New York Rangers

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Where Do We Go From Here?

Two points out of a playoff spot with 16 games to play, the Rangers are a team mired in mediocrity.  Not only has our offence been pitiful this season, but our defence hasn’t been the tightly knit group they were under Tom Renney.  Don’t think for a moment that I’m suggesting this team would be any better under Renney’s coaching, but if the offence isn’t putting pucks in the net, you need to pay more attention to defence in order to give yourself a fighting chance at winning night in and night out.  That’s simply not happening.

The current roster has some bright spots, but many more question marks.  Obviously players like Gaborik, Callahan, Dubinsky, Del Zotto, Lundqvist, Anisimov and Staal are all a part of what is good, but what about the rest of the team?

It’s been written about ad nauseum that the Rangers need to get out from under the crushing weight of the “big 3″ contracts of Redden, Rozsival and Drury, but that doesn’t seem likely unless they package in some youth or significant picks to get a deal done – in other words, ain’t happening.  There are options, however, in terms of Rozsival potentially being loaned to a European team, Redden being demoted to Hartford, and Chris Drury possibly getting hit by a bus…  However, it doesn’t seem likely that GM Glen Sather would be willing to admit his failure and make any of those moves (although the bus thing would be random, so don’t discount that possibility)…

Supposing we’re stuck with those three, what can we expect down the stretch?

Firstly, we need Gaborik to be injured again, as the team’s offence actually produced better when he was out after the Olympics.  Since his return, the team has been losing.  Now, I’m not suggesting Gaborik himself is a cancer in the lockerroom or anything to that effect, but it seems like when he plays he becomes so much a central figure in the attack that the team can’t get into the flow of games, thus making the opposition’s gameplan a very simple one:  Shut down Gabby.

The season can’t be written off just yet, although it’s a foregone conclusion that should the Rangers make the playoffs, they’ll be done in one round.  Of course, that changes if we meet the Devils or Penguins, against whom we always seem to elevate our play.  Tomorrow’s matchup against New Jersey will show just how serious the Rangers are about making a playoff push, but one has to wonder if making the post-season is really the best thing for the team.

In an ideal world, the Rangers would finish dead last in the NHL, thus being enabled to draft one of the three potential wunderkinds available in Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin or Cam Fowler, but unfortunately the team has earned far too many points to drop back that far in the standings.  So, we’ll be looking at a middling pick in a draft considered to be rather weak after the top 5 or so.  Forget about trading up, since it’s unlikely we have the parts that would be required to move up very far in the draft order, unless Bob Gainey gets another GM gig somewhere and takes Redden off of our hands…

The bottom line here is that this team is stuck in the mud, and there isn’t much that can be done about it.  The free agency market is not particularly stocked with high-end talent who would make an instant difference on Broadway, but there are a couple of interesting names that may be considered, provided they don’t re-sign with their current teams and would be willing to take a spot in the Rangers’ lineup.

1 – Anton Volchenkov (D) – The “A-Train” is the ideal shut-down defenceman the Rangers should target.  He’s physical, defensively responsible, a good skater, and a low-maintenance player.  I picture him getting anywhere between $4M-5.5M per season on a new deal, which would be feasible in the Rangers’ cap situation provided we let Dan Girardi walk.  Adding Volchenkov would make opposing forwards think twice about attacking the crease, something that has been a glaring problem this year.

2 – Tomas Plekanec (C) – Plekanec would be a great fit alongside Gaborik, who lacks a true number one center.  While I don’t consider Plekanec anything more than an exceptional second-line center, on the Rangers he’d instantly be the best player down the middle.  His combination of scoring acumen and setup ability would give the Rangers a very solid top line and make the whole team harder to defend against.  I’m also assuming we’d be re-signing Prospal at a reasonable salary for this to happen…  Plekanec, in my opinion, will net about $4.5M-$5M per season on his new deal, making him a potentially affordable signing if we suppose Olli Jokinen will not stick around.

3 – Olli Jokinen (C) – Failing a signing of Plekanec, I’m actually on-board with re-signing Jokinen, assuming the price is right.  He hasn’t been great, but hasn’t been terrible either, and it could just be a matter of learning Tortorella’s system and his linemates’ habits.  Joker is a former 30-goal guy, and gives us depth up front.  I’d like to see what he could do on a line with Gaborik full-time.

Finally, we can expect an injection of youth into the lineup next season, with guys like Grachev, Sanguinetti and others nearing NHL readiness.  I wouldn’t think Kreider, Stepan or Ryan Bourque will make the team out of camp next season, although some may be called up for spot duty if injuries occur.

In all, I think this team will look a lot different next season, and likely a lot better.  It is all contingent on moving at least one of the big salaries, but I believe that’s possible if not probable.  Until then, we as Rangers’ fans should treat the remaining balance of this season as a development camp.  There will be a few winning streaks, but we shouldn’t get too excited.  There will be some losing streaks, and we shouldn’t get too discouraged.  Overall, this is a team in transition, and for once, we actually have the prospect depth needed to build from within.  Patience is a virtue…

Until next time,

Na Zdravi!


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A huge Rangers (NHL), Falcons (NFL), PGA Tour and soccer fan, I have been writing semi-professionally for about 7 years now. I try to impart information with some degree of humour, and always have an opinion. PSB is another feather in my cap, and am really proud of the team assembled here, and look forward to the long-term journey PSB is embarking on in terms of establishing itself as the best sports blogging collective on the net! Look for articles such as 4-Play, Rangers blogs and PGA Tour updates, along with my NFL handicapping service!

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In response to “Where Do We Go From Here?”

  1. Ben Petrino Mar 9 20102:35 pm


    The Rangers are in a really precarious position. Because of their big contracts you can’t want this team to be bad to get more good players into the system and start building up. They for a few more years look like they are going to be in a fringe playoff spot. Sit the dead weight. Just because they make big money doesn’t mean that you need to play them. There are plenty of young defensemen in the system that should get some NHL games under their belt. Call Sanguinetti up. What do you have to lose? The Rangers probably won’t go anywhere if they make the playoffs anyway.

    I think one of the big terrible contracts might be moved to Edmonton but probably in return for one that is bad too. It might be a good shakeup though.

    And Devils – Rangers tomorrow at the rock!

    1. Dan Rakusan Mar 9 20102:42 pm


      The problem with calling up a guy like Sangs from the minors is that he still counts against the cap, so we can’t really tinker with that too much unless we send someone down… We’re in a no-win situation, except for tomorrow at the Rock of course!

    2. Ben Petrino Mar 9 20102:46 pm


      Marty plays well at home and the team is always energized for rivalry matches. Kovalchuk is going to light it up!

      1. Dan Rakusan Mar 9 20102:55 pm


        We usually play well against the Devils, so it should be a good game. Avery is going to be up in Marty’s face all night as usual, so I don’t think Marty’s going to play his best game… We’ll see though. Devils have one win against us this season (in a shootout) and we’ve beaten the Devs twice. I think Rangers will take it 3-1.

      2. Ben Petrino Mar 9 20103:43 pm


        The offense didn’t show up against Edmonton but was good against the Sharks and Flames. Devils score more than one. And Avery will have to deal with Clarkson who likes to get in it with Avery. Marty plays terrible at MSG but he plays well at the Rock. Either way it’ll be a good game. I think the Devils will be hungry for a win, although the Rangers might be too looking as they need points to make the play offs.

  2. Corey Krakower Mar 9 20102:40 pm


    well at least it used to be the big 4 with Gomez!

    1. Dan Rakusan Mar 9 20102:44 pm


      I still have no idea how Slats pulled that deal off with Gainey. What a fleecing! Plus we got rid of Higgins, who quite frankly was a workhorse but just couldn’t bury his chances… All in all, if Sather can somehow pull off another deal like the Gomez deal or the Kotalik/Higgins deal, we’ll actually be in a good position to add a piece or two via Free Agency.

  3. Patrick McLellan Mar 9 20105:19 pm


    I’d like more than most things to see the Rangers make a deep playoff push. I’ve seen a world series & super bowl win since moving to NYC, but not the Cup. Those big 3 contracts are horrible in every way. @ least Drury has played somewhat competently, on the 3rd & 4th lines.

    1. Dan Rakusan Mar 9 20105:47 pm


      Well, a deep playoff push will have to likely wait at least one more year. My assumption is that this will be a vastly improved team next season with the injection of some youth, and at least one of the big contracts being moved out to free up room for at least one major UFA acquisition. Of course, I’ve been wrong about things like this in the past, and it may actually take even one more year (Rozi’s contract expiry date) for things to improve dramatically in the Big Apple… But, when you look at the prospect pool the Rangers have amassed, it’s quite impressive, and as long as Sather doesn’t deal from it, the future looks pretty bright!

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