Reader Q&A: Replacing Prust, Brooklyn Islanders, & more (updated)June 22, 2012, by
If Prust walks, who should the Rangers target to replace him?
I love Prust, we all do. I think he exemplifies what the Rangers bottom six forwards are all about, but should he test free agency and sign elsewhere I think Sather could always make a minor trade or signing to replace him. Tortorella knows how to coach and teach these types of players two-way hockey. He knows how to get the most mileage out of them. While I’d like to resign Prust for a reasonable deal (call it $1.8m per tops), if not, leave it to Torts to recreate the next Prust. Konopka would probably be my primary target.
Do you think the Rangers will take a chance on either Alexander Radulov or Alexander Semin?
Mark Recchi once said joining the Bruins prolonged his career. Why did he say that? The system. The Bruins played a very conservative 1-4 forecheck, meaning four skaters form a wall in the neutral zone and only one skater goes in deep trying to force a turnover. It is a system that requires less skating and forechecking, thus saving Recchi’s 43 year old legs from the inevitable.
What does this have to do with the Rangers?
It all comes down to fitting within your team concept, which I’ve talked about quite frequently since I first joined this blog. Not every player was meant to play an aggressive forecheck (which is what Torts wants the Rangers to play). Strong skating and the desire to backcheck are attributes that not every player has in their DNA. Radulov doesn’t fit that mold. Nor do guys like Simon Gagne, Alexander Frolov, or whatever other C-list skill guy you can think of.
Semin sorta fits from an x’s and o’s standpoint because he is a transition-type hockey player and every team needs a guy who can capitalize off of turnovers 30+ times per season. The problem is you don’t want to sacrifice two-way play in the process and that’s where the idea for Semin goes to hell in a handbag. When he’s not scoring, he’s invisible.
Messier came out and praised Gaborik recently and called him 10x the player he was when Gabby first arrived. The reason being, Torts got Gabby to commit to backchecking, making defensive plays in the neutral zone, and forechecking. Keep in mind it’s not all about x’s and o’s. Fitting into a team template also has a lot to do with compete level and your game-by-game mentality. Semin misses the boat there as well.
Gun to your head, resign Feds or Mitchell?
Ultimately, I think the Rangers are going to part with both. But if I have to choose, I’d go Mitchell. Feds skating looked sluggish for most of the season. And while he lit a fire under his own ass during the playoffs, I am not sure how much he’ll have left in the tank for another run. Mitchell’s ability to win faceoffs and forecheck are two reasons to keep him around as an inexpensive utility player.
Do you think the Islanders will eventually head to Quebec or Brooklyn?
I had always hoped Charles Wang would find a way to get a new arena built near Citi Field, but that possibility looks like a pipe dream. I talked in-depth about franchise relocation last year, particularly the health of certain current markets and the viability of potential markets (i.e. Seattle, Quebec, etc). Despite these two posts being a year old, much of what I said still stands.
As far as the Islanders are concerned, I am not buying into Brooklyn. The arena was built for basketball and the potential sight lines for hockey are not supposed to be favorable. To boot, much of the Islanders ticket base is in Suffolk County. Expecting those people to commute all the way to Brooklyn on a weeknight seems like a stretch to me. With that said, I don’t know if Bettman is saving Quebec for expansion, an inevitable Coyotes relocation, or a backup for Wang and his Isles.
Does Erixon have a shot at steady playing time on NYR next season or another year in the minors?
I’ll admit I haven’t seen Erixon play for the Whale, so I don’t know if he’s indeed ready, but reports from the minors seem to indicate he could make the big club. I would observe what the Rangers do in the offseason and that will likely give us a hint to their plans for Erixon. If they acquire cheap/unknown blueliners (think like an Eminger type trade), then they probably have confidence in his ability to step into that 5 or 6 role. If they sign like a Stralman or someone else who can eat a fair amount of minutes, then perhaps they are leaning to him starting down in CT.
Say the asking price on Nash never comes down and they aren’t able to land Parise. Would you be content if the Rangers can’t land a big time scorer?
Great question. If Gabby had not gone down with an injury, I could live without another premiere goal scorer for the time being. However, with Gabby out till November/December, I think the Rangers could struggle for offense if Kreider, Hagelin, Stepan, etc. have any hiccups in their development. Never mind the wins and losses, I just think it might be too much pressure to put on our young guys to pick up the slack. The real question is will Rangers fans show these young kids patience if we get off to a slow start? That is up to you guys.