Thursday, October 02, 2008

Victoria, but no Stanley

The first ever Victoria Cup winners are set to have an interesting season. Firstly, they open the season this upcoming Saturday (FINALLY!) against the Tampa Bay Lightening in Prague, Czech Republic. They also have a number retirement ceremony, when Adam Graves #9 will hang from Madison Square Garden’s rafters. But there’s no sitting pretty this year; this Rangers team will need to buckle down and fight for every single point they earn.

Let’s break it down, shall we?


Jaromir Jagr- All I can say is thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Because without you, Rangers hockey would still be irrelevant. That said, we’ll also miss Jagr’s point production. Badly. Although the Powerplay will be happy to see him and the Rangers' east-west mentality go. What a shame, though, for the NHL to lose a player like Jagr. Love him or hate him, his talent isn't replaceable.

Brendan Shanahan- Is he a Ranger, will he not be a Ranger, who knows? Shanahan is much too old for this in my opinion, but the old man still has a great shot. In the right, limited role, I’d want him back. He’s up in the air at this moment, but still practicing at the NYR Facilities. Whatever that means.

Martin Straka- Injury-prone towards the end of his career, but Straka still put up big points and his production and leadership will be missed on the ice.

Sean Avery- Oh, Avery. I wish he was still a Ranger. But realistically, Dallas is CRAZY to sign that man to a four year, limited trade clause deal. I love what he brings, but he’s scary on a long term basis. There is a reason he’s seen so many teams in a short time period.


Markus Naslund- This thirty five year old winger scored 25 goals last season on Vancouver, and was a pick up during free agency for the Rangers. Naslund has had sliding numbers over the pass few seasons, and came to the Rangers to play “a more open system.” I’m not sure if there is something in the Vancouver water, but the Rangers are surely not an open, offense first team. Whereas age is a concern, Naslund should score some key goals for the Rangers.

Wade Redden- Part of the collapsing Ottawa team last year, there is concern that Redden won’t be able to work well in New York, where public pressure rivals all but Montreal and Toronto. Redden was signed for too much money and too long, and his preseason as been less than stellar. New York will give him a break… for a game or so. Then he needs to pick this up. In other news, he got married over the summer. Look for “Danica and Wade.” Just wow.

Nikolai Zherdev- This winger has had some coaching trouble, but he did score 26 goals last season and have 35 assists. He’s quite the talent; I have already enjoyed watching his stick handling ability. But Nik, if you don’t shoot, and if you have an attitude problem, expect booing. Ranger fans have no mercy.

The problem is that these acquisitions to not even begin to make up for what we lost.


The Rangers need help. Scotty Gomez and Chris Drury have been working well together as Chris has moved to wing, but neither put up huge numbers last year nor usually have. Worth 7 million dollars? No, but both are good teammates. If Shanahan doesn’t sign, Drury will probably be named Captain. Naslund and Zherdev help in the goals department, but the Rangers need a lot of goals to come from elsewhere, meaning their last two lines. If Tom Renney was a smarter coach, he would make the fourth line more offensive then it is currently designed as. More likely, however, we will see a very defensive, checking and fighting fourth line. Typical line formation in hockey, but considering these men are so offensive inept they probably won’t score 5 goals all together this season. The Rangers need to rely more on young players like Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha, all whom are talented but probably will not put up the numbers the Rangers need. Hopefully those four will pick up some icetime, in particular Petr Prucha. If the kid gets some confidence back, his 25 goals of the past maybe become the future. Ryan Callahan will need to take over some of the grit lost by Sean Avery. Can he do it? No. But Cally's a tough kid, and I want to see more of him.

Any Bright Spot? Although Zherdev might have some difficulty in New York, he should shine. Lauri Korpikoski is the rookie in town, and he has had a brillant preseason. And Brandon Dubinsky is a star. He will take the NHL by storm in the next year or so, and I can’t wait.


Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin… well, there could have been worse pick ups, but they both don’t address the Rangers serious need for a true number one defensemen. They're a bit scary with the puck. Dan Girardi will hopefully continue to improve, and Paul Mara might get some more icetime to show off that impressive shot of his. Michal Rosival should have a good season as long as he shoots the puck and stays healthy. Make no doubt about it though; this team may have a shaky defensive core, but because of the defensive system the Rangers (unfortunately) play, it will be hard to score on New York.

Bright Spot? Marc Staal. He may not be the best Staal right now, but it could be argued Eric might have something to worry about. Staal has a great shot, and is near perfect positionally. I can’t wait to see him grow into that number one defenseman that the Rangers haven’t had since Brian Leetch.


I can’t tell if the Rangers have the best goalie in the league or the most frustrating, inconsistent one. Henrik Lundqvist led the league in shutouts last year with 10, and had a good save percentage of .912. Although he was nominated for the Vezina for his third time in his third season, Lundqvist remains awfully inconsistent and has difficulty handling the puck. If Lundqvist plays well, the Rangers will make the playoffs despite their problems scoring. If Lundqvist has his headache problems again this year, though, Lundqvist might become MY headache.

Rangers just squeak into playoffs, in 7th or 8th seed. Out first round. Sorry, boys. Not enough offensive firepower even more limited by a coach who thinks defense first way too often, and an inconsistent goalie could spell trouble.

But let’s go Rangers, anyway.


Lucky13 said...

Where did you find those wedding pix? They were nice, I have to admit.

Maybe that's why he's not quite all here yet - newlywed fuzz brain. His mind is still between the sheets. Should wear off soon...maybe.

Good analysis, Kerri, although I hope they do better than round one in the playoffs.

Shan said...

Lucky, does the expression "between the sheets" mean what I think it means?

Lucky13 said...

Yes indeed.

Ellie said...

jagr, shanahan and straka will be missed!! three of my all time favs to watch!

marc staal looked good last year - I think he gets overlooked by the other two, but I have a feeling we'll be hearing more about him this season.

Lundqvist better step up - I've got him leading two of my fantasy teams!