The Rangers are likely looking at a slow start this season and anything better than treading water will be a bonus for Alain Vigneault. Fans should not expect miracles to kick off the season for multiple reasons. While Dave has already discussed the Rangers looking at all their line-up options to begin the season, the fact is only one line offers stability. The trio of Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello will start the year together and that should come as no surprise but beyond this, there will be significant tinkering with the line-up. It’s not just line-up decisions however that could cause a slow start.
Looking beyond the obvious roster decisions and the Rangers have a tough start when you factor in the early schedule. Starting in Chicago is tough enough but throw in a back to back with the talented (and presumably now healthy) Blue Jackets makes the Rangers opening three games a real baptism of fire for the 15/16 season. It doesn’t get much easier. With Eastern conference heavyweights Montreal on tap inside the first two weeks and the San Jose Sharks due two weeks today, the Rangers have a lot of talented opponents to begin the year. ‘Relief’ should come in the form of games against the Devils and the Coyotes but a .500 record after eight games would not be such a bad thing given the opponents up first to kick off October.
The Hartford Wolf Pack have cut nine more players from camp:
Loaned by the Wolf Pack to Greenville (ECHL):
Forwards (2): Jack Combs, Kodie Curran
Released from training camp tryout and joining Greenville (ECHL):
Defensemen (1): Justin Da Silva
Released from training camp tryout and joining Missouri (ECHL):
Goaltender (1): Josh Robinson
Tanner Glass returned to practice today, skating as the 8th defenseman with Dylan McIlrath. Glass missed two days with a leg issue. The only other item of note from practice was Emerson Etem swapping in with Jesper Fast for fourth line reps. This doesn’t mean Etem will play over Fast, just that he’s getting reps in at his usual position.
The Rangers finished up their preseason schedule last week with a win over the Bruins, and then promptly made two more cuts to solidify the opening night roster at 23 players. Those 23 players will include 14 forwards. While most will not be happy with the decision to carry a 14th forward, be it Emerson Etem or Tanner Glass, it shouldn’t really surprise anyone that the Rangers still have decisions to make. Even with decisions to make, we learned a lot from this preseason.
- Despite what Alain Vigneault said about wanting to start strong, the Rangers will likely be a .500 team in October. AV historically starts slow, as does Henrik Lundqvist. But this year the Rangers will be spending most of the month tinkering with the lineup. There is still a battle for the 12th/13th forward spots between Jarret Stoll, Tanner Glass, and Emerson Etem. One will go. Considering the need for cap space, you can infer where this is going.
- The Rangers can’t be that happy with Etem’s performance in camp, and if he were waiver-exempt, he’d be in Hartford. Waivers complicates matters. Etem will get a long leash –at least through December– to show he can pick up AV’s systems. Remember how long it took this team to pick up AV’s systems two years ago? Etem will take that long as well.
- It’s clear the Rangers want Glass to take the 13F spot, and will likely give him as many opportunities as they can. He’s a good guy and a great teammate. The problem is that it doesn’t translate to the ice. Stoll isn’t what he used to be, not by a long shot, but is still a better option than Glass. He’s on the outside looking in at this point.
With hockey returning in only three (!!!) days, fans have a lot to rejoice about. If you follow teams outside of Rangerstown, you know that there is a lot to look for this upcoming season that will make things interesting. Let’s check out what to watch for outside of the Garden.
Rookie Mania: ever heard of this guy Connor McDavid? Of course you have! There is a lot of hype surrounding the 18 year old center, and with good reason. With 120 points in 47 games played last year with the Erie Otters, plus another 49 in 20 playoff games, there’s a lot of hype to live up to. Will he or won’t he? NHL players expect that he will.
The Hartford Wolf Pack trimmed their training camp roster by 12 players this past weekend:
Released from training camp tryouts and joining Greenville (ECHL):
Forwards (4): Domenic Alberga, Scott Fleming, Brad McGowan, Paul Rodrigues
Defensemen (3): Tyler Elbrecht, Sean Escobedo, Davis Vandane
Goaltenders (1): Alex Vazzano
Released from training camp tryouts:
Forwards (2): Luke Curadi, Stefano Momesso
It’s no real surprise that Donnay and Noreau, the only two signed to ELCs from the cut list, were sent to the ECHL. The Pack’s defense is loaded this year, and while both defensemen are huge, they have glaring holes in their respective games. Noreau spent most of last year in the ECHL, while Donnay was an overager in the OHL.
Both Raphael Diaz and Jayson Megna cleared waivers this afternoon, and will report to the Hartford Wolf Pack. Megna clearing was no surprise, but it is relatively surprising that Diaz cleared. There are a few teams that could use a cheap, capable defenseman –specifically Boston, who is without Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg– but I guess teams want to see what they have internally first.
Three conference finals and a Stanley Cup appearance is no mean feat, whatever franchise you are. The Rangers have had a strong run over the past half decade or so; they have done it despite the ongoing need to develop young talent, spend to the cap to retain their own and recruit the biggest names on the market. Despite the absence of a Stanley Cup, the Rangers have balanced youth and (relative) success very well. The current roster has a young core and even the most key players have plenty of miles left. With this week’s roster decisions it appears the Rangers are continuing with their dedication to youth.
This week’s announcement that 2010 top ten draft pick Dylan McIlrath made the Rangers opening night roster over cheap and flexible roster part Raphael Diaz wasn’t just the right decision (McIlrath had consistently been the better of the two all preseason) but it was another example of the Rangers dedication to youth. Oh how times have changed since the 1997 – 2003 period (what some fans call the lost years). Factor in Oscar Lindberg having likely played himself into the opening night line-up and another season has arrived where the Rangers have managed to inject youth into the line-up with at least two rookies.
What this also means is that the lines we saw today in practice are not the set lines going forward. Alain Vigneault likes to tinker, and although he’s stated he wants to start the season faster, tinkering likely means the Rangers will continue to play .500 hockey in October.
The decision goes beyond Glass/Emerson Etem. This is also about line combinations, player positions, and matchups. There are always many more decisions to be made aside from cuts. Expect AV to go with multiple combinations, which means some unhappy fans regarding lineup decisions, through October.
Tanner Glass is not on the ice, after taking a shot to the leg and limping off.
The Kreider/Stepan/Hayes line was a possession monster on Wednesday, so it’s not shocking to see them together. We still don’t know what will be of Lindberg, but all signs point to him being able to handle the offensive load of a 3C, while providing enough defensive responsibilities to cover the inevitable Miller gaffe in the DZ.
The fourth line can certainly handle the tough DZ starts, even if Stoll is fading a bit.