Friday, January 26, 2007

State of the Rangers

The Rangers reconvened for practice yesterday after the All-Star Break and are gearing up for the last 34 games of the season, which begins in ernest tomorrow in Philly.

Peter Forsberg is rumored to be going to the Blueshirts which I believe would be a colossal mistake. New York's farm system is in the best shape it has been in since I have been a fan, and I would hate to part with any of the future for an injury-prone player like Forsberg. No question, if Forsberg is healthy he and Jagr are the best players in the NHL - sorry Crosby and Ovechkin you guys have more to prove - but the problem is that the Swedish center is rarely healthy for any significant stretch of time.

There seems to be some disension in the ranks among the Blueshirts. Brendan Shanahan has made comments about how he thinks the power play should be run, while Jagr has voiced an opposing view. It's the classic North American style of crashing the net and getting ugly goals vs. the European genre of pretty passes and hitting the open man for the perfect highlight-film style of goal. Jagr has said that he and Shanahan are much different players and that the North American style is not Jagr's way, and that if Renney went with the Shanny strategy, then he should be on the bench. According to Sam Weinman of The Journal News, Jagr and Shanahan have not talked about their apparent difference of opinion.

My opinion...the Rangers power play is too easy to play against because they are looking for the highlight reel goal, instead of putting the puck on net and getting the ugly tally. If you are a team like the New Jersey Devils you take your chances with giving the Rangers their shots, because you are either going to be able to block a bunch or get a stick on some; and if a shot does happen to get through you have the great Martin Brodeur in between the pipes. Too many teams have stellar goalies for the opposition to be taking shots from outside the perimeter. Plus, the Rangers rarely have a guy in front of the net to create traffic.

The Blueshirts waved aging and slow d-man Darius Kasparaitis, who was well-liked by the fans and his teammates, however, after two surgeries this past summer, he was just not able to play in today's NHL. In doing so the Rangers called up second-year pro Dan Girardi. The recall of the young blueliner is great and he deserves it based on his stellar defensive play with the Wolf Pack. But why should Thomas Pock have to sit? You replace one young defenseman with another. Why not sit Marek Malik, who looks like he is skating in slow motion. Ditto for Karel Rachunek. Slowly the Rangers have built a solid young group of defenseman with Fedor Tyutin, Michal Rozsival, and Thomas Pock. Throw into the mix Girardi and possibly Ivan Baranka; plus Marc Staal, surely ready to play for the big club next season, and you've got a great group to build with.

I'm hoping that Girardi's recall is the start of some housecleaning on the blueline. But let's see...

As far as the forwards go, I have no idea what Head Coach Tom Renney sees in Jason Ward. Martin Straka is out for tomorrow's matinee with the flu, but I have no clue as to why Ward moves up to the top line? Why not Petr Prucha? Why do the young players get buried, while older and much slower guys get rewarded with ice time that is definitely not earned?

Most fans and local reporters were surprised that Brandon Dubinsky was not called up from the Wolf Pack. Dubinsky is also having a fantastic season in Hartford and could really help as the second-line center. Certainly he is a better option than Blair Betts, who is a checking center.

I have been perusing the message boards lately and am quite surprised at the amount of anti-Renney remarks. But when I see Renney put together line combos and defensive pairings like the ones set for tomorrow, it doesn't surprise me.

Last season, I thought the Rangers made great progress in giving the young guys enough opportunity to prove themselves, I guess we're back to playing guys out of position and thus being misused. It seems that the Rangers are being overly cautious with their young guys in Hartford, as opposed to last season when they really allowed their "future" to learn on the job. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Maybe Renney will read my blog and ask me for my insight, but like a great man once said, "Dare to dream!"

Line Combinations for tomorrow:

J. Ward-Nylander-Jagr

D-Men Pairings:


Ice Chips: Peter Forsberg has reportedly told the Flyers that he would like to play for either the Ducks, Sharks, or Rangers. Meanwhile, Rob Blake and/or Brian Leetch are said to be going to Edmonton; Blake maybe, but Leetch has said repeatedly that it is the Rangers or bust. It looks to me as though B.L. will go quietly into the sunset.

Off the Beaten Path: Adam West on with Bill O'Reilly talking about the old Batman series which ran from 1966-1968. Classic stuff! C'mon you know you do the Batman dance when no one is looking!

Stay Onsides!

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