Saturday, October 09, 2010

Showtime for Broadway Blueshirts

2010 - 2011

est. 1926

Saturday ~ October 9, 2010

New York Rangers
Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo, New York

The Battle for the 8th Seed starts.......Now!
That's it.  I can't envision anything better for this Hockey club without delving into hyperbole.
The New York Rangers have more problems than a math book both in their front office and on the ice.

James Dolan and Glen Sather require special attention. 
I've decided to take those two on in a separate post.

Let's get right to the ice:

John Tortorella ~ He's a lot of things, isn't he?  He's cocky, arrogant, condescending, belligerent,
hot-headed, impatient..., blah blah blah.  We get it.  He is all those things and more.  But he has a normal side too that is present more often than not.  Usually, all it takes is Larry Brooks (Hockey Writer) to be simply standing there after a game and !!BOOM!! ~ Tortorella can go off without warning.

Say what you will about Torts, just as long as you say he has a ring.  He knows what it's like to raise a Cup.  So?  He gets some respect right?

OK ~ I like the guy.  Happy?  If Joe Girardi acted like him sometimes, I'd probably lose sleep staying up all night ripping him in this blog.  Then again, maybe not.  But I like his style.  It's his methods that concern me.

Torts does strange things at strange times and can be his own worst enemy sometimes.
(See getting suspended for a game during playoffs.)
Following-up that thought, he engages in little battles with players within the war, using playing time as his weapon.  Yea, that's coaching 101..., I get that.  When it comes to Sean Avery, he goes over the line.  It's no secret, long ago, Torts went public with his disdain for Avery.  It is what it is.  But Sean Avery is far too good a Hockey player to have Torts constantly manipulating him. 
Just let the guy play Hockey this year. 
Yes, I like Sean Avery too.  He's a very good player when he's not out of his mind.

That's where I am with Torts.  He's a necessary departure from Tom Renny and the Ranger's methodology coming out of the Strike-Season.  But for the record, I thought highly of Tom Renny.  And not for nuthin', the first two years out of the strike/lock-out were fun years; for sure.  Unfortunately Coach Renny lacked some of the intimidation factor Torts possesses of which I like when he fumes against the men in stripes.  There is a place for the John Tortorella's in Hockey.  And for right now, I kinda like having him right here in our place.  That like eveything else in life, can change on the drop of a dime.
I like Torts, but I'm not joined at the hip with him.

Henrik Lundqvist ~ Simply put, he's the KING.  When he's on his game, he's great.  End of story.

The acquisition of Martin Biron will help Henry in the long season.  If Torts gives Biron somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 23 starts, that should go a long way towards keeping Henrik fresher down the March stretch and towards a hopeful playoff spot.  Henrik started 73 games last season.  I'd like that number cut down a tad.  But if Biron can give him those days off late in the season with no fear of an untimely slippage in play, what a help that would be.

Above and beyond Biron being able to occasionally spell Henrik, the defense HAS to be better in front of him.  Now that this IS Tort's team, maybe the defensive philosophy will change.  But Henrik has to have more to work with that what the Blueliners have offered up. 

The only negative I really care to delve into is the occasional stinker.  They come like clockwork.  You can sense when it's time for Henrik to take a time out.  The soft goals he lets through are......soft; the ponderous kind; the mystifying kind; of the befuddling variety.  That's where Biron comes in.  Maybe, hopefully, there's something left in his tank and he can spot us quality time in net and Henrik won't feel like he can't take a day off without the team being affected.


? ? ?
Your guess is as good as mine.  I have no idea who will fill the last defensive spot.  The Rangers have two set pairings.  The first defensive line will be Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.  The second line no doubt will be Rozsival and Del Zotto (my Duke).  After that, who knows what Torts will do.  It wouldn't surprise me at all if he split up Girardi and Staal.

Here's the good news.  No, here's the great news.  At least for this season, Wade Redden can not harm us on the big club.  He's been demoted to the Wolf Pack where his stink will pollute the air of Hartford for a season.  He doesn't count against the 2010-11 cap either having cleared waivers.  Next year that changes, returning him to MSG with his cap hit in tow.

Here's the big picture folks, (and why Sather and Dolan require a separate post all together), Staal is the biggest of the bunch at 6'4" and weighing in at 208.

This team is and for the longest time under-sized!  Coming out of the lock-out season the Rangers committed to being a skating team taking advantage of the rule changes made in the League. 
Blah Blah Blah.
Since before the Lock-out, going back to the earlier 90's and back through all the 80's,
we were and still are....The SMURPHS. 
The title is old and deserved.  We have always drafted small on defense and with forwards; little forwards, not beefy forwards. Never.  So before I really digress, (I told you Sather needs his own post).....

After Torts rolls out Staal/Girardi, and Rozsy with Del Zotto on the second line, I don't know what to tell my fellow Ranger fans.  We all know this is a very old problem we have always voiced about our team.  We are undersized, and now because Redden has prevented us prior to this season from correcting his roster space, we are under-manned.

I mentioned the defensive philosophy of this team from the past and my hopes Torts has a different plan for the future.  What I am tired of is seeing our Blueliners backing up and allowing the rush to enter our zone unimpeded.  That drives me crazy!  We do not hit/take the body anywhere near enough.  And that goes back to what I said about being under-sized.

This team is still going to struggle to score when Gaborik gets shut down on occasion.  The defense has to be better than they've been the last two seasons; period.  Henrik can only save their asses so many times per season and we aren't going to win many blowouts.

Two more things.  Marc Staal finally needs to "grow up" ~ meaning throw his body around a little more.  And Dan Girardi just needs to improve his over-all game.  He excels at diving in front of pucks though.  The kid has guts.  But he needs a better all around game.
(But he has no real fight in him.  He's young and needs more confidence in his game).

Marian Gaborik is the real deal and will get his goals.  Sather got this one right!  He corrected the mistake of the Gomez signing with this transaction.
But he can not do it all by himself.  Every forward on this team needs to be better than they have been.  If that means improving your game, correcting your game, getting your head into the game and anything involving your had better get better.

This team is so hurting at center it forces creating offensive dilemmas for Torts.  At center we'll have Artem Anisimov (my DUKE).  He'll probably be on the first line.  I like this guy and believe his will improve substantially this season.  He will be our best center man.  After Artem, is Erik Christensen, Derek Stepan, and Brian Boyle.  Stepan basically won his roster spot in camp.  He played well and was rewarded.  Keep it up Kid!

Noticed how I didn't mention Chris Drury right away?  Besides the fact he's injured and unavailable, he's a third line center.  That's all he ever was; a third line center.  But on this team he's paid like a first liner.  That's on Sather.  Drury has definitely had his "Great Moments in hockey History".  But if you remember in Colorado he wasn't the first or second line center.  Chris Drury in Buffalo was not a first line center.  Here in NY, Drury has not given us what Sather said he'd give us.  That's on Sather!  Drury is a good guy and I'm glad to have him.  But Sather went way too far $$igning him.  Drury has never really changed over the years.  Only the expectations that come along with money have changed since he got here..., unfairly.

At forward it is finally time for Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky to step into their own.  Callahan is the closer of the two.  But the two together, must progress together, and yes, become stars in their own right together.  That is what they have been charged to do; get better.  They are young and they've been kept together.  What is expected now is the natural progression to the next level.  I like these guys.  They are my DUKES.  But the bell tolls.  It's time they upped their game.  I'm saying we need 30 goal seasons from them.  It's the natural progression.

Sean Avery ~ Stop it OK. I'm going to spare you too.  It's suffice to say I want Avery on this team.  I think he's a very smart hockey player.  He plays both sides of the puck well.  And yes!...he does stupid stuff.  What more is there to say?  I just hope he and Torts can get along and that Sean keeps his mind on good hockey.  He's very good at playing aggitator and I don't want him to stop.  There is a skill to that.  We just need him to do it more smartly.

Derek Boogaard ~ If Sather did anything right, he got it right with Boogaard.  This guy can flat out fight.  He is the reigning heavy weight champion of the NHL bar-none.  He's a one-punch knockout specialist.  He is THE BOOGEYMAN.  If he had any hockey skill to speak of, I'd compare him, and regard him as someone whom we haven't had around here since Nick Fotiu.  This is a great signing and one that was desparately needed to provide this team of SMURPHS some back-bone and making other teams think twice before they take a run at one of ours.

Some how, Alex Frolov, Brandon Prust (MY DUKE), Rusian Fedotenko and an injured Vinny Prospal along with Callahan, Dubinsky and the Centermen need to be shaked and baked into a first, second, third and (doubtful with Torts) a fourth line.  The first line is easy enough to figure out.  What comes after that I feel Torts will leave as an evolution.  Torts may name a second line for show, but when the play starts, I expect him to start mixing and matching for at least a month and a half.

We'll need what Alex Frolov has done consistently throughout his career.  He needs to top 20 goals for this team.  He's had some 30 goal seasons.  If Dubinsky and Callahan up their ante, Frolov's goals will be much appreciated.  If those two do not step up, Frolov's goals become necessary.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Last season the Rangers won 38 games.  Do I think they can win 40 games this season?

Do I think the Rangers can lose 35+ games this season?
The answer is YES.

It's gut check time.  This is Tort's team now.  The skaters should understand his mindset by now.
The players ~ Callahan, Dubinsky, Girardi, Staal, Del Zotto must gel together as the core of this team, the way they were designed to be.  Gaborik, Prospal, Henrik and hopefully a smarter Avery will provide the rest.

The Rangers are being predicted to finish anywhere between 7th and 10th place in the Eastern Conference.  This team is mid-of-the-pack like an abundance of other teams.
What will/can distinguish this team from the others and maybe earn an 8th spot at the end of the season?

1) Better defense in front of Lundqvist
2) More goals on the Power Play!!!
3) Smarter play by Sean Avery
4) The emergence of The Core.
5) Tortorella defining roles for his players.

It's time to drop the puck in Buffalo.
Enjoy the Rangers' 85th Anniversary Season!!

Let's Go Rangers ! ! !!!



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