Some Late Summer ThoughtsAugust 5, 2016, by
Happy Friday, BSB community! Can you believe it is August already? It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve had the time to write, as the summer is the busiest time of year for me at the office. I suppose I haven’t missed much, though, as most of the Rangers’ business was taken care of in early July. We are now only a few weeks away from the return of the World Cup and training camp/pre-season is just around the corner.
There are still a few features I plan to write before the season (Top 30 Goalies!), but for this morning, I wanted to share some thoughts now that I have had some time to digest the summer moves.
1. I agree with most here that Jeff Gorton has had a very good summer, overall. I feel like it comes down to the old “Rome wasn’t built in a day” adage of roster construction. The new GM had several areas of the roster to address, and several holes to fill. I’m going to get to some thoughts on the individual moves in a bit, but overall, I suppose I would conclude that his moves were “savvy”, rather than big, dramatic, overhauling moves. I think it sends a fairly clear message that the FO is still very confident in that the core group can make another run. We will soon see if that confidence is misplaced.
2. That does not mean that Gorton did not leave himself a back door. With over $3 million in cap space after sacrificing some longer-term cap savings via bridge deals, the Rangers have some flexibility if they need the roster re-worked at the deadline. Another addition isn’t impossible at this stage, but unlikely. It’s been a while since we’ve seen any cap flexibility. Hopefully, it won’t be burning a hole in his pocket.
3. I do have to wonder if part of the extra cap space is designed to carry a couple extra reserves for flexibility purposes. A lot of bottom six options were brought in this year, and I wonder if AV will want to mix and match. I’m personally not a big advocate of this type of strategy, but there are probably eight plus forwards for 6 bottom six spots going into camp. There will likely be some attrition, but hopefully the dust settles with some extra depth.
4. When Gorton first traded for Nick Holden, I, like many, thought it was a precursor to another move. That may have very well been the intention. However, with nothing else materializing, it does provide some capable, low-pairing insurance if Brady Skjei or Dylan McIlrath struggle with consistency, or an injury to another blue liner.
5. I think the fact that the Rangers have the cap space that they do and the fact that they haven’t been temped by the likes of Jiri Hudler or Radim Vrbata shows the confidence the organization has in Pavel Buchnevich to make an impact this season. I don’t know if top 6 impact is a reasonable expectation for someone in Buchnevich’s situation, but hopefully they will have the patience to let him acclimate to the North American game.
6. I think the Antti Raanta contract was an underrated piece of business for Gorton, as well. It gives the team a goaltender they can rely on for 25 games to give Hank a breather once in a while, but also allows for a window of development for some of the top prospects to develop. I love Igor Shestyorkin’s ceiling and skill-set, but he is unorthodox and could run into trouble at the higher levels. Brandon Halverson has all the tools to succeed, but needs to be more consistent with his mechanics. Don’t forget Mackenzie Skapski, either. I think this two-year window is the perfect time frame to see what you have in these guys and determine if one is ready to contribute to the big team and be mentored by Hank.
7. I remember how shocked I was when I heard the Brassard trade go down. I think it was a nice little piece of business. It was probably a small short-term downgrade in overall play, but it brought a little more goal scoring prowess and hopefully a shoot first attitude. Zibanejad has tremendous upside, even though he will get a little expensive pretty quickly, but basically buying a second round pick because Ottawa is cheap is exactly the type of move the Rangers should be making. I think the surprise came in the form of trading a fan favorite player, especially when center ice was not a huge area of concern.
8. I believe the big key to this season is going to be deployment. Obviously, I am not of the belief that Girardi and Staal can have big, bounce back seasons with their age and skillsets, but I think AV needs to put them in a position to succeed. Sheltered deployment, changing their defensive system and allowing them to play with defensively responsible forwards who can help with the transition game will be key.
9. It’s a little sad, but I feel like I will end up rooting for Team North America at The World Cup (gross jerseys notwithstanding). Team USA has been built on old-school thinking and I believe they are going to get destroyed. Being half Canadian myself, I have seen enough Canadian hardware in international tournaments for my lifetime, so I think it will be interesting to watch the kids try and make it tough on the vets.
I think that’s about it for me. I’m curious to know if anyone cares about the World Cup: is it just a meaningless gimmick, a worthwhile re-launch or just early hockey? Have a great weekend everyone. See you next time."Some Late Summer Thoughts",