Friday, October 10, 2008

New York Rangers - 08-09 Season Preview

The New York Rangers have undergone a bit of a facelift, mostly as a result of a heaping dose of free-agency: Captain Jaromir Jagr left for his homeland along with Martin Straka, and Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Hollweg were traded. Sean Avery accepted an offer from Dallas, and Brendan Shanahan waits patiently for an offer from the Rangers (what the hell, Shanny? You'd rather wait around than play somewhere else?). Essentially, the Rangers lost their core, except for the rookie contingent, and a few key players (Petr Prucha, Henrik Lundqvist, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, et al).

As for the noobs: NYR obtained veterans Wade Redden, Aaron Voros, Nikolai Zherdev, and Markus Naslund. There seem to be two different schools of thought on these acquisitions. The negative side regards them as has-beens on the downswing of their careers, while the positive sees them as getting the fresh start they’ve been needing and waiting for.

After a successful series of games on the other side of the globe for the Rangers, things look both shaky and promising at the same time. Coach Tom Renney is really mixing up the lines trying just about every combination he can, even when one seems to work. I think the best one may be the first line of Drury, Gomez, and Naslund. Last season, and historically, Drury and Gomez centered separate lines. Together they seem to synergize.

The second and third line players have become interchangeable parts, with Renney tossing players like Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, and Brandon Dubinsky back and forth between them. The fourth line is the old standby of Freddie Sjostrom, Blair Betts, and Colton Orr.

The NYR defense is much the same as last year, with a couple o' new faces. There are four returning defensemen, including Marc Staal and Dan Girardi (who both had stellar rookie seasons), and Redden should help reinforce the wall.

Goaltending: King Henry is in. I just hope he doesn’t burn out what with being slated to start the majority of the games. Not that Stephen Valiquette can’t hold his own between the pipes – we need to have both goalies ready to rock. I’d like to see the games split more between the two goalies. I’ve always been a supporter of going with who’s hot, and if it’s Vally – then put him in.

The Rangers’ strength going into this season is their goaltending. It’s proven and effective. Defense overall has been decent, but with holes occasionally surfacing. They are definitely in need of a goal-scoring sniper, and hopefully that new first line combo will produce one (or two). Their biggest weakness is definitely their power play, which goes along with their need for the sniper. They have got to start scoring on their short-handed opponents, or else their post-season will be short if existent at all. They have the potential to excel in the East if all the cylinders are firing, however, they are a team in flux, and probably need a season or two to hit their stride.

1 comment:

Kerri said...

Just as a side note, they are GOING to lose Prucha unless something crazy happens, and Gomez and Drury weren't the core of this team until last season. What a dramatic change we've seen! I'm still not sure if I like it...

Good wrap up. I'm not feeling the defense first thing, but meh. We'll see. I have a bad feeling they're going to be on the outside looking in, at least until the very end. 1-0 victories all season are going to suck.