Remember hockey? I miss it too.
As a hockey fan, August is by far the worst month of the year. Free agency, the major trades, the Draft, they have all long passed by and the dog days of summer have set in. Traverse City is still a few weeks away. The major headlines are the remaining few contract situations (Stepan and to some extent, Lundqvist), but the season still seems worlds away.
In the life of a hockey blogger, August represents dredging the deepest recesses of your brain for something to write about. Everything with AV, re-signing McDonagh, Hagelin and Zuccarello, speculating on Stepan and Hank’s extensions, assessing the cap situation, etc. have been beaten to death over the past two months. Nothing really left to do but wait (and read the final installment of the Top 30, of course).
In deference to our final hockey-less month, I thought I would just muse a little on some hockey related topics. Read more »
Does AV mean a changing of roles for the players?
For several off-seasons running, I’ve been creating these “master plans” that talk about the future rosters of the Rangers. The purpose of these posts is to really come full circle on all of the topics and rumors we’ve been covering over the course of the season. During prior offseasons, creating these plans was pretty easy for me as John Tortorella frequently talked about the Rangers “team concept”. Based on his vision, I just filled in the blanks.
With his team template in mind, these posts were generally unified by three main ingredients for success — roster balance, strong skating ability, and making an effort in all three zones. As trade deadlines and free agency periods came and went, my plans always revolved around the idea that the Rangers should stick to those three ingredients when evaluating their own team and what’s available on the marketplace.
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Has Glen made another canny move? (image credit: Gerry Kahrmann, The Province)
Welcome to the musings. It’s the day before free agency and on many occasions it has felt like Christmas Eve to Rangers fans – the day before the presents arrive. This year is likely to be different as the Rangers are set to be more cautious with the little money they have to spend. Or are they?
Scott Arniel seems like a logical choice as assistant coach. He has run his own bench before, has been in charge of multiple Rangers before and will help Alain Vigneault’s transition to New York because of his familiarity with the ex Blue Jackets. You have to assume Arniel is motivated to prove he’s worthy of another shot as a HC too.
Even if it wasn’t the ex-Ranger many hoped for, Ulf Samuelsson is a nice addition to the coaching staff. The Rangers need to be more physically imposing next year and if Samuelsson can get his style as a player across to the Rangers now he’s a coach it could be a smart move.
Scanning the scrap heap:
With the Rangers unlikely to be major buyers July 5th, there are several players who are no longer wanted by their current teams and are either on waivers or due to be bought out. Amongst those on waivers in the last 24 hours are the following guys who could be of interest to the Rangers in some capacity.
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Is Ryane Clowe less likely to re-up with the Rangers because of AV?
As we approach the draft weekend and the Stanley Cup playoffs are over, the Rangers get ready to enter the offseason with a new leader at the helm. We’ve beaten the Alain Vigneault-analysis angle to death so let’s just jump into another musings instead.
Artem Anisimov has turned his move from the Rangers into an almost $10m, 3 year contract. Good for him but it’s another example of a struggling franchise overpaying to keep players happy. Based on production, Anisimov is not worth 3.25m per year. That said, maybe he earns it during the deal.
If Kris Letang goes to the Leafs it would be a huge mistake by the Penguins. Yes, his demands may be out of whack but that club needs balance and he’s arguably the best offensive defenseman in the league after Karlsson.
People shouldn’t assume Ryane Clowe will be back with the Rangers because he’s been medically cleared. He has had ‘history’ with the Canucks, had an almost public feud with the club up North. Remember who last coached the Canucks?….
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Zuccarello scores pretty goals, will AV get more out of him?
As Glen Sather talked about needing a changing in coaching styles and Alain Vigneault talked about giving his skill players ‘more latitude’, you could get a sense that next season has the potential to be a coming out party for a little Norwegian winger that never seemed to match up with John Tortorella. Could Alain Vigneault’s arrival be a blessing in disguise for Mats Zuccarello?
Known for maximising zone starts for his skill guys, a more puck possession style, and having run teams that have had actual powerplay success, it seems that Mats Zuccarello could be placed in the best situation to succeed with the Rangers that he has ever had. During his time on Broadway, Zuccarello has routinely been the Rangers’ most creative powerplay operator, he’s clearly better with the puck than without, and was never ideal for the grinding, throw the puck deep and chase after it style that was the hallmark of the Tortorella years.
While all the talk may center on what Vigneault can do with Rick Nash, what happens with Brad Richards, and how he’ll be able to get the most out of Chris Kreider the impact the new coaching regime could have on Mats Zuccarello could be huge. The talent has always been there.
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(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Despite a solid first season on Broadway, Rick Nash surely did not reach the heights his talent demands, nor did he become the irresistible force many anticipated. Not over a full season anyway. Some critics will argue that John Tortorella’s system stifled players such as Rick Nash (though the powerplay certainly didn’t help his production) but no one will argue that Alain Vigneault puts his key offensive players in the right situations to produce to their potential.
As has been pointed out over the internet – almost to death – the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows were consistently among league leaders in offensive zone starts under Vigneault. It can be assumed Rick Nash and maybe Derek Stepan will be similar benefactors in New York. Can we therefore assume much better numbers from Rick Nash? Nash is expected to be the leader of this offense and that won’t change with a new coaching staff. However with an improved powerplay, with more offensive zone starts, and with more puck possession and creative license, Nash should produce more.
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What set of players will AV have to cast an eye over next year?
People argue that ‘acts’ such as those employed by John Tortorella eventually wear thin. Abrasive managers such as the former Rangers head coach usually outstay their welcomes. With the pending arrival of Alain Vigneault the Rangers will still have a man with pedigree and a coach with a completely different approach to the game – both tactically and personality wise – than Tortorella. Will it work?
Looking at the Rangers roster, and the personalities scattered throughout it, it’s difficult not to expect better production next season, at least better than what was provided in the abbreviated 2012-13 campaign. If Brad Richards is kept he surely cannot be worse, Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin, and even Ryan Callahan could offer more consistency offensively while Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, and Derick Brassard will be expected to help carry the offense, something that wasn’t asked of them this season.
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Could Raymond make the move to NYC?
Earlier this week we had a look at Maxim Lapierre and whether he might be a player that follows his former coach Alain Vigneault to New York this summer. Another such candidate – and like Lapierre, a pending free agent – is Mason Raymond. The prospect of Raymond may excite fans a little more than the loyal foot soldier that is Lapierre.
Raymond has skill and a scoring touch, although his recent returns haven’t been impressive. This season Raymond had just 22 points (10 goals) in 46 games during the regular season, while playing close to sixteen minutes per game (1.51 P/60). Raymond, who can play both wings, has previously managed a fifty point season during the one season he played a full calendar (82 games, in 09-10). He’s played 55, 70, and 72 games in each of his other seasons.
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The Rangers have announced that they will introduce Alain Vigneault as the new head coach Friday afternoon during a press conference from Radio City Music Hall. Vigneault officially signed his five-year $10 million contract this week. It is assumed that the Rangers may announce the assistant coaches at this press conference. Previous head coach John Tortorella was fired shortly after Memorial Day, and it is likely that assistants Mike Sullivan and Jim Schoenfeld will also be relieved of their coaching positions.
(Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
When a new head coach arrives at a club it’s not just coaching staffs that tend to follow. Players who have built relationships often do the same, and with Maxim Lapierre approaching free agency, the opportunity to join the Rangers seems a logical one for all concerned.
Lapierre is a hard working hockey player that adds depth to the bottom six and is exactly the type of hockey player that the Rangers need when you look at how they were eliminated by the Bruins. He adds size, grit and a solid work ethic. All these traits would help address multiple needs on the Rangers, and this is without considering the relationship he has developed with Alain Vigneault in Vancouver.
Vigneault will surely want a few of his own in New York and the opportunity to grab a player with a solid playoff background such as Lapierre’s, without giving up anything but free agent dollars, seems an ideal situation. At 28, Lapierre is not an aging veteran and, after a relatively modest regular season and a quick exit in the playoffs, it’s not likely he could command big money on the free agent market – no matter how thin it appears this summer.
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