Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Versus SC Bern. . .

Well, some were proven wrong and the Rangers did not, in fact, leave their legs on the plane when they crossed the ocean to Switzerland.

But make no mistake. A nice 8-1 win over SC Bern does not mean what it would say the Rangers beat the Detroit Red Wings 8-1. Although how nice and fast was that game?! nice........

I'll just be curious to see how the Rangers do tomorrow when they face off against Mettalica Mangogisk, er, Metalgurg Mangontingorsk, whew, I mean, Metalibur- uh, never mind: - Russia!

And the New Captain of the Vancouver Canucks Is. . .

Poor poor, Canuckville. First they go from being a perennial contender, to a team hitting the golf course in early April. Then their all-time fan favorite Trevor Linden retires. On Free Agent Frenzy day, current captain Marcus Naslund leaves for New York. Then the Canucks unofficially lose the "Summer of Sundin" sweepstakes (although of course there was no real winner in that on-going saga) after going "all-in."

And finally, today, the Vancouver Canucks name Roberto Luongo their new captain.

Roberto Luongo.

The goalie.

Yes, the goalie.


My first reaction was: they can't do that, can they? I guess I just always assumed because I a) heard there was a rule against it, and b) hadn't seen it done - that is couldn't be. I guess I was proved wrong today. (I guess also, in my mind, I always thought if it could happen, it would have happened already with Martin Brodeur in New Jersey).

I have no problems, per say, with this. It is just, quite simply - odd.

He can be captain, but he can't wear a C. Okay, fine. I guess that's the opposite of baseball where guys like the Yankees Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter were captains but only guys like the Mets' John Franco actually wore a C on their jersey. I'm fine with that.

He can't argue plays. Sure. Makes sense. Obviously this was the main reason for the rule in the first place. A goalie shouldn't be the one arguing calls. So the Canucks have nominated Willie Mitchell to do that. Fine.

And lastly, Roberto can't take place in any ceremonial activities - puck drops at center ice, etc. Mattias Ohlund will do that. Now, that one confuses me. Why not? Because it won't be a good photo opportunity? What else would be the problem with that? He might trip someone with his giant pads while going in to take the ceremonial face off? I think it'd be funny. Not if he tripped someone, but the photo in general. Too damn cookie-cutter this league is sometimes. Dare to be different, or apparently so say the powers that be in Vancouver.

So, yeah, hockey fans . . .Roberto is captain in Canuckville. But what, besides in essense and in the locker room, does that really mean? I guess that's why I ultimately, just find it. . . odd.

And this is meant with no disrespect at all to Luongo, who when healthy and mentally ready, is easily one of the best goalies in the league. Or to the Canucks, who I've already mentioned I feel somewhat badly for in this off-season.

I actually just watched Trevor Linden's last game that was still on my Tivo this past weekend. (For the record, not many guys in the league are as respectable in my book as Trevor Linden. Great guy. All hockey fans owe him a lot for what he did for the game we all love. Seriously, great guy). And in watching, I just felt for them. It was quite obvious that it was very likely Linden's last game on that one Saturday night, but as it turned out, it was both Marcus Naslund (free agent move to New York) and Luc Bourdon (who sadly passed away in a motorcycle crash this past May)'s last games as well. A very different feeling I got Sunday watching the game, than I did on April 5th.

So I guess, we'll wait and see. Will captain, and goalie, Roberto Luongo, "lead" his team to success this year? I am just not sure, with all the missing pieces, what exactly he can be expected to do. Except stop A LOT of pucks. Because goodness knows they've struggled in these past few years to score goals and I, quite honestly, do not see where they are going to come from this year to change that.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

GRR!. . .

And it looks, sports fans, like I was at least half right in Friday's assessment of Petr Nedved's being cut from the Rangers.

It wasn't due to his play. It was because someone liked Blair Betts better. However, it was not Sather, perhaps, so much as coach Tom Renney himself.


I've almost always at least been a Renney acceptor. Maybe not supporter, but certainly not hater. That is, mostly, because I've known that I would never be able to guess what kind of coach a certain team would need to be successful. Come on, with the Rangers that would be like spinning a wheel of luck at a carnival. You never know. But I really hate to think that was the reason. I really do.

Again, if the Rangers are 3-10 going into November (and after 6 straight games of scoring only 2 goals in each, in 2 straight games of "The King" looking less and less like royalty, and after an entire pre-season of not one single incidence of chemistry becoming evident - this is all looking all the more likely) they might all wish they had Nedved who at least scored a few goals and had a good camp. Although they will never, ever admit it. And that is, to quote Larry Brooks, "a shame."

His other points hit home as well. The over-abundance of pre-season games (and yes, blame the Rangers organization on this one; for they make these plans) was a cruel joke. The players have to be tired as they flew off yesterday evening. And they don't have it easy in Europe for the next week. And unless there is a complete and drastic change in the next few days, this team will be no better off and look no better on ice, than it has in the last week. They just haven't gelled. Whether they were never going to, or whether they have not had time, remains to be seen. But they are not a team I have confidence in at this point, and I think they shot themselves in the foot on a few things.

Okay, fine, maybe still a little bitterness, but you may or may not have had to sit through the game at the Garden yesterday. I'm not a fan of watching the Devils obliterate the Rangers, pre-season or not. For all those (perhaps myself) that said the Devils would not be one of the better teams in the East this year, I might have to change my opinion. I still haven't made predictions for the season and will hold off until later this week but. . . they look miles ahead of the Rangers. Or at least they brought their game yesterday.

In other notes -

-The penalty on Korpikoski 5 minutes and change into the game was SO incredibly bad, the NHL resinded his game misconduct shortly after. Unfortunately that didn't change the fact that the lines we were supposed to be looking at, changed and had to be shuffled immediately because of the phantom boarding major and game misconduct.

Around the league -

-This, despite recent rants and inclusions, will not be an entirely NY Rangers based blog for the season. It truly won't. Honestly, with 6 games in 8 days, I've had little time to catch any other games, except for the random few minutes on the radio driving home, and the updates I get every morning on XM204. I've been very out of the rest of the hockey world and will be so for another week. But...by the time the regular season opens up in the states, I look forward to more thoughts and commentary on other teams. Until then, apologies for the rants of a Rangers fan with nothing else to talk about. . .

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Season That Didn't Happen. . .for the Guy Who Gave it His All . . .

Maybe I'm being short-sided on this (and it has happened before) but I find it hard to believe the Rangers cut Petr Nedved, when he honestly seemed to be one of only 2-3 guys that were scoring on a regular basis this pre-season. (Lauri Korpikoski and Brandon Dubinksy being the others). And granted maybe having the "Korpedo" score was enough. He looked very good. And honestly, if is just a situation of having Korpikoski over Nedved, then I agree. Lauri has waited a long time and he is ready and I already said that I don't want to sacrifice a young guy for an old guy when it doesnt make sense to do so. That being said, I guess I just don't know if I'd choose Betts over Nedved. I don't. And with no disrespect to Betts, I say that. I have watched this team fail to score before and it's a bad feeling. I hope that this is just an issue of needing more time to mesh and getting some timing down, but if the guys who make so much money do not score, or do not make the players they play with better, then what is the point? It's going to be a long season on Broadway.

I might be a little bitter and admitedly I'm sad for him he didn't make the team. I have not made it a secret, I am a fan of him in all regards. And I would have liked to have him be successful here. Maybe that is short-sided. Maybe that is selfish. I'm not sure. But at least they let him go now before the trip to Europe. A few people have suggested maybe Glen Sather never had any intent of keeping him at all and perhaps it was Tom Renney who felt he had a hard decision to make on who to have play. I think that's lousy if that's the case. You do what's best for the team. And if that means hurting someone's feelings. Fine. (See blog on Shanahan "With apologies to one of hockey's greats. . ." to clarify). I just am not sure why (if the Rangers did not spend sooooooooo much money and are on such tight cap margins right now) Nedved couldn't have a role on this team. Have Betts play the games that were going to be 1-0 anyway, like those against a Boston team. Have Nedved play when you need an offensive boost. Unlike Shanahan, I don't think he wanted big money. And, unlike Shanahan, I think everyone could see exactly where he fit in so well. 4th line center to be both defensively responsible, be able to penalty kill, and be able to score.

I don't like to say this, but I think his playing with PA Parenteau and Petr Prucha hurt him last night. And I love Prucha. Have not made that argument yet and won't today. But not for nothing, Prucha is massivly lacking in confidence right now. Nedved should have been playing with a Voros or a Callahan, or Korpikoski on wing, someone who is firing on all cylinders. I think that would have given him a better chance. Unfortunately almost everyone looked flat last night. And in the end, that was the last they saw of #93. And what they remembered.

It's a hard call and I'm glad I don't have to make it. I really am. But I am disappointed. On a personal level I am. But, I still have to hope this team does the right things and plays well and goes forward in a good direction. I've done it before. I will again. Because they are, after all, my team. And as I grew to love guys like Nedved, post-Messier's departure, and guys throughout the years, I will too grow to love others. You always doubt it can happen, but the heart always surprises you.

But if this team with all their "talent" does not score more than 2 goals a game, I am going to be very, very ill. And with the "talent" they do have, one wouldn't think it would be a problem. But....I guess you really never know do you.

To Neddie: Best of luck in Czech Republic. Thanks for giving it probably the best shot you could have. A lot of people were surprised you didn't make the team, and many were the same people that said they didn't originally want you to in the first place. You are a class act and, yes, you still have the talent to be here. Make no mistake of that. And if and when the Rangers are 3-10 going into November, I'll think about you and wonder, what if.

Quick shots-

- Colton Orr's fight with Tampa's David Koci was a thing of beauty. Stars all around for Orr. He ....might just be my favorite player on the team right now.

- Korpikoski does deserve a place on this team. If HE replaces Betts on the 4th line, I'm all for it.

-Prucha is not lacking skill or ability; he's lacking confidence. Part of that is situational (injuries at not so great times last year when he was just finding his groove) and part of it is the way he was constantly shuffled around last year. (It was a line juggling circus, let's be honest). Now that Petr Neds is gone, I will pray mostly that Pete Pruchs nets a few goals immediately and gets that confidence back. A confident Prucha is a dangerous Prucha. I hope for his sake, he gets the chance.

- Is it me or are neither Dmitri Kalinen or Wade Redden doing anything impressive? Quite the opposite? I hope Corey Potter or Brian Fahey take Kalinen's spot, to be honest. I mean I guess we are stuck with Redden's 6.5....but Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and Paul Mara should be the other guys. And so far, Girardi has looked great. Mara has looked good. And Del Zotto (cut the other day) has passed better than most of them.

I look foward to tomorrow with a mixture of anticipation and dread. . . .til then.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Prayers are With You. . .

I took a short break from watching the Rangers/Devils game and found this article posted on a message board.


With tears in my eyes, I tell you that I have met Jussi, his wife Sanna, and I saw Olli when he was just a baby at the Rangers games. Jussi was one of the nicest players, to me and to everyone. And while this story would be incredibly sad no matter who it happened to, to know it happened to such a nice and genuine couple is heartbreaking.

It really puts a lot in perspective.

To Jussi, Sanna, and his family, my prayers are with you. . .

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pre-season Ramblings Part One. . .

I know I have been remiss in writing on this blog, so you have my utmost apologies for that. For I am, myself, very disappointed. It's been due to lack of time and situations at work that have stopped me recently, not for lack of interest. There are just some things we can't control. Again, once hockey season truly gets under way, I will make the time. You can count on it.
Anyway, as a good little hockey fan, I cleared my Saturday evening for the Rangers first pre-season game in Ottawa. I mean it might not be 2-points-or-bust-hockey, but it's hockey. And that was good enough for me. So watch I did. Through the 21 penalties. Through the choppiness. Through the speed from both sides. And through it all I took away a few key things:
- Brandon Dubinsky is a great hockey player. With Jaromir Jagr, without Jaromir Jagr. He can skate and he has a nice shot. A nice shot. He showed in the Young Stars game at All-Star in Atlanta that he could contribute. In fact he won game MVP honors. He's a special kind of player. I think playing with different players this year, his point totals will go up. I will be very surprised if this prediction does not prove to be true.
-Michael Del Zotto, the guy who I was talking about on draft day only in that he looked like former Ranger Al Montoya (a little, you know when you squint, tilt your head, and. . . never mind), played a quite solid game. Nothing super, nothing flashy. But he looked good on the power play. His passes were crisp. And he didn't stand out for the wrong reasons either which is always important when you are young, making your debut against guys like Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, and, oh yeah, all of 18-years-old.
-Aaron Voros is going to be my type of Ranger. Immediately the interviewers on TV and the beat writers made mention of his story: a kid who loved the Rangers, while crowing up in Vancouver. In 1994. Yeah, my kind of Ranger, boys, my kind of Ranger. To boot, he "stupid" liked Mark Messier back in the day. LOL! It was a great interview with him. And his game - there has been nothing not to like so far. Setting up some goals, hitting, going to the net. Being a force. If the aforementioned Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Voros make up a 3rd line this season, I don't think I'll be disappointed.
- Colton Orr. I like the guy. Actually really like the guy. It always struck you that there was "more" to him than there was to some other "fighters" on the team. Yes he can fight, he can play that role. I want him on the roster when we are playing the Flyers, hands down. But....he can do more. And I started liking him when he said a few years ago that he was going to work on being a more complete player. I respected him completely when he said he was working with Jagr to become a better skater (I believe it was last year). And I now am to the point where I think he's legit in that he made the committment to stay in New York all summer (and he lives in NY State folks, not NYC) to train. He looked better. His skating has, without a doubt, improved every year that I've seen him. And you know what, good for him. He can do more than just fight and he's showing that.
In other hockey news, on Sunday I drafted my fantasy hockey team. :) I love playing fantasy hockey. Now, I'm not really one to talk about who I drafted or the day in and day out of it all; but if by All-Star break, I'm blowing out the competition, I'll be sure to throw that in somewhere. Let me just say I am very satisfied with the skaters on my team. Very.
Back to the game at hand. So last night there was some action at the Garden, the second half of a home and home with Ottawa. The "other" half of the lineup saw game action, with a few exceptions. Again, some key takeaways:
- I trust that the line of Scott Gomez, Marcus Naslund, and Nikolai Zherdev will look better the more they come to play together. It's hard to judge on one night. I know they'll be fast though. And hopefully accurate. The first time Zherdev tried a little move and lost the puck, I heard more than one person say the name [Alexei] Kovalev. (oh!)
-Lauri Korpikoski might be the next player in line from Hartford (of the offensive boys) that I'd say gets a serious look for the club. He came up last year and played his one game, one goal, effort in Pittsburgh to close out the Rangers playoffs, but in all due honesty, this would be first real go around. He looked good.
- That Wade Redden got manhandled on that goal set up by Brad Isbister was only slightly ironic. I hope it doesn't become a habit, but I'm sure nerves had a lot to do with it. I hope. (also hope for the record that Isbister fits in well in Ottawa. Good guy who plays a good role).
And we'll end with . . .
- Petr Nedved being first star of the night really made me think that it was 2002 all over again. I won't go into my thoughts on Nedved. They have been made clear in the August 6th blog titled 'The Great Petr Nedved Debate.' BUT. He looked good. And better than him looking good, people responded to him. Fans, although many of them posers with short memores, were jeering him as they took the ice only to stand and cheer as he scored. And the media was all over it. Everyone got asked about Petr Nedved. Even Wade Redden. Not, oh, Wade, how was your first game as a Ranger? But, oh, Wade, whaddya think of Petr Nedved? For the record, and for the (maybe but I can't guarantee it) last time, I like Blair Betts. I like his penalty killing and his faceoffs. But.....if you want a fourth line center who is going to lead a line to score 15-25 goals (in addition to playing the role of penalty killer and providing veteran leadership), Betts is not your guy. Unless you saddle him up with other wings. But, for the sake of all the lines being already almost set or at least in serious consideration - (Drury, Prucha, Dawes/ Callahan, Dubinsky, Voros/ Zherdev, Gomez, Naslund) - you are looking at a guy that is going to center Colton Orr and TBD. I just got finished praising Colton Orr. But a dream and a commmittment does not automatically a 15 goal-scorer make. He needs time. He needs someone who can pass him the puck in order for him to score. And likewise, an aging center in Nedved, would benefit from having someone to crush a guy in the corneres to make more room for him to skate down the wing.
It's just one game. They all said it. Its just one game. But. . . if nothing else, I got a good feeling watching Petr Nedved take that skate. He's a good guy who's giving it one last try. And if he proved anything last night, both to his fans and to his naysayers, he is not washed up just yet.
More later, as this week of 5 games, and 6 games in 8 nights continues....

Farewell to History. . .

I know, I know. This, by name and for the most part by intent, is a hockey blog. And will continue to be. But....every so not very often, I feel the need to write something about another sport, like baseball. And given the final game at Yankee Stadium Sunday night and the final game at Shea quickly approaching around the corner, I wanted to write about my last experiences in these New York ballparks.
My first trip to Shea Stadium happened on a freezing cold and wet April day in 2002 where I went on an excursion to see not the Mets, but Tino Martinez as a Cardinal. I drove across the Whitestone, with two friends, and we sat, ice water freezing on our jeans and eye lashes. If they had 6,000 people in the stadium that day I'd be shocked. But they were great seats, and the ever nice employees at Shea made sure to brush off the rain before we sat. I remember more the experience of screaming for Tino and freezing with my two friends than the game, but it was a nice memory.
On September 10, 2008, I went to my final game. It was only my fourth trip, but easily my favorite. Even though I was never (unless you can count the crush on Keith Hernandez when I was 5) a Mets fan, I always said that I liked Shea Stadium. I've never sat in the upper sections. I've only sat in very good seats. But I always found the people to be courteous. And it was no different on that night. I sat there, David Wright shirt proudly displayed, and cheered for the Mets. Fan or not, it was refreshing to be able to just cheer, without really caring for the result. And after a back and forth game the Mets did win, on a David Wright homer. I wanted so badly to see the Shea "Apple" one more time. And I did. As a bonus, Jose Reyes, who for the record (and Mets fans might have their own opinion as he hits or doesn't hit) is my kind of lead-off hitter, stole two bases and became the all-time leader for steals in Mets history.
My first trip to Yankees Stadium happened on a warm summer day in July of 1994. I won tickets. Ironically I wasn't trying to win tickets to the "baseball" game. I was trying to win tickets to the celebrity game that was happening before the baseball game. (Shows you where my head was at in the early 90s). But I won tickets, and got to go to the game. We sat in the upper deck, not far from the lights. My father joked we could offer to change them if we wanted to, we were so close. But, from the high distance, I still saw my first professional baseball game. Jim Abbott, a guy who I read a story about in my literature book that year, pitched. A guy named Don Mattingly was at first. Wade Boggs was at 3rd. Paul O'Neill and Bernie Willams were there too, as were Polonia, Tartabull, and Paul Kelly. The Yankees beat Cleveland 6-5. I was hooked.
Not many people can say they became fans of baseball after the strike of 1994. Baseball lost many of it's fans that year. But because of my timing, baseball hadn't had time to insult me yet, and I became a fan that year and in the year that followed. I got to see Don Mattingly. Wade Boggs and he became my favorites. I knew the Yankees before Derek Jeter, which seems hard to believe. My set-up to closer relationship of choice was Rivera to John Wetteland. Joe Torre was not even manager yet; Buck Showalter had the helm.
I was a Yankees fan from 1995-1999, but I was an obsessed fan from 2000-2002. 2001, despite the loss, was my favorite season. I remember almost every little detail about that playoff run. At that time, it was more a passion than hockey, which is both surprising and somewhat hurtful to admit. From 2003-present, I've been a passive baseball observer. There were seasons in there I missed going to games entirely. I believe one year I didn't watch a single game. I got burnt out. I lost that feeling. Whatever I felt in the early 2000s, I just didn't feel anymore. Sad, and to many people, beyond understanding, but I just didn't feel like a baseball fan anymore.
I truly believe it was burnout. In the last few years I've slowly crawled my way back to being at least slightly knowledgeable about what is going on. I've averaged going to 3-4 games a season for the last few, not all in New York. I'll watch a few on TV if they are good matchups. I'll listen on the radio if I'm bored in the car. I guess it came down to that I much rather enjoyed going to the games, rather that devoting over three hours to watching or listening to them.
I find it unnecessary to go into my whole sob story of why I'm not really a "fan" anymore. There are many reasons. But to be honest, it really has nothing to do with the Yankees not winning. You are talking to a person who is a Rangers fan (and will be forever, because some loves, my friends, they never die), and who maybe saw them win once in all the times she went to the Garden growing up. It has nothing to do with them winning or not. In fact, honestly, by 2000 I was tired of them winning. I could no longer remember who caught final outs, who won the MVPs, who they even beat to win the World Series. I mean sure, I wanted them to win in 2001. It would have been picture perfect and ideal. And maybe party of me died that night as a fan, but you know what, it's still my favorite run, so I wouldn't change it for anything.
But in all honestly, the game changed. The fans changed. When I went in 1994 to see what was a quite good Yankee team, the stands were empty. You could breathe. Watch. Enjoy. Win or lose. Now, trips to the Bronx or trips to Camden Yards to see the Yankees, bring sold out capacity crowds, with yelling and bitterness and greed. I'm all for cheering, but Yankees fans now feel so entitled. Because their team buys the best to be the best. I'm sorry, but I've said before, the best they ever had in my generation was a bunch of worker types like O'Neill, Martinez, and Brosius, who will never be the "best" of any category, but saved their best for big moments.
I'm not a huge fan of any of the Yankees now. I've never been a Jeter lover, but I respect the guy. I like Mo Rivera, but I'm not pretending he's a god because I actually know he wouldn't want to be referred to as one. The last good guys on that team for me are Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina. And the guy who I am most happy to see succeed is a guy who I hated with every fiber of my being 7 years ago. Jason Giambi. (I'll explain that one another day). I've joked that I'll be a Yankees fan when A-Rod is no longer a Yankee. I have, what, nine more years to go. But, sadly, I'll never be able to un-see and un-remember all that the Yankees were when he was here. I wish no ill will to any of these guys and obviously I'm near the last person that should have an opinion about a team I've made it quite clear I haven't followed on a regular basis in six years, but I don't feel it. I don't feel the magic. I hope it returns someday, but. . . you never know.
My last game at Yankees Stadium was September 16th, 2008. I waited for hours to get into Monument Park only to be shutout. I spent most of the game taking pictures. Silly random pictures. I watched the game. Cheered when Derek Jeter got a hit in his first at bat to pull ahead of Lou Gehrig for most all time at the Stadium, which is the moment, decades later, I'll remember if anyone asks me about my last trip to the Stadium. I kept my souvenir glasses, took a final picture with my friend, and left before the game was over, which I rarely if ever do. I touched the wall as I was leaving the Stadium, but I guess I had already said goodbye a long time ago.
A lot of people mourned the loss of the Stadium last night. The end of an era. The closing of one building that brought so much pride and tradition for 85 years.
I said goodbye. And it was bittersweet. But I mourned the loss of an era 7 years ago that long ago November night in the desert. And as far as I'm concerned, the loss of the mystique and aura that were Yankees Stadium left three nights earlier with a single to right field by Alfonso Soriano in game five.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

With apologies in advance to one of hockey’s greats. . .

Okay, that's it. I'm mad. I've maintained a very, very careful balance of indifference, tolerance, and nervous excitement in the Rangers movements this summer, and that was hard at times. And yes, before you try to point out that I was threatening to vomit over a theatre balcony after they signed Redden to the six year, 6.5 million dollar contract. . . okay, hold on, I really can't argue against that. I was mad for that one too. But I'm mad again, and this time it's not at what the Rangers have done, but at the constant back and forth of what they will or will not do!

North of the border and among us hockey knowledgeable Americans, Mats Sundin is the person everyone is sick of hearing about. Will he play, won't he play? For what team will he play? (For the record, I gave up on that tiring charade a few weeks ago. I love you Mats, but I think everyone should just collectively move on to their plan "B"s and if you want to play in January, you can have your pick of the teams that can and will have you then. End of story). But no, no, it is not this particular 35+ year old great player whose last name begins with an S that I'm talking about. It's one of the OTHER 35+ year old great players who's last name begins with an S. Teemu Selanne you ask? No, no. I'm talking about one Brendan Shanahan.

I won't lie to you. Or at least I'll try not to. Before Marcus Naslund came to the Rangers and when Jaromir Jagr was still hanging onto hope of returning to Broadway, I had a dream of the great Czech and the great Swede playing together. When Jagr is healthy and puts his mind to it, there are few better in the league. Mats Sundin, a player I've always liked, had a remarkable season last year. Forget whoever the heck the Leafs representative was for the All-Star tilt in Atlanta - it should have been #13. Of that I am certain.

But, when Naslund was signed and Jagr went back to Siberia, that was, to me, the final step in the dismantling of the post-lockout Rangers. The somewhat overwhelmingly Czech-friendly, the somewhat comprised of rather older, the somewhat mish-mosh of players that had been on the team for the better part of the last three years, be it for two or all three of those years. And I included Brendan Shanahan in that bunch, even though, understandably, he was never "officially" gone. Now, again, I had personally said and felt very strongly that when Jagr, Martin Straka, and Sean Avery left, this team would be different. The atmosphere would indeed change. For better or worse, I couldn't guess. But it would change. The Rangers now, as everyone it seems has mentioned - be it media or fans - could look to their $14 million worth of big centers - Scott Gomez and Chris Drury - to lead the team going forward. They brought in Nik Zherdev and the aforementioned Naslund, in my opinion, to get some guys that these centers could skate with. (Again, getting two high priced centers that could not play with your top line of Straka and Jagr was not the most perfect plan, but who could have forseen that? Again, I repeat, Michael Nylander was not looking so bad after last year, was he?). They brought in a group of guys - Aaron Voros, Patrick Rissimiller, Andreas Jamtin, etc - to fill in some spaces, although I'll be perfectly blunt in asking - what spaces? Sure, sure, if these guys a) play and b) fill a role then c) I'll be more than happy to admit I was wrong. But, honestly, my money is on that one of those three play. Maybe. One.

But I'm getting off track. The Rangers now have Naslund and Zherdev, Voros, Rissmiller, Jamtin. They already had Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, Fredrick Sjostrom and Colton Orr that played the bulk of the wingers time this past season of the players that have not moved on or been traded. The Rangers also have a bunch of guys in Hartford whose names I've been hearing for years now - P.A. Parenteau, Hugh Jessiman, Lauri Korpikoski (the one game, one goal guy from last years series with Pittsburgh), to name a few. And Nedved, who can probably play center or wing. (Betts and Dubinsky, as a reminder, are the other two centers). Remind me again how many guys take the ice for a team again? Yeah, the norm is four lines at three guys per, so 12 guys, regardless of whether the coach rolls all four. They dress. And 4 of those are centers, so that leaves 8 spots for wing. So...

I am not the type of person to sit here and make out lines. I really am not. I've seen 47-hundred combinations on blogs this summer alone. And some are typical, some are downright idiotic. And I don't think mine would be much better. But, if we are to assume that Naslund and Zherdev have spots locked up, that leaves 6 spots. Six spots for 8 guys. 9 guys if you included Nedved, 12 if you include some Hartford guys, and 13 if you include Shanahan. (I swear, it was not my intention to make it to 13 - ha!). Now, obviously, training camp and the pre-season is a time to make these decisions, so I'm not saying these guys should not be at camp. Hell, I'm all for having them fight it out - I'll be perfectly honest. But.....I have a few specific problems with adding Shanahan to that list of players trying to make the team. I do.

Because, let's be honest here. Guys like Callahan, Dawes and Orr have been with the team, either last year or the two years before it. They've paid dues and done well in their roles. So they should in all honestly make the team. Down to three. Now, what it comes down to, is do I want at least two of the three of the remaining players that play the bulk of the time (barring injuries and all the other good and bad that might change the original vision of a hockey team that is held at the start of season) to be players who are young, fast, and eager? I do.

Now Shanahan, well, he used to be fast. And he's as determined and as full of heart as they come. That's why I grew to like him here. I really, really did. But. . .

I really do think that having Brendan Shanahan on the team impedes the growth of the young guys. I really do. And not even because I think he invites it. It just seems to happen. When Shanahan came into the fold, he got the first or second line minutes, depending on what line Tom Renney chose to create that week. He got top unit play on the Powerplay, despite the team's absolute and utter inability to not only score with the man advantage but to look like they had any chance in hell of scoring on it. When Shanny played on the PP, guys that had been successful and shown results on the Powerplay, like one Petr Prucha, took a back seat. Those are facts. I'm not trying to make a direct correlation between the two, but I mean fact remains that if one guy plays that role and takes that ice time, that's one less guy that there is room for to play that same role, if you are following me.

Now, if Shanahan were to say that he wanted to play the minutes of a fourth liner, do some time on the penalty kill, where he is very effective, and win some games with those nice shootout goals, I am all for that. Sign him up, let him keep his A, and I can go home happy.

My problem, is I don't believe it will go down like that. I want to, but I can't. If Shanny makes the team it won't be long before he's somehow managed to end up on the 2nd or 1st line. And it won't be long until he's managed to end up on the one-has-to-assume-it-will-be-better-than-last-year-but-these-are-the-New-York-Rangers-so-you-never-know Powerplay. Seriously, I'm not a psychic, but this is how I see it playing out.

And that upsets me. This is, more than probably, Shanahan's last season in the league. A marvelous guy with a marvelous career. And he should have had a more fairy-tale ending than the dismal and disappointing second round beating at the hands of Pittsburgh. He should have. And honestly, I wouldn't have appreciated him if he had not come to New York because I short-sidedly did not like Detroit so I never paid attention to him and the many great players that played there. I accept that, and part of me regrets it. And Shannahan's coming to NY helped resurrect that. I'm glad he came to NY because I got to see one of the true talents in this league night in, night out. And as for a guy - he is a great guy. I was there the day he and Mike Knuble had their unfortunate collision on Garden ice. The place was silent. I know he has the respect of everyone - fans, coaches, media, teammates. I'm saying all this, but that still might not mean enough in the end.

What my concern comes down to is that we're looking at a guy who is saying he's rested, refreshed, and ready to go. But he's still 39 years old. We are all not Gordie Howe. Honestly, really, we aren't. Shanahan, and yes the untimely and unfortunate concussion and knee injury had a lot to do with this, sure, lost a lot of his steps in the time following 2/17/07. He did. And I'll be honest with you, if I knew he was going to take a lesser roll (AND that the coaching staff would be both willing and forceful to that end) I'd really want him on the team.

But the thought of him taking a spot from some young guy who has played with the team before like Prucha, or some young guy like Korpikoski who has been waiting in the wings (literally) for years, upsets me. Because the bottom line is that it's not just a matter of him taking a roster spot for a year. Which is what it would be. It's the fact that they might have to TRADE one of these guys to make room to KEEP him. That's why I am mad. Because then, regardless of the other concerns I've just mentioned, you are now shuffling a team, a team you've already mantled and dismantled and who knows what the freak-antled they've done now, for a guy that will play, at most, a year, and at best, at full strength for half the year.

For he will slow down. It's inevitable. And not at the price of a roster spot for a year. But at the price of some guys that will have to be traded. And they'll be traded away and, if history repeats, go on to play good roles on other teams. (The Rangers do not have a good track record of handling youth, let me tell you). So he'll be here, at the price of these guys that have worked their way up the system and been waiting, waiting as patiently as the rest of us for the Rangers promised youth movement. Oh and no, ladies and gentlemen, it is not 1998. It's 2008. The Rangers have been dis-re-freak-antling their team for a decade now. And youth was promised. And youth was rarely delivered. Now I'm already not happy with the excess of salary money being tied up in four guys and I've made that clear. Jagr is gone. Straka is gone. I think it's the ONLY time for this team to truly embrace the youth. Honestly, it might be now or never. And if that means no Shanahan, I'm sorry, but my vote, is for no Shanahan.

Now, whether Brendan Shanahan comes back or not, I have no choice. But if he plays, I will hope and cheer and pray with all I have in me that he has a monster of a season on Broadway this year. Not to start the season, not to end the season, but this whole year. I will sincerely hope that I was completely and utterly wrong with my above assessment. Because then, and only then, if he looks into the eyes of the Rangers fans and of his former teammates (whomever gets traded away to make his last year on this team a reality), can he say it was truly worth it.

If not, he owes quite a few people an apology. Myself included.

**Author's note. Brendan Shanahan has been a truly classy, talented and professional player and person in this league for a long time. I want that to be clear. The above is merely my opinion. I do not indend for it to take anything away from a guy I completely respect.**