Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rangers Keep Their Emmy

Faced with the prospect of going into the next season relying on a rookie (Tim Erixon) and a formerly slumped sophomore (Michael Del Zotto), Glen Sather bought a cheap insurance policy Monday when he re-signed Steve Eminger. According to Larry Brooks, Eminger is coming back at the bargain basement price of $800,000 for one year - a price cut of $700,000 from last season.

During the Facts of Life I thought that Eminger "had no future with the franchise." I was wrong. It happens, I know. Strange, right? The thought that no one else would offer him a one-way deal didn't cross my mind ... although it probably should have.

While a veteran with a Cup ring like Brent Sopel would probably bring more on and off the ice, Eminger is cheaper and the coaching staff is already familiar with his ups and his downs. His ups were quite nice - he played solid, strong hockey when he filled in for the injured Michal Rozsival and was rarely a liability on the ice. His downs, well, they helped see him benched in the playoffs in favour of Matt Gilroy of all people (who did play his best admittedly).

But the good outweighed the bad in the eyes of Glen Sather so Eminger is back and Del Zotto is essentially on notice. Between youngsters like Pavel Valentenko and Tomas Kundratek trying to crack the lineup and Eminger's ability to step in at any time, MDZ has to step up his game if he is to avoid Hartford.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What's Goin' On ...

I just realized that I haven't put anything new here in 20 days, the biggest span between posts since this blog was founded four years ago.

On one hand I do want to apologize to all of those looking for content, I know that the appetite doesn't diminish despite the heat. On the other I must say it was nice to get away and unwind - this will be post #1,493 for me and this was feeling like a bit of an anchor at times.

But the truth of it is that there has simply been little worth ranting over of late. Or at least ranting in more than 140 characters - I still tweet up a storm.

The RFA action hasn't been contentious - we figured all of the guys would be back and are just waiting on Cally at this point. If he truly is captain material, he will sign a long term deal ahead of his arbitration hearing. As for the salaries, well, money matters just aren't interesting to me. Billionaires and millionaires arguing over a few hundred thousand bucks, yawn.

So where does that leave this blog as August nears? Well, there will certainly be some kind of commentary should Callahan go to arbitration - perhaps something like the trial I held for Brendan Shanahan years ago. You can expect a post when the team signs their seventh defenseman - even if it is just Steve Eminger. The Blueshirts finally have set their preseason schedule and that is spurring me to script some more posts. In the near future there will be individual looks at each of the Rangers' European opponents. There may or may not be the pre-season Peepin' Foes for the entire NHL - no telling if there will be time. Real life job is keeping me focused on the soccer pitch rather than the ice but I can assure you that this blog isn't going anywhere (for now).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Same Story, Different Ending?

In the last 25 minutes I've re-written the lede to this post nine times as the reality of the news has sunk in. Glen Sather gave Brad Richards a nine-year, $58.5 million deal. A man raked over the coals for the folly of his big money contracts time and time again just handed another one out. Well, we knew Sather didn't care about public perception, so why would he change? You would hope that he would learn from his mistakes - and it had appeared that he was starting to - but the simple truth is that you can't teach old dogs new tricks.

Of course, growing a young team and winning multiple Stanley Cups was something Sather has done before but that was so long in the past and he is so old that he likely has forgotten that has even happened. Instead, the GM has fallen back on the modus operandi that has defined his time in New York: analyze what is wrong and throw money at the problem.

In 2007 the Rangers had a problem. Michael Nylander wanted a multi-year deal for a decent amount of money. The 35 year old had just averaged a point per game for two seasons as the pivot for the Blueshirts star sniper Jaromir Jagr but he was 35 years old. So instead Sather looked at the free agent class and signed Scott Gomez. He didn't look and realize that there was no way the two could possibly possess the puck at the same time all the time. But he wanted a center, Gomez was out there and he signed him to a ridiculous deal. It didn't work out and Sather cut ties with Jagr. Then Sather cut ties with Gomez. Hamstrung by other insane signings, Sather was forced to embark on a youth movement. Times were tough but they were moving in the right direction. Except, his star sniper needed a center.

Seeing that supposed stud Chris Kreider has no confidence in himself or would rather party in college for another year or whatever, Sather needed someone to be the first line center and Richards was the best one available.

Over the last three seasons Richards played 208 games and collected 216 points as the first line center on the Dallas Stars. He looked great and he made Loui Eriksson into an All Star but, it must be said, Dallas didn't make the playoffs any of those three seasons. As Sean Avery found out, Dallas is not New York. But, in this case, this is a good thing: the Rangers have a far better back end then the Stars and are deeper up front.

When Gomez arrived he came to a team caught between styles - some lines played north-south, others played east-west. He was expected to share the puck with Jagr and, with a shrug and that damned smirk, he didn't put the effort in to adapt his game. Marian Gaborik is more Eriksson then he is Jagr and that should allow Richards to play his own high-tempo style without making major modifications.

The contract that he received is ridiculous but, let's face it, that doesn't matter. At 31 already, Richards will not play all nine years - the length of the deal is there to lower the annual cap hit. The Rangers have shed Drury and will bury Redden again so there is room for Richards this coming season. And if the experiment goes the way of Gomez, the upcoming expiration of the CBA should allow Sather to correct the mistake before it drags the franchise down.

Now it must be said that we don't know exactly who's idea signing Brad Richards was; it might not have been Sather's. With the NBA locking out their players this week Jimmy Dolan may have pulled the Rangers back out of his toybox and decided to play with them again - rumours yesterday had him talking to Richards to further seduce him to the dark side renovated Garden. John Tortorella may have pushed very hard for Richards, given their successful history and how frustrated he was with the Slovakian slacker Gaborik last season.

No matter who made the ultimate call, the simple fact is that the Rangers threw patience and the rebuild to the wind. The timetable has been pushed up - Dolan wants a winning team to justify the prices of the renovated Garden and who knows what is happening with the Knicks. There is little room for mistakes this coming hockey season, the Rangers not only have to make the playoffs, they will be expected to win a round or two. And they surely will be expected to win the Cup within the next three years before Gabby and Hank's current contracts finish. The Ranger brass believes that Brad Richards is the man who can make that happen. Let's pray they're right.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mike F-ing Rupp!

Maybe it is best that Brad Richards has weighed his options and is taking his time making his decision for next season. Because, you know, rash impulses are not always correct impulses.

When the news broke that the Rangers decided to put their line in the lake of free agents and fished out Mike Rupp, I felt that it was ... uh ... not good:
@ScottyHockey Rupp? Ewwwwww.

@ScottyHockey The guy scores one hat trick & Sather signs him. Awful.

@ScottyHockey So angry.

@ScottyHockey Mike Rupp played for the Danbury Trashers of the UHL & was the perfect fit: he was garbage. What next? Sather adds Jarkko Ruutu for 5 years?

@ScottyHockey Can't Glen Sather go one July 1st without making a signing purely to piss off Ranger fans?

@ScottyHockey Tryin to hard to not hate this signing but not doing well. Won a Cup, skates 10 min a game, scored that hat trick. But he's MIKE F-ING RUPP!

@ScottyHockey Rupp had better spend serious time with Barb this summer because he won't keep up with Prust & Boyle if he skates the way he did last year.

@ScottyHockey Nice Rupp, you enjoy ticking off the Ranger fans. I'm sure you will continue to do it.
Now that last one was in response something Rupp said to the guys at TSN. You can hear it here. He said, "You get the opportunity as an opponent to go in there (MSG) and try to tick off as many fans as you can and you like to do that cause those fans are so good and so crazy."

And piss off fans at the Garden he has. Over the years Rupp has been a burr in the Rangers' saddle with his checking, his fighting and, yes, his scoring. His hat trick was one of the lowlights of my Garden-going experiences in the last ... well, the last ever. As a Ranger fan, that was humiliating. Well, now it is up to Rupp to make other teams' fans feel humiliated.

He comes in making almost twice what Brandon Prust makes ($1.5 million vs. 800k) and will be expected to put in at least the same amount of effort. Rupp needs to take some of the fighting off of Prust's fists, play good physical hockey in all three zones, win some faceoffs and teach the kids what it's like to win a Stanley Cup. It is the very last part that takes some of the sting out of having one of the Garden villains of the last decade come in and don a Blueshirt. The young core of Rangers need to keep growing and they need to learn how to win. Trading for someone like Bryan McCabe didn't do either; adding a guy like Mike Rupp should facilitate both. So, as you can see, in the last few hours my stance has changed on the newest Ranger addition.

Let's hope that over the next three years Rupp doesn't change it back.