Saturday, May 30, 2009

Around the League: And the Lakers Matter Why. . .?

First of all, I love that the NHL had to wait to see what happened with the Lakers/Nuggets series last night before deciding what time to air tomorrow's Game 2.


Say the Lakers had not wrapped up their series last night, but tonight's game went into 4 overtime periods. What then?

The NHL would still not want to have their games go up against those of the NBA. They'd force a tired group of players to play a 3pm afternoon game because that's the best thing for ...who exactly?

Either way, my guess is the NHL must be thanking the Lakers big time right now that they didn't really have that big a decison to make.

I swear, if I didn't love hockey so much...

I've already kind of expressed what I feel about the matchup for the Final. I hate seeing the same teams play every year. I really do. But, in this particular circumstance, I'm going to let it go, and as I've already said, just hope for a long, fun series.

They came through last year; can they do it again?

In Detroit's favor - experience, goaltending, leadership, the best defenseman in the league, if healthy, and unbelievable depth.

In Pittsburgh's favor - two of the best offensemen in league, young guns, and the fire to prove they can get it done this time around.

I think Detroit, even though not at 100%, still is just way too deep. They are the defending champs until someone knocks them down. Just not sure if I see it happening.

Hoping for a good one!

Author's Note: I joined Twitter for the only reason, seemingly, of it being easier to post quick updates at work on there, rather than on here.

I can't believe I caved. ;)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Around the League: Some Quick Hits

Author's Note: I've been very much out of touch with the blogging community, both writing and reading lately. I just have to take a minute to say that I've been without a computer, minus at work, and I've been too busy to do much there. Hence the really quick posts without proper links or formatting, which I don't like doing. Good news is, I am hoping with in the next few days to have this situaton back to normal and to get back to some sort of routine. In the meantime...


This situation despresses me, so I try not to think about it too much. I did however read a good article today in Canoe. Worth a read if you have a few minutes.

While I think there is more to the situation than just geography, I have heard people mention this before. I've only been to Arizona once and never to Glendale. I am not sure how difficult the sitution is first hand, but it doesn't sound like it's easy. And, granted, as mentioned, this should not be an excuse, but it does make you think twice about going to see a team especially a team without a great record of success. Remember, we are spoiled in NY. The fan base is so strong and so deep, the team will never play to an empty arena. It's hard for us to see how a poor team and a long drive would deter fans from going to see a hockey game, it really is.

Again, I'm holding to both sides here. I want the team to stay in Phoenix because I think they are right on the cusp. On a personal level, I became invested in this team from Trade Deadline on, and I want to see the rest of their journey.

That being said, I can't argue with having a team in Southern Ontario. I just can't. I'm just saying that it doesn't have to be the Coyotes.


Well, I've been busy and out of communication so long, the 3rd round came and went and we are faced with the same two teams in the Final as last year.


Look back. I've never been a fan of seeing the same team win all the time. I want to see different teams, different players. And again, I'm faced with the no-win of watching a team I don't like in Pittsburgh face a team that I never liked in Detroit.

I honestly believe Pittsburgh will win sometime. The will be good almost every year, unless something drastic happens. This is what we are faced with for the better part of the next decade.

And Detroit, well, Detroit might just be one of the all time most successful teams in history when you look at what they've been able to do over the last decade. And how they've done it. I may not like them, but I respect Detroit completely.

More to come on this, I'm sure. But if we can hope for anything, let's hope for a Final as entertaining as last year's was. I'll be satisfied with that.

Peter Zezel:

His passing was just such sad news. A person I recognized more for their name than in actually remembering him play, it's just such a reminder of how fleeting life is. I've heard such nice things about Peter as a person on the Teams and in the press these last few days. A shame. It seems the hockey world lost a truly great guy much too young.


Seems the Rangers are making a few more of the little signings that make no sense to me and that I usually ignore until they mean something. Just like draft day. I'll have an opinion when the guy actually plays a game for the team. Otherwise, just a name. They are all just names.

More on the Rangers this weekend. I want to wrap up some final thoughts. Then, like I said, hopefully back to some sense of normalcy.

What, normal, here?



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Around the League: And He's Back [UPDATED]. . .

Too many thoughts, too little time.

Pat Quinn and Tom Renney in to coach for Oilers.

We'll see.

**6:04pm update:
According to the Team1040, Renney said his decision of accepting an associate head coaching position "was obviously a no-brainer."

Interesting to note, he could have probably gone on to be a head coach somewhere, but he chose a lesser position but what he felt was a better situation. News on the Team is that Quinn's more agressive approach will work well with Renney's more careful x and os approach.

It's also a massive Vancouver reunion.

Again we'll see.

***6:27 update:

Some quotes from Tom Renney on the Team1040 after the press conference in Edmonton:

"I'm excited about this, no question about that."

"Anytime you make a decision like this, you want to take a good hard look at the people you are with. And in this case, it was a no brainer."

"There is a level of trust and a level of respect to match."

"I think we are both really excited about working together again and getting the Oil back to the winning ways."

On Vancouver connection:

"It's certainly unique. But you never know in this business. That's for sure. It always comes down to people."

"I think MacT had it going in the right direction."

"We have to maximize the potential that is in our young people."

"We should be good to go."

"I think the dynamic then comes back to making the commitment and elevating the level of commitment and holding people to it."

"If you hold people accountable, if you help these players be the very best players they can be, you should be good to go."

"I think it's vital that this team is seen as one that has turned a corner and pursues excellence on a nightly basis."

"I can't wait to do it [ come to Vancouver] as an Oiler."

***Well he had me until the word "accountable."***


Friday, May 22, 2009

The Right Attitude. . .

Clint Smith, the last remaining player from the 1940 New York Rangers Stanley Cup winning team, died Tuesday at 95 years of age. Here is a very nice write-up in the New York Times.

“We would have played for the Cup for nothing back then.”

It seems this man had the right attitude, an attitude that sometimes appears to be severly lacking in sports today.

Rest in Peace, Clint. And thanks for knowing what it truly meant to Be A Ranger!

In his own words, "Once a Ranger, Always a Ranger."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Around the League: Bettman's Personal Vendetta. . .

Worth a read:

I have really been too busy to write much, but I still catch a radio broadcast now and again. Last week, the guy I only know as the Moje/(the Moge?), went on a rant about Bettman. It was a common theme as he was filling in for Rick Ball. My favorite line about Bettman:

"Why don't you stop being such a condescending ass. Do you think the fans and the media are stupid. Maybe if you told the truth, people would respect you more."

I love it!

Because the truth is, without getting into more than I can handle right now, Bettman is just that - a condescending ass. I've never once thought that he wasn't talking down to everyone - we as fans, the media, the collective hockey world.

And I've always felt like saying, look, Gary, this league has survived and in some ways improved, but it's not because of you. It really has nothing to do with you.

That is one thing Canadians and I will always see eye to eye on, dislike for the commissioner. I just love that some of those in the Canadian media have no fear of saying it.

Keep an ear open today as news leaks out about the Coyotes. My personal opinion is biased. I have heard Gretzky will only coach the Coyotes if they are in Phoenix. I think they have a good young core that, if given a little time, can really be a solid playoff contender. So for that reason I'd love them to stay.

However, to say there shouldn't be another team in Canada is ludicrous. What is the stat - that the 6 teams in Canada alone make for like 20% of the league's revenue. Oh, sure, Gary, they don't need another team. Let's count on NJ, Atlanta, and Tampa to keep selling out their arenas. Oh wait.

Yeah. I could got on for hours on this, but I won't. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rangers Season in Review/Part Three: Personality Plus. . .

When the season first began, and certainly as it went along, I found myself asking a question I cannot remember asking myself in all the years I watched Rangers hockey.

That question:

Do I really even like this team?

Or, more specifically, do I really feel a connection to these players?

It's been mentioned by many this entire year. This Rangers team - and not just the Redden/Gomez/Drury triad I previously tore apart verbally - was just not very likable or enjoyable to watch.

Likeable, enjoyable, you may ask - does that really matter?

My answer - HELL yes!


Because even when this team was winning back in October, I wasn't embracing them like I usually did.

And even when this team was self-combusting in February, I wasn't torn apart about it like I usually would be.

In both cases it was one of two things or both wrapped up together that caused such emotion, or lack of emotion, in me: the lack of personality of the players and the lack of personality of the product on the ice.

The Players:

These, to be quick about it, are not your fathers NY Rangers. These, to be outright blunt, are not even the NY Rangers of my own youth.

To start, only a handful of them, at best, really seem to embrace the idea of Be{ing} a Ranger!

In those precious few, you see immediately that they truly get it. They understand the meaning of playing for this team and love the pressure and challenge of playing in one of the worlds great cities.

Those are also the guys, if you'll notice, that made promises to themselves and the fans to start the season. A promise to be committed and to play each game with the same enthusiasm and committment. Now I think I'd admit that the promises you make to yourself are great but its the promises you make outloud that really put yourself on the line.

A perfect example of this is Marc Staal.

Staal was quoted in Prague saying he had worked on his hitting in the off season and that was one area of the game he was looking to improve from his first to second season.

And, what, may I ask was the one thing many noticed about young #18 this year besides his overall growth and poise with the puck? He took the body each and every game. He hit consistently and because he's 6'4", he hit with his body behind it and he knocked guys over. He did his job. Everyone embraced his effort.

Staal was not alone. Callahan obviously made promises to himself and the fans. To play hard every night and never stop giving 110 percent. That's why he was the Steven Mcdonald Award winner. That's why the fans loved him. Few things gave me such pleasure this year as seeing Cally run around hitting everyone in sight.

Lundqvist, even when he didn't play his best, still committed himself to this team. I don't think there is a person that cares more about how he personally performs and how the team does. We saw him start to lose patience with the 2-1 system, but the guy continued to give, and give, and give. However, as we saw, Hank could only do so much. He needed, too often, to be perfect, but he could not make up for the lack of scoring. And yet, his professionalism never wavered.

Avery, like him or hate him, came back to this team at trade deadline. He wasn't perfect, but I think we'd all be hard pressed to find an example, besides any of the above, of a guy that worked harder, skated harder, or wanted more to make this thing work. Avery wasn't here the whole year, but he provided a very big shot of life to a team in desperate need of all he offered.

Now that we've covered the good, - well, there was everyone else. The others that just did not have the same level of committment. I won't name them, because its really unnecessary to do so. All you really have to know is that those I've just written about were, arguably, the only four players that brought it each and every game.

Now Staal had a small handful of bad games. Hank had a few more than Staal. Avery had a few as well. I'd actually argue that Callahan may not have a bad game all year.

Regardless of good versus bad, they all came to play hockey, each and every night, with the interest of winning the game and taking one for the team.

By default everyone else will pale in comparison. And many will completely fade off the map.

Look, I wanted this team to do well - whether I expected them to or not- but it is very hard to like a team when it appears so few of the them are really trying. Or that so few of them seem to care if they are trying or not.

That is something I struggled with all year. And that is something we'll all struggle with as long as the team stays the way it is.


The Rangers went from being a team with many strong personalities to being a team severly lacking them. No one can ever truly replace the league's true great personalities like Jaromir Jagr. Or the wise personalities of those like Brendan Shanahan. They are simply in a class by themselves.

But it is almost unbelievable that so many stale personalities end up on the same team, unless of course it was by design.

What I say next is not meant to be a personal indictment of any of these players. As they have given us so little of themselves, I truly know nothing about their personalities off the ice and away from the team, or in the room where none of us are privy to see.

That being said, some of them have it and some of them don't. And by "it" I mean personality, something special that sets them apart from the rest of the nameless/faceless players that play in this league.

Have It:

Mara has probably the best personality on the team. He showed it and it suited him. Listen to those games he was mic'd up. I mean not only were those segments some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen, but they show how his personality helps the team.

"That a boy, Raymond James."

"Nazzy, where's my hug?"

"Sick pass!"


(Although I'd be much obliged to anyone that can explain "carpool" to me) =)

Avery, who I'll discuss more some day this summer when we're all bored, has a personality. Hell he is personality. Like he said, even half Sean Avery is still not so mild.

Hank has a charismatic personality. Sure, he's not Tim Thomas in terms of open book, laughter and chatting on gamedays. But he'll smile at the camera and engage the listener, with honesty and thoughtfulness (not kindness, thoughtfulness).

Valiquette has a noble eloquence and a good sense of humor.

Gomez, when kept in check and perhaps in small doses, has a great personality.

Nik Antropov actually has a very good personality. I saw an interview with him on NHL Live that I suggest you watch if you can find. (Although this is a funny one too). And, truth be told, even though he arrived late in the year, he quickly became one of the few players I'd look forward to hearing from post or in-game.

We might not have gotten to see enough of it, thanks to dozens of previously discussed and yet to be discussed reasons, but Petr Prucha had a fun-loving personality and a likeability his teammates and the fans couldn't help but respond to. His smile simply could not be contained. The response of everyone to him - teammates and fans - showed the charisma that he undeniably had and that we were all unfortunately deprived of enjoying more of.

Middle of the Road:

I'm not sure whether Callahan has as engaging a personality as the rest, but lucky for him and for us, it doesn't matter that he does or not. His ON ICE personality more than makes up for any other aspect he lacks. And truth be told, he does not lack as much as his teammates. I can see him, if he allowed himself to be, opening up and being more engaging with people. And, honestly, in comparison to others, he does give a pretty nice mid-game interview.

Staal and Korpokoski, although we don't see enough, appear to have similar dry senses of humor. Staal, particularly, reminds me of a Robin Ventura type, cool and calm, but funny in a thoughtful way. I wish we'd hear more from them so we can tell for sure.

I think Colton Orr smiling after he beats the crap out of somebody, is funny. It shows he does have personality. And it reminds me of PJ Stock, which is never a bad thing.

Dubinsky is here, merely because I do not know what he has - yet. He has shown glimpses of being funny at times. And at others he's giving the same boring speech as everyone else. I reserve the right to hold judgement on him.

Don't Have It:

I like and respect Markus Naslund because I truly believe he had a great career and was a well respected player in this league. And he gave truthful, honest, and solemn post-game interviews. But he was not a sparkling personality. He reminds me, at times, of Martin Straka, not in talent, but in personality. You understood he cared, and you appreciated what he was saying, but there wasn't much dazzle at all.

In the same vein as Naslund, I place Fredrik Sjostrom. I think, honestly, it's the solemn poise and stoicism of the Swedish players, of which there are a few exceptions I'm sure. I always liked Freddie Shoes, even when he was with Phoenix, but he, like Naslund, will not dazzle with personality. At least not to us. We like him because he tries hard and he's good at his job, but not because we're engaged by him.

Blair Betts might just be tied, in my mind, for the most boring guy on the team, next to the quiet Captain. You notice when he was mic'd up twice this year that they always ended up showing just one segment, right? It wasn't an accident. There just wasn't anything left to show. Valuable as hell to this team and underappreciated by everyone, myself included, but he is just not an engaging personality.

The Captain Chris Drury wins my award for worst interview ever. Ever! I'd take an interview from Vladimir Malakhov over a Drury interview, and that's just hard to believe. Why? Because Malakhov has an excuse, still, years, later, with being Russian and harder to understand. But Drury? There is really no excuse for him being so boring, so soft-spoken, so mumbling. This is actually painful for me to type. I do appreciate the guy. I do, because I think he's a fine human being. . .but again, he's not a great captain and he's definitely one of the absolute worst public speakers. Again, ever!

Trading Derek Morris for Nigel Dawes was like trading the same personality to me. I couldn't tell the difference.

Zherdev, Rozsival, and Kalinin never gave us enough, or had nothing to give - perhaps we'll never know. Maybe it does have something to do with the European factor. I mean Rozsival has been here four years, but I don't think I heard the other two speak more than once each!

Girardi might have a personality but we haven't really gotten a chance to see it.

Voros might have had a personality, but he, perhaps like others, lost it somewhere before Thanksgiving.

Redden. I'm not even going to bother with this one. Redden is a polite country farm boy that plays hockey in Manhattan. A personality clash if you've ever seen one.

What does this all mean? It means different things to different people, I guess. I know some fans like whatever guy is wearing "the uniform" and doesn't care whether he can differentiate one from the other.

If that's the case, these were YOUR New York Rangers.

I openly admit, I love to love the players and if I become attached to a player, it is something I do so very completely, as you may have guessed.

Now, my favorite New York Rangers in the past have fallen into one of two categories - players that I loved for their talent and players that I loved for who they were.

Who they were could mean the way they carried themselves, their grace, their passion for the game. Their personality. Their extra something special that set them apart from everyone else.

I love the Rangers "team" regardless of who is on it, but that doesn't mean I have to love and embrace every single player on that team. And this team, for the first time in a long time, made me realize that truth.

I respected Naslund. I respected what many other of the stoic players like Betts and Sjostrom did.

I didn't appreciate some other players at all because they gave me very little reason to: either with their lack of effort on the ice or with their indifference or lack of defining personality off of it.

But I did embrace a handful of guys, a small handful. Staal, for his talent and the promise of a guy that can have it all. Callahan, for his drive and undying dedication. Hank and Vali for their committment to the game and thoughtful exploration outside of it. Avery for his character. And Prucha for his heart.

If we're tearing down all walls here and being honest, those were my favorite players on the team this year and have always been among my favorites during their times on this team. Those were the guys I embraced. Those were the guys I was happy to see do well. Those were, also, the guys that so often did well.

I don't think that's a coincidence either. And not because I sat here and picked my favorites because they were the best, but because I probably was drawn to them because they worked so hard.

Now, granted, they perhaps were the ones that stood out because next to everyone else they just shone that much brighter. That may very well be true.

But I loved them because they gave something more - if not in talent, then in effort. If not in points, then in heart.

As much as I love and embrace those players and understand why I do, I still wonder why it is only the precious few that seem to put everything together here.

Why do they come with that drive, that distinct essense of wanting it more and not settling for giving less than one hundred percent?

Perhaps it is the knowledge of how the fans embrace their heroes, those great players who have been here before and left a tangible piece of themselves behind.

Perhaps it is that that inspires them, these few among so many others - the possibility, no matter how remote, of being one of those rare players that is remembered here, long after their career is over.

Of being one of those special players that is still thought about, decades after the've last skated on Garden ice.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hockey In Any Language. . .

So I thought I'd try to be a good American today and listen to the Russia/United States World Championship game. I found a handful of broadcasts I could stream online. There was just one problem.

None of them were in English!

So for the last two hours I've been sitting here at my desk listening to hockey - in Russian.

Just so you know, I do not speak more than three words of Russian, and even those I'd probably pronounce semi- incorrectly. So the last two hours might very well have been spent in vain.

But you know what, they kinda weren't. It was unmistakably hockey. I might not have understood much of what was going on, but I can understand the players names. I heard plenty of Kovalchuk, Perezhogin, Oshie, and Okposo. And you can hear plenty of American music in PostFinance arena - where the Rangers played their pre-season games in Bern last September.

In any language, the ending was dramatic. TJ Oshie takes a penalty with less than two minutes to go in the game and the Russians won the game on the ensuing powerplay, 3-2.

Even though I've been too busy to keep track of the NHL playoffs as much as I'd like, it's time like these that I wish I was living in a place where hockey meant more. I'd love to be in a country where people cared about the fact the World Championships were going on. Where they'd meet at bars and watch the games, no matter the hour.

I mean it's fine because I'm not THAT invested. But I was curious. And I would have liked to listen to the game in a language that I actually understand.

Want the truth though? I bet if you asked the next 100 people you saw on the street if they knew the US was playing in a hockey world championship game today, you'd get at least 99 blank stares, if not the full 100.

I'll try again later today to listen to the Canada/Sweden game, in hopes I can pick up a Canadian broadcast, or at least the RDS feed. I can understand "et il but" just as well as the next guy/gal.

**It's been a busy week and hard for me to keep track of much hockey or ramble on with more Rangers Season in Review entries. I'll try to finish that little exercise this weekend. Enjoy the games everyone. I plan to flip between both playoff contests tonight and catch some of the late game tomorrow night.**

**I had purchased a monthy program online to listen last year when Dubinsky was playing for the US and lighting it up. I suppose most of the broadcasts were available in English because the games were being played on Canadian soil last year.**

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Around the League: Wisniewski Update and Words From Doan. . .

It's In the Breathing:

I watched or listened to the majority of the Detroit/Anaheim game on Sunday, but last night I only ended up turning on the game around the time James Wisniewski got hit in the chest with a puck.

Now, that's what we knew happened - around intermission when the Versus studio guys finally got around to showing the incident again. Granted, right after that happened, Wisniewski had been elbowed in the face, so that was the focus of the replays over and over again.

The color guy, for the record, - I think it was Darren Elliot - it took him three times to realize that it was not Francois Beauchemin that got injured. I mean, I know they may be high up but they do have monitors and just how similar are Beauchemin's #23 and Wisniewski's #34? (And the second time was after the video had already gone to a closeup of him on the ice).

Anyway, small gripe. To the point of this post: When the incident happened last night, I really wanted to run down immediately and type what I thought was wrong with Wisniewski, but I was, admittedly, too lazy to do so. What I wanted to say last night was that I was convinced he was having problems breathing and that whatever came out the next day news-wise, would confirm that fact. I am a seasoned viewer, but certainly a viewer with no medical background - whatsoever - and I knew that he was having problems breathing. Looking at him hunched over on the ice, his back was heaving in an abnormal manner. He wasn't acting like he was in pain - although he was - he was breathing like he was scared he wasn't getting a full breath. A very spasmodic motion of breathing, if you will.

And that is not the type of reaction you'd get from being elbowed in the face. Unless you were in such pain you got yourself upset and started hyperventilating. But yet they all kept focusing on the elbow to the face.

And low and behold, I hear on the radio today that Wisniewski has a lung bruise, or a lung contusion for all those medical people all there.

Now look, I hate that the kid got hurt, but I take a small level of pleasure in being right on that one.

If you want to hear the VS broadcast at this junction of the game, feel free.


And if you've been in hockey circles today, you probably heard about the Coyotes filing for bankruptcy. I'm going to play like Shane Doan here and wait to comment until there is really something to comment about. Very sad for the franchise though, a franchise as you can well imagine, I have come to have quite an investment in.

P.S. I'm listening to PJ Stock and he's saying, there is only one broadcast you should be watching tonight and that's the CBC. He says so because he's working for them during the playoffs. It's 2 rounds into the playoffs and I've gotten the CBC broadcast exactly once and gotten to see PJ exactly once.

PJ, man, I only WISH, I could.

No disrespect to the VS guys. They do the best they can with what they have and I enjoy some of their broadcast teams. Sometimes, on a good day. But the CBC, they are just light years ahead and it's a shame, as a hockey fan, that I don't get to experience the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rangers Season In Review/Part Two: The Question of Captaincy and Leadership. . .

While I don't think these things - captaincy and leadership - doomed the hockey club as much as the so many mediocre players being paid as superstars payroll snafu, I do think it would be wrong to not believe this played a role in some way.

How significant a role? It may be impossible to ever tell.

The Quiet Captain:

As the team got set to begin their season in Prague with their plethora of Czech players on their roster - *ahem, little sarcasm there* - Tom Renney was carefully selecting his choice for captain of the New York Rangers.

Whether he put a lot of thought into this decision or none at all, we'll never know, but he settled on the guy known as Mr. Clutch, Chris Drury.

I have nothing personally against Drury; I have found him in every instance I've seen him to be a polite and kind human being. In fact, The Hockey Rodent said it best when he said he'd "'like' to like" Chris Drury. But...

I never, not for one second, thought he was the right person to be a captain here. Not at all.

Personally, I would not have named a captain so soon. And was pretty upset they chose to do so. When you have arguably the greatest European scorer in the history of the game who has set numerous team records and carried, at many times, the entire Rangers team on his own shoulders leave, and leave under the not so best of circumstances, to me the worst thing you can try to do is try to immediately replace someone of that stature.

Because you will inevitably fail. Whoever it is will never live up to what you need him to be.

My vote would have been for no captain at all. Instead name three alternate captains perhaps based on seniority with the team, or seniority in the league, and let a true captain step up during the season. Let the day in, day out routine of playing in this league and in this city name the captain for you.

But, no. Tom Renney chose to name Chris Drury as captain. Because, presumably,
Drury loved NY, because he wanted to Be a Ranger!, because he was a rotating captain on a successful team in Buffalo, and because he was a winner.

Or, in my opinion which I stated here this season, I think on some level, Tom Renney named Chris Drury captain because he was the most easy-going, and would never say anything but what the media and the brass wanted to hear in the most boring and monotonous way possible - after every single game.

And he lived up to that perfectly.

As for the rest of our expectations, he came up short.

I have my own favorite captains, both on the Rangers and in the NHL. Obviously I loved Mark Messier and think he was always a remarkable captain. He did everything.

My current favorite NHL captain, Jarome Iginla, kind of fits into that mold. He scores points and is, on many nights, the best player on his team. He is supportive of his teammates and will drop the gloves to settle something. He's eloquent and a respected presence in the league, respected by teammates, opponents and those that cover the game. He's the "do-everything" poster boy.

Shane Doan is a close second for me (and yes, it was before this year's trade deadline). He is a very talented player - very underrated in fact. He's humble. He's eloquent. And he's got a great sense of humor. If I were a player, I'd love to have a captain that would be able to keep me loose and laughing when I was uptight or give me a a speech to get me pumped up when I needed that - and most importantly, to know when each situation was necessary. He's a prideful guy, and a guy that wants to succeed. He knows how to work with everyone - veterans, rookies, coaches. Canada has many of the best hockey players in the world and when it comes time to name their captain for their international teams, Doan is always right there. I find that very, very telling in terms of his character.

Chris Drury, on the other hand, does not seem to inspire the same reaction in me, or his teammates. I think he threw one shove this year, maybe accidentally. He showed emotion four times, perhaps. I alluded to it during the season. Once after scoring the goal against the MM squad in Bern. Twice when he was angry he didn't score and a) threw his stick and b) smacked his stick on the boards nearly decapitating Steve Valiquette. And once again, when he scored his "clutch" goal in the playoffs.

As for inspiring in general, the Rangers team didn't seem inspired. Now whether or not that all had to do with the captain remains to be known, but I am of the opinion that it wouldn't have hurt if he had been more vocal.

I mean, seriously, there were so many spans of time his play was dismal, he appeared absent, and I'd swear I had yet to see him have a pulse, whether on the ice or in the post-game interview. I may expect that from a bunch of the non-factors on my team, but the captain?

That can't happen.

A captain, to me, is the right guy if he is that guy that can inspire - inspire others to play better, inspire them to love the game, inspire - anything.

Look the Rangers were blessed to have Mark Messier, the best leader in sports, and one of the greatest captains.

In between Messier's two runs, my favorite player Brian Leetch became captain. Favorite or not, I did not think Leetch was a good captain. That may have been because he loathed the fact Mark was no longer around or maybe he just wasn't able to translate his knowledge of the game to others.

The big difference though was that Brian Leetch was the best player on the team. He was the best player on a team that also had Wayne Gretzky. Leetch had no apologizing to do if he wasn't the perfect captain, because he was always the team's best player.

Drury, gosh forgive him, was not the team's best player. We can't even make a fraction of an argument for him in this case.

See you can get away with being a captain even if you aren't typical captain material if you are the best player on the team. Also true to note that you can be a leader without being a captain, but it is pretty hard to be a captain without first knowing how to lead others.

Now, all that very much aside, I do believe, pretty strongly in fact, that Drury did care very much for this team and his teammates and desire to do well. Perhaps too well. You know how Tom Renney's greatest folly in the end was his loyalty to his players, something we'd normally admire.

Well, Chris Drury's greatest downfall, perhaps, is in caring too much. And not knowing how to focus that emotion.

Instead of seeing a guy that is firing on all cylinders and go-go-go on the ice, we see a guy that was often playing timid, nervous hockey, which is no fun for us to watch and not at all effective.

I didn't necessarily come up with this theory alone. His teammates praise the heck of Chris. Renney and Torts both alluded to how much Chris cared.

So, I decided, perhaps it's not a lack of caring. It probably isn't. But more likely, it's a lack of translating that caring into something that works.

Drury made a bunch of people, myself included, very unhappy with his "won't let this ruin my Christmas" quote after the Christmas Eve-Eve massacre loss to the Capitals last December. Now, I don't really believe that Drury didn't care, or that he wasn't embarassed by the loss, say what he said gives the opposite impression. And that is not a good thing.

As fans, I think we expect to hear some more honesty. Some more truth. Some more passion! Some more pulse! Some more anger! Some more - anything, for goodness sakes!

The utter lack of that, in addition to all else, compounded why Drury's leadership style, whatever it may be, just does not translate in New York.

And that is why he being captain was never going to work. A very nice guy, decent hockey player at times, but just not a good captain.


Chris Drury aside for a moment, this team, on a whole, lacked a leadership figure or figures for the young kids to latch onto. Believe it or not, this is a big problem.

I'd like to borrow some thoughts from PJ Stock to hilight this. In the weeks following the Canadiens demise, PJ talked about how when he was in NY and he wasn't doing the right thing, he always had an assistant coach telling him who to look up to.

He was told to look up to Adam Graves, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter. See how they practice. See how they approach the game. See how they work.

And PJ did. And goodness knows PJ had three amazing examples of great people and great hockey players right there. He, he was lucky.

PJ pondered just who the young Canadiens had to show them "the way."

He said in Pittsburgh, guess who sits next to Sidney Crosby. After the trade from the Isles, it's been Bill Guerin.

Guess who sat next to Drew Doughty all season in Los Angeles, he asked. Sean O'Donnell, the veteran.

He wondered who the young Canadiens, namely Carey Price and the Kostitsyns, who they had showing them what to do, telling them what not to do.

He feared they had no one.

I do not for a second think the situation is the same in New York as it is in Montreal, although there are some similarities, surely. And I think the young Rangers - especially the young Rangers - are miles beyond in maturity than many others may be. I think in that way we are blessed. Marc Staal, Lauri Korpikoski - they are 22-years-old! The great majority of the team is 24 or younger. They may be young but they do not strike me as needing people to show them how to act professionally.

HOWEVER. That does not mean that they did not lack for leadership ON the ice.

Tom Renney might not have said all the right things when he was here, but after he left he gave an interview in the NY Post where he got something very right. He said, "

"But we had a struggle all year with internal leadership, and I have to think it was very difficult for guys, especially the younger guys, to look over the locker that used to belong to No. 68 and see someone else there, and the same about the locker that used to belong to No. 14.

It's a very heavy cross to bear to be a captain or in a leadership role with the New York Rangers or any pro team in New York City. It becomes that much more of a burden if you're not accustomed to it, and struggle to reach expectations in an attempt to justify your contract."

I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. I'm not blaming Scott Gomez or Chris Drury. I know they want to win. But it's different, that's what I'm saying. And I should have recognized that."

I'm not knocking #23 and #19 (well more than I already have), but there is no way - no freakin' way - that the young guys, after playing next to guys like Jagr, Shanahan, and Straka, didn't feel a little lost looking at the quiet-man Drury and jokester Gomez.

That's just a fact. Did they need Gomez and Drury to show them how not to end up tied in controversy outside the hockey arena? - no. But they perhaps needed them to show a consistent example of putting in effort on the ice.

I am being brutally honest here, but I just do not think that our new "leaders" did that at all. Perhaps had they played with more conviction and heart, perhaps more than just Staal, Callahan, Hank, would have followed.

Sometimes young people need examples. Maybe they just wanted team unity.

But let's be honest, folks, for the most part the only thing this team was unified in was mediocrity.

Bottom line here. The Rangers might have picked the perfect captain, for the group of boring, lifeless players they were for most of the season. They did not pick a captain who knew what it meant to lead or to inspire. The team suffered for it.

The Rangers also suffered for having their young guys display more leadership captabilities and professionalism than 2/3rds of the guys wearing letters.

It's not Drury or Gomez's fault they are not Jagr or Shanahan. The Rangers were blessed to have two of the leagues all-time greatest play for their team and show their young players what it meant to play and succeed in this league. Blessed. And we fans were blessed too.

But while it perhaps wasn't Drury and Gomez's fault that they were put in that position, they had to have known that it was part of the package deal. Accepting the letters. Accepting the contracts. Because they are here, getting paid, other players cannot be here, and cannot help them do everything they aren't doing.

But in reality, they really weren't being asked to do everything.

Honestly, I'd have been happy if they came to play every night and showed a better example for the rest of the team.

**Sorry, these entries are slow in getting written. Apologies too, again, for the rambling, but it's hard to hammer these points down in general. This is a very hard team to wrap explaination around, which I'm sure no one can argue. A few more thoughts in my head - more soon.

Also, I do not want to make it seem as if I am absolving the 2nd alternate, Naslund, of all blame. But I kinda am. He was not perfect nor was he the solution, but I do not think that he was anything but professional here. He said the right things, win or lose, but he wasn't robotic. He was self critical when he needed to be, and critical of the team. And again, I saw him complain to the refs many more times than I ever saw Drury or Gomez. Credit Naslund for doing his job, but I still do not get the hesitancy of the other two to do theirs. I'm sorry but if any veteran with a big contract was setting a good example of professionalism and class, my bet's on it being #91.**

Monday, May 4, 2009

Naslund Retirement Official. . .

It just appeared on, so the news of Markus Naslund's retirement is official.

"I would like to sincerely thank Glen Sather and the New York Rangers for giving me the opportunity this past season in New York," said Naslund. "I would also like to thank the Vancouver Canucks and all of their fans for their support over the 11-plus seasons I was a part of their organization, as well as to the Pittsburgh Penguins where I began my NHL career."

If you want to read what I already said on this, please click here.

At this point, there is nothing left to say but thank you.

Thank you to Markus Naslund for his wonderful 15-year-career. He has joined a list of prominent hockey players who have played for and ended their career as a member of the New York Rangers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rangers Season In Review/Part One: The Players and the Payroll Factor. . .

If the Rangers weren't doomed from the start of the 2007-2008 season by the decisions made in the off-season, they were most certainly doomed by the start of the 2008-2009 campaign. This is something I highlighted extensively during last summer, long before the current team even took to the ice.

In "Does it Really All Add Up, Rangers Fans?" I used simple mathmatics to explain why the Rangers were, without a doubt, screwed. And screwed not just for the immediate season ahead, but for the better part of the next decade. Why? Because they had chosen to tie up essentially half their cap allotment in four players, only one of whom was an important component to their team. Those players were Gomez, Drury, Redden, and Lundqvist.

I guess I don't have to tell you which one was the "important component" now do I?

Once again, we must focus on the chosen three, not because they are chosen for greatness, but because, for reasons still unknown to, well, just about everybody, they were chosen to make the most money for Broadway's team.


Gomez, in dollars and cents, makes the most money on this team at approximately 7.357 million per season. His actual salary for this year was $10 million.

Scott Gomez did absolutely nothing to warrant this type of money. That, in this post-lockout new NHL, is superstar money. And Gomez, whether you like him or hate him, you must admit is simply not worth that type of money. Never was, never will be. I said that before he ever played a game in New York and I say that again, two years into his seven year deal.

But when you pay a given player the most money on your team, it does a few things. It makes whatever line he is playing on the "#1 line." It makes him a focal point of all things good and bad with the team. And it makes him someone that people will look to - for results, for point production, for positive attitude, for leadership.

No, Scott Gomez's folly was not in his not being worth $7.357 million. His folly was in being none of those things that the Rangers needed their top money maker to be. A result getter. A point producer. A positive influence. Or a leader. Gomez was none of this.

If possible, Gomez looked even worse this year than he did the year before, this time floundering without any Jagr or Straka to hang on to. Not only did he not make himself look better, he failed to make anyone else on this team look good for more than a fraction of a moment in time. He'd have a good game, maybe two, and then fall right back off into obscurity.

When he wasn't gone off the map, he was the focal point. Oh yes, the focal point for undisciplined penalties and moronic plays. I wouldn't want to be the judge of a contest over which Rangers player made the most moronic gaffs this season, but Gomez would have to have been a finalist.

I think back to the game in Dallas in early February for two reasons. One, for the Dallas announcers calling Gomez's early pass "vacuous" and two, for him saying "this is not rock bottom." Vacuous stuck with me because it became the perfect analogy for so much the Rangers and Gomez did. They did such rookie things on the ice without seemingly any thought to the fact that they were actual honest to goodness hockey players in the NHL and not kids in pee-wees. And as for the "rock bottom" comment, that stuck with me, of course, because it got worse after that, and I always wonder whether Gomez knew something that we didn't.

But, no, it was not his failure to score points or his uncanny ability to weave the puck into the offensive zone and have it slide harmlessly off his stick, that made me loathe his being stuck on this team for five more years.

What can be worse, you ask yourself?

I never once, in all Gomez's saying "we're professionals" believe he truly understood what that meant. He strikes me as the perfect example of someone who saw how wonderful the players in New York had it and wanted to come there. Face it, he already won more than many players ever will in the league with what he won in NJ. He boasts two Stanley Cups. Some players will never win one. So he signs for a ton of money in New York and, really, who can blame him? New York apartment, New York scene. Oh yeah and play some hockey in between.

When he was in NJ, I used to think Gomez was a moron. Even when he was signed to be a Ranger, I got sick to my stomach at the thought. He always struck me as a little bit of a "punk."

What, save a few Garden of Dreams events - which are very admirable, yes - has he done to make anyone think he is any less the punk he was in New Jersey? Seriously give me one example of what he's done to prove to anyone he's matured beyond a guy that was blessed with speed and was able to fool many into thinking he was an elite hockey player in this league?

I used to think his interviews where he kidded with John Giannone about his wardrobe were cute - the first dozen times - but if that is really - really! - all he brings to this team is a funny interview, I question why they need him on the ice.

And after he did that during a playoff interview, I seriously questioned - for the hundreth time this year - just where his head was at.

If I'm making the most money on an original six team and playing in the biggest US market for a team like the New York Rangers, I can't promise the world but I should be able to promise to have my head on straight.

Gomez, I'm afraid, has never proven to me that he is capable of being a professional and having his head in the right place. He's also never proven to me that he has realized that he isn't and that he doesn't. And I actually do not know which is worse.


I am saving some words on Chris Drury for Part 2 of this already incredibly long Season in Review segment. So we'll just stick to the basics here.

The Rangers signed Chris Drury because he was "clutch." They signed Chris Drury because he had been labeled a "winner." He had won at every level - Little League baseball, collegiate hockey, the NHL.

Therefore he was a "must-get."

I feel worse for Drury than I do for Gomez, because I actually believe Chris Drury wanted to do well and is upset with himself that he hasn't.

BUT, none of that makes me feel sorry for him that he, too, is making $7.050 million per season and that he had done little and has done little to warrant it.

The history of being a winner only means so much. It only means something if you can bring something tangible with you.

Drury, at his best, was inconsistent this year.

Drury, at his worst, wasn't good enough.

That's not including his playoff run where he played, admirably, with a broken hand. That is an admirable thing and that showed that he cares more about the team than himself.

I actually would never argue that fact, that Drury cares more about the team than himself. I would however admit that, sadly enough, that hasn't mean very much.

Drury, like Gomez, would be amazing on faceoffs one game, and dreadful the next. I've never, in all my watching hockey seen such inconsistency as I saw with this year's team.

Now sure, some of that, perhaps, can be blamed on the coaches, the systems, or the lack thereof, but the bottom line is a player decides on a given night if he is going to come to play or not. Not whether he will play or how much he will play or in what way he will play, but if he is going to be ready to play.

Again, I'm not sure how much this was evident in Drury's performance. In his case, perhaps, it was not a matter of caring too little but caring too much. Either way, Drury seemed ill-committed at times. Nervous. Confused.

Not what you'd want or expect from a $7 million dollar a year player.

And point production? Surely he didn't have that. Making others around him better? I cannot with honesty say I am sure he did that either.

Sometimes it is not your fault. Sometimes you just aren't good enough to live up to all the good things people want to believe about you.

Perhaps Chris Drury is clutch and perhaps he is a winner. But it means two different things to win on a team playing a team game as part of a unit and to win on a team playing a team game when you have the responsibility of being one of the biggest parts of that unit.

I have yet to see that push and that desire from Drury when he has been in New York. He scored a few game tying goals last season, one to force an Edmonton game to overtime, specifically.

This year we saw a gutsy playoff goal from Drury in game 4, which turned out to be a game winner.

This was, perhaps, the most clutch moment he had since joining the Rangers.

It was perhaps his only truly clutch moment, with two years down and three to go on his contract.

I like Chris Drury just fine. But the problem with having a great past as a winner and a clutch performer is that if you don't continue to live up to it, you will always be deemed a failure in those places you did not succeed.

It's a shame, but it's simply the truth.


When all is said and done, not Scott Gomez, not Chris Drury, but Wade Redden, will go down as having the worst contract in the history of the New York Rangers.

When I heard the news that the Rangers got Redden, my immediate reaction was to vomit over a theatre balcony. (True story)

I said Wade Redden was the last player I wanted on this team. The last, and that it killed me that he was not only on this team, but on this team for that money and for that many years.


To Redden's discredit, he did nothing to prove us nay-sayers wrong. He began the season with a bit of a snap and a goal in Prague and gave an interview where he said he was so "excited" to be playing with this team and excited to come back and play in New York.

He'd come back, indeed, and score another goal at opening night at the Garden against the Blackhawks.

Goodness hopes he had a long memory because it would be four and a half months, two head coaches, and 58 games later that he'd score again.

6.5 million for a guy that scored 3 goals all year. A guy that was, presumably, hired to be the powerplay quarterback, was a big part of the second to worst powerplay in the entire league.

His best year, numerically, was 2005-2006, where he scored 10 goals, 40 assists and was a plus 35. His best powerplay year, came in 2003-2004 when he scored 12 of his 17 goals with the man advantage.

Problem was, that his last two years in Ottawa produced paltry numbers compared to the three seasons prior. To any observer of even a handful of games in Ottawa, this was a guy that was not on the upside of anything, as I saw myself and well noted here.

And yet, he was given a contract to rival all contracts and to confound even the best of us.

You might expect me to rip into Redden here, let him have it for all he the miserable plays he made this season, for all his lack of effort and lack of goal production. But I'm not.

Instead I am going to give him a teeny-tinsy break, if only for a moment, to make a point.

Wade Redden was set up to fail in New York.

You heard me.

Wade Redden, under the best of circumstances, could never have succeeded here in New York.

For Wade Redden to be worth the contract he was given, he'd have to be in the same league as Brian Leetch, when it all comes down to it.

The Rangers have searched and discarded and pushed aside defensemen, but they have never closed their arms around anyone even half the player that Brian Leetch was.

For Brian Leetch was, in my opinion, the greatest player to play for the New York Rangers. There are things he could do that were so effortless and amazing that we all, each and every one of us, took them for granted. Took for granted that night in and night out, you'd have the most consistent, hard working, professional, and talented player play for your team.

In the years Leetch was here and in the years he's been gone, no one has even come close.

Wade Redden, in his best years, wasn't half the player Brian Leetch was.

And I mean what I am going to say next with no personal disrespect to Wade Redden, the person, but he is not even fit to sharpen Brian Leetch's skates.

That's how far off the reservation of elite NHL defensemen Wade Redden is.

And yet, he is making money comparable to what the Rangers would pay an elite defenseman of Brian's stature.

(Sure, yes, agreed, Brian Leetch would deserve much, much more, in reality, but bear with me here.)

And that - not his lack of skill, not his lack of poise, not his lack of guts -, that is why Wade Redden was doomed to fail here.

Because he is not even worth half that much, or a third of that much. And yet by giving that money to him, we all expect just too much from a man that has, sadly, nothing really left to give.

And now, the niceness stops.

Forget the dismal powerplay and Redden's horrific hesitancy to shoot the puck for the moment. Wade Redden did nothing, nothing!, to endear himself to this group.

He took the paycheck, but he didn't pay the price. He wasn't playing like a Ranger!, he was acting like a fraud.

Forget the numbers. Look no further than these two instances. On January 3rd, Redden got annoyed with Capitals captain Chris Clark, and he knocked him out, with a single punch.

Great, you say. Why bring this up? I bring this up because this still, to me, remains the only example in an entire 82-game season that I have of Wade Redden showing he had a pulse.

The second instance was on February 28th, in the great Avalanche/Rangers goal-fest. In an-already decided game, Colorado took to being nasty, and Dubinsky got involved with a player (Laperierre?) along the corner boards. Every other player went to his defense, and tied up someone.

Redden, in the ultimate moment of team unity, showed team indifference in refusing to drop his gloves so that he could gain an adequate hold on the Avalanche player. Instead he watched as Dubinsky was beaten not by one, but by two Colorado players.

Want to talk about being a good teammate? How about a decent human being? I've never seen a player so hesitant to get his hands dirty.

So no, Wade. It's not your lack of scoring, or your lack of powerplay precense that disappointed me. Remember, I - unlike Glennie Boy - knew in advance of July 1st that I didn't want you for $1 million, let alone $6.5 million, because you were just not good enough.

But it's your lack of pride, lack of support, and lack of anything resembling team unity that disgusted me more in the end.

Why? You can't help that you are a crappy player getting paid the money of a superstar in this league. But you can help your attitude and your committment to the game. I saw neither. And that is where I stop defending you.

Sure, you came back and found some of your game in the playoffs, and weren't a complete disaster there. But, seriously, the majority of the 82 games leading up to it were no-shows. We can't in all ethical honesty applaud a guy for showing up when the spotlight was on, when for every game that the fans and teammates wanted and needed more from him, he came up empty.

In closing Part One of this Season in Review, I feel I must state the obvious. None of these players alone is responsible for the disaster that this Rangers season was. None of these players is soley to blame or to chastise for that fact.

BUT, these three players have to shoulder the brunt of it.


Because of their salaries, other players - other necessary players that perhaps could actually do the jobs better - could not be obtained. Because of their salaries this team is handicapped and these players are, barring insanely tricky measures, untradable.

Is that their fault? No, perhaps not. Ultimately, of course, blame falls back to the Great Concoctor, Glen Sather.

But I, as a fan, would like to think that even if I were not that good, or even if the situation wasn't perfect, that I'd at least show up to every game, play with a sense of urgency, a sense of pride, and a sense of self-worth, that I'd play the best that I could every single night out, knowing, in the end, that was all I could do.

And I am quite sure that none of these three players did that on a regular basis, did the one thing they could control most.

So instead we can sum it all up with these words:

Saddled with similar $7 million dollar salaries from Free Agent Folly Day 2007, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury became married to this team and inevitably connected to its money woes. That is a fact that will remain true until they are no longer a part of this team, and will forever remain true in the memory of the years they spent here.

Wade Redden will have one distinction in his time in New York and it will have nothing to do with his talent or his lack thereof. It will be that he was, undoubtably the biggest most inexcusable folly in a long, long list of big and inexcusable follies.

**Many apologies for the length of this blog, but come on, let's face it: if you are coming here to read this site, you are not reading for quick hits and light reading, you come here to read the always rambling, sometimes scattered thoughts of a wordy individual.

Stay tuned in the coming week for a few more parts of the Season in Review.**

Has Naslund Announced His Retirement. . .?

If what I just read in the NY Post is really true, it means a few things.

I'm not talking about the reflection on the Rangers cap hit and what it means monetarily. Surely that is important and what most will focus on. But I'm talking about what it truly means...

It means Markus Naslund is a professional. He realizes that playing hockey is his job. He saw what some others saw: that he was not at the top of his game, not the player he was six or seven years ago. He realized, especially given a coaching change, that he was not going to be able to play a go-go-go style anymore, and he said he was done.

Now to me, and I've said so before, Markus Naslund has nothing to be ashamed of here this season. I realize many thought he gave half efforts in the tail end of the season and looked a step behind. Well, that seems like something Naslund himself is not denying, here. And he did take a bunch of hooking/holding penalties in the later stages that made a guy losing a step look like he was losing a lot more. I'm blaming that on frustration, perhaps personal and on the whole of the team.

But what I saw, what I am focusing on, is a guy that scored goals when the rest of the team, save a few, didn't. A guy that, when a disappointing season was all said and done, had still scored a team-high 24 goals. A guy that, at 35, appeared in all 82 games and all 7 playoff games.

He scored some timely goals. He was the one skating over to the refs to argue when one of his teammates got an unfair call - more than Gomez and more than Drury. He was the one that had - when he used them - more nifty shots than more than half his teammates. He was the one that sounded genuine in the post-game, in victory and in defeat.

Is that what we - but really Glen - wanted when he was signed - perhaps on some level to replace Jaromir Jagr, as if that man could ever be replaced - at the start of this season? No. But, to me, he really did all he could do given what he had in this team, his teammates, and where he was in his career.

That all being established, last week, he apparently said, I'm done. I cannot help my team the way I want to. I don't want them to be pulled down for me, a guy who cannot do what he was brought on to do.

Now do you think for one second that Gomez, Drury, Redden, et all, would ever think of doing the same thing?


I understand Naslund is at the end of a career, and that makes a difference; I am not blind to that. But it's also called humility, it's also called selflessness. And it's also called pride.

If Naslund was proud of what the season had turned out to be, he'd have been back. Instead, because he knew he was once better and he perhaps knows how this team was - and still is despite his gracious action - painted into a corner financially, and he wanted better for his teammates.

"Proud and classy" says Larry Brooks, of Markus Naslund. I always admired Naslund in Vancouver, and perhaps got a taste of what a great player he was and could be in my years watching that team. He commented publicly how he learned so much when Mark Messier came to Vancouver from 1998-2000, about the game and about how to lead. Naslund, for the record, had his best career seasons in those years post-Messier's departure from the Canucks, perhaps putting to use all he had learned from one of the league's greatest.

Look, I'm guilty here. Maybe I, too, was jaded into thinking we'd get 2002 Naslund here to play for the Rangers. Maybe, given everything I saw happening to this team, I needed to believe that.

The important difference though is Markus Naslund's extreme willingness to admit that the Naslund of 2002 is gone and to make the decision to take the difficult but prideful way out.

Again, Markus Naslund has nothing to be ashamed of here. I still think he was one of the Rangers that, despite limited means, tried the hardest here. I think it was a case, as Larry said, where "the heart and head were willing," but the rest of him simply could not keep up with that.

Still, I'd rather have a guy here on my team that had his heart and his head in the right place, than a guy that is missing one, the other, or both.

Argue all you want that he could have done more, that he was a disappointment, that he should have never been here. Fine. It sounds like Markus agrees to a point that he was not happy with the results either. But do not argue that while this team lacked for some veterans to look up to, some "leader" to follow, that Markus was not trying to be that guy to the best of his ability - by being professional, being humble, and by showing the example of having been there before.

If this is indeed the end for #91, I will not regret his having come play here in New York for this season and I will certainly not regret his being chosen to wear the "A" on his sweater.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Around the League: Kalinin Did What?, Steven S. and the Hawks PP. . .

I opened up this morning and this is what I found:

"Coyotes defenseman Dmitri Kalinin scored two goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime, to lead Russia to a 6-5 victory over Sweden at the IIHF World Championship in Switzerland."


I'll be honest. After reading that, part of me wanted to go right back to bed.

Steven "I Like My Ice Cream Vanilla" Stamkos scored two goals for Team Canada on route to a 5-1 drubbing of Team Czech.

In current NHL news, did anyone see how perfect that 2nd goal by Pat Kane was last night? Not the goal itself, but the setup on the powerplay. The Hawks got the puck in the zone along the boards and they pressured as Vancouver looked for a lane to clear. The Hawks got control of the puck at the near blue line and there would be three very quick passes. No one kept the puck on their stick for more than a second, a second and a half at most. Pass-pass-pass, low shot on goal, rebound, goal.

I watched that, tipped my cap to Pat Kane for his second of the game, and went to bed thinking: so that is what a powerplay is supposed to look like. Hmm. I've never seen the Rangers powerplay move that quickly in a while. Okay, let's me honest - maybe ever.

But, we'll leave that conversation for another day.

I'm in the car tonight so the plan is to listen to Bruins/Canes and switch to the Wings/Ducks. Tomorrow I am out of TV range for the day game (sorry, Mr. Bettman) but will be there with popcorn for Game 2 of the Hawks/'Nucks. If game one is any indication, that will hopefully be a great series.

**Note, I corrected the spelling from the Coyotes site above. It said "winng" goal. I mean,sure if Dmitri Kalinin scored two goals, I might have a hard time typing it too. I am, merely ribbin' here. Honestly, good for him. Maybe Phoenix will provide new beginnings for all. In my watching, he did not look as constantly exposed as he was in New York, that's for damn sure.**