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Posts tagged: Blair Betts

Six Years Later: Reviewing the 2004 Fire Sale

As the 2004 trade deadline approached, and a lockout looming, the Rangers were in what can only be called a terrible place. They would finish the season with a lowly 69 points, which was just good enough to avoid the lottery, but terrible enough for the Rangers to do what New Yorkers thought to be impossible: gut the team and completely rebuild. The 2004 trade deadline saw General Manager Glen Sather make a total of 11 trades beginning on January 23, 2004. These 11 trades involved a total of 29 players and 9 draft picks switching hands. It’s been six years since the now infamous fire sale, which has left enough time to review how each of these trades panned out.

January 23, 2004

Rangers acquire Jamie Pushor from Columbus for an 8th round pick in 2004 (Matt Greer): Pushor played a total of 7 games for the Rangers in which he did not register a point, and 14 for the Wolfpack in which he registered 2 assists. Greer played one game with the Syracuse Crunch in 2008-2009, and doesn’t appear to be making it to the NHL any time soon. Let’s call this one a wash.

Rangers acquire Jaromir Jagr from Washington for Anson Carter: What is lost in this trade is that the Caps picked up half of Jagr’s salary for the remainder of his contract. This would become a big factor in the Rangers success post-lockout, as they had an $8 million player for $4 million. Carter only played 15 games for the Caps before being spun to the Kings (for Jared Aulin). This was a clear salary dump of a disgruntled player for the Caps, to which the Rangers benefited. Jagr was the piece that the Rangers built around post-lockout and was one of the key reasons the Rangers made the playoffs in the years following. Jagr now holds the Rangers single season records for goals and points.

Read the rest of the trades after the jump

Sorry Betts, No Spot For You

With Blair Betts still unassigned, and August being a naturally slow month, I’ve read some people calling to have Bettsy re-signed for next season. I am going to preface this by saying I am a huge Betts fan, and prior to July 1, would have welcomed him back this season.

That said, there is no longer a spot on this team for Blair Betts. There, I said it. Sorry if you don’t like it.

The Rangers, as currently put together, have a glut of Torts-style 4th line players that would undoubtedly come cheaper than Capt. PK (as so dubbed by myself). The 4th line currently is Brashear-Boyle-Byers. That definitely doesn’t instill offensive fear in any team (granted, subbing Betts on that line doesnt exactly do that either), but it definitely adds some physical fear. Mess with someone, you have Brashear coming after you. If he’s in the box, you have 6’7 Boyle coming after you. It’s a scary line when you think about it.

The Rangers’ salary cap situation doesn’t help matters either. Assuming the Rangers cut Nik Zherdev loose and re-sign Brandon Dubinsky for roughly $1.75 million, they will have roughly $2 million left to spend, and all they are really missing is a 3rd line RW, which will probably be put up for competition amongst the kids at camp. These numbers also include a 13th forward and a 6th and 7th defenseman (Voros, Sauer/Potter), which add a much needed sense of urgency and competition during the regular season for everyone. As much as I like Betts, 3rd line RW doesn’t exactly fit his motif.

No matter which way you slice it, the trade for Brian Boyle and the signing of Donald Brashear spelled the end for Betts. I wish him well, but wish him well for another hockey club.

Boyle Means Goodbye to Betts, Orr

With the recent acquisition of Brian Boyle from the LA Kings, for a 2010 3rd round pick, the Rangers acquired a very big center that can fight, and presumably skate. I say presumably because I really don’t know much on him. What I do know is that Boyle is 6’7 250 lbs, and is just a beast. He may have a little bit of an offensive touch to him, he put up decent numbers in the AHL for a fighter. This pickup also gives the Rangers their very own 2003 first round pick, so now they are not the only team in the NHL that didn’t have a 2003 first rounder play in the NHL.

With this trade, the Rangers are tipping their hand at their offseason plans. It is known that Fred Sjostrom was not qualified as an RFA, and that Colton Orr was not being pursued at the moment for next season. Boyle can replace Orr as the fighter, so no big deal there. As much as I love Orr, he is replaceable. Orr will get considerable interest from a lot of NHL teams, after making incredible improvements in his skating last season. What I don’t like here is that Boyle also replaces Blair Betts as the fourth line center. It’s tough to watch the best penalty killing unit in the NHL not get resigned, but I guess that’s hockey.

The more you think about it, the more you realize that there is no way Betts was going to be back next season. Superb on the kill he may be, but he has little offensive talent, and saw a dramatic decrease in playing time under the John Tortorella regime. It’s safe to assume that Betts wants more playing time, maybe even on a third line (or a team that rolls four lines….Edmonton).

I don’t know if a 4th line of (insert LW)-Boyle-Jordan Owens is an upgrade over Orr-Betts-Sjostrom. It depends on how effective the new guys are on the PK, and if they can actually net a few goals.

But, I guess it’s time to say goodbye to Colton Orr, Blair Betts, and Fred Sjostrom. And it’s also time to give a big thank you to Sjostrom and Betts, talking about a fantastic PK tandem.

Non-Draft Roundup

I’ll get to the draft round up tomorrow. I want to get some specifics on the players before I post about them.

As for the rest of the Ranger news:

  • Sather made qualifying offers to most RFAs, but Fred Sjostrom was not included in that list. The notables included: Nikolai Zherdev, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Lauri Korpikoski. You can breathe a sigh of relief.
    • It’s safe to assume that Jordan Owens will be given the opportunity to take Sjostrom’s place. It’s just all business with that decision.
  • The Rangers traded a 3rd round pick in 2010 (supposed to be a thin draft) for C Brian Boyle. That pretty much spells the end for the Blair Betts era in New York. With both Sjostrom and Betts gone, there goes the best PK unit in the league.
    • Boyle, 24, is an RFA, is 6’7 250 lbs (he’s a freaking beast), and you have to assume he has been qualified. He’s a tough guy, and if he plays a full season, can give you maybe 10-10-20 at his peak. He was solid defensively in the AHL last season.
  • Paul Mara and Derek Morris won’t be back, Glen Sather is quoted saying that he has five defensemen knocking on the door (Sauer, Sangs, DZ, Potter, Gilroy). Expect one or two of them to make the team, and maybe a stay-at-home bruiser type signing.
  • Nik Antropov won’t be back, his asking price is too much. This shouldn’t shock anyone.
  • Colton Orr isn’t going to be resigned, so the entire 4th line will be different next year. This is old news, but I neglected to mention it until now.
  • We should start hearing about accepted/rejected qualifying offers before July 1. It will be a fun few days before free agency begins.

Over the next few days, I’m going to research each of the picks and write little blurbs about them. Keep checking back.

Setting the Blair Betts Market; Zherdev Rejects KHL Offer

Many people probably didn’t even look up when reading that the St. Louis Blues resigned center Jay McClement to a three-year deal worth $4.35 million. I mean, who is Jay McClement? Well, McClement is a 26 year old 4th line center that averages 10-10-20 while playing most of his time on the penalty kill. John Davidson calls him “one of the best defensive forwards”.

Hmm. A 4th line center, who excels on the penalty kill, and doesn’t score much. Doesn’t that sound real familiar?

Sure, McClement scores more than Betts, but they are essentially the same player. Is Betts worth a $1.45 million cap hit? Definitely not, and if he asks for that, let him walk. But this definitely sets the market for someone like Betts. Betts could seemingly get a cool mil a year.

If the Rangers weren’t so cash strapped, a $1 million cap hit for Betts would be a reasonable hit. But now, I don’t know. I wonder if someone in Hartford –Jordan Owens? Greg Moore?– can fill that role?

In other news, Nik Zherdev has turned down an offer to play in the KHL:

Rangers forward Nik Zherdev, a restricted free agent, has turned down an offer from KHL club Salavat Yulayev Ufa and wants to play in New York next season.

This is nothing short of fantastic news, as it is incredibly important to keep Zherdev around next year.

Finals Thoughts and a Recap on a Season on the Brink

I allowed myself to decompress for 24-48 hours after the Rangers season officially ended to talk about what happened.  Much like a legendary player being asked to retire when he’s ousted from the playoffs, you have to sift through your emotions before you give an honest assessment of things.  100% agree with Dave that the better team won this series, but ironically, I thought the Rangers were the better team for the most part in Game 7.  The game itself was a microcosm of the the Blueshirts season and series:  strong to start, treading water in the middle, and plagued by an inability to score and create chances in the end.  This team truly gave their all in the final game though, and that makes the sting a bit more bearable.  Now that the smoke has cleared, it has become obvious to me (and hopefully all of you) that John Tortorella got the most out of a team that has seemingly zero offensive firepower, and the fact that he got them to claw all the way into the playoffs says a lot about the type of coach he can be for this franchise.

So now that the sting is starting to subside, lets take a look back on the highs and lows of this season, and what’s to come from the 89 games:

HIGHS

-The Blueshirts got off to a fantastic start, going 10-2-1 in the month of October and staking themselves to a huge early lead in the Eastern Conference

-Three players had their numbers retired: Harry Howell (3), Andy Bathgate (9), and Adam Graves (9)

-Tom Renney and his stale style of hockey were finally replaced by John Tortorella’s aggressive attack, making for a much more efficient and relatively exciting Rangers team to watch.

-The Rangers re-acquired Sean Avery off waivers from the Dallas Stars, adding the edge that the team needed down the stretch.

-Henrik Lundqvist gave no doubt to the fact that he is easily one of the top 3 goalies in the world today

-After falling out of the playoff picture in late February/early March, the Rangers made a remarkable turn around, headlined by John Tortorella’s coaching, to finish 7th in the Eastern Conference standings.  The team had several key wins down the stretch to jump into the playoffs.

-Nik Antropov and Derek Morris were acquired via trade at the deadline, and provided some size and stability to their respective positions.

-The combination of Blair Betts and Frederik Sjostrom (throw Hank in there if you’d like) emerged as the best penalty killing unit in the NHL.

-While maybe not necessarily a high, Markus Naslund provided exactly what was expected of him: a 20-25 goal season and consistency up front.

LOWS

-The start of 2009 brough no joy to the Rangers, as they started to collapse under the Tom Renney regime.  The low-point was highlighted by a 10-2 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Stars, and ultimately would signify the end of the Renney era.

-The tragic death of top-tier prospect Alexei Cherapanov cast a shadow over the Rangers future.

-Nikolai Zherdev’s did not provide the 30+ goal output that many believed it would, and the youngster crumbled in his first post-season

-The offseason acquistion of Wade Redden was nothing but a complete disaster.

– Michael Roszival’s absurd contract extension (mainly its length) is beginning to rear its ugly head, and the combination of Redden and Roszival’s salaries and contract length will plague this franchise for years to come.

-The power-play never amounted to anything, under both coaches, and has been the most pressing issue since the lockout ended.

-An inability to provide consistent offense or any offensive threat whatsoever doomed this team as the season progressed

-Leading 3-1 in their opening round playoff series, the Blueshirts fell apart when it mattered most, a series headlined by the suspension of John Tortorella for Game 6

-Versus continues to cover the NHL

WHATS TO COME

-Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Lauri Korpikoski, Sean Avery, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi will be the core of this team under the John Tortorella regime.  The new coach must also find the right players for his style of play, as it became obvious that the current group cannot provide the type of play Tortorella would like to play.

-Blair Betts, Frederik Sjostrom, Colton Orr, and Nik Antropov MUST be re-signed.  Betts and Sjostrom combine to be the best PK tandem and 4th line in the league.  Orr is the best fighter in the NHL, and you still need at least one of them on your team.  Antropov provides much needed size and scoring touch going forward.

-Markus Naslund, with only one-year remaining, should be dealt somewhere.  The aging forward, once considered the best two-way player in the NHL, did not thrive in Tortorella’s system.

-Time for Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to finally step up and take the reigns as the elder statesmen on this team.  The honeymoon is over boys.

-Say goodbye to Paul Mara (regretably), Nik Zherdev, and Derek Morris.  In addition, Sather must find a way to part ways with either Redden or Roszival, either through a buy-out or trade.

-Its time for the Rangers projects and farm system to step-up and become elite players in the league.  This includes players currently on the team (who have now played in enough tight playoff series) and players in their farm system (who up until this point have done nothing but be talked about).  History shows that free-agent/trade acquisitions don’t do it for this team, and the home-grown talent must finally rise to the top.

-If they are going to keep him for the next 3 seasons, the organization must get on the league’s case about the officiating bias towards Sean Avery.  While he is no saint, the abuse this guy takes on a nightly basis is absolutely absurd.  Game 7 was just an example.  Generally speaking, the officiating around the league in general must change, as these ticky-tack calls are making even the most die-hard hockey fan’s head spin.

-While no fault falls on him, Henrik Lundqvist must find a way to be better than spectacular come playoff time.  I’m talking god-like, all the time.  If you want to know what I’m looking for, see Giguere for the Ducks and Khabibulin for the Lightning.

-The power-play can no longer be the Achilles heel of this team.  Either through someone currently on the team stepping up or by acquiring someone via free agency or trade that can FINALLY do it themselves, the Rangers must learn to capitalize on the opportunities provided.

-Whatever the makeup of this team comes to be, they have to find a way to be consistently good all season long.  The continuous ebb and flow of the Rangers the past few seasons has come back to haunt them in the playoffs, as the lack of home-ice advantage has made things very difficult.

Whew.  I’m sure there are plenty of things here that plenty of you agree/disagree with.  I’m pretty sure there are plenty of things that I missed and will think about later.  It was a crazy season for so many reasons, and to try to cover it all would take weeks and months.  I’d like to hear about what you all have to say about the Rangers season, and what you think should/shouldn’t happen as the organization moves forward.  Either way, this has been a very enjoyable experience, and I’m looking forward to adding thoughts and insight to a team I love so much.

Blair Betts Suspended

In a stunning turn of events, Rangers center Blair Betts has been suspended for two games for his obstruction against Donald Brashear during yesterday’s game:

NHL SUSPENDS NY RANGERS BLAIR BETTS FOR TWO GAMES
NEW YORK (Apr. 27, 2009) The National Hockey League announced today that New York Rangers forward Blair Betts has been suspended for two games for interfering with and obstructing Washington Capitals forward Donald Brashear during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Final Series.

The incident occurred 9:54 into the first period.

While it is a difficult decision to suspend a player at this point in a Playoff Series, it has been made clear to all of our Players that the National Hockey League cannotand will not tolerate any blatant obstruction fouls, said NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. We do not take this action lightly. It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Brashear.

That investigation revealed that Mr. Betts purposely placed himself in the path of Mr. Brashear, obstructing his forward progress and preventing him from retrieving the puck and prevented a scoring opportunity.

While, in these circumstances, it always is easy to allege mitigating circumstances, the fact is we will not tolerate these actions. The reputation of the National Hockey League as an institution of fairness requires us to take the appropriate action.

Referees Brad Meier and Bill McCreary were also reprimanded for allowing Betts to cause a stoppage of play and not making the appropriate call of 4-minutes for Delay-of-Game and Interference.

Granted, in this NHL run by Bettman, this article is semi-believable.

No, I did not write this, nor did Stas. But he sent it to me and I had to post it. It’s really funny.

I saw this going bad when….

I saw Colton Orr was not in the lineup and Donald Brashear was.  Don’t laugh.  Think back to a time when Tom Renney failed to have the big enforcer in the lineup for a game against the Flyers, and they proceeded to run rampant all over the Blueshirts.  After that game, Renney vowed to never sit Orr again and #28 has been a staple ever since.  Especially after watching Brashear challenge Orr during pre-game warmups, you had to believe he was going to be in there right?  Right???

Well apparently not, and the injury sustained by Blair Betts is a direct result of not dressing Orr.  Brashear knew he could perform that act without fear of having to face the reprecutions of Colton Orr.  I applaud Paul Mara for standing up to him, and we can argue until we’re blue in the face about how many minutes Brashear should have gotten for it.  As a player, when you see that happen to a teammate of yours, it does something that’s hard to explain.  Whatever it is, it takes a lot out of you and its hard to recover from.  Brashear didn’t get much ice time after that, and you can speculate as to whether or not this was premeditated, but the Rangers staff allowed it to happen by not having Colton Orr ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I’m in no way pinning the Rangers loss solely on this decision and subsequent event, but it definitely was a factor.  Now the Rangers are likely down their best faceoff man and penalty killer.  I’ll bet Colton Orr will be dressed for Game 7.

Either way, its time to find out what these Rangers are really made of on Tuesday night….

Sloppy Play Leads to Game 7

The Rangers were dominated in today’s game too, thus allowing Washington to gain all the momentum they will need heading back to DC for Game 7. They came out strong, but had the life sucked out of them after Hank got beat on the short side, twice. It looked like they just gave up after Poti scored on the 3-on-1.

I’m all in favor of benching Nik Zherdev right now. Stas brought up a very valid point when we were talking about the Avery suspension, Zherdev does nothing but give the puck away and miss empty nets. He has been downright awful, and really screwed himself over for the offseason. It’s his contract year and he sucked it up since 2009 began. So much for him getting the deal comparable to Erat/Roy/Brown. He’s not the only one missing empty nets (Naslund), but I’m singling him out because he has been downright atrocious. He’s been almost as bad as….

The officiating in the NHL Playoffs over the past years has been terrible. I’m trying to stay away from select four-letter words, and it’s really tough to do so. How can you give Dubinsky 14 minutes for the hit on Green, and give Brashear 2 minutes for his hit on Betts? The hit on Betts can end someone’s career. Ask Brett Lindros. Or hell, ask Eric Lindros. Elbows to the head alter careers. The refs should at least call the game consistently. Bettman should be ashamed of himself for what he has turned this game into. This is why no one takes hockey seriously. But I digress. This officiating issue is a topic that most Ranger fans already know.

With Betts’ concussion (assumed), I’m guessing Artem Anisimov will be called up to take his place in Game 7.

But hey, let’s end this on some positive notes: Dubi and Cally had strong games. Gomez decided to show up in the first period, two PPGs, and it looks like they’ve solved Varlamov, for now.

Game 7 on Tuesday.

The Odd Joys of Even

It’s amazing how much we as fans rejoice when we see that players are on the plus side of the +/-stat. Nick Lidstrom has been hovering around +182,000 for his career, and he’s going down as one of top defensemen of all time.

The Rangers as a team are -75. This, unlike Nick Lidstrom’s +182,000 above, is not an exaggeration. The Rangers are really -75 this season, with four, count em (Staal, Zherdev, Dawes, Betts), four players on the positive side. Let that sink in for a while….

Ok. Now that you have at least spent some time, probably about one second, thinking about that, let’s break it down further. Who’s the worst culprit?

Do I really need to answer that?

Dmitri Kalinin, whipping boy around these parts, is an astonishing -16 (see: Kalinin Count) with no goals and six assists all season. I have a higher tolerance for an abysmal +/- if the player is at least producing or has been injured (see: Rozsival, Michael).

So what can you do with Kalinin? Trade him? Fat chance. No one wants to pay $2.1 million for the 766th best +/- in the NHL (out of 769). Waiving him is the best option. Send him to Hartford, maybe he can remember how to play defense again. Let Potter replace him permanetly. It will save cap room, and provide a more stable defensive corps. I like to call that two birds, one stone.

It actually makes you wonder why Sather signed and overpaid for the Sabres reject.

Kalinin isn’t the sole offender in atrocious +/-, the other negative double digit offenders are Rozsival (-11) and Gomez (-10). In Gomer’s case, he was -7 for two games in a row. Eliminate those games, he’s a -3, which is what you expect from Gomez. As for Rozsival, refer to two paragraphs above.

Back to Kalinin, I understand that Renney wants to show confidence in his players. But enough is enough. Let Kalinin go. Please. We will do anything for a replacement that is just even.