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. www.twitter.com/nhtproductions

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 Hockeyfights.com, (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. =)*

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