Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Random Hockey Ponderings of the Day. . .

*So I, for one, was shocked with the whole Marty Biron to the Island signing, and something tells me I was not alone. The Isles office makes it seem like, oh, we have 3 potential #1 goalies now. Yes, but guys, I beg to remind you - uh, that's not, uh, normal.

It is what it is though, right? If I had to take a guess - and I do, mind you, like Biron a bit and think he's better than given credit for - I'd say Biron got enticed to go to the Island full well thinking he could steal the #1 spot from Roloson, who, probably, thought he was getting the #1 spot when Rick fell to whatever injury was just waiting to happen.

I may be a Rangers fan and, by default, people may assume I wish bad for the franchise on the Island. Not true. I hope they do improve and I don't want them going anywhere before they get the chance to do so. Too much fun, those rivalry games. And as much as I was never a Rick DiPietro fan, and mocked and was shocked by his lengthy signing, it's no good for him and no good for TeamUSA if he's truly done at so young an age. We may all mock, but I don't think anyone wants to see that happen. Rangers fans have had to watch two goalies retire this decade alone due to injury. It's not happy for anyone.

I'll be curious - very curious - to see how this plays out.

*So Marian Hossa is apparently injured. Very injured. Not play til late December injured. I mean the Blackhawks had him take a physical. And they signed him to a 12-year deal, which even to me made little sense just because it's sooooo damn long and I just don't see how they had the money to spare. Radio speculation was abound today. I mean Tallon, a supporter of Havlat, is let go last week. Havlat, obviously a big supporter of Tallon, is ripping into Chicago management on Twitter. And the guy they got instead of Marty, looks like he will be off the ice for a significant part of the season. It keeps getting more and more interesting.

*Good interview with Glen Healy on the Team1040 today. Next winter Olympics are set to go in Russia in 2014. Healy praised Ovechkin as the best player in the league and an ambassador for the Olympics and the NHL. Said about 96% of the player vote was in favor of player participation in Olympics. He pondered, as do many, just what someone like Alex Ovechkin, or Geno Malkin, would do, if the NHL players were not allowed to play in the winter Olympics in Mother Russia? It's a good question.

Me personally - and we'll delve into this as the 2010 games get closer - complain that the NHL takes a break and I hated, like all Rangers fans, how horrifically the Olympics wrecked the momentum of the 2005-2006 Rangers, a team I love, adore, and miss terribly. BUT, I remember the 2002 Olympics with such fondness I can't even express to you. And I had such a vested interest in the 2006 Rangers playing for their home squads, it'd be hard to imagine NHL players not participating. Once upon a time I probably would have said, I wouldn't watch without NHL players. Now, probably, I can admit I'd still watch, but it'd be for team pride and not for the need of following a group of players I knew. It would be a different experience, that's for sure.

I guess I just see how important it it for the players, playing for their home country. I think back to that day - February 22, 2002, if not mistaken - as I, with tears in eyes, watched Theo Fleury and Eric Lindros, celebrating wrapped in Canada's colors, and thought, well, hey, at least some of our guys won.

*That's it for now. Sorry for the extreme lack of posting. I'm going to stop saying it's laziness and just blame it on summer. =)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some Immediate Thoughts on the Rangers Schedule. . .

A generally happy day is the day the NHL schedule is released. Fans scramble to see when their team opens, and where. What teams come to their home arena? The first long road trip. Whether they can plan any cool road trips themselves?

Essentially planning all their free time from October through April.

And we wouldn't have it any other way.

My immediate reaction to the Rangers schedule - besides giddy excitement - was a little middle of the road.

I've taken a few of each to share here.

The Good:
*Rangers home opener is a Saturday night versus a Canadian team. How sweet is that?

The Bad:
*The Rangers open their season on the road, in Pittsburgh, celebrating the banner raising of that team I'd rather have forgotten won the Cup. Yiiipeee, she said sarcastically.

The Good:
Rangers end the season with another home and home matchup with the Philly Flyers.

The Bad:
Rangers don't even play that hated division rival until December 19th! Boo to that!

The Good:
Petr Prucha and the Coyotes make a stop-off in the Garden on October 26th. Rangers fans better cheer this guy - although I have a feeling that they will. Rangers return the favor and go to Phoenix January 30th.

The Bad:
Doesn't look like a great schedule for weekend road trips. Last year I got a lot of games in; this year I am not so sure.

Overall, I think much of my initial disatisfaction with the schedule can be based upon the fact that it's an Olympic year and things are not going to be ideal. They had to squeeze a lot of hockey in. Regardless, I am so excited. The only problem with the schedule coming out in mid-July is that...well...I wish the season started tomorrow!!

Meanwhile, the first hockey game I'm looking forward to seeing:

*Canadiens/Maple Leafs on October 1st. Komisarek versus his former team. Going to need popcorn for that one!

**Note: It was the plan to be tidying up the site this summer. Slow moving, I know. That laziness thing again. I've added a few blogs I follow to my list. Yes I do follow more than that, and no, I don't read every post of every blogger, even those I follow. Not enough time, I'm afraid. Anyway, trying to find a way to make it look tidier. We'll see how it goes.**

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Belated Farewells to the Rangers Departed. . .

It's been a while since the last blog, and while I feel somewhat badly about that, I can only blame it on the laziness of summer, the laziness of me in general, and the ideal nature of posting Twitter updates, as opposed to blog updates, at work.

That being said, I fully intend, in the regular season of hockey, to be back here, posting on a regular basis, like it or not. ;) I have a few dozen post-its =) of ideas for different things to make Natural Hat Trick Productions more unique and fun for next season, so I'm hoping one or two of the post-its will produce a good idea that catches on. Until then, feel free to catch the random blog here and the more frequent twitter update over on the other side.

Since the whole Gomez for Higgins thing, which for the record, seems already to have been ages ago, there were a few other Rangers to make their way to the exits of Broadway's midtown stage. While it will not be like last year, as I sat, tears threatening, writing a farewell to the greatest European goal scorer of all-time in Jaromir Jagr, I can promise this time around it will be less sentimental.

I have admittedly shed no tears as of yet for this off-seasons Rangers departed.

Although let it be very clear that many will be very much missed.

Among them...

Colton Orr. As if I didn't already harbor some uncertain affinity to the Blue and White (which, yes, did indeed come way, way, way before Luke Schenn people), Colton will certainly provide a secondary reason for me to keep tabs on the Leafs. I sang a few praises of Colton here, where I said he'd never be my favorite Ranger, but I admired him for knowing his role and working to improve himself and his game. And he did that. I hope he does well in Toronto and that Leafs fans will love him like we did. He is, as per, (one of the key guys there did an interview with PJ Stock back in the Final), one of the top two fighters in the league, if not the best. And he was proudly one of our own. I was glad to have him here. Will I still root for him? You bet I will. A good guy, a clean fighter, and one of the few Rangers players that could bring the people of the Garden to their feet. You root for guys like that.

Paul Mara. There are not many guys that I really-really admired on last year's New York Rangers team. But, Paul Mara, undoubtably was one of them that I admired the most. For one, he took less money to play here, in New York. Which stands out because the Rangers are known, in many ways, as a team that gives too much money to people who don't deserve it, and as a place where people go to get paid and not work. Mara was devoted to this team and it showed. He wanted to be here. He had confidence, however unfounded though we may feel it was, in that group he took the ice with. He touted Chris Drury as a leader. He called his teammates the best group of guys he ever played with. He stood up for his teammates when no one else would. He was a great role model for the younger guys. What more could you ask for from a teammate if you played with him, or from a player, if you were a fan? I can't think of anything. And if personality matters, Mara had this one in the bag. The best mic'd up segements many of us will ever see, and he did it with a smile. If you couldn't already see he played the game with the right attitude, this would prove it. Keeping his teammates loose, letting them know they had his support. I will miss the guy, the player, and the attitude. Montreal may be in upheaval this year, but they got one of the best team guys they could ever hope for.

Oh and there may not have been many "perfect" trades, but I think the Mara/Ward one worked out pretty darn well for both sides, don't you?

Fredrik Sjostrom. I was thrilled when Freddie Shoes came over from Phoenix that day, because I remembered the fast kid and thought, what possibilities. Perhaps he never got to be "that" player in New York, although I think we'll all remember a few of his sweet goals fondly, and certainly those shootout tallies. But what I'll miss about Freddie was his sportsmanship. Another great teammate. Someone who played any role he was given - it might not be dazzling, but the Rangers all owe a heck of a lot of gratitude to one-half of the best PK unit in the league for the team's defensive success. When I also think of Sjo, I will think of how, especially towards the later stages of the year, this guy would get beaten up, by pucks, sticks, boards, anything, and he'd keep coming back. His face, his pretty face, was getting scarred one way or another, and yet he kept playing his role. Sure, you need more than role players, but Sjo was such a good one for NY. I can see him being liked in Calgary because he's young, fast, and willing to do what he's told for benefit of the team.

Lauri Korpikoski. I think Lauri, like a bucketful, er, handful, of other guys here, never got the full chance in New York. I liked him. I think he was on his way. But he didn't have a stellar year last year, for whatever reason. He was, unlike some others, given infinite patience in the early stages of 08-09 but he looked flat. Everytime he caught some glimmer of hope, there was a shuffle here, a shuffle there, and it was lost. Again, I can sit here and blame circumstances for a lot of things, but the bottom line is still the same. I think he can be a good player. I think he was a better player than we saw here. And while I thought it would be in New York, perhaps he is yet another young Ranger talent that has to move on to grow and to shine in this league. He wouldn't be the first. I hope he stays in the NHL if that is what is right for him. I feel he'll be better taken care of in Phoenix, and goodness knows, I'll be watching as many Coyotes games as are possible. It is always great to see another familiar face.

And on the other end of the spectrum...

Nik Antropov. I can't say I'll terribly miss a guy that was here for so little time. BUT, I must say, Antropov was a nice pickup and did what he was brought here to do, to a degree. Get some size up front, score some goals. Nik may have deceptively led the team in goals, by default, but he did do very nicely upon his arrival in NY. And despite a language barrier, nine years later, he was one of the funnier members of this team. I liked the guy; I wish him well. As for crying he's gone, I can't do that. Sure, he might not have been worth the $5 million he wanted, that's fine. He probably isn't. But for Sather of all people to call that request ridiculous is ...well, it's ridiculous. Sather please reference contracts to a) Gomez, Scott, b) Redden, Wade, and c) Drury, Chris, and you'll know what ridiculous means. At least Antropov will a) knock someone down, b) shoot the puck on net, and c) score over 20 goals a year. And I think the Rangers desperately needed someone of that size to play on this team.

Moving on...

Scott Gomez. I've already said enough about Gomez. At least all I am going to say now. I was, quite simply, a flawed experiment from the beginning. Let's face it. He wasn't a "Ranger." He was a "Devil" that wanted to come to the bright, shiny side of the river. I have minimal sympathy that he wanted do stay here, but I harbor no ill will on Scott personally, let that be clear. That Glen was able to find Gainey willing to take him will perhaps forever astound. And I have no clue what to think of Montreal this year. That is a topic for another day. I wish Gomez well on a personal level. He wasn't a bad person and he was a sometimes needed break in the mundane, even if his sense of humor itself became rather mundane at times. (Although that day he tried to kiss Trautwig was hilarious). His biggest fault came from his being unable to live up to his contract and, more importantly, of not making it seem like he cared whether he did or not. I am curious to see how he works in Montreal, where media pressure is paramount, and temptations a plenty. I just hope he doesn't shock us all and prove Gainey a mastermind when he scores 30 goals and sets up his linemates for 40 each.

But, really, even if he does, there is nothing we can really say about that. He wore out his welcome here. He never worked here. The flawed experiment came to an end just two years shy of when it began, and I am, for one, very, very thankful for it.

**Forthcoming on the blog, some really great Saku Koivu quotes, and a little insight into the situation in Montreal, if anyone can really provide any. Although I will try. =)*

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Power Play on Sather. . .

Just a quick blog (I know! I know!) before I get to some more thoughts this week.

I'm driving home today and I'm listening to Rossi and Boomer on the Powerplay, XM204. And there was a list of bad free agency teams this season and the Rangers were #4.

The reasoning was hilarious though.

They (I'm saying they because I am actually not 100% sure who it was because I was in the car for so few minutes) said the hockey gods gave Sather a break for all his consistent stupidity. They gave him a break and they let Gainey do something stupid, so that Sather could get out of Gomez's contract.

He said, fans of the Rangers were like, yes, contract is gone, we are going to do it with youth.

And then bam, Sather gives $7.5 million a season right to Gaborik. And they were like, there he goes.

He likened it to Sather being like a drug addict. He tried to wait and he couldn't wait 24 hours with having $$ to spend. So he did.

And he said, fans of the Rangers, that is what they are stuck with. And he didn't mean Gaborik.

He meant Sather.


I'll give my take later, just had to share that.