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Posts tagged: Ales Kotalik

Redden, Kotalik Benched

You wanted changes? Well, you got changes. Wade Redden and Ales Kotalik will be healthy scratches for tonight’s game against the Islanders. Bobby Sanguinetti and Erik Christensen will take their place.  We all expected something to be done, especially after the tirade by Torts. And Kotalik deserves to be benched. But I would have much rather seen Chris Higgins, or Michal Rosival be benched. I would say Drury too, but his PK work is too invaluable. When the Rangers hired Torts, we expected an Iron Fist coaching style. This is the first sign of it. Still, he has to do more. He has to go further. He has to bench Rosy, who is beyond ineffective. Right now, as a friend of mine says, the Rangers are Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik and a bunch of figure skaters. That’s what they are. We’ll see how the team responds to the moves. Personally, my hopes aren’t high.

Chris Higgins Can’t Buy A Goal, And Other Random Thoughts

As we try to digest yet another Rangers loss, I couldn’t help but think. So here are some random thoughts coming from my mind to yours.

-Chris Higgins can’t buy a goal. Honestly. He’s been playing so well. He’s been aggressive on the forecheck. He’s creating chances. He just can’t bury the puck. And I don’t know why. I don’t know why. But,  I have a feeling that he’s going to get hot. He has to at some point. He’s playing to well.

-Lundqvist needs a break. Whether he’s been worked too hard, or whether is mind is elsewhere, having Valliquette start a couple more games cannot hurt. Hank needs to be Hank for this team to win. Right now, he’s struggling.

-Marian Gaborik is close to breaking last year’s high goal total. Markus Naslund had 24. Gabby has 21. He should break it this week.  And it hasn’t even been 30 games!

-Gaborik is why this team is better than last year. Immediately, you have a better scoring presence. Power play is imporved, markedly. This team should make the playoffs. They are better than last year. This is probably just a rough stretch.

-I miss Wade Redden.

-Bobby Sanguinetti does nothing for me.

-Chris Drury looks like a different player, in a good way. Much faster, much better skating-wise. He’s doing a hell of job on the point.

-Ales Kotalik has found his way into the doghouse.

-P.A. Parenteau is pretty good. He should stay for awhile.

-Like I said, this is a playoff team. This is just a rough (very rough) stretch. All teams go through it. If the Rangers can come out of this and get some points, everything will be okay.

Kotalik a Game Time Decision

It seems the Rangers just can’t get completely healthy. With Chris Drury returning tonight, it appears that Ales Kotalik may not play. Kotalik took a hard hit against Columbus and was clearly shaken up. He finished the game, but he is clearly still hurting, as he missed yesterday’s practice.

With Kotalik possibly out, the Rangers are going to need someone else to generate shots from the point on the powerplay. I wonder who’s up for the task.

For those watching the game in the city tonight, I’ll be at Local West (33rd and 8th) to watch. Feel free to drop by and say hi.

Kotalik On First Line

In another line change, the Rangers have moved Ales Kotalik to the first line. According to Steve Zipay, the move was made because Kotalik can control the puck better than Lisin. I like the move. Kotalik has been the third best offensive player, behind Gaborik and Prospal, and deserves a shot on the first line. These would be my guesses at the rest:

Lisin-Anisimov-Parenteau

Avery-Higgins-Callahan

Brashear-Boyle-Voros

I like the Lisin line. Lots of speed. We’ll see how the Kotalik experiment works. It can’t hurt to try.

Finding Kotalik Ice Time

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Ales Kotalik will be an important member of the 2009-10 New York Rangers. Not only does he have a booming shot on the power play, he’s shown strong defensive responsibilities, and a nose for the net. So far, he has 3 goals and 2 assists,  and he’s done that while spending two games on the fourth line. Which brings me to my next question: How do the Rangers find ice time for Kotalik?

The first two lines are set in stone: Prospal-Dubinsky-Gaborik, and Higgins-Drury-Callahan. Both have created plenty of scoring chances, and have been the top two lines on the ice in most games. The third and fourth line is where things start to get tricky. When Sean Avery returned, he was placed on the third line, with Artem Anisimov and Enver Lisin. Kotalik was moved to the fourth line, and Aaron Voros was moved to the bench. The problem is, Kotalik is not a fourth liner. Hell, for 3 million a year, he’s probably not a 3rd liner either. The Rangers, I believe, have to find Kotalik more time. But, how do they do it?

The easiest scenario is moving Enver Lisin to the fourth line. His speed would be a welcome addition. And although Dave thinks otherwise, I think Lisin has been very impressive in the offensive zone thus far. Defensively, he’s a work in progress, which is why I think a fourth line assignment wouldn’t be good for him. Lisin needs to be with other offensively talented guys to succeed. Playing with Boyle and Brashear is probably not the answer.

You could also bench Lisin, and bring back Aaron Voros. A line of Brashear-Boyle-Voros is intriguing, and they played well the first couple of games together. But by benching Lisin, you risk stunting his development. If you send him down to Hartford to play regularly, you risk the chance of him bolting for the KHL. It’s a no-win situation.

The final scenario is putting Avery on the fourth line. His goal scoring would be a nice addition to the hard working fourth line, and something about Brashear and Avery on the ice at the same time gets me excited. But, Avery is not a fourth line player. He’s a legitimate top 6 forward.

This is a good problem to have. I can’t remember the last time the Rangers had too many guys who could provide offense. I’m not sure what the coaching staff will do. There are a lot of variables, but I can’t see Kotalik staying on the fourth line all year. You could switch Lisin and Kotalik depending on matchups. That might be the way to go, but then you risk chemistry. It’s a tough call, but one I’m glad the Rangers have. So what do you think? How can the Rangers best find Kotalik ice time?

Scoring: A Problem?

Before I start, I’d like to properly introduce myself: My name is Jeremy Fuchs and I’m really excited to join the team here at BlueSeatBlogs. A life long Ranger fan, I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on my beloved Blueshirts. You may have seen my other work on GiantsGab, or The Blog of Champions. Now that you know a little bit about me, let’s talk hockey.

Last year, all we heard about was scoring. Or the lack thereof. Scott Gomez didn’t (or couldn’t) fill the large shoes of Jaromir Jagr. Chris Drury was playing like a second or third line center, not a first. Markus Naslund, while solid, certainly didn’t set the world on fire. Nikolai Zherdev oozes talent, but can’t get it done on the ice.

As in typical Ranger fashion, they re-tooled in the offseason. They traded Scott Gomez to Montreal, getting Chris Higgins and promising blueliner Ryan McDonagh. Markus Naslund retired, Nik Antropov went to Atlanta, and Nik Zherdev went to the KHL. They signed Marion Gaborik to a mega deal. They signed Vinny Prospal and Ales Kotalik. On paper, this seems to make up and then some for the losses. Yet all I hear from fans is: Where’s the scoring? All I read about in season previews is: Where’s the scoring? Is it an issue? Or are we just too wary of Glen Sather to think he actually did a good job?

184. That’s how many goals the Rangers scored last year. In comparison, the Cup winning Penguins scored 255. Big difference. Well, how many goals can we project the Blueshirts to score this year?

Marion Gaborik: 32

If he’s healthy, he scores 40+ goals. However, I’m accounting for the fact that he might not stay healthy. I think 32 is a reasonable estimate.

Chris Drury: 24.

Hopefully, he’ll rekindle his magic with Kotalik.

Brandon Dubinsky: 16
Playing with Gabby should increase his outptut.

Sean Avery: 15

He scored 8 goals in 41 games. 15 in 81 sounds about right.

Chris Higgins: 24

Higgins was hurt last year, limiting his goal production to 12. I think he can double that if healthy, especially if he plays on a wing with Gaborik.

Ales Kotalik: 20

Scored 20 last year, too

Ryan Callahan: 28

28 might seem like a lot, but Callahan scored 22 goals last year, and was on fire at the end of the season, and in the playoffs. He’s a perfect fit for Tortorella’s system.

Vinny Prospal: 20

Scored 19 last year on a Tampa team in turmoil.

Artem Anisimov: 10

I don’t want to expect too much from the rookie, but he’s a goal scorer, and proved that in Hartford.

Donald Brashear:  2

Hey, it’s an improvement over Colton Orr

Brian Boyle: 5

That’s a nice number for a fourth line center.

Enver Lisin: 15

Lisin scored 13 in Phoenix. His speed is too tantalizing from him not to improve on that total, and he’ll flourish with Torts. He’ll score some on the Power Play as well.

Marc Staal: 8

I think he’s going to flourish in Tortorella’s system. He’ll be leading the rush a lot more.

Dan Girardi: 5

He’s got a very underrated shot.

Wade Redden: 5

I expect him to improve, and he was much better once Tortorella came on.

Michal Rosival: 8

If he just used that shot of his more, this total would be in double digits.

Matt Gilory: 5

He’s been very impressive in preseason duty.

Michael Del Zotto: 4

He’s a true power play QB. He’ll have a good number of assists as well.

So how many goals is that? 246. That’s a HUGE improvement over last year. I think the Gaborik addition, and the development of youngsters aids in the increase. And even if Gaborik gets hurt and only scores 10 goals, it’s  still 224 goals scored. Am I being a bit optimistic? Perhaps. But, it’s reasonable to think. This team is more well balanced. And judging from preseason games, they are a much better passing team. They attack, and they shoot the puck more.  If the Rangers get this goal amount, they will be a much better team. And with Lundqvist, it could lead to a deep playoff run.

So Far, So Good

The new look Rangers dropped the preseason opener last night, 2-1 to the Boston Bruins. The score isn’t really telling of the game itself, in which the Rangers dominated the third period, when Boston looked gassed and unable to keep up with the Blueshirts. John Tortorella has already put his stamp on this team, as the puck movement, scoring chances, and powerplay all seemed to be a major improvement from last year, even if it was just for one game.

At even strength, the Rangers showcased what looks to be their bread and butter play, which is cycling the puck along the boards, maintaining possession, and finding the open man in the high slot for a quick shot on net. Sure, there were some miscues, but that should be expected from the first preseason game, with 50% of the roster bound for Hartford to start the season. Donald Brashear was a pleasant surprise on the ice, as he showed why GM Glen Sather chose him over the departed Colton Orr.

The powerplay, while putting up a goose egg, was also a nice surprise, with Ales Kotalik at the point. Kotalik has a cannon, and when he hits the net, will be the center of attention for opposing penalty killers. The other stand out on the powerplay was highly touted Michael Del Zotto, who showed great poise while quarterbacking the powerplay, and rang one off the post off a feed from Evgeny Grachev. Del Zotto showed why he is so highly touted, and if he keeps up his play, the Rangers will be hard pressed not to keep him around when the season starts.

The Rangers lone goal came from Christopher Higgins, who buried a rebound off an Alexei Semenov shot, which came in low and hard, exactly how it should be. If the Ranger defense can get their shots through low and on net, expect to see plenty of rebound goals, especially with the likes of Higgins, Chris Drury, and Ryan Callahan patrolling the area around the crease. If Matt Maccarone was able to lift the puck in the second, the outcome of the game would have been different.

There was one particular play that drew my ire, and that was the goalie interference call on Callahan in the third period. Right now, it looks like if you bump the goalie, regardless of the circumstances, you will get called for a penalty. This play was in no way Callahan’s fault, as he was being defended, and tried to avoid Boston goalie Tuuka Rask, who played a brilliant game. This call should be referee’s judgment, and if a player makes a solid attempt to get out of the way, no call should be made. It’s hockey, the goalie is going to get bumped.

The Rangers youngsters, including Matt Gilroy, who turned in a good game, played a solid game last night. We all know what the veterans are capable of, and preseason is the time to watch these youngsters showcase their talent. If last night showed us anything, it’s that Gilroy and Del Zotto are going to be solid players.

Kotalik on the Point?

Yesterday, in an interview with Andrew Gross, newly acquired winger Ales Kotalik admitted that coach John Tortorella has spoken with him about playing the point on the power play. The Rangers had the second-worst ranked power play in the league last year, and it definitely cost them in the regular season and in the playoffs. Five or six well timed power play goals more during the regular season, and the Rangers don’t face the Washington Capitals in the first round.

While I’m not completely sold on Kotalik the total-package, I am sold on Kotalik the shooter. He has a nasty shot. If the point man can manage to get the puck to the net on a consistent basis, it forces the opposition to cover the point more tightly, thus opening up a plethora of other options, including less coverage on sniper-extraordinaire Marian Gaborik. If Kotalik winds up on the point, you are looking at a first PP unit of Chris Higgins*-Chris Drury*-Marian Gaborik-Kotalik-Michal Rozsival/Wade Redden. I would say that’s a solid first unit, assuming they can deliver.

*-Side note: Drury is on the first unit because his splits on the powerplay last year were 10-10-20. Higgins instead of Callahan because he is a left handed shot, to the two righties in Drury and Gaborik. Gaborik is a lefty, my mistake.

Torts is simply keeping his options open, and considering that Rozsival was the highest scoring Ranger defenseman on the power play last year with just 10 assists (and 3 goals), anyone that can produce as a power play quarterback will be looked at. Kotalik, as touched on above, has a cannon for a shot, but that means nothing if he a) doesn’t take the shot (see: Rozsival, Michal) or b) can’t get the shot on net. But of course, this all relies on someone being able to get him the puck. So that hole still needs to be filled, and hopefully one of the higher priced defensemen on the team can do that.

More Ranger Bashing

In more bashing of the Rangers moves this offseason, Adam Proteau of The Hockey News mentions the Rangers twice thrice in his Worst UFA Signings of 2009. Sure, Sather shelled out a ton of money this summer on Marian Gaborik (#2 on this list), who’s injuries are well documented and really seem to be the only argument everyone has against him. He gave questionable terms to Ales Kotalik (#4 on the list), but with Zherdev essentially gone, they needed to fill the void. Though, I do agree with Proteau on this one, and I have made it well known. He also gave two years to the 37 year old Donald Brashear (gets a dishonorable mention), ensuring that his $1.4 million cap hit will be there next year as well.

Just some notes about the contracts of Gaborik and Kotalik: They both signed at market value. I cannot stress market value enough. If you look at the contracts for comparable players, they all make that kind of money. And I’m talking about annual salary, not cap hit (or average annual salary). So omit the financial terms from your arguments for these two deals please. If you look at these two signings, each filled a void in the Rangers lineup. Gaborik filled the go-to game changer, and Kotalik is an attempt to fill the 2nd/3rd line RW spot that was vacated in the Nikolai Zherdev show.

Personally, I would swap Brashear and Kotalik on this list. If you look at the Brashear deal, he is making well above market value, is 37, and is signed for two years. Is the “Brashear-fear” worth the guaranteed $1.4 million cap hit? Maybe. But as of right now, I think he could have signed for less annually, and for one year.

Sather has done a fairly good job this year in managing the cap (so far) this offseason. Assuming Dubinsky signs for $1.75 million annually (high estimate), the Rangers will still have $1.2 million in cap room available, and that’s with a 13th forward (Voros in my scenario, could be Arnason though, which saves more cap room), and a 7th D (Potter/Sauer). Remember last year when the Rangers had no cap room and just one spare player?

Some optimism please?

Kotalik Has a No-Trade

According to CapGeek, Ales Kotalik was able to secure himself a no-trade clause in his deal with the Rangers.

The only rational explanation for this is that the Rangers were bidding with another team, and needed to use the NTC as leverage over the mystery team. I am guessing this is a limited no trade clause, much like those given to Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, and Marian Gaborik, in which he will give the Rangers a list of teams that he will/will not accept a trade to.

I don’t like NTCs, especially for players that I am already skeptical about, but it is what it is. No use crying over spilled milk.

The NMCs/NTCs page has been updated to reflect this.