And to continue. . .
The Started Fast and Slowed Down (Continued):
#20 - Fredrick Sjostrom. I'm calling Freddy's start "fast" because for the most part, it kinda was. He had a big start in shootouts, which is a skill that should be credited. His early games and his type of goal scoring as shown in game 4 versus Philly (even if at the time I called it an empty net anyone could have hit; little did I know just how hard this team would make it to score) made him earn more than fourth line minutes. Problem was, once he got there, nothing much happened with it. Whether that is him slowing down, or who he is playing with, or what, I am not sure. But he's not been fast and has not been as effective for a while now. A great PKer, yes, but as you can see, the Rangers have plenty of those. I still think with the right people Sjo can score more, but again, considering no one on this team can seem to score consistently, I am not sure what to say about it.
#17 - Brandon Dubinsky. I love this guy. I expected him to have a breakout season and the way he looked in camp, I really thought that was the case. His time in Europe and his early season heroics seem a lifetime ago away now. Why? Perhaps Renney's line switching. Perhaps Renney's benching. Perhaps Dubinsky just wants to play with Euro-style players and Renney keeps screaming at him that he's a Ameri-Canadian and he should play like it. I'm not sure. But Dubi has heart and when he's on, he's on. He'll take one for the team. He has the right attitude. I just expected more and it hurts to see him struggle. He can be one of the few, precious few, captivating players to watch on this team. I hope, sincerely hope, he can get the right linemates and stay with them, and that he has a monster second half. He's struggled and maybe it is a sophomore slump. But maybe he's just needing a chance to get back to the top.
The Youth and Heart Mis-Used:
#29 - Lauri Korpikoski. The Youth. I might be the only one or in the grave minority, but I am not sure if I like the progress Lauri has been making on the current Rangers team. I saw a kid in pre-season play amazingly. Go to Europe and play amazingly. Come back to the states and look flat. They sent him down, which was in my opinion the right move. He flourished playing wing down there. They bring him back up and make him go right back to centering half the moronic players on this team. I don't get it. And I don't think it's him. I've seen him look better as of late, and yes, add him to the list of guys who is getting PK time now. But really after Europe, I've only seen him look really comfortable a handful of times. Is that growing pains? Sure could be. I just wonder why other young guys on other teams seem to fit in more seemlessly. I'm not suggesting he should fit in perfectly. I just hate to voice my fear which is that he is being used incorrectly and that it will stunt the type of player I think he can be. Again, bright spots in Rangers organization. There are too few; they can't afford to screw more up.
#25 - Petr Prucha. The heart. I'm putting Pete under this title because he, quite honestly (to borrow his good old coach's favorite phrase) has been drastically and unjustifyably misused for so long now. For this season, there is not a bunch to go on, as he's only played in 12 of the team 39 games, with only seconds of powerplay time, and an ever changing group of linemates. I've devoted much time (and time I was glad to and will continue to be glad to spend) on talking about his situation. So I'll leave it at this. Considering his limited ice time, limited playing time, he has made the most he could possibly out of his situation. In only his 12 games, he is tied for fourth on the team in shooting percentage. And one of the few even players they have in terms of +/-. He did all he can do. And more really. His teammates love and support him. He has energy and heart that I'm envious of. And defensive liability? As a person who just re-watched the Prague games, I can say that Pete was on the ice BOTH games with his linemates of Korpikoski and Callahan towards the one minute mark of BOTH games with a ONE goal lead, becuase their INTENSE forechecking was known to keep them in the TAMPA zone. Obviously Renney and Co. forgets who they depended upon to get the job done on the INTERNATIONAL stage with the WHOLE country watching. Prucha may never be the BEST player on this team talent wise, but he sure plays like he is. And I'll take that every time.
The Middle of the Road:
#10 - Nigel Dawes. I am going to be brief in an attempt to not sound anything other than straightforward here. Nigel had an invisible beginning to the season. Invisible. He got knocked off the puck, looked overweight and out of place. It was hard to see. A kid who scored a franchise record number of goals for Kootenay, I was excited to see that translate to the NHL. And while he had moments last year, this year was a very big disappointment. But it was for so many that to single Dawes out would be unfair. Instead, I'm going to say that despite the slow start (and in addition to the two game stint he played with Fritsche and Korpikoski earlier this year), he has really started to find his stride. The last 4? 5? games he's looked much improved. And that's great. The Rangers need all they can get. I mean you have to stick with your struggling playmakers, don't you Tom? (Sorry, Nigel, I tried really hard but just couldn't resist).
The Started Bad and Got, Well, Better than Bad. . .
#3 - Michal Rozsival. Now, yes, Rozi's -10 is nothing to brag about. And I thought he was permanently going to be the Rangers fans new whipping boy this year (and for however many of the next three years he stayed here) - joining Nedved, Poti, and Malik. He had a dreadful start. Dreadful. Looked helpless and the booing- let me just say, while perhaps deserved although I don't really personally believe in it, did not help him. It actually made him suck worse. Thankfully, a surprisingly good game in Tampa pre-Thanksgiving, and a well timed Western road swing, made Rozsival look more like a player. A player worth $5 a year? Please. That contract is a joke. He is not worth it. He's our 4th best defenseman on his good days. But have I seen a noteable improvement in him? Yes. Will it last. Gosh I hope so.
The Funny and the Not-So-Funny Over-Priced Centers:
#19 - Scott Gomez. I do not even know how to begin here. The guy is funny. His sense of humor is great. But his sense of humor does nothing to make me laugh and forget that he is in NO WAY our best player. And yet, to the league's utter amazement I'm sure, he is being paid $10 million dollars this year. $10. I thought, I honestly thought, that maybe, maybe, with Jagr and Co. gone and Gomez being able to "do his thing" that he'd be setting up people. That he'd get 20 goals himself and set up teammates for around 50-60 goals. Give or take. I want to smack myself. For whatever reason, it still isn't clicking. Is it him? Is it the pressure? I don't know. I don't. But I know that he's like that song "Hot and Cold." He's out of the lineup, the Rangers flounder. He comes back, things seem to right. He either skates the fastest and looks the sharpest or he skates the slowest and looks the most confused. He either wins an unimaginable # of faceoffs, or he gets blown out in the category. I am not sure what the Rangers expected. But I expected some consistency. And while he's funny and he has his moments, there is no way I can view him as anything but over-priced and over-hyped. I hope. I hope he can figure out who he can play with and get it done. But the fact that any of us (and perhaps me included) thought that Naslund/Drury/Gomez was a good idea in the first place, was seriously disillusioned. Right now, he sits fourth on the team with scoring, setting up at a faster pace than he's scoring, which makes sense. But he and his "boys" are a combined -27 right now (Naslund -10, Drury -7). Something is not right here. And he's funny but he's just not THAT funny.
#23 - Chris Drury. I am trying to breath and I write this. Sather chose to go out and sign both Drury and his other moronic bobsy twin (see above) to these outrageous contracts that if not already, promise to cripple this franchise into the new decade. I can't be mad at him for it. But I can sure as hell take it out on him when he plays like crap. Drury does one thing exceptionally well. He's a good PKer. That's great. The Rangers have Betts, Sjostrom, Korpikoski, Gomez, Callahan, and any other random player that can do just as good a job as him. He is a marginal faceoff man. Betts has not been perfect this year. No one has on faceoffs. Last year this team rocked at faceoffs and you know what - it didn't help them at all. But...if that is supposed to be your only redeeming quality and you can't get it done, you are an embarassment. Worse. Worse than all of that and his stupid contract is the fact that he is captain. If I allowed myself, I'd keep myself up at night thinking about what a disgrace it is that this man is captain of my team. He has no heart. If he does, I would love to see it. But as it stands, he has no heart. He has no passion. And he is, arguably, the most boring human being alive. I feel sorry for him actually. I stupidly wanted him here and not Gomez, if you can believe it. A captain should motivate. A captain should have a pulse. A captain should be a leader. If he is motivating, he's doing a $$itty job. If he has a pulse, he's shown it three times, twice when he nearly decapitated people swinging his stick in anger. If he's a leader, he is leading this team right down the road into lackluster oblivion. Messier was a messiah. You could read the pain of a loss on Jagr's face from across the ice. Leetch, while neither verbal nor a great captain, was harder on himself than anyone and he was arguably one of the BEST defenseman EVER to play the game. What's Drury got to say for himself. Oh right he had a good Christmas. Embarassing. Utterly embarassing.
The Defensemen Who Can't Play Defense:
#45 - Dmitri Kalinin. Since Kalinin made no promises and since he was not the stupid man with the cigar that gave him his contract, what can I really say about him. I've never heard him speak. He has no emotion. He has no ...anything really. He is just a defenseman who cannot play defense. A defenseman who was probably hidden for years by a stellar system in Buffalo. A defenseman I am sure many of us will forget when he is gone. But someone that adds nothing to the team. And someone who is just really, really bad at what he's supposed to do. I feel he's a good guy which is why I refuse to lay into him more than that. But who would know. The guy is perfect for Renney's team mold. Do the job (crappy) and keep your mouth shut.
The Horrifically Overpriced Defenseman Who Can't Play Defense:
#6 - Wade Redden. Finally and at last we come to what arguably might just be the WORST free-agent signing the Rangers have ever made. Worst because it is in the post-cap era where the Rangers can't just blink and say, oh well, who's next. Worst because they had to have known better than to give a guy that was barely hanging onto the title of defenseman, let alone former All-Star defenseman, in the sinking ship that was Ottawa, a contract like this. Worst that they thought, with any degree of certainty that New York, of all cities, was the place for him to fix his life and his career. $6.5 million. For 6 years. My heart dropped. My stomach lurched. And I said, wow, I hope I am wrong. I hope I am wrong and this guy can get better, can play here. Can be worth even half of his salary. But he isn't. He's a defensive liability just like Kalinin at $4 million more per year. His famous breakout pass that was lauded for ever and to ad-naseum, I have seen it maybe twice. Twice. This was the key to our powerplay woes? Our $6.5 million dollar cure to our powerplay woes? I cannot even speak because my stomach is starting in again. Seriously? Seriously!!! Wade Redden, the hands and feet of stone defenseman, with the IMMOVABLE contract, will be here in NY longer than anyone. Tell me how Sather sleeps at night over this one. And now tell me he even cares.
The I Wish You All Were Somewhere Else So You Could Be Saved From This:
#49 - Dan Fritsche. Dan Fristche is not the best player, but he's too good to not be playing here. With the list I just read above and the face he can't crack this lineup because of favoritism and other bs, he probably wishes he was still in Columbus. I'm pulling for you Dan. I seriously am.
#38 - Corey Potter. Corey Potter is yet another bright spot in the future of the Rangers organization that will probably never really come to see the light of day. He plays two games where he does NOTHING wrong and looks better than 75% of the rest of his fellow defensemen. He then takes a scenic tour of the Westcoast arenas, in street clothes, and proceeds to get shuffled from Hartford and back at whim. He's better. Everyone knows it. I hope they don't ruin him too.
#12 - Patrick Rissmiller. Happy New Year, Pat. I hope you are enjoying Hartford. And I hope your New Year's wish was that Sather burns off his damn moustache with his cigar. Because I
really wouldn't blame you. Come on people. He can play for the San Jose Sharks (the NHL elite) but he can't play here because we need to have room for the boredom and monotony and the salaries.
Alright, it was long and it was wordy, but there you have it. I'd summarize the overall good and bad and go into the coaches, but who really cares. The Rangers are where they are because of the tidy mix of the men above, the moronic coaching staff, and the been-here-way-too-long management. A handful of the guys that play, play like they mean it and deserve to be out there on a nightly basis. The salaries handed out in 2007 and 2008 will handicap this team for years to come. They are 25th in the league in scoring beating out Minnesota, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay and Ottawa. Their powerplay has been a joke for 3 straight years now. The only things they can brag to are a great penalty kill, which has faded, a Vezina caliber goalie, who will fade if he is continued to be ridden as he is, and a blue-chip future All-Star defenseman which is probably wondering how he ended up here in the first place.
If they all love each other so much. If these are all the best group of guys they've all ever played with. Great. Seriously great. But they are barely winning by it. And in the process and in between embarassing losses that make other team's all time history reels, they are being led to play the most boring, lifeless brand of hockey I have seen in a long time.
So Happy New Year everyone! Ignore whatever above is too sarcastic. Enjoy what you can. And remember, hockey may be life, but there is more to life than hockey.
Yeah right... :)