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Archive for Chris Drury


What To Do When Chris Drury Returns?

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When Chris Drury went down with a broken finger, he inadvertently kept some current Rangers on the roster to replace him in the lineup. Now that he is skating in full gear and shooting again, it seems likely he will return sooner than expected. He will definitely miss tonight’s opener against Buffalo, but there is a strong possibility he will play Monday afternoon against the Islanders. The Rangers have a few roster issues at hand when Drury does return, some are easy decisions, and some are much more difficult.

When Drury is activated off injured reserve, one of Todd White or Tim Kennedy will need to be sent to Hartford. White is the older, more expensive ($2.375 million cap hit), and returning from injury. Those are three things that don’t work in his favor. What does work in his favor is his offensive skill, which could provide useful if Vinny Prospal is out longer than expected. There are positives and negatives of both players sticking around, but once one or both are sent to the AHL, it is more than likely a permanent move. Although both cleared waivers in the offseason, it is extremely unlikely that they would pass through re-entry waivers, at a 50% discount to other teams. Whoever is sent to Hartford is sent there for good. Of course, should Prospal return from injury, this point becomes moot.

Probably the most difficult decision to make for the Rangers is who will be scratched once Drury, who is capable of playing both center and left wing, comes back. The smart money would be on Erik Christensen getting the Petr Prucha treatment, as he had a relatively underwhelming preseason, considering most of his ice time was spent with Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov. It looks like Christensen has one game to prove himself, or else he could find himself watching games from the press box. Another player on thin ice during the summer, but who seems to have earned his spot on the third line, is Sean Avery. Avery, like Wade Redden, was given clear instructions by coach John Tortorella about his role. Avery got the message, but any slip in play could see Avery sitting in the press box. The Rangers could always play the numbers game, like they did with Ryan McDonagh earlier, and send down someone who doesn’t need to clear waivers. Unfortunately, that someone is Derek Stepan.

Once the decision about who to scratch is made, the Rangers then need to re-adjust their lines. It doesn’t appear that Drury will be slotted in as the top line center, should Christensen be the one that is scratched. At that point, does the coach put the weight of a season on the shoulders of rookie Derek Stepan, who clicked with Frolov and Gaborik in the preseason? Does he hand that role to Brandon Dubinsky, who Tortorella believes is better suited on the wing? Once the top line center is decided, then the coach needs to adjust the rest of the combinations. The Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan line looked very good in the preseason, as did the Avery-Stepan-Ruslan Fedotenko combination. Ironically enough, the only combination that seems to be safe from realignment is the fourth line of Derek Boogaard-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust. Of course, they are only safe from the line juggling as long as one of them doesn’t get scratched.

The natural decision here is to platoon a combination of the scratch from the top nine and a fourth line player. By carrying extra forwards, the Rangers give themselves the opportunity to mix and match against opponents. For example, against a more skilled team like Buffalo, the Rangers may want to scratch one of Boogaard or Boyle, and insert a more athletic skater. Against the Flyers, it seems more prudent to dress all three tough guys to counter the mean streak that the Flyers have.

The Rangers don’t necessarily need to keep one player scratched for a prolonged amount of time. The Blueshirts, for the first time in a while, have roster flexibility, and the ability to match up to their opponents strengths and weaknesses. Sure, one player is going to be knocked off the top-nine once Drury returns, but that gives the Rangers team more of a chance to compete with the flexibility that arises. Even more flexibility is given when considering the possible call ups in Hartford, specifically Dale Weise and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen. Many teams would love to have this “problem” of roster flexibility that the Rangers have. They may not have a “#1” center, but they definitely have the depth behind them to compete this season.

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White/Kennedy Clear Waivers; Drury/Prospal On IR

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When the Rangers waived centers Todd White and Tim Kennedy yesterday, many assumed that one or both would be claimed, especially Kennedy, who comes very cheap. However, both cleared waivers. Since both have cleared waivers, their salaries ($2.375 for White, $550,000 for Kennedy) are removed from the Rangers cap. The Rangers have 30 days to assign them to the AHL, or else their salaries will be added back to the cap, and they will both need to clear waivers again.

As expected, the Rangers have placed centers Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury on injured reserve. Their salaries will remain on the books, but the Rangers will be allowed to go over the salary cap ceiling, if necessary, by their combined salaries. The total amount the Rangers are allowed to be over the cap is the prorated amount of both players salaries for the number of days spent on IR. With two of the three on ice leaders out, it’s going to be interesting to see who gets the temporary A’s.

Derek Stepan won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg award, as voted on by the Rangers press, for the top rookie in camp. This was probably the easiest vote for the award in history.

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What We’ve Learnt So Far?

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11 days of camp and 3 games into the pre-season and the Rangers have made two series of roster cuts and have 27 players remaining. So what have we learnt about the state of the Rangers?

Let’s start with the negatives.

Looking at camp it was disappointing to see core players such as Artem Anisimov struggle with the conditioning skates. It was perplexing because it’s been reported that the Russian was training throughout the summer – what gives? Other players who didn’t distinguish themselves during the conditioning included Michael Del Zotto who, like some others, was struggling with cramps and leg pain.

Goaltending beyond that at the NHL level continues to be somewhat of concern. Chad Johnson, who has NHL potential has struggled, letting in soft goals during the exhibition season while Scott Stajcer has let his nerves get to him. Stajcer had a poor first scrimmage including conceding goals on his first three shots faced. Jordan Parise and Cam Talbot didn’t turn heads with their play either. Neither seemed legitimate threats to Johnson for starting/playing time in the AHL.

A sign of a successful NHL team is how a team deals with the opposition’s top lines. The Rangers thus far have struggled to contain the key players during each pre-season contest. The Devils top trio of Parise-Kovalchuk-Zajac scored with ease in both games while the Rangers struggled to keep Zetterberg’s line off the board on Sunday (against Detroit), while Brian Rafalski also did what he wanted offensively in Sunday’s tilt. The Rangers struggled to deal with the puck possession and skill level of the Red Wings.  Although the Rangers haven’t iced a full NHL side yet (it is pre-season after all) they will have to deal with opponents top lines much more effectively when the regular season kicks off.

Drury’s injury is a negative. Drury is on this team regardless and additional offense (compared to last year) from the captain would go a long way in helping the Rangers return to the post season. While conditioning shouldn’t be an issue (he can still bike and do cardio) Drury has missed an opportunity to get in on the scrimmages and pre-season games and re-discover his offensive game. A nice run of pre-season success may have helped Drury’s confidence, however thanks to injury he’s already behind the eight-ball.

So what has gone well?

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Is Stepan a Problem for Anisimov?

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Thankfully this isn’t an issue in the short term but upon Chris Drury’s return from injury and due to the apparent logjam of centers on the roster, will Derek Stepan in particular become a road block in Artem Anisimov’s development?

With Derek Stepan’s impressive start to camp, Brandon Dubinsky, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury all roster certainties and one of Tim Kenney/Eric Christensen/Brian Boyle likely to get the remaining 4th line center job there seems to be a potential issue with getting Artem Anisimov suitable ice time to aid his development. Tortorella has already indicated he may try the captain, Drury in an offensive role (possibly 2nd line center or right wing) while Stepan has a good chance at starting the year centering Alex Frolov and Marian Gaborik on the top line. If Stepan doesn’t get that gig its likely one of Brandon Dubinsky or Vinny Prospal will move up to that line. So, where does the young Russian fit? This is all also ignoring the fact of an excess of wingers (negating the need to move a player such as Drury out wide) as well as Todd White all looking for spots.

Anisimov did an admirable job as a rookie on the 4th line last year and at times displayed his skill and flashed his huge upside while on his way to a solid 28 point rookie campaign. However, it seems like Stepan may be fast tracked into a scoring role, especially if he keeps up the camp standards he has set thus far. Unlike players like Todd White, Tim Kennedy and Chris Drury, Anisimov doesn’t seem to be able to move to the wing and play there. The problem is therefore this; if Stepan is indeed deserving of the top line spot and the 2nd line is filled by one of the other centers, are the Rangers able to play Anisimov in a role that benefits his development and maximise his skills while also prioritising the teams needs?

It may not be an issue right now but Anisimov’s role on the team bears monitoring as camp progresses. Where will he play?

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Drury Breaks Finger, Out Four Weeks

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As per Jesse Spector, Chris Drury broke his finger blocking a shot in this afternoon’s scrimmage. He will miss four weeks, and surgery will not be required. Drury will not miss many regular season games, but he will miss at least the first week. This will temporarily open up an additional roster spot for those vying to make the team. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but Drury will certainly be back to claim his spot when he returns from injury.

In all likelihood, this will be Derek Stepan’s opportunity to shine during a brief NHL audition until Drury comes back. If he continues to show chemistry with Alex Frolov and Marian Gaborik, someone like Erik Christensen could see himself watching from the press box.

Categories : Injuries
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Rangers Round Up

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Rangerland is starting get busy. With a combination of the Traverse City tournament, Staal negotiations (or lack of them?), Camp almost upon us and the Tortorella interview on the MSG network there’s a lot to talk about. Now I’m back from an amazing weekend in Paris I thought I’d look at some of the most interesting news affecting the Rangers.

A few things have been happening in the league affecting the Rangers. I for one have no problem with inviting veterans to camp on try outs. After all they do not have jobs just a chance to earn them. So while I have no issue of Fedotenko being at camp why didn’t the Rangers jump ahead of the Flyers and get Billy Guerin on a try out? He has more to offer than Fedotenko and would be worth more of a shot than the Ex Pen. It’s also means another solid scorer potentially facing the Rangers six times a season.

The Kovalchuk saga is officially the story of the 2010 NHL summer. News broke of the massive punishment the league have levied at the Devils including 3m in fines, stripping the club a first round pick and a third. All in all Kovalchuk has become very expensive for the Devils. Reports suggest the Devils could appeal but apparently would not receive much support from the board of governors. This is a massive hit to the Devils future and they best hope Kovalchuk becomes the reincarnation of Gretzky over the next few years especially given the fact they still need to shed salary to make cap.

Back on the Rangers; the Blueshirts play their final group game at Traverse City today at 3.30 eastern. The Rangers need to win and have results go their way if they wish to play in the final. Given the talent at their disposal they’ll expect to beat the Minnesota Wild. Check back here at Blueseatblogs for a round up of the game.

The Hartford Wolfpack yesterday announced the signing of college free agent forward Brandon Wong. Wong, a 5-10 23 year old lead Quinnipiac University in points and goals (19 goals, 41 points) last season and had a 3 game try out with the AHL Grand Rapid Griffins in which he tallied an assist. The contract was an AHL one so Wong may be either Wolfpack or ECHL bound.

Thought I would weigh in with my opinion on Chris Drury following Nick’s article at Blueshirt Banter. I have said a few times over the past few months that Drury could be a critical part of the Rangers this season. Any kind of offensive resurgence from Drury could be massive and it still remains that way. Neither Todd White or any other addition could mean as much to the Rangers as the captain earning his salary. 20 goals from Drury this year would take the team a long way, certainly to the playoffs. News that he will get a chance to show his offense could mean a top 6 role and its in the Rangers best interest that he earns it.

Finally, a little Garnet Exelby discussion. Would the Rangers be more inclined to sign him if he was willing to start the year in Hartford? Then, would he block a legitimate prospect down there? (depends what you think of the Lee Baldwin’s of this world) Would he become a serious option if the Rangers needed to add physicality mid season? Personally, I don’t want Exelby starting the year ahead of a good prospect in NY if a prospect earns his stay but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Rangers retain Exelby (providing he has a solid camp) and having another option going forward.

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Difference Makers?

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While studying the Rangers current NHL roster the other day (and not considering who might make the roster from the minors/juniors/Europe) it was interesting to note who may be the most crucial influences in making the club a playoff team again. Not considered were Gaborik, Lundqvist, Frolov and Del Zotto. Those players will obviously have a big say on the season ahead and until Marc Staal signs on the dotted line its hard to consider him. Let’s have a look at three players that can make a huge difference.

Chris Drury. The captain’s goal output in the last 4 years: 37, 25, 22, 14. That’s a worrying trend. He also took 71 shots less last year than the year before. Everyone knows the defensive skills he brings on the PK but if Drury can ‘just’ get back to the 22 goal form of 2 years ago then he will have a huge influence on the secondary scoring of this team. Simply put Drury needs to get into dangerous positions more and shoot the puck. He’s never been a plus player as a Ranger and his ice time may be limited given the additions to the roster but thanks to his captain status and cap hit it’s hard to imagine Drury wont atleast get an opportunity to make an impact. We should know early into the season whether Drury has anything left in the tank offensively. If he does, it bodes well for the Rangers.

Artem Anisimov. The lanky Russian is hugely talented and has progressed a lot since his rookie year in Hartford. Defensively proficient and with the ability to both score himself or make a play it’s unclear just where on the depth chart Anisimov will start the year. If Anisimov grabs a top 6 centre spot it serves the Rangers well in the long term. Given his solid totals from last year in limited ice time it’s fair to expect progression from the Russian. Anisimov’s play also hugely affects other roster players. All of Brandon Dubinsky, Eric Christensen and Todd White’s ice time may be affected by AA so his training camp performance directly affects a lot of players careers. Training camp competition at center should be fierce which can only be a good thing.

Dan Girardi. Girardi wasn’t very good last year yet he got more than a 100% rise in salary. It’s time to earn the pay rise Dan. Given the potential change and lack of experience on the blue line Girardi needs to step up. If Girardi can show the composure that highlighted his early Rangers career, can show more consistency and score a little heavier then Girardi can become a key cog for this team. A good Dan Girardi allows Del Zotto and any rookie such as McDonagh to not have their development rushed. The Ontario native isn’t great at any one facet of the game but can make positive contributions in several areas. Stepping into a senior role this season would benefit the Rangers long term development massively.

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Drury Nominated for Masterton

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Chris Drury is the Rangers nominee for the Bill Masterton trophy, which is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. A member of the Rangers has won this award four times since its inception in 1967-68: Jean Ratelle (1970-71), Rod Gilbert (1975-76), Anders Hedberg (1984-85), and Adam Graves (2000-01).

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Drury: Rangers ‘Immature’

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After last night’s loss to Montreal in a crucial four point game, the often quiet captain Chris Drury let loose on his teammates, saying that “immaturity is the reason for the inconsistency”. When asked to elaborate, Drury said that the Rangers “need to grow up fast or watch playoff hockey”.

It has taken two years for Drury to be outspoken, and I must say, it’s about damn time. For the team to be playing this badly that it warranted an outburst from a lead-by-example captain says a lot about the makeup of the team. There aren’t enough players that want it bad enough to play 100% every night, and give the effort that they did against Philadelphia day-in and day-out. It really is sad to see that, after all the debates we have had as fans, it’s the effort that is the true reason for this teams’ inconsistency.

Since the effort is called into question, you have to wonder what the Rangers can do to fix this next year. Does it start with the coaching staff? Is John Tortorella’s immature relationship with the media the example that the Rangers follow? No one knows for sure, and one can only debate that. What we do know is that the coaches do not play the game. The players do. The players are the ones responsible for their efforts on the ice. So the players are the ones that either need attitude adjustments, or need to be sent on their not so merry way.

The Rangers only have four UFAs going into the offseason: Olli Jokinen, Vinny Prospal, Alex Auld, and Jody Shelley. Of those four, you can bet that Jokinen and Shelley will be gone. There’s a chance that Prospal will be re-signed, he isn’t one of those players that takes games off. If he was, he wouldn’t have the ‘A’, which came at the recommendation of Drury. Maybe Auld will be re-signed, if he can be had on the cheap, as the backup goalie. Doubtful though.

In addition to the four UFAs, the Rangers have five RFAs (Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Enver Lisin, Erik Christensen, Brandon Prust). Of these, Staal is the only lock to be re-signed. I would guess that Prust and Christensen will be given short deals, while Girardi and Lisin are let go, either by trade or just simply released like Nik Zherdev.

So the Rangers aren’t going to have the major roster overhaul they had last season, or at least it doesn’t look that way yet. Unless some trades are made the shake the foundation, we are looking at a good portion of these players again next year. Maybe the young kids will come in next year with a new fire, after having been through the jitters of their rookie years. Maybe some of the veterans will come back and realize that this may be their last shot at a winner. That’s an awful lot of maybes.

What isn’t a maybe is that the Rangers, as currently built, are not a team that is going to work hard game after game. If the current roster can’t provide the effort, then identify those that do, and if possible, dump the rest. Easier said than done, but hey, the Rangers are used to massive roster changes. What’s one more to us anyway?

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Chris Drury

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Everyone has said it, Chris Drury has been great so far for Team USA. Defensively excellent he has killed penalties blocked shots and been a strong veteran presence for the young Americans. What may have surprised some is Drury seems to have re-found an offensive game in the Olympics as well… With 2 goals thus far (including a game winner), he’s taking shots and going to the net – Drury has been very visible on the ice.

So why can he do it for USA and not the Rangers? His performance so far asks several questions; is he being deployed right in NY? does he actually have more to give? and if The Rangers arent using him correctly what are the American coaches doing differently?

With Tortorella on the coaching staff in Vancouver one can only hope he is seeing whatever is different fellow Coaches Gordon and Wilson are doing offensively and will look to perhaps replicate it with Drury after the games in NY.

There’s no doubt that if Drury plays for the Rangers like he has done for Team USA, The Rangers immediately become a lot better.

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