Ryan Bourque is riding a wave of momentum after his strong second-half performance last season
Immediately after July 1, it looked like the Rangers would have several forward spots open to competition at training camp. However, the eventual signings of Matt Lombardi, Lee Stempniak and Kevin Hayes have made it much more difficult for anyone else to earn a spot in the lineup. The likes of J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg still figure to duke it out with some of those depth signings for the final spot or two, but it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for anyone else to enter the fray. With that said, here’s a look at the handful of forwards and defensemen that could conceivably be in the mix with a standout performance at camp.
Ryan Malone – This one is a real long-shot not only because of the legal questions surrounding Malone, but because the Rangers would have to ship out a player to fit Malone under the 50-contract limit. Malone was once an effective power forward and is presumably being invited to training camp on the off chance the Blueshirts catch lightning in a bottle in their search to replace Benoit Pouliot, but unless Malone dominates, it’s highly unlikely he makes the team.
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Well, here we are. The Top 10. I hope you enjoyed the ride, I know I sure did. In case you missed it, here are the previous two entries in this years list (30-21) and (20-11). Without further adieu, your 2014-2015 Top 10…
10. Mike Smith- Arizona Coyotes. Last year’s ranking: 10
- Smith has become more famous for his goal at this point than his puck stopping abilities, but those should absolutely not be overlooked. For a big guy, he moves exceedingly well and has cemented his status as a top-notch positional goaltender over the past few seasons. I mentioned in my first Top 30, that I expected perennial Vezina-caliber campaigns out of Smith, and while he has been slightly off that lofty standard, he has been a rock in the Arizona (Phoenix?) net. His large frame and third defenseman puck-handling skills make him an integral part of the ‘Yotes franchise and remains one of the league’s top tenders.
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If you’ve been paying attention this offseason, you’ve noticed that several NHL teams have hired advanced stats experts. Though #fancystats still have opposition, you don’t need to look further than the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for proof that they offer valuable insight. No longer are these metrics exclusive to a small community of mathematicians, they are now mainstream in hockey.
Last summer I reviewed Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract and began to fall deeper into the rabbit hole of advanced stats. Rob was kind enough to give me a copy of Hockey Abstract 2014 - co-written by Tom Awad and Ian Fyffe – again this year, and it was even better than the first edition.
Vollman’s greatest strength is in putting what appear to be complicated formulas, graphs and figures into words that anyone can understand, whether they’re good at math or not. In fact, I’ll readily admit that I glossed over many of the charts in the book, because the real value is in Vollman’s translation. I’m much more concerned with what the numbers mean than how they’re reached, so I enjoyed Vollman’s thought process and conclusions most of all. Read more »
The best trophy in sports
Three hockey clubs in 47 years. The 2009 Penguins. The 1984 Oilers. The 1968 Canadiens. They are the only three hockey clubs in the Post-Original Six expansion era to win the Stanley Cup the year after they challenged for it and lost. Not exactly favorable odds.
Those three clubs weren’t exactly one hit wonders either. The Canadiens of that era helped brand their organization for a long time as the Yankees of the NHL. The Oilers of the 80s were the last of a dying breed in pro sports — a dynasty. Though they never lived up to their potential, the Crosby-led Penguins were at least expected to challenge for the Cup a few more times following their 2009 victory. They didn’t and now Bylsma and Shero are unemployed.
So will the Rangers defy history and do the unthinkable?
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Welcome to Part II of the Top 30. In case you missed our first installment, you can find that right here. Bizarrely enough, there are no housekeeping matters to attend to with this portion of the article (you can find all relevant rules, methodologies, etc. in the first post), so let’s dive right in with rankings 20-11…
20. Steve Mason- Philadelphia Flyers. Last year’s ranking: 27
- Mason has been kicking around the list for the past two seasons right on the cusp of the #30 spot. He was always just that one shaky year from fading into oblivion after a remarkable start to his career. Last season, Mason finally started to round back into form, in Philadelphia, of all places. He was rewarded with the starting job (courtesy of Ray Emery) and a, we’ll call it “generous”, three-year contract. All eyes on Mason in the City of Brotherly Love this season to confirm last year wasn’t a fluke.
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It’s that time of year again; welcome to the 3rd Annual Top 30 Goaltender’s List! Before we get started, just a couple housekeeping matters to attend to. There are no major changes to the methodology this year. I am still advising a hypothetical “team” on how to prioritize seeking a goaltending solution, irrespective of standings, roster composition, contention window or organizational view of its current options. The rankings are obviously subjective, so feel free (and encouraged!) to disagree with me.
Last year, I introduced a “dropped” section to give a little context as to why goalies who appeared on the first year’s installment didn’t make the cut the following season. Unfortunately, this year saw a huge drop off in the 30-21 range (8 goalies), so I don’t have room for that section this year. With all that out of the way, let’s start with the honorable mentions:
James Reimer- Toronto Maple Leafs: I’ve never been a Reimer fan, and after losing his job to Jonathan Bernier, failing to perform in big games and being involved in perpetual trade rumors, I felt justified in leaving him off the list. Whenever the inevitable trade to Winnipeg comes, he can continue to be a key contributor to mediocrity.
Ondrej Pavelec- Winnipeg Jets: Speaking of Winnipeg, I’m done waiting for Pavelec’s A-list talent and D-List work ethic to develop. He has squandered a golden opportunity to be a fantastic NHL tender, but now the KHL seems more likely than ever once his ridiculous five-year contract expires.
Cam Talbot- New York Rangers: After a fantastic rookie Cam-paign (see what I did there?), Talbot looks to show that last season was no fluke before hitting the open market in July in search of a starting job. I thought it was a little premature to include him, but he is well on his way.
Onto the Top 30 Proper…
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Yea, he’s on the roster (Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images North America)
Now that the roster is finally taking shape, and the pieces are starting to fall into place, the main questions are about the line combinations and kids making the roster. Signings like Tanner Glass and Lee Stempniak add flexibility to a roster that was almost 100% reliant on kids making the roster, while all of the core pieces are returning for this season.
No matter which way you look at it, the Rangers have significant turnover this season. They lost Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett, and Dan Carcillo up front. They lost Anton Stralman on the blue line. But hey, 100% of their goalies will be back this year, so that’s a plus.
Derick Brassard and John Moore remain unsigned, but that’s not really a big concern. Both will be back and both will fit under the salary cap. Piggybacking off Suit’s line combinations post, here’s what we could be looking at on opening night:
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The Rangers national TV schedule (NBC/NBSCN) has been released for the 2014-2015 season, and the Rangers will play 14 nationally televised games. Of these, at least 10 are expected to be exclusive to NBC and NBCSN:
- 11/5: Red Wing 8PM NBCSN
- 11/19: Flyers 8PM NBCSN
- 11/18: @Flyers 1PM NBC
- 1/7: @Anaheim 10:30PM NBCSN
- 1/18: @Penguins 12:30PM NBC
- 1/29: Montreal 7PM NBCSN
- 2/4: Bruins 8PM NBCSN
- 2/28: Flyers 8PM NBC
- 3/4: @Red Wings 8PM NBCSN
- 3/8: @Chicago 7:30PM NBCSN
- 3/11: @Washington 8PM NBCSN
- 3/18: Chicago 8PM NBCSN
- 3/22: Anaheim 7:30PM NBCSN
- 3/24: LA 7PM NCSN
Source: Getty Images
For the first time since, I don’t know the 90s, the Rangers had pretty stable line combinations at the forward position. While most of us figured there would be more consistency with this new regime, I don’t think anyone expected to see the lines stay together as often as they did for as long as they did.
Even if you look back at AV’s tenure in Vancouver, he rarely kept the lines together as consistently as he did last season. Obviously, this had a lot to do with depth. With the departure of many key players at several different forward positions, you wonder what kind of consistency we’ll see during 2014-15 season.
Today, we take an early look at what the Rangers potential line combinations could be come October.
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St Louis ain’t singin the Blues
Over the next few agonizing, hockey-free weeks, we’ll be going over moves made division by division, mostly highlighting winners and losers thus far in free agency. Though there is still time for many changes to be made (mostly the signing of restricted free agents, cough cough Glen Sather), several moves have happened around the league that we might not be familiar with. Much like my musings, these will be in random order, so let’s open with the Central Division.
Above shows a screenshot of how the division played out last year. Comparatively, the Central was the strongest of the four divisions, with five teams making it to see late April hockey as opposed to the Pacific’s three – despite the Pacific Division eventually hoisting the Cup. The favorites out of the west up until the last week of regular season hockey were the St. Louis Blues, up until their skid and first round exit courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks. That being said, I believe the Blues are the winners as of July 20 of the 2014 offseason, and here’s why. Read more »