Archive for Offseason
It’s never fun enduring a long offseason while fans of other clubs get to enjoy a playoff run. This may sound a little spoiled to fans of teams like Edmonton and Calgary, but over the last decade, Rangers fans have been treated to a consistent expectation of contention. Since the Rangers have been eliminated, I have read a lot of great analysis about the importance of this offseason and potential directions for the club to go.
It’s going to be very difficult to handicap the exact moves from an analysis standpoint and hey, that’s up to you guys and gals anyway (shameless plug for the Off-season Plan Contest). I have kind of a conceptual thought-dump I wanted to share about this coming offseason and to see how you are felt about some of these things…
There are a lot of dynamics involving our New York Rangers thus far. On one hand it is extremely exciting when beat writers are suggesting buyouts and moves for players such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Tyson Barrie. You start feeling a bit anxious that a move can be coming any day. When there are constantly rumors about players who are viewed as important members of the team being traded, fans get excited, for better or for worse.
When your team signs its brightest prospect, fans can’t help but feeling that a youth movement may be approaching, especially when your other top prospect showed his value in the playoffs against a pretty dynamic Penguins team. All of these different factors make it so difficult to predict what this team will look like in a couple of months, but that is what makes this summer feel so much more exciting than the previous summers.
I will be covering the draft starting in a few weeks, so right now I just want to mention the move that almost seems way too familiar to overlook: The Reclamation Project. From Brian Boyle to Anton Stralman to Benoit Pouliot to Viktor Stalberg on the positive side to Ryan Malone, Matt Lombardi, and Jeff Woywitka on the negative, we as fans have learned that the New York Rangers will always try their luck with these types of players.
This poll has been on the sidebar for a while, but I wanted to make a post out of it to gauge the fan base about your preference for the offseason. The Rangers underwhelmed all season and got blown away in the first round in the playoffs by a superior Penguins team.
It’s clear –at least to me– that there need to be changes made. However the level of changes that need to be made is up for some serious debate. Do they need to blow it up? Do they need to just retool? Or do you believe that the team will be fine once they are all healthy?
Viktor Stalberg was a bit of a revelation for the Rangers, perhaps their best free agent signing since Benoit Pouliot. Stalberg, like Pouliot, was grabbed for a cheap one-year deal to serve as a bottom-six player with speed. Stalberg certainly impressed most people this year, even without putting up major points (just 9-11-20 in 75 games).
Stalberg is perhaps the perfect depth player for a team like the Rangers. He’s a great skater, he’s a two-way guy who can score and play in his own zone, and he’s a worker. At just $1.1 million, he was a welcome addition to the third and fourth lines, bringing stability to a forward group that sorely needed it late in the season.
Talking to fans since the Rangers got eliminated, I’ve noticed a few recurring trends showing up in the discussions. The most prevalent is that Rangers fans have an absolute desire for a scoring winger on this team.
No matter what direction the Rangers go; Retool, Rebuild, or go for one more run, there will be a need for a scoring winger. Ideally it would be one who is young and can grow with the team. Pavel Buchnevich will be with the team, but he isn’t the answer to your scoring winger desires. This is by no means a knock on Buch, as he has the tools, but tempering expectations for a teenager is always a good thing. Plus, Alain Vigneault will likely shelter him initially.
An obvious way to begin our search for a scoring winger is to look into free agency. Unfortunately when the current crop of free agent wingers is less than appealing.
The Rangers have a pretty long shopping list this summer with the defensive (let’s call it) overhaul and all the restricted free agents needing signing (amongst other to do’s). Complicating things for Jeff Gorton and co. will almost certainly be Oscar Lindberg’s injury and the fall-out it will cause.
Lindberg’s season came to a very disappointing end. After a truly surprising start (that include Calder whispers in October) where he was a major reason for the Rangers’ own fast start, Lindberg eventually slipped and stayed out of the line-up. In retrospect it’s now fair to assume that his hip issues influenced the disappointing culmination to his season.
In a utopian hockey world, the Rangers’ roster would be full of 6-foot-6 tanks that all skated like the wind, possessed unreal skills, and paid equal attention to both ends of the ice.
But in reality, NHL teams can really only afford to focus on a couple of attributes in building their rosters. The best franchises have identified those characteristics within their existing talent pool and continued to add and improve over the years. The Kings, Ducks and Panthers are teams of physical giants that will grind you into a pulp, while the Lightning, Penguins and Stars have focused on speed and skill.
The 2015-2016 Rangers lost their identity. They maintained the same all-world goalie that was key to the John Tortorella-era Blueshirts who were airtight defensively, and the recent Alain Vigneault edition that became a lightning quick counterattack team. But this year’s group never quite figured out what it was beyond having that super-safety net in goal.
Well, here we are. It’s May 6th and the Rangers are no longer playing hockey games. I’m sure it still stings for many of you (us). Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen frustration and venting in the comments section. Lamenting decisions from both the coaching staff and management are perfectly natural as we process the death of another chance to bring the ultimate prize to Broadway.
Fear not, BSB faithful, we are here to help. The upside to an early exit is we get to implement the BSB Offseason Plan Contest a few weeks earlier this year. It seems like it will be a really fun year to do it, too. For those of you unfamiliar, we have run this little exercise for the past few years (save for 2014-2015, as they were just playing hockey for too damn long to make the timing work). Basically, you get to play GM of the New York Rangers. Read More→
The smoky remains of the 2015-2016 season are beginning to clear and the Rangers front office must begin sifting through the wreckage and addressing the various questions that surround the team’s future.
Given New York’s cap crunch, it’s going to be a monumental task to diagnose what went wrong, develop a go-forward plan and reevaluate and retool the roster.
The process must start with getting rid of not just one, but both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Each has a no-movement clause, but recent history shows that those hold very little weight when it’s made clear to a player that he’s no longer wanted. It will be very difficult to show these long-time loyal soldiers the door, but it’s in the best interest of the team to rip the Band-Aid off as quickly as possible.
Tonight is surely the beginning of the end for Dan Girardi as a Ranger. First of all because it is now clear to everyone that Girardi is no longer superhuman and the once-warrior is accumulating injuries like never before. Hey, this is what players past their sell by dates often do. Secondly Dylan McIlrath can surely do no worse even if he doesn’t excel, right? And thirdly, as mentioned yesterday the Rangers are trying to do the unlikely and jump in front of the speeding train that is Pittsburgh and get it to stop. Can the Rangers really continue with Girardi if they exit the playoffs early? Surely not.
If he is sheltered, Girardi can probably add value to a team where he better fits, where they may want a veteran presence, where he can player in a more friendly system and where the media glare is not so intense after every mistake. That’s the qualifier to this post.