(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Two summers ago (2011), we started writing posts titled “Reasonable Expectations.” The idea behind these posts was to outline what we should expect from some of our core youth on the Rangers. It’s natural to expect every player to turn into a first liner, but that’s not reality.
When we wrote these expectation posts two summers ago, they were obviously for last season (2011-2012). Now that the season has come to an end, Suit brought up a good idea to track how we did with our predictions. Since it was my idea to start with the Reasonable Expectation posts, it only makes sense that I go first.
Beginning in February of the 2010-2011 season, I wrote three Reasonable Expectation posts: one for Michael Del Zotto, one for the Brandon Dubinsky/Artem Anisimov/Ryan Callahan line, and one for Tim Erixon. Considering the players I wrote about, it looks like I have a kiss of death. Apparently if I write a Reasonable Expectations post about a player, he has a 60% chance of being traded for Rick Nash.
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When the Rangers acquired Rick Nash, they did so by dealing two roster players that played key roles on the bottom six forwards. Losing Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov may not look like much, especially when they are dealt for someone like Rick Nash. However, it does lead to the discussion of how to replace these players, especially Dubinsky, who was one of the Rangers top defensive and puck possession forwards.
It seems logical to begin with Anisimov, who I believe to be the easier of the two to replace. Anisimov bounced around on the Rangers lineup from top line to fourth line so often, I’m surprised he wasn’t dizzy from all the pinballing around the lineup. Throughout his young career, he has shown flashes of offensive talent while putting up 30-40 points per season, almost entirely at even strength.
His defensive peripherals (.005 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 52.7 OZone%) aren’t spectacular, but they are still solid and show that Anisimov was still very reliable in his own end. He’s the type of two-way forward that could develop into a 50-60 point player if given the right opportunity and powerplay time. That said, he wasn’t going to get that opportunity with the Rangers. Jeff Halpern has comparable numbers (-.029 QoC, 2.9 RCorsi, 39.2 OZone%), but can add more in terms of veteran leadership and face off wins.
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On top of avoiding surrendering prized young players like Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto in yesterday’s blockbuster trade, GM Glen Sather also did an effective job of keeping the Rangers in good shape with the salary cap.
The Rangers are now on the hook for the remaining six-years, $46.8 million of the eight-year, $62.4 million contract Rick Nash inked with Columbus in 2009, but they still have plenty of room to operate.
Some thoughts on the financial impact of the deal:
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It should come as no surprise, but Glen Sather fleeced a rival general manager yet again.
After months of speculation and negotiations, Sather’s patience finally paid off this afternoon as the Rangers completed a trade for Rick Nash. Derek Stepan wasn’t involved in the deal, neither were Michael Del Zotto, Chris Kreider or Ryan McDonagh.
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Much debate was made over the weekend regarding what the Rangers should give up in a trade for Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. The rumors were circling, and the general consensus is that the Rangers will need to include Derek Stepan in a package that will land either scoring winger. Both the Ducks and the Blue Jackets covet Stepan as a current #2 center, with the potential to be a #1 center.
Whether the Ducks and Blue Jackets are ranking Stepan appropriately is irrelevant. What matters is that the Rangers need a scoring winger, a big hole for them. There is hesitance to deal Stepan, as there should be, but the Rangers hesitance to deal him is about opening a hole at center to fill a hole at wing. That’s not how to build a team or how to “win” a trade.
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Everyone assumes that Brandon Dubinsky will be the one ‘major’ piece to move if the Rangers acquire a high priced/elite forward through a means other than free agency. Non free agency acquisition likely means Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. One of the major issues here is that Anaheim likely wants a cheaper piece than Dubinsky and Columbus wants a lot more in addition to Dubinsky.
The demands and desires of the clubs possessing the shiny new toys the Rangers crave mean there’s a chance that the Rangers might need to keep Dubinsky and move other pieces such as Derek Stepan or Artem Anisimov. Derek Stepan’s level of organisational security depends on how desperate Sather and co. are for the big time scorer they need. Only people internally truly know the answers.
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When trade rumors begin to surface, many begin to panic. It’s not unexpected to see this panicking, as the Rangers were so close last season to playing for the Stanley Cup, it makes you wonder what management will do to make that next step. Per Larry Brooks, the organization has dubbed seven key players as “untouchable” in their search for scoring:
The Rangers, who are believed to have quarantined Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Derek Stepan (in addition to Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist)…
Mentioning Cally, Girardi, and Lundqvist is just a formality, as these are guys in or entering their prime who are core pieces for the Rangers. As for the first four mentioned by Brooks, those names are expected to be deemed as “untouchable.” If the Rangers were open to moving any of them, the return would have to be monstrous.
McDonagh was a given for the status of untouchable because of the impact he’s made on the roster. McDonagh emerged as a top pairing defender when Marc Staal went down with his concussion, and stayed there even when Staal returned. The pairing of McDonagh and Girardi is one of the best shutdown pairs in the game today. Throw in the fact that McDonagh has yet to tap into his offensive potential, and we could be looking at a Norris winner in the future.
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The bottom six forwards get a raw deal sometimes. Many base their usefulness on their offensive output, and unfortunately that is just not the role of the bottom six forward. Sure, contributing offensively is nice, but the role of these players is to shut down the opposition’s top lines. They are the ones that do the dirty work, they keep the opposing goons in check, they wear down the opposition.
So based on the above, let me reiterate these grades are based on the players executing their specific roles within our team concept. This isn’t just based on stats.
Boy did Boyle have some major responsibilities this season. He was generally responsible for lining up against the opposition’s top scorers and was given the job of shutting them down. He also was the guy that Torts turned to when he needed a defensive zone face off win. People look to his drop in scoring (11-15-26 this year, a drop from 21-14-35 last year) and they assume Boyle has just been awful. That’s not the case. Boyle started just 28.8% of all his shifts in the offensive zone, good for lowest rate on the team. But yet, he managed to finish 43.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone. The result: a player that did his job. He handled the defensive zone pressure and set up the Rangers in the offensive zone. Oh, and he was tied with Brad Richards and John Mitchell for second on the team in face off win percentage (51.8%).
In the playoffs, Boyle was clearly getting under the Ottawa Senators’ skin, which is why Chris Neil decided to target him with a head shot. Boyle was one of the most effective Ranger forwards before the concussion, and was clearly not the same after. Mid-season: B/Full Season: A-/Playoffs: B+.
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Artem Anisimov still isn’t playing to the level he has the ability to reach. It is this statement that makes Anisimov both frustrating and exciting at the same time. That all said, Anisimov has provided plenty of big moments for the Rangers this off season and has quietly put together a solid playoffs even if it has been punctuated with poor games and an occasional trip to Hotel ride-the-pine.
A side plot of his offseason may be how Anisimov has pushed his teammate Brandon Dubinsky further toward the exit door. Earlier this season we discussed the potential ‘play off’ between Anisimov and Dubinsky in regard to a future with the Rangers. Both are blessed with skill and ability and both have been productive Rangers yet both have often left you hoping, expecting more.
With the Rick Nash rumours and the apparent inclusion of Dubinsky in the Nash package every man and his dog is aware that inside Madison Square Garden the lust is starting to wear off of Dubi. He’s likely in play and his future is clearly tenuous. He’s not earning his Benjamin’s.
To an extent one could have argued the same about Anisimov. However, the Russian has stepped up (somewhat) this post season while Dubinsky has first been mired in an awful campaign and secondly has now had to sit and watch his teammates work towards a Cup. Dubinsky was poor in last year’s playoffs and one point in seven this time around doesn’t inspire confidence he can do it better any time soon.
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So the Rangers lost another heartbreaker last night in overtime. It’s their second loss to the Senators in the series, both coming in overtime. The fan base is on edge, and for good reason. The Senators are a good team, and a team that the Rangers do not match up well against. It’s going to be a stressful series, that’s for sure. But enough of that, let’s get to the musings for the day.
I’m in the process of reading a book called “Losing the Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers”, and there was a great quote in the book, from none other than Mark Messier:
“Leadership isn’t about the win, it’s about how you rebound after the loss.”
This statement is more true now, in this series, than ever before. The Rangers have more leaders on this team with Cup experience than the Senators. It’s time for the leaders to take charge. In fact, one of the leaders –Mike Rupp– almost won the game for the Rangers in overtime with his forecheck in the Senators zone. People still rip on Rupp for no reason whatsoever. Maybe it’s the contract, but I get the sense that it’s a feeling of “he doesn’t do anything for this club.” That is so false, it pains me every time I see it. Hockey is more than goals and assists. It’s about dirty work, especially playoff hockey.
Speaking of playoff hockey, is last night’s game what we are reduced to? There were a toal of 12 penalties last night totaling 24 PIMs. Some were legitimate calls, but I can point to two penalties, one per team, that were questionable at best. Ryan McDonagh’s “trip” on Zenon Kenopka in the first period and Zach Smith’s “interference” on Ruslan Fedotenko in the second period were very iffy calls. But such is the life after a dirty first two games. The refs aren’t going to allow this stuff to fly. This is now a special teams series, and that makes most people nervous.
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