While the disappointment of Carl Hagelin’s (necessary) departure still lingers for some, something might have been forgotten. The Rangers you may recall, have a rather talented NHL ready prospect, on deck, waiting for his chance. Thanks to the Hagelin trade, the path should now be clear for Oscar Lindberg’s arrival in New York.
Lindberg has been ready for a while, a fact only emphasised by his impressive AHL playoff performances this spring (16 points in 15 games). The main problem may have been finding an appropriate spot in the Rangers line-up suitable for Lindberg’s skill set. So is it a case of exit Hagelin, enter Lindberg?
Of course the Rangers are linked to Matt Beleskey because, well, aren’t the Rangers linked to every single free agent and trade candidate? This year’s prime buyer beware candidate is Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey who will officially test free agency and was actually ranked by several media outlets as the top free agent forward available. That he is ranked numero uno to some speaks volumes about this season’s weak free agent market and is one reason why the Rangers shouldn’t conduct any major roster surgery through free agency.
Beleskey actually would be a nice addition for the Rangers. He has size, he’s physical and he has suddenly discovered a scoring touch but he’s a classic free agency risk. He shot around 15% this regular season which is unsustainable (especially given his career 8% mark) and yet he still ‘only’ potted 22 goals in 65 games during the regular season. Considering Marty St Louis and his 21 goals are being chased out of New York City it’s hard to see why you would overpay for a guy that has had plenty of ice time with one of the league best tandems (Perry and Getzlaf) in recent years and hasn’t yet truly broken out.
It’s still amazing to think that just a couple of short seasons ago, Mats Zuccarello was toiling away in the KHL because, well, the Rangers didn’t really want him. At best, they were certainly not convinced by him. Fast forward a few years and Zuccarello is absolutely irreplaceable on a club that harbours annual Stanley Cup hopes.
We all saw how the Rangers struggled to generate consistent offense in the playoffs. Zuccarello’s enforced absence early in the playoffs was almost an instant death knell to the team’s hopes of winning the Cup. It shouldn’t have been the case however.
The Rangers had Rick Nash, they had Marty St Louis in position to step up, they had their trio of young centers all entering the playoffs in good form and they had Chris ‘Mr Playoff’ Kreider. But it didn’t work out as intended. St Louis literally played himself out of a new contract and maybe even out of the league. Nash hasn’t ridden himself of his playoffs demons. So what does it all mean?
For those of you that missed it, the Rangers announced their preseason schedule this week. If you’re into meaningless hockey games, played at a half pace, in half empty arenas you’ll be excited. If you get turned on by watching prospects duke it out for a roster spot you’ll be excited. Or, if you’re just glad that hockey is back on the ice, you’ll be delighted.
The Rangers play a pair of games against the Devils, with the Devils visiting the Garden on September 21st, and the Rangers in Jersey on the 26th. The Rangers also play two games against the always pleasant Flyers (22nd and 28th September) and take on the Bruins twice as well (Sept. 24th and 30th).
Expect the regular season schedule next week. Which means I have plenty of advanced notice to schedule my next New York trip…
It’s truly unfortunate timing that Rangers goalie prospect McKenzie Skapski is going to be sidelined for almost half a year. Skapski had perhaps unexpectedly established himself as a legitimate NHL prospect this season. He did so by first making a solid, if not excellent start to life in the AHL with the Wolf Pack then built on that with an impressive cameo in the NHL while Henrik Lundqvist was shelved. Now, Skapski is injured.
Skapski is young and he’ll return. His injury may have cost him a regular back up gig at the NHL level this coming season but then again, wouldn’t he be best served with 40-50 starts at the AHL level? Indeed, Skapski’s injury shouldn’t in any way alter the Rangers plans to actively shop or ‘listen’ to offers for Cam Talbot. The free agent goaltending market this coming season will be awash with short term options for a backup, a position that would only cost the Rangers dollars and no assets. Talbot is replaceable (Sorry Cam).
I started writing this when the Rangers were down 2 games to 1 to the Capitals but didn’t post it. Fast forward a month. I believe what I was trying to write several weeks ago – even as the Rangers were one good period away from the Stanley Cup final – still rings true so the opinion hasn’t changed. The Rangers are a great team, have a good roster and have some talent coming through the ranks but for me, there remains one major issue that needs addressing this summer.
This isn’t about skill and it isn’t about depth. It certainly isn’t about goaltending and with one of the best coaches in recent times, it’s not about the Head Coach either. No, the Rangers have a lot going for them even as they enter the offseason after a hugely disappointing end to their season (based on the expectations that had arisen). The Rangers are missing something much different. Ironically this team lacks a player – or two – in the Brandon Dubinsky mould.
Some times pain lingers. But we’re back. Now that the hockey season is over (how many of you truly care who wins out of Tampa and Chicago?) it’s time to look at what went wrong for the Rangers, to discuss where the team goes from here and of course to discuss what went right. We’ll give praise where it’s deserved and there’s a lot of praise to dole out on the back of a historically good season. A hugely disappointing ending doesn’t make all the good disappear and we think we’re a rational bunch on this site. So stay the course.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss the draft, free agency, take a look at the roster and we’ll give you grades for the season, on every aspect of the team from Sather to Talbot. If you have any specific requests on what you want us to look at or discuss, let us know in the comments. We try and listen to you guys as much as we can (the rational ones anyway) so let us have it.
It starts today. I’ll have a look at what I think is THE most glaring omission from the roster, right now. Check back later today and of course, over the next few weeks for all your Rangers analysis. Gracias folks.
It’s easy to get lost in the playoffs when games come thick and fast but there’s been a few other things going on in Ranger-land aside from the absorbing Tampa – Rangers series. Shocking I know. Let’s have a quick catch up.
Glen Sather was nominated for the GM of the year award this week. Deservedly so. The Rangers have played the most playoff games (73) in a four year stretch and this is the third year in that period they’ve gone to at least the Conference finals. Sather has his faults (a lot of them) but he’s done a great job in recent years, perhaps none more recently than this year that included the Presidents Trophy.
Chris Kreider still isn’t perfect. He still has a lot of growing to do, he takes himself out of plays looking for (but often finding) big hits and until recently, many fans and media alike have demanded more consistency from a player who literally has everything in his tool kit. Hell, Kreider takes too many penalties and isn’t exactly Selke material in his own zone either. In short, there are warts to his game.
The Rangers evened the series against the Lightning with a gusty albeit imperfect win. They were shaky at the back, had to over rely on a brilliant Henrik Lundqvist and will have been delighted that Rick Nash had a breakout offensive performance but one thing is becoming more regular for the Rangers in the playoffs and that’s the development of Kreider.
It’s a good job Rick Nash gets paid a boat load of money because he’s having to put up with a lot of criticism since the playoffs began. Once again, the Rangers play their biggest game of the season in Tampa Bay tonight, looking to right the many wrongs of the game two stinker. A considerable amount of scrutiny will face Nash as the Rangers have now arrived at the point where good performances, great two-way play and timely assists from Nash are no longer enough. His lack of goals have surely become a major distraction and are now the elephant in the room. Win or loss.
Nash has to score. He has to score because the media demand it, the Rangers need it and because everyone know Tampa have the offence to score at will. Not helping Nash is the fact that Tampa’s superstar Steven Stamkos has found his game after a difficult start to the playoffs and Tyler (undrafted) Johnson has dominated the playoffs and has been an absolute beast against the Rangers. Given Nash’s 42 goal season, coupled with his seemingly annual playoff regression, seeing the opponents’ most important goal scorers raise their games at the most critical moments will be particularly jarring for Nash and fodder for the mob who are happy to criticise Nash.