Building on what Kevin talked about yesterday, not everything in Rangerland is a negative right now. Despite the inept goaltending currently found at the Garden and the sinking ship that is the Rangers defense, there are still reasons for optimism in New York. One of those reasons is Chris Kreider. If the Rangers had just a competent defense in week one we would be talking more about the good starts of Anthony Duclair and Lee Stempniak, the hot streak and return to prominence of Rick Nash but – in my opinion – above all, Chris Kreider’s emergence as an every game threat.
While still a little rough around the edges, Kreider has looked dominant at times. His one goal so far was a breakaway which he took extremely well, he has been hard on the puck all year, has been physically engaged while he’s also shown he’s willing to stick up for his teammates. Kreider has also impressed with a couple of great primary assists on goals for Nash and Derick Brassard showing that he’s not a one dimensional player and has been hungry for the puck on his stick. If he can maintain his start to the season he should also smash his career high for shots on goal with well over 200.
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McIlrath may not be ready for prime time but his type of skill set is sorely needed. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Sometimes you have to live with the growing pains while some teams traditionally have slow starts and if you want prospects on the roster you have to endure the inconsistencies that accompany them. However, the sudden lack of depth the Rangers have on defense is an issue that might need resolving with acquiring help from outside of the organisation rather than turning to a prospect.
The Rangers defense, thus far, has looked completely inept. Countless blown assignments, a lack of physicality and terrible positioning in their own zone; the Rangers defense has been highlighted by a boat load of errors in the first three games. Even before Dan Boyle got injured in game one, the Rangers defense had its struggles. In game one it was the inability to get out of their own zone effectively.
The Rangers bottom pairing needs addressing and despite a respectable first game, Matt Hunwick is not the answer. Players such as Hunwick and Mike Kostka are stop gaps. They are not ‘plug in and play’ types that add competence to a unit long term. The Rangers can (and will) stop the bleeding despite Dan Boyle’s absence but even with Boyle this unit has its flaws that will need addressing.
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Sometimes opportunity is about timing. Anthony Duclair, JT Miller and Kevin Hayes have made the Rangers at the right time because in Alain Vigneault they have the right coach to develop them into full time – and hopefully long term – Rangers.
Vigneault won over a lot of the fan base last year by staying patient amid early troubles, by being the Anti-Torts in allowing players to develop chemistry together and also by being able to acknowledge ‘hot hands’ and give players a platform to perform when their form deserved extra playing time (example: Cam Talbot taking over midseason for a short period).
There’s every chance Anthony Duclair goes back to junior this year and if he does, it will have been the right decision. If he sticks, he’ll have earned it. The Rangers Head Coach has earned everyone’s trust and whatever he decides will likely be the best course of action. Alain Vigneault has proven he’s confident in his younger players if they earn his trust and the even ice time distribution in the St Louis game (every forward had at least 11 minutes ice time) suggests Vigneault will continue to work the kids in to meaningful positions and give them a chance of growth.
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John Moore was the last regular from the 2013-14 varsity to sign a new deal for the upcoming season. That he wasn’t a priority speaks of the Rangers cap crunch but also of Moore’s uncertain future as well as his underwhelming performance as a Ranger. Although Moore has played well at times for the Rangers, it is hard not to expect more when you analyse his talent, size, pedigree and the need the Rangers have for another defenseman to step up offensively.
Had John Moore developed as hoped there’s every chance the Rangers wouldn’t have pursued Dan Boyle and would have had a sizeable chunk of cap cash to pursue a big name center this past summer but Moore didn’t develop into the two way defenseman both the Blue Jackets and the Rangers hoped for and Dan Boyle is indeed a New York Ranger. Meanwhile the Rangers have a merry-go-round at center in Derek Stepan’s absence.
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Have the Rangers moved on from Bourque?
The Rangers have been whittling down their roster in the past few weeks as they approach Thursday’s season opener. Many of the players that have already been cut won’t have a future with the franchise, but some players futures have yet to be decided. With the roster due to be finalised within the next 24 hours, we take a look at a few of the prospects already down on the farm.
After a strong end to last season and with significant turnover among the Rangers presumptive bottom six over the summer, Bourque was considered a dark horse for a roster spot. He was never a realistic option. Following his demotion to Hartford on October 1st, the small but hard working Bourque appears to have been passed by several prospects and at this stage of his career. Only a stunning season with the Wolf Pack will get him back in the reckoning and even that may not be enough. An injury call up and/or an uncertain future as trade bait appears to be Bourque’s immediate situation.
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What to expect from Jesper Fast? (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
The Rangers are entering the home straight and the regular season is almost upon us. It’s a Thursday so let’s throw together some thoughts about the past few days in Rangerland.
Anthony Duclair. Everyone’s favourite Rangers’ prospect appears to be forcing the organisation’s hand into finding him a roster spot. 5 points, 3 goals in 3 games. Blazing speed, a wicked shot and respectable defense for a 19 year old rookie who, two weeks ago, wasn’t on anyone’s radar (for this season).
The thing is this: if he makes it, if he plays, he has to be on a scoring line to be effective. Is there an appropriate spot up for grabs and who suffers as a result? The most realistic scenario would be Mats Zuccarello slipping to the third line (also a productive line under coach Vigneault) but can the team justify pushing their top scoring forward of last year down to the third line for a 19 year old? It’s a great dilemma to have but also a major headache, potentially.
October 9th, at St Louis and then at the Blue Jackets two days later. Do the Rangers have the hardest opening two game set? A road trip to the big, physical Blues and Jackets? It gets physical quickly for the Rangers.
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Breakout candidate? Photo: Getty Images
It’s the dawn of a new season and already we’re full of anticipation, panic and dilemma… What fun it is to be a New York Rangers fan. Anyway, it’s Thursday so let’s have the first Musings of the season shall we? There’s plenty to talk about.
The obvious major talking point in Rangerland is the injury to Derek Stepan. I’m an optimist. Stepan’s injury hurts the Rangers in the short term but his absence shouldn’t cost the team a playoff berth and the team has plenty of younger prospects they can test out. This is an opportunity the franchise may never have had if it were not for the injury. Now is the time to throw in a Lindberg, Hayes and/or JT Miller and see whether they can step into a full time NHL role.
Long term, the injury to Stepan may have been a blessing in disguise if the Rangers develop one (or more) prospects for the long term because of this unfortunate situation. If this was Lundqvist going down for a long stretch it would be time to panic but Stepan missing 10-12 games will not cost the club long term. No need to panic. Prospect development time is upon us.
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Could they both be wearing Ranger blue ?
Marc Staal has brothers, this is not new to you by now. Most of them as you will surely know are in Carolina and the longer Rangers defenseman Marc Staal goes without a new contract there will be the same old assumptions that he will end up in Carolina with his brethren. Recently, media reports have reported that Staal has begun to discuss a new contract with the Rangers – perhaps a new deal could come during training camp, which kicks off today. What hasn’t been discussed is the potential for Eric Staal to join Marc in New York.
Think about it for a second. The Rangers have a need for a top line center (unless Derek Stepan has a season we would all die for). They need size and skill down the middle to compete with the Kings and Bruins of the world and they have their own Staal brother to entice Eric to New York. With a cap ceiling that continues to grow, a move for the high priced Hurricanes captain is a legitimate possibility. Most assumptions are that Marc would join Eric but perhaps the smarter money would be on Eric changing zip codes and heading to NYC.
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Is Stepan about to strike it rich? AP Photo/Bruce Bennett, Pool
Within the next twelve months, Glen Sather has some pretty significant decisions to make. Not least is deciding what Derek Stepan is worth to the organisation and the value that his worth brings. Over the past couple weeks Boston Bruins center David Krejci signed a long term deal to remain in Boston and did so for a whole heap of cash. For a club with cap issues, the Bruins gave a huge commitment, earlier than necessary, to their top center.
Krejci’s deal impacts Stepan’s future with the Rangers – he’s a solid comparable – and Stepan’s agent will surely point to the Bruin in upcoming negotiations. You can argue that Krejci is ahead of Stepan at this stage of his career and you would be right, but there are similarities. Both players are similar in size (around the 6ft mark, around 190-195lbs) and are both playmaking centers that are pass first pivots. Both players have moved up their respective organisations quickly to become the top dog at the center position.
Statistically there is not a huge difference either. Krejci can be counted on for 60-65 points per season at 28 years old, while the younger Stepan is a guarantee for 55+ per year if you factor in his almost point/game pace in the lockout impacted year. This is without considering the merits of the strength of each roster and the two centers’ line mates: Krejci has enjoyed success with a stronger roster around him.
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Nash is integral to the Rangers hopes for 2015
Last season, it can be reasonably argued that no other ‘contending’ team had to put up with as much inconsistency from their top line than the New York Rangers. In fact, the Rangers were surely the only team to go deep in the playoffs who couldn’t even identify a clear top forward line. Injuries, a lack of cohesion, a new system and a poor start to the year were all factors in the Rangers not having a legitimate top line almost all year.
If the Rangers are going to repeat or better their Stanley Cup final appearance in June they will need a clear, dominant top line to emerge. They can’t rely on their bottom six to out work other teams any longer. It all begins and ends with Rick Nash. Nash is the second most important Ranger, behind Henrik Lundqvist, and in front of Ryan McDonagh. After all, if McDonagh falters the Rangers still have two quality top line defensemen in Staal and Girardi to rely on, without considering the merits of Dan Boyle and Kevin Klein.
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