“Clean Slate. Grab it.” What the hell does that mean?
After starting training camp with an uninspired nearly-senseless new slogan, the Rangers completed an uninspired slate of essentially meaningless pre-season games. The Blueshirts (playing the entire pre-season in their white shirts) looked sluggish and at times defenseless. They squeaked out a 3-2 win over the Flyers in the second game of the exhibition season and then lost to everyone else, going 1 – 5 with a paltry 9 goals scored and a whopping 22 goals allowed. Yikes! Hai smaller goalie pads and new offensive coach!
And while the pre-season is basically worthless, there are some things to look for in the games, most importantly flashes of chemistry. Aside from Francophones Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot looing decent with Mats Zuccarello on what will be the Rangers early season second line, there was less chemistry on the NYR than in the the worst episode of Breaking Bad (which by the way, was “Fly” Episode 3.10 and was terrible.) Rick Nash looked pedestrian playing along side Brad Richards, who once again proved he has no chemistry with anyone.
We at Rangerface.com were expecting to read a slew of puff pieces by the beat guys about how Brad Richards “was in the best shape of his life,” and how he “re-dedicated himself this off season.” But surprisingly we didn’t see any. And if B-Rich did work out during the off-season, it sure didn’t show on the ice. Richards the former Conn Smythe winner who had a horrific season last year is now apparently the 7th best center on Broadway behind Derek Stepan (obviously not a fool,) Derek Brassard, Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Tyson Chandler and the big Italian guy. The former Conn Smythe winner is now apparently the Rangers first line left winger though. In a move, that wreaks of trying to do anything to make this guy succeed, Coach Vigneault has placed him along side the two best offensive players on the squad. Will the erstwhile superstar soar like a beautiful little bird or pull the other two down like the anchor he has become? Smart money says anchor but we’ll see. If this works Vigneault is a genius, if it doesn’t look for #19 to spend many nights in the press box as the Blueshirt Brass prays that he doesn’t get hurt. Because if Broadway Brad gets hurt this year, the Rangers will be stuck with a cap hit and a contract (5 more years 6.7 per) that makes A-Rod’s look like a bargain with Hank’s contract coming up.
The other news this off-season is the injured wings of the injured wings. Ryan Callahan looks to be progressing nicely from his shoulder surgery and should rejoin the team on their opening Herculean road trip though the pretty Carl Hagelin seems to be a bit further behind. The loss of these two from of the line-up creates a huge hole in the team’s top 6 and opens up the space for
Chris Kreider, whoops! Jesper Fasth Fast to slide in and make the team. AV wants Kreider to get major minutes at Hartford, claiming like Torts, that the big winger is not suited to be a bottom 6 forward and not yet ready to be a top 6 forward. (Guess he didn’t grab it.) Kreider will get a call up this season and it will be crucial for his career to make something of his chance. I can’t help but think that Vigneault must also hate Kreider because he stuck him with Richards in the pre-season. Sorry Kid!
Fast will likely skate with J.T. Miller and Dominic Moore on a checking line that should be a decent albeit low-scoring unit. Moore, a good skater and better checker is a bit of a bastard to play against, though he doesn’t provide much pop on the offense. JT Miller is a hustler and a hitter, who can learn to be a bit of a bastard as well. The downside to Miller is that after 26 games and a measly 2 goals last season, he looks like he can’t finish. Hopefully he finds his hands and lights the lamp this season repeatedly but his future might be as a grinder and that’s fine.
The fourth line will be comprised of the Willie Huber of forwards Brian Boyle centering Derek Dorsett and Taylor Pyatt. Pyatt who looks like he is skating with a piano on his back will likely be the first player sent to Hartford/Press box when Callahan comes back and Boyle may be next, if he isn’t sent out of town in a package. Dorsett is key because he contains essentially all the Rangers toughness in his 6’0 190 lb frame. The winger who is more than willing to stand up for his teammates, though often losing most of his fights is the NYR muscle this year with Aaron Asham clearing waivers.
The defense looks to be whole again with Marc Staal returning from his horrible eye injury. As good as Ryan McDonagh is and will be on the first pair with Dan Girardi, Staal is the most important defenseman on the squad this year. Staal who will be on the second pair with Michael Del Zotto will be counted on to eat minutes and provide more of a stay at home presence for MDZ. The Blueshirts will need Staal to be shut down and Del Zotto to be more involved in the rush this season. Steal of the Gaborik trade John Moore will pair with Anton Stralman giving the NYR one of the better third pairs in the league. If Moore continues his development, he may force his way to the second pair and force Sather to package MDZ with Boyle for some grit. Justin Falk is humongous big and will be the team’s 7th D-man filling in when needed.
The Rangers will be fine in net. All this hullabaloo about the shrunken goalie equipment won’t make a difference to Henrik Lundqvist. His GA will go up this season, but not because of the pads. The Rangers will press the offense more and give up way more scoring chances than in the past. Hank will get hung out to dry more than in previous seasons and his numbers will go up, but he will still be the best goalie in the world and steal his share of games. AV has said he wants Martin Biron to play 20 games this year and that will help keep Hank rested, especially with the Olympics taking a bite out of the season.
The New York Rangers had difficulty scoring last year and had an atrocious power play. More importantly they weren’t very difficult to play against. If AV can’t get the power play going, the NYR will be in serious trouble. The Rangers are tough and will hit, block shots and give up the body, but they aren’t nasty or difficult to play against, they will need that this year, as it is going to be a struggle. They will need Nash to be a monster as the big guy is going to have to carry the load (along with Brad Richards) on offense, if Nash struggles early, things could be ugly.
It is difficult to guess how the Rangers will fare this season as they are no longer the Cup contenders that they once were. The Blueshirts are a bubble team this year and will struggle to make the playoffs in a tougher Eastern Conference (Hai Detroit and Columbus!) The NYR does have Henrik Lundqvist and a willing D. If they can build some all important chemistry, find the net and develop a power play, they may get in and steal a round. If they can’t, it may be a long playoff-less season for the boys in blue.
And if you think our prediction is insane, check this out from Rangerface on June 12th.
However, we don’t feel that Sather will go that route and we believe Alain Vigneault will wind up as the next head coach of the New York Rangers.
And this on June 30th…
Lastly, the Rangers have to sign all of their RFAs and most certainly will. With 14 million of cap space available, look for it to to go something like this:
Ryan McDonagh – 3.5 (actual 4.7)
Derek Stepan – 3.25 (actual 3.075)
Carl Hagelin – 2.25 (actual 2.25)
Mats Zucarello – 1.5 (actual 1.15)
Justin Falk – 1 (actual 975K)
Let’s Go Rangers!