Long term contention? Photo: Brad Penner, USA Today
The Rangers entertain the hapless Sabres tonight. A team with hopes of a deep playoff run should be winning tonight with ease so with that jinx behind us, let’s throw up a few Ranger based thoughts.
Let’s briefly address the ‘win now’ theory. Henrik Lundqvist is 32 and has a shiny new seven year deal. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and with several examples of goalies playing to an elite level deep into their 30’s, there’s no reason to think Lundqvist can’t do the same.
The defense has a strong under-contract core (Staal, Girardi, McDonagh and Klein) of which none are the wrong side of thirty. The forward corps (Nash and St Louis not considered) could feature six players in the top nine who have contributed to the Rangers this year (as presently constructed) that are all 26 or under and of which none have maxed out their potential – think Kreider, Hagelin, Stepan, Zuccarello, Brassard and JT Miller.
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In case you missed it, Dominic Moore was nominated for the Bill Masterton trophy yesterday, just hours after Chris wrote a solid piece on why the Rangers should re-sign him next year. The Masterton is awarded each year to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” The nominees are selected by members of the PHWA.
Moore returned to the Rangers this year, his second stint with the team, after sitting out all of last season following the passing of his wife from a rare form of liver cancer. She was 32.
Throughout the Rangers recent stretch of form (the Calgary game aside) a key aspect to the Rangers’ success has been the consistent performances from the role players. Whether it is Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett or veteran Dom Moore, the Rangers have gotten great performances from their lesser lights.
Dom Moore in particular has been a quality player most nights. He has consistently displayed a high hockey IQ, he’s got defensive prowess, and for a team that struggles to score consistently, his 18 point season is no bad thing from your 4th line center.
Retaining Moore in the summer is a no-brainer. Given the likelihood of significant change at the center position retaining Moore gives the team some continuity at the position. With Moore, they’ll retain a player that is part of a strong penalty killing unit who is also both cheap and unlikely to upset the apple cart in the event of being handed a fringe position on the roster.
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Photo: Frank Franklin II AP
One of the many issues the Rangers have dealt with in the past is depth, specifically on the fourth line. The inconsistency is what led previous coach John Tortorella to play the line just five minutes a night (much to the chagrin of the fans). Last year saw endless combinations of Taylor Pyatt, Darroll Powe, Arron Asham, Derek Dorsett, or –in the playoffs– Brad Richards. In 2011-2012 it was some combination of Mike Rupp, John Mitchell, and a rotating right winger.
The key here is that the Brian Boyle line, whoever he was playing with, was always the third line. The Boyle, Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko line, the one we all loved so much, was playing top-nine minutes. Not to take anything away from them, as they were one of the better shutdown lines in the game, but that trio –on a deep team poised for a run to the Cup– is a fourth line. It’s something we harped on ’round these parts for about three years.
Our exact quote: “When Brian Boyle is our fourth line center, we will finally have the depth required to make a deep run.”
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When healthy, Derek Dorsett has been everything the Rangers hoped for
Like many parts of the 2013-2014 roster, the bottom-six forwards have struggled through long stretches of the season thus far. Part of that can be attributed to players being used out of place and in unusual situations, but the team hasn’t gotten consistent play out of many of its depth forwards for most of the year. That seems to be changing over the last few weeks, and has been as instrumental to the team’s mini turnaround as anything else.
Boyle will forever be a polarizing player amongst Ranger fans because he has hands of stone and doesn’t drive opponents through the boards with his massive size. You can’t really judge Boyle fairly until you accept those two facts of life, which many refuse to do. But Boyle is a very useful player in many other areas. Though this hasn’t been his finest year, Boyle is still being relied on as the team’s top defensive forward, plays well on the penalty kill, is the best faceoff man on the team and drives possession. He is guilty of being a passenger at times this season the same as nearly every player on the roster, but for the most part, Boyle has been use usual steady self. Still, scoring just one goal all year is pretty hard to do.
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Ryan Callahan’s injury woes are concerning, but New York will still likely do everything it can to keep its captain
Quick note: Dave was at the game last night, so the goal breakdown will be done for the afternoon post.
The Rangers’ season is quickly spiraling out of control and it’s probably a matter of time before GM Glen Sather steps in and makes a major shakeup. But with so many pending free agents and so many players underperforming, it’s a certainty that the 2014-2015 version of the Blueshirts will look drastically different than the edition that stunk up the joint last night against Nashville. So let’s take a look at New York’s upcoming free agents and see who might still be around next year, and who could be gone.
Ryan Callahan - Yet another injury has clouded this situation. A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine life without Callahan, but his health is becoming increasingly concerning. New York’s doctors will have to evaluate Callahan’s physical condition, but assuming he’s in one piece, I still expect the Rangers to do everything they can to lock up their captain long-term. Some of the beat writers think Callahan would be very tempted to join the Sabres next summer to move closer to home, but though I’m sure Callahan loves Rochester, New York City isn’t all that far away and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team. If things really fall apart for the Blueshirts and there’s not much progress in negotiations, I could see Callahan being tempted by a contender. But it’s still most likely the Rangers will retain their captain, albeit at a very steep price. Remember, the Rangers paid RFAs Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer over Callahan in 2011 and gave him a lesser deal due to the resulting cap crunch. No. 24 swallowed that bitter pill then, but it’s unlikely New York will be getting a hometown discount this time around.
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Such a skinny kid, Moore was. (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI)
In case you missed it the other day, Dominic Moore –out with an oblique injury– has stated he expects to return to the lineup on Saturday. Moore has been out since October 29, missing seven games in that time. Without him, the Rangers have used a combination of J.T. Miller and Brandon Mashinter to fill the hole in the lineup.
When Moore returns the Rangers will need to sit a player, and there are really only three candidates to sit right now: Miller, Mashinter, and Benoit Pouliot. Miller barely played in the Rangers 3-2 loss to New Jersey (5 minutes), but still managed to play more than Mashinter (3 minutes). Pouliot has been the topic of debate lately due to inconsistent play. A case can be made for any of the three to sit or be demoted.
But it’s not just Moore whose return is imminent. Rick Nash has been skating at practice –albeit with a yellow non-contact jersey– and he is no longer an unknown. He should be returning within a few weeks (I’m optimistic). Right now the only real unknown is Taylor Pyatt, who hasn’t been seen since his concussion.
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In a series of tweets from Andrew Gross, Rick Nash (concussion) skated before practice, and has been symptom free for a few days now. Nash is still close to week-to-week than day-to-day, but seeing him skating is always a good sign. Gross also noted that Dominic Moore (oblique) was skating with Nash before practice, and that Taylor Pyatt is indeed concussed after taking a headshot from Fedor Tyutin against Columbus.
There is no time table for return for Nash, Pyatt, or Moore.
Per Pat Leonard, Dominic Moore will not play tonight after missing the last two periods on Tuesday with an upper body injury. Brandon Mashinter will take his place in the lineup.
Update: Per Leonard, Moore is out 7-10 days with a strained oblique.
A bounce-back season from Brad Richards would be a huge boost for the Rangers
Best case: Asham continues to provide comedic relief on Twitter and plays in a handful of games with the Blueshirts.
Worst case: New York is unable to find a taker for Asham on waivers and he spends the final year of his contract in Hartford.
Best case: The former fourth-overall pick puts it all together as a Blueshirt and records a 20-goal season.
Worst case: The Rangers learn why Pouliot has already played for four teams in his young career and the big forward is invisible most nights. Read more »