Better Than Expected: 2010-2011 Rangers Final Grades (Dave’s Version)May 2, 2011, by
This year’s version of the Rangers surprised many people, and most were surprised pleasantly. A team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs, a team that was ravaged by injuries to key players, not only made the playoffs, but for a while challenged for upwards of a #6 seed. The Rangers had balanced scoring, although primary scoring was lacking, great defense, and exceptional goaltending. Sure, the Rangers made a quick exit in the playoffs, but all-in-all, this year was a success. So without further ado, here’s my version of the Rangers final grades. Expect grades from The Suit and Chris sometime soon as well (after all, our opinions are different).
Brandon Dubinsky: Midterm – A+. There isn’t much else to say about Dubinsky. He led the Rangers in goals, assists, and points. He hit, he played defense, and he was a leader for this team. He needs to be more consistent though, as he often disappeared, especially in the playoffs. Most of the Rangers disappeared in the playoffs though. Final: A.
Ryan Callahan: Midterm – A+. Future captain, would have led the team in goals if not for the broken hand. He leaves it all on the ice, and will likely be a consistent 20-25 goal scorer. If he ever learns to get out of the way of a Zdeno Chara slap shot, then he will have higher point totals. He does it all for the Rangers, and is one of their more physical presences. Final: A.
Derek Stepan: Midterm – A-. Stepan was probably one of the biggest surprises for the Rangers this year, aside from Brian Boyle. Few expected Stepan to make the team outright. He did, and was one of five 20-goal scorers for the club this year. His future is incredibly bright, and he should be seeing top-six time next year. If the Rangers powerplay is fixed next year, expect Stepan to be at the center of it. Final: A-.
Marian Gaborik: Midterm – B. I got a lot of emails about giving Gaborik a B at the midterm. But fear not, I’m going to be much more harsh this time around. Gaborik is paid to produce, and he simply did not produce the way a $7.5 million winger should produce. He fell way short of the 86 points of last year, and had a few injuries –luckily none with the wonky groin– that held him back. He needs to be more consistent, and not take weeks off. Final: C-.
Artem Anisimov: Midterm – B-. Arty began the season hot, tailed off and wound up on the fourth line, then picked it up again, then struggled to close out the season and post-season. The kid is just 22 years old, so although inconsistency is expected, it needs to be addressed. He played his best when with Dubinsky and Callahan, and the Pack line is one of the main reasons why the Rangers were successful this year. He needs to get stronger on the puck though. Some weight training in the summer will do him well. Final: B.
Brian Boyle: Midterm – A-. Boyle went from offseason question-mark to biggest surprise of the year. Taller players generally take longer to put it all together, and put it all together he did. Boyle’s previous career highs were 4-2-6. This year he finished with 21-14-35. That’s a 400% increase in goals, a 600% increase in assists, and a 500% increase in points. Unreal. Oh, and he killed penalties, blocked shots, and hit people. Partial credit here goes to Barb Underhill for working with Boyle last summer. Final: A.
Brandon Prust: Midterm – A-. It’s only pain…and the team lead in shorthanded goals…all with a torn labrum. Final: A+.
Ruslan Fedotenko: Midterm – B. Fedotenko had great chemistry with Prust and Boyle, and wound up as one of the best third lines in the league. Before his shoulder injury (and appendix removal), Fedotenko was playing to his career average. He didn’t look like the same player after the injury, but was one of the only Ranger skaters to show up for the playoffs. Final: B+.
Erik Christensen: Midterm – C-. Way too inconsistent. For a guy that doesn’t play defense, he simply needs to contribute more offensively. Final: D.
Sean Avery: Midterm – C+. Avery hasn’t been himself this season. He scored just three goals this season, although he did add 21 assists and led the team in PIMs. We will never know if he was too scared to cross the line for fear of being penalized, or if he was hamstrung by the coaching staff. He gets a bit of a pass here because he had a good postseason. Final: C+.
Vinny Prospal: Midterm – N/A. Prospal missed almost the entire year with his knee injury, but when he came back, he came back strong. He scored 23 points (9-14-23) in 29 regular season games, but disappeared in the playoffs. Final: C, because of injuries.
Mats Zuccarello: Midterm – INC. The kid can play at this level, he clearly has the skill and the hands. But his size is going to work against him. He needs to sit with Martin St. Louis and see how he does it. Final: B.
Wojtek Wolski: Midterm – N/A. See: Christensen, Erik. Final: D.
Alex Frolov: Midterm – C-. Wasn’t scoring before the injury. Too bad the wrap-around doesn’t work at the NHL level. Final: D.
Chris Drury: Midterm – INC. Drury was the toughest one to grade. It’s easy to point to his one goal and say he should get an F. It’s easy to say that he couldn’t skate this year, and that his legs have betrayed him. However, once he had that knee surgery, he looked like he could keep up. That one goal he scored was possibly the biggest goal of the season for the Rangers too. Final: INC.
Derek Boogaard: Midterm – C-. He didn’t play much after the midpoint of the year, and will likely never play for the Rangers again. Final: INC.
Marc Staal: Midterm – B+. Staal matched Ovechkin blow-for-blow in the playoffs, and is probably one of the best shut-down defenders in hockey right now. His 29 points are a career high for him, and he’s just 24 years old. The kid has his best years ahead of him, and they are going to be special years. Final: A.
Dan Girardi: Midterm – A-. Girardi blocked 236 shots this year, and missed just two games. How did he do it? Brass ones. Big brass ones. Oh, and he had a hernia while doing it. Final: A+.
Michael Sauer: Midterm – B. The last remaining piece of the Brian Leetch trade made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside about that deal this year. Well, no he didn’t, that trade still stings, but this kid was fantastic. Sauer and defensive partner Ryan McDonagh give the Rangers a legitimate second pairing, something they haven’t had in a while. Final: A.
Ryan McDonagh: Midterm – N/A. With Sauer, he was an integral part of the Rangers defense, and gave Staal and Girardi much needed rest for key shifts. It’s a sign of trust when he and Sauer were assigned to start all the overtime periods in the playoffs. He made some defensive gaffs in the playoffs, like that epic giveaway to Alex Semin in Game 4, but rookies do that. I guarantee he will never make that mistake again. Final: A-.
Matt Gilroy: Midterm – B-. His play down the stretch was inconsistent at best, but his play in the playoffs may have saved his career as a Ranger. He was solid in the postseason, and started to show why he belongs in the NHL as a full time player. It was a tough year for him, after a tough finish to last season. Since he finished this season strong, maybe he will have a strong next season with the renewed confidence. Final: B-.
Bryan McCabe: Midterm – N/A. Brought in to provide veteran leadership and scoring to the blue line, he just wasn’t what was expected. He scored a huge goal against the Flyers though, which was probably his crowning achievement in blue. He won’t be back. Final: C.
Steve Eminger: Midterm – C. He was great when he needed to be in the middle of the season when the Rangers were ravaged with injuries. His peak came at the right time, as right after the Rangers healed up, he lost his spot to the kids. He didn’t play at all in the playoffs. He still served more of a use than Aaron Voros though. Final: B-.
Michael Del Zotto: Midterm – C-. Simply a sophomore slump. Let’s hope he comes back next year and remembers how to play hockey…and that the home-run pass doesn’t work. Final: C-.
Henrik Lundqvist: Midterm – B+. Snubbed of a Vezina nomination, led the league in shutouts, is the true MVP of the Rangers, and should have had a Hart nomination too. Final: A+.
Martin Biron: Midterm – B+. He was exactly what the Rangers needed before breaking his collar bone. He was a great backup, who played solid hockey while giving The King a rest. He will be back next year (he signed for two years). As an added bonus, he seems to be good at helping the shooters during the shootout. Final: A.
Chad Johnson: Midterm – N/A. He played one period this year, giving up two goals to the Islanders in that atrocious 6-2 loss. One period isn’t enough to judge his NHL play, but he lost his AHL starting job this season. Don’t expect him back next year. Final: INC.