Posts tagged: Erik Christensen

Where are they now? Rangers edition

I was casually watching (a DVR of) some Saturday afternoon hockey between the Senators and the Coyotes when something struck me as strange; no, it wasn’t that all of the Sens goals came from not-your-average offensive player, it was that Lauri Korpikoski (or as I fondly call him, the Korpedo) got an assist. “Wow,” I thought aloud to myself, as I often do in my apartment, “the Korpedo is still alive? I wonder what other Rangers are still dabbling around the West.” And so, here is my post for today…

John Tortorella, Head Coach with the Rangers 2008-2013 | Now: Canucks Head Coach

Well, duh. Whether you loved or hated Torts’ exit last summer, you definitely had strong feelings about it. Awful with the media? Yep. Kind of mean to the players in public? Sure. Known for a hardcore training camp that would kill you or me? Absolutely. But still, for his time in New York, stats prove that you cannot deny his efficiency; in five seasons, he missed the playoffs once. However, his relationship with players, the media, and his lack of a championship ring on Broadway eventually shuttled him out and on his way to the Pacific Northwest. So, how is he now? Efficient. His Canucks have 48 points, winning 8 of their last 10 with one of those losses in OT. They were a bit shaky at first but it seems that they have adjusted to the system, and shockingly for many Rangers fans, the stars are responding and thriving under Torts’ hard-nosed approach. As a fan who was sad to see him go, I didn’t miss his outbursts like he showed at MSG against Alex Edler; however, it appears these guys can handle it. Hey, maybe Torts will find Musky in Vancouver, who knows.

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Rangers acquire Casey Wellman from Wild for Erik Christensen and 7th round pick

It looks like the Rangers have at least temporarily solved their surplus forward problem, as they have dealt Erik Christensen and a 7th round pick in 2012 to the Wild for Casey Wellman.

Christensen had been a spare part for the Rangers for a long time, and hadn’t played in a NHL game since December 17. The enigmatic and inconsistent center had once shown some chemsitry with Marian Gaborik, but that was short lived. His inconsistent effort quickly made him an afterthought in the Rangers organization.

Wellman is a 24 year old center who has played 41 games at the NHL level over the past three seasons, totaling four goals and nine assists for 13 points. Wellman was an undrafted free agent signed by the Wild after his senior season at UMass-Amherst, where he was a point-per-game player. Per Hockey Wilderness, it doesn’t appear that Wellman got a legitimate shot at the top six in Minnesota, and spent most of his time playing with Brad Staubitz on the third and fourth line.

Christensen was in his last year of a two year contract that paid him $925,000 per season. Wellman is in the final year of a two-way contract that pays him $850,500 at the NHL level. Wellman will be a RFA at the end of his contract.

Why the Rangers Need To Cut Loose Wolski

The Rangers need to get rid of Wojtek Wolski one way or the other. His presence may not be that of a locker room cancer but his salary, tantalising ability and mere presence make him a distraction and a temptation for the coaching staff.

Wolski clearly cannot play consistently in Tortorella’s system. A few good shifts here and there are simply not enough for someone with his skill set and contract. Erik Christensen is in a similar position to Wolski but doesn’t possess the same cap issues that Wolski does. Christensen’s ability, but above all his cap hit, are what give him a regular stay of execution. Wolski doesn’t have that luxury.

If the Rangers don’t intend (and nor should they at this stage) to give Wolski an extended run in the side – in a position that befits his skill set – then they should look elsewhere within the organisation. Wolski clearly doesn’t have a future in the organisation so it would make sense to have a guy like Christensen be the extra man and perhaps audition players like Zuccarello and Audy-Marchessault who have been excelling in the minors and who may, or may not have a future with the big club.

The Rangers can afford to try out a few players on the roster because of their record, because of the quality goaltending and defense keeping them in practically every game and because many players aren’t making themselves indispensible up front.

If Zuccarello finally fails to convince he has a Rangers future or Audy-Marchessault looks more minor league than major league then by ridding themselves of Wolski it at least gives the club manoeuvrability within the salary cap. Whether they can get something in return for him (unlikely at this stage) or by demotion or releasing him, the Rangers need to let go of Wolski for a variety of reasons.

Christensen, Johnson Called Up; Biron Out

Per the AHL Transaction Log, the Rangers have called up forward Erik Christensen and goaltender Chad Johnson. Christensen’s call up is obvious: his two week training stint with the Whale ended.

As for Johnson, it looks like he will dress as the backup tonight, as Martin Biron –the slated starter for tonight– is out with the flu.

The Johnson call up is clearly temporary, but it will be interesting to see how the Rangers handle Christensen. Wojtek Wolski has been just as useless as Christensen, but Christensen’s cap hit is $3 million less. It wouldn’t shock me to see Wolski waived in lieu of Christensen.

Could the Whale and Rangers Both Make Noise?

With potential reinforcements on the way from a multitude of levels the Whale could look quite stacked come regular season’s end and entering the playoffs. The potential for the Whale to win their second Calder Cup is realistic with a bit of luck. Why? Look at the possible line up.

Amid fresh rumours of Sean Avery having another chance at the NHL level the fact remains he’s still a Whale player and according to Glen Sather that won’t change soon. Sean Avery is still an NHL player in terms of ability so over the course of his stay with the Whale it’s fair to expect results.

With his fresh ‘demotion’, one has to assume Erik Christensen can make a solid impact in his conditioning assignment with the Whale and that should help them really strengthen themselves during the regular season. Like Avery, Christensen is an NHL player playing a level below, again one would expect solid results at the AHL level.

Then you have the numbers game that is playing out on the New York defense. While the demoted player may not make it down because of waivers, there is a good chance that the Whale will get one of Stu Bickel, Steve Eminger or Jeff Woywitka to use at some point this season. If (when) Mike Sauer gets healthy the Rangers won’t leave multiple defensemen wasting away in the press box and conditioning stints or demotions become a real possibility. Right now, any of these three – who have all made solid contributions at the NHL level this year – would improve the Whale.

There’s more to come. Looking at the Rangers prospects playing in junior there remains a chance the Whale get reinforcements through this route too. Christian Thomas has improved as the year has progressed (37 points in 29 games) but his Oshawa Generals are outside the playoffs right now and stuck in neutral. A much anticipated prospect, Thomas may find himself with the Whale earlier than he may have hoped this season.

Another junior candidate that could help the Whale and taste pro hockey this year is Shane McColgan whose Kelowna team are close to the playoff cut off line. While they are ‘in’ right now, other teams have games in hand and with a losing record, there’s no guarantee the Rockets can string together enough good performances to stay in the playoff spots.

Perhaps a positive sign for the way Rangers prospect development is trending in recent times is how so many players are currently playing on strong clubs. Mike St Croix, Dylan McIlrath, JT Miller and the Peterborough Petes’ Andrew Yogan and Peter Ceresnak are all battling for top spots in their respective leagues’ conferences. These players, like Chris Kreider with Boston College are unlikely to see time in the AHL because it’s likely some, if not all, could have deep playoff runs at their respective levels.

Meanwhile, the Whale may soon get a player back who is both a former Ranger as well as Ranger hopeful. Chad Kolarik is slowly working his way back to full health and could be a factor this season. Last year, through strong play in Connecticut Kolarik forced his way in to four games for the Rangers (one assist). Should the Whale be able to call on him and the aforementioned list of talented young players, they would have a very deep and talented squad to ice. There’s even still a slight chance of Wojtek Wolski making his way to the Whale at some point too. Not often an AHL club gets to ice a former 60 point NHL player.

It’s early to tell what the Whale will look like come playoff time and with the NHL trade deadline still approaching there’s certainly a lot of moving parts to consider but with a team consisting of established AHL’ers such as Kris Newbury, Mats Zuccarello, Pavel Valentenko and fast developing Jonathan Audy-Marchessault not to mention players such as Brendan Bell, Tim Erixon, Wade Redden and Chad Johnson, adding any combination of the aforementioned prospects and NHL pros makes this a promising campaign the tier below New York. Two Cups in one year? Why not.

Game Day Musings

Welcome to Thursday. That means it’s almost the end of the week, obviously. It’s a game day and the Rangers are entertaining a surprising and in form Senators tonight. It should be an interesting one. Before today’s focus switches to the pre game build up, let’s saunter through a Musings together.

The fact it’s the Senators tonight brings me to mini rant time. No disrespect to the Senators (it could be any team) but it’s made an absolute farce of the All Star game that they have so many starters in the game. Fan involvement should somehow be incorporated but an All Star game should be the best players, most deserving players and true stars of the game not the likes of Daniel Alfredsson who is there mainly on popularity. Erik Karlsson deserves to go to the game but really, he leads all vote getters? Not right. The format needs to be changed to make the game meaningful or at least eagerly anticipated.

I did chuckle when I read Dion Phaneuf was voted the most overrated player in the league. It says a lot about his (lack of) popularity and standing in the game because he’s a lot better than people are giving him credit for. He’s a good defender who has found his game again this year. Somewhere in Connecticut, Sean Avery is smiling.

So, Stefan Matteau is draft eligible this summer. The USNTDP stand out is going to the QMJHL next season. Naturally, masses of Rangers fans will demand he be drafted regardless of whether he’s the right pick, at the time. Just like Beukeboom’s son who has already been traded and is having a mediocre OHL career. It’s not all about the surname – as Marcel Hossa and Fedor Fedorov will attest.

Ilya Kovalchuk is in great form and the Devils are winning games again. I couldn’t be happier for them. Really. They’re well on their way to becoming the Rangers circa 1997-2003. Not good enough for lottery picks (for a true rebuild) but good enough to be, at best, first round fodder. The Devils are in desperate need for another Adam Larsson or two to put around Kovalchuk. Enjoy mediocrity Jersey.

Recently quite a few Rangers players have cooled offensively making Dubinsky’s health (and relative return to form) that much more important. The Rangers can win close games, low scoring games and can live with the higher scoring teams but it’d be nice to see Anisimov, Stepan, Richards and even Gaborik to an extent start up some streaks again. Oh, and some consistent secondary scoring (Boyle etc) would be nice too.

  • Best mid season defensive addition: Bickel, Stralman or Woywitka?

What has happened to Brandon Prust this year? He’s simply not a factor consistently. His hit total is well down, shooting % well down on his career average and as a result he’s not getting the ice time. It’s a vicious circle but if he can get better (closer to last year) this team gets much deeper.

  • Chris Kreider watch: 24 points in 21 games; goals in every kind of scenario – 3 game winners, 4 Power play tallies and a shorthanded goal.
  • Chris Thomas watch: 37 points in 29 games; 18 goals and 19 assists and a minus 3 rating. In his defence he’s on an at-best-average Oshawa team that is clearly gearing to the future. Thomas could really do with a big end to his season and great camp next year in NY. There’s a lot of competition for spots right now.

I wonder if Steve Eminger has played his last game for the Rangers. Don’t forget he’s got another 6 weeks recovery and has to watch Bickel, Stralman and Woywitka fight it out for bottom pair jobs anyway. There’s a chance Sauer is back well before him too. He may get a conditioning assignment like Christensen and never see NY ice as a Ranger again. It’s a tough way to lose your job if it happens.

Question Time:

  • Bigger disappointment: Brian Boyle or Brand Prust?
  • If one had to be cut loose: Woywitka, Bickel or Eminger?
  • Del Zotto season points total: Over or under 40?
  • Race to 20 goals: Hagelin or Dubinsky?

We’ll end this edition of musings with a rare tip of the Broadway hat to Erik Christensen. He’s unlikely to ever play for the Rangers again but credit where it’s due for getting back on the ice with the Whale and looking to get sharp again. He’s an NHL quality player but simply put, can’t help this Rangers team. If he works his tail off in CT he may get a shot elsewhere. The Whale will hopefully benefit from a motivated, talented player.

P.S. Henrik For Vezina. That is all.

Christensen Headed To CT For Conditioning

In an attempt to get Erik Christensen back playing hockey, the Rangers have assigned him to the CT Whale for a conditioning assignment, per Katie Strang.  Christensen has been a healthy scratch for 20 games this season, including the past 10 games. Ironically, the last time he dressed was against the Phoenix Coyotes on December 17, the team the Rangers just beat last night.

Christensen is not being straight up demoted to the AHL, like Sean Avery was earlier this month. Christensen accepted a conditioning assignment, which means he will be back with the team once it is over. Christensen was not placed on waivers, and this is not a permanent move, yet.

The press release is after the jump.

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Comparing Avery’s And Christensen’s Ice Time

When looking at the raw ice time numbers, there are a lot of conclusions drawn about the ice time given to Sean Avery (over the last few games) and Erik Christensen (last night). There were a few angry tweets from what appears to be the majority of fans thinking that Avery got the shaft because he received so little ice time, while Christensen is clearly favored because of the ice time he got last night.

Looking at the total ice time, it’s easy to see why people would jump to those conclusions. In Buffalo, Avery received just six shifts for a grand total of 3:48 of ice time. Last night at the Garden, Christensen received 16 shifts for a total of 12:54 in ice time. Looking at those numbers alone, it would appear that Christensen indeed has more favor with the coach than Avery. But looking deeper at the numbers, that’s not exactly true.

Against the Sabres, Avery played each of his six shifts at even strength, and did not receive one shift on the powerplay or on the penalty kill. Two shifts at even strength per period is exactly what is expected of a fourth line player who does not receive –or deserve– any time on special teams, especially in a game that was not decided until the third period. That in itself is why Avery’s ice time appears to be diminished.

Looking at Christensen, it’s easy to see why he has more ice time: he plays the powerplay. In last night’s win over Florida, the Rangers had three powerplays. One went the full two minutes, one went 1:08, and the last one went 1:55. That’s a total of 5:03 of powerplay time for the Rangers throughout the game. Christensen received an extra 1:29 of powerplay time. That plays into his extra ice time.

Another aspect of his increased ice time last night: The Rangers blew out the Panthers. The game was decided long before the third period began, so coach John Tortorella began playing his fourth line more often. In a non-blowout situation, a coach generally rolls his lines in a 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4 pattern. What that means is that he will play his first line, second line, and third line in a row. Then he will start again with his first line, and go through to his fourth line. This rotation generally repeats itself.

*-Naturally there is more to this (matchups, special teams), but for the sake of this post I’m simplifying it.

With the game out of reach for the Panthers, Tortorella ditched the usual rotation and rolled his fourth line more often, giving Christensen more ice time late in the second period and for the entirety of the third period. This explains his 11:25 of even strength TOI.

Let’s remember that before Christensen wound up a healthy scratch, his last game was the 2-1 loss to Florida last month. He played just 8:01 during the game, with 6:05 coming at even strength. That’s an extra two shifts over Avery’s ice time from Buffalo. This was Christensen’s first game in a month, where Avery played in each of the games that he was a healthy scratch.

Let’s also remember that these are fourth line players, and neither will be with the club next year. Perspective is important too.

The Good Erik Christensen

Erik Christensen could be one of the most infuriating New York Rangers skaters of all time. When he wants to be, Christensen is one of the most skilled players on the team. The problem is of course the phrase “when he wants to be.” During his first seven games of the year, Christensen was invisible, and played poorly both with the puck and without the puck. The last four games, Chrsitensen has shown renewed vigor, and has earned more ice time –specifically on the powerplay. With more ice time has come more results, in particular two multi point games in the last four games, and a final line of 1-3-4 to close out the home stand.

Christensen can be the Rangers ‘X Factor’ if he continues to play like this. Simply put, he has the potential to be their powerplay specialist in addition to their shootout specialist. It’s something that became very obvious during this home stand, when Christensen made spectacular passes to set up goals, and scored one of his own. Most of his points have come with the man advantage, or just as a powerplay expired.

These past four games, we have seen the ‘good’ Erik Christensen. Sure, he’s not scoring in every game, but he’s been creating chances and playing up to his skill level. He’s never going to be a top line player because he is far too inconsistent (and rather awful without the puck), but if the Rangers can continue to deploy him as a weapon on the powerplay, then we may start to see an Erik Christensen that can give the Rangers something more than just overall inconsistency.

In small doses, and in the right situations, Erik Christensen is a useful and effective player. That’s why he’s managed to remain on this roster as a fourth line player. It is very obvious why people think he can be amazing, and it’s also very obvious why he has been with four NHL teams already. Under the proper coach, and in the proper situations, he can be extremely helpful to a team. The way coach John Tortorella has been using him lately may be that right situation.

Musings On Duck Day

Good morning humans. The Ducks are on tap today and after the loss in Sweden the Rangers will be more than keen to even the score, especially when you consider how little offense they mustered in that game. Anyway, it’s a musing’s day so let’s get in to it before the Rangers go duck hunting tonight.

Lauri Korpikoski has 3 goals to start the season and has 5 points in 11 games (after having 40 points last season). The Rangers gave up on the talented Fin too soon; however I’m not sure he’d have ever scored as frequently in NY. The ice time, role on the roster he has and patience level with players is a lot different in Phoenix. The Coyotes can afford to let a player have growing pains (his first year in their organisation the perfect example) whereby in a market like NY that would never be possible.

Tim Kennedy was demoted to the AHL again last night. Anyone still have complaints about his time with the Rangers? He’s a marginal NHL’er.

Regrets

How frustrating is the loss to Ottawa still? Well, firstly a 5-3-2 record would look a lot better but the extra point would mean a playoff spot rather than looking in from the outside. Every point is critical in Bettman’s parity league. Hopefully the Rangers kick on and don’t end up in a playoff scramble although several teams expected to be in the playoffs have had indifferent starts, no one more so than Boston.

Forgotten Prospect

Chad Johnson; remember him? The Whale and Rangers player was named AHL goaltender of the month for October and thoroughly deserved it. The Whale has had a good start to the year and Johnson has been a huge part of it. Johnson has a 1.69 GAA, .942 save percentage to go with 3 wins and a shutout. He hasn’t been beaten in normal time. However, where does he fit in the organisation going forward? If Biron continues to play well he’d likely be brought back for at least another year and Johnson isn’t a young prospect anymore. His NHL window is closing; it may be closed in this organisation already.

Steve Eminger is -7 in just 10 games. He’ll be sitting as soon the team has the resources to allow a benching.

The Kids Are Alright?

The impressive win against the Sharks may have been more important for the performance of several players than the 2 points gained. Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan played some of their best hockey of the season while Ryan Callahan played the kind of all action game that the Rangers have come to expect – and need – from their captain. Brandon Dubinsky was much improved and all of a sudden Marian Gaborik doesn’t look like he’s taking on the world on his own (offensively speaking). If the supporting cast/core can do their thing then Brad Richards and Gaborik will have much more space and opportunity to do theirs. It all bodes well.

Christensen Sighting

He still doesn’t deserve his roster spot but credit where it’s due, Erik Christensen had a huge impact on the Sharks game. Two excellent assists and generally better play from EC mean the recalled Avery will watch from the stands tonight. The biggest question is can Christensen follow it up with another game tonight? Every indication is that he can’t. Otherwise he wouldn’t be such a frustrating player to watch but maybe the Avery effect will squeeze a little more production out of the skilled center. Competition for places is crucial to success so if Avery’s presence means Christensen earns a regular spot in the line-up that’s fine by me. Key word being earns.

Brilliant Biron

Just a quick tip of the (Broadway) hat to Martin Biron as we close out musings for another week. He’s played in 3 games, has a miniscule 1.38GAA and a mighty .947 save percentage. They are awesome numbers. On the rare occasion the King has a night off can any team in the league be more confident in their backup than the Rangers? With his role clearly defined (he could string together 6 shutout wins and there’d still be no goalie controversy) Biron is comfortable on this team and it shows. His play is a big reason why the Rangers have had a decent start to the year given the issues they have faced. Kudos Marty.