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Despite Rookie Growing Pains, No Need for Panic

They started the year in Hartford for a reason. The Rangers have high hopes for the trio of Tomas Kundratek, Pavel Valentenko and especially Ryan McDonagh for very legitimate reasons. All three young blueliners have skills at their disposal that make them promising prospects. Kundratek is a smart puck mover, Valentenko is a potential blue line bully and McDonagh is the kind of defense-first, intelligent D-man who has leadership potential, however all three are off to poor starts in the AHL this year. This, ladies and gentlemen is why you should really be thankful for the Michal Rozsival ‘revival’ happening right now.

The talented trio have all played in the first 8 Hartford games thus far and they have a combined 1 point (a Valentenko assist), are a combined minus – 3 (propped up by Valentenko’s +3) and in all reality none of the trio have left their mark on the team yet. The defense position is the hardest for a rookie to learn, and all 3 were always going to face adjustment periods. Kundratek and Valentenko are still acclimatising to North American play (despite previous junior/minor league experience) and McDonagh is going from dealing with college to professional athlete’s demands. It will take time.

This is also a time where the Rangers should be thankful for Steve Eminger (gulp). Why? The three youngsters need to be taught and the added ‘depth’ of Eminger will hopefully mean the Rangers resist rushing any prospect up to the NHL. They need to be developed slowly, at a pace they are comfortable with. If any of the three were to see Rangers ice this season then something will have gone very wrong for the Blueshirts (maybe an injury, or a disastrous loss of form). The main concern for the three right now is that none of them stumble badly enough to be sent to the ECHL for some ice time. The Wolf Pack is the Rangers number one affiliate and all three should be making their mistakes and learning from Wade Redden et al on Wolf Pack ice. They are after all, the Rangers development team, patience is required.

The Wolf Pack is off to a comparatively poor start (3-3-1-1) and is struggling offensively (in part due to their blue line struggles) but there is enough talent there that they should rebound and post a solid season. These lows that the three defensive talents are experiencing are part of the learning cycle. When things are going better its important they are there for that particular ride too. The hope here is that all three stay in Hartford for the full year. Spots in New York will be up for grabs sooner rather than later (Eminger and Rozsival contracts within 24 months, Gilroy’s uncertain future etc, etc) so it’s important all three pay their dues in the AHL this season. It’s not a bad thing they play minor league hockey for a full year. Ever heard of Duncan Keith? The current NHL Norris trophy winner played 2 full seasons with Norfolk of the AHL. So if all the trio need to do is play a full year in the AHL they aren’t doing so bad now, are they?

5 Responses to “Despite Rookie Growing Pains, No Need for Panic”

  1. Dave says:

    Yet another reason why we should be hoping that Rozsival (and even Eminger) are going to succeed this year. It will help the kids develop.

    • jurgenno88 says:

      Totally. Eminger was never going to be a saviour anyway but his presence will keep the prospects playing at the appropriate level for now. Eminger is OK to spell Sauer/Gilroy from time to time as the spare D.

      Rosy’s season however is great timing. Hopefully he can keep it up. Its no coincidence that he’s playing at a high level now that he’s fully healthy.

      • Dave says:

        He’s still a little slow, and gets beat a lot (I think that’s from his lingering knee issues), but he’s an important piece. The team would be a lot worse without him.

  2. Steve Nagy says:

    I’m glad that Ranger fans finally getting off rozsival’s back and realizing that overall he is a pretty steady player.Support from fans will get him to settle down and relax and he will even play better. I predict he will be a pillar on the power play this year.

  3. chuck says:

    I think Rozsival is a decent player (definitely not $5M) but the problem with him seems to be his fragile personality. He’s the type of player that needs coddling from the coach in order to do his best. There’s no doubt he was better under Renny. It’s good that he got off to a fast start, because when he falters Torts will ride him and his play will fall apart even more.
    I don’t know if I agree with the writers comments so much about being patient with D men. I understand the point but why not rotate them with the big club and see what happens. Last year Del Zotto was a hit and Gilroy needed/needs more time. If they took that approach Del Zotto would still be in the minors – “adjusting”. Stick them up on the big team and see if any are an immediate “hit” if not put them back. I think Eminger has been bad (ok last night against Atl) so where’s the harm. I definitely think Valentanko is ready now – just needs to take less penalties. Also – what’s up with Stahl? I don’t remeber him getting beat this much all of last season – and were only 10 games in. He got totally smoked last night by Little.