockey

Friday, September 11, 2009

Honouring 9/11

Just wanted to put something up to remind everyone to hold their love ones a little tighter today and to remember friends and family that may have been lost that day or any day. Not necessarily because of the events of 9/11, but just because ...

For some topical reading, here is an old article on how the NYPD and FDNY hockey teams honoured their lost. It mentions the stirring tribute at the Rangers opening night game, but as I am quick to point out to folks, the Rangers played preseason games against Jersey, Philly and Boston at home prior to that (on September 19, 23 and 29th respectively). The Garden was half empty for them but every time they showed a firefigher or cop in the stands, or person with a sign (I remember one little girl with a tribute to her dad, a firefighter), the whole place erupted louder than I had ever heard it before. To say it was 'moving' wouldn't do it justice. It was remarkable and something I remember with astounding clarity, perhaps because it meant so much.

And before I go wipe my eyes, I just want to mention my friend Paul, who was also lost in the attack. I worked with him at the campus radio station in Binghamton. He was a class act, a pain in my ass, but a classy, good-natured person nonetheless. As his memory still lives on with his family and friends, so does his own webpage. Wow, he is missed.

R.I.P. buddy ...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What The ... ?

Everyone said that the hold up in getting Blair Betts reunited with Tom Renney in Edmonton was money. I guess everyone was wrong. Betts is headed to Philly's camp to try out for a spot - which he doesn't seem to think he will get - and the Oilers signed Mike Comrie for $1.25 million.

The same Mike Comrie who failed on the Island, the same Comrie who stumbled to the end of last season in Ottawa. The same Mike Comrie who is far better known for his girlfriend than anything he has ever done on the ice. An undersized, underachieving 'skill' forward joining an undersized, underachieving roster of skill forwards.

Yet again we are left thinking what Renney is thinking and yet again his mistake may come back to bite us in the end. Blair Betts, Philadelphia Flyer ... *shudder*

Russian Pucks

After enjoying an episode of MSG Vault (with some awesome film of the '52 Wings beating on the Blueshirts) I remembered reading that the KHL season opener was this morning and it was being streamed live. Ak Bars took on Lokomotiv in Kazan and won 3-2 in overtime.

The game-winner was scored on a four-on-three power play with a fantastic one-timer from the circle by former Penguin Alexsey Morozov. It was his second goal of the game and the first was out-frickin-rageous (it's the second goal on this Youtube). Canadians want to talk about how they will win the 2010 Olympics but the Russians have to be the team to beat. Even if the Bulin Wall doesn't stand on his head, that team will just have too much firepower to be denied. Morozov across from Kovalchuk? Geez, that's scary.

I have to admit that it was pretty nice to come in with no preconceived notions, no rooted interest as it allowed me to just enjoy the hockey. Aside from the pair by Morozov, there were great plays on both sides of the ice ... man am I ready for the puck to drop in the Garden. I wish I could go into further detail but I don't speak a word of Russian. I know I heard the announcers say "New York Rangers" at one point but have no idea of the context. It may have had something to do with Ak Bars' Jarkko Immonen (a former Blueshirt as you well recall) but I honestly have no idea.

I do know that it was fun to watch and hope that the KHL streams more games over the course of the season. Brendan McIntyre circulated an article he wrote around the web about how the North American taxes could chase players to the KHL. He and I then embarked on an e-mail debate as I don't see it happening, at least not without another NHL labour stoppage (or defection from the top Russian talent - which could happen apparently). Regardless, currently there is a growth limit to the KHL given the size of the arenas, the economy of Russia and the simple fact that they don't have the Stanley Cup, but their game is still definitely worth watching if you get a chance this season.