Forget Mike Kostka. The one-game experiment with the 28-year-old defender notwithstanding, the Rangers’ depth has been extremely impressive so far this season.
Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle are two enormous losses that most teams wouldn’t be able to withstand, but New York has weathered the storm remarkably well through seven games.
It hasn’t been easy.
Poor planning down the middle during the summer forced first Martin St. Louis and now Kevin Hayes into unnatural positions, but both players have done well learning on the fly. The center problem has been felt most at the faceoff dots, but that’s never been Stepan’s hallmark anyway. And though Stepan’s myriad of contributions obviously can’t be replaced, the absence of the No. 1 center has done nothing to affect the team’s primary scorers on the wing. Rick Nash is off to an unreal start, and rotating top-liners St. Louis and Chris Kreider have found the scoresheet early and often even without No. 21. Stepan has been missed more in the defensive end, but the entire team has been awful in its own zone thus far, so the subs would be hard to fault for that.
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The New York Rangers have recalled forward Chris Mueller from the Hartford Wolf Pack, returning forwards Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller in the process. Miller and Fast have been healthy scratches for the past two games, so getting them playing time in the AHL is a good idea. Mueller had a strong camp, and Alain Vigneault probably figures he can get more out of him than he can Fast/Miller at this point of the season.
Personally, I think Fast was just fine in his two games, but clearly the coach wants him to work on some things. As for Miller, well I still think he’s best suited for the wing. Maybe he gets time there with the Pack.
Since Mueller is a center, this could mean the end of the Martin St. Louis at center experiment, especially since Kevin Hayes has looked quite comfortable there.
Just saying the name brings up a debate that becomes more heated than the never-ending Michael Del Zotto debates. A first round pick who is still just 21 years old, Miller has been touted as high as a potential 1C (not happening) to an epic bust (too soon, but also not likely). Much like the discussions about him, Miller has also played all over the place in the lineup.
But here’s what we do know about Miller: He had a great preseason, and seemed to finally take the next step after two years of bouncing back and forth from the AHL. He is close to a point-per-game in the AHL, so he has offensive talent. Prior to this season, he was also a defensive tire fire.
So what can the Rangers do with Miller?
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Sometimes opportunity is about timing. Anthony Duclair, JT Miller and Kevin Hayes have made the Rangers at the right time because in Alain Vigneault they have the right coach to develop them into full time – and hopefully long term – Rangers.
Vigneault won over a lot of the fan base last year by staying patient amid early troubles, by being the Anti-Torts in allowing players to develop chemistry together and also by being able to acknowledge ‘hot hands’ and give players a platform to perform when their form deserved extra playing time (example: Cam Talbot taking over midseason for a short period).
There’s every chance Anthony Duclair goes back to junior this year and if he does, it will have been the right decision. If he sticks, he’ll have earned it. The Rangers Head Coach has earned everyone’s trust and whatever he decides will likely be the best course of action. Alain Vigneault has proven he’s confident in his younger players if they earn his trust and the even ice time distribution in the St Louis game (every forward had at least 11 minutes ice time) suggests Vigneault will continue to work the kids in to meaningful positions and give them a chance of growth.
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Breakout candidate? Photo: Getty Images
It’s the dawn of a new season and already we’re full of anticipation, panic and dilemma… What fun it is to be a New York Rangers fan. Anyway, it’s Thursday so let’s have the first Musings of the season shall we? There’s plenty to talk about.
The obvious major talking point in Rangerland is the injury to Derek Stepan. I’m an optimist. Stepan’s injury hurts the Rangers in the short term but his absence shouldn’t cost the team a playoff berth and the team has plenty of younger prospects they can test out. This is an opportunity the franchise may never have had if it were not for the injury. Now is the time to throw in a Lindberg, Hayes and/or JT Miller and see whether they can step into a full time NHL role.
Long term, the injury to Stepan may have been a blessing in disguise if the Rangers develop one (or more) prospects for the long term because of this unfortunate situation. If this was Lundqvist going down for a long stretch it would be time to panic but Stepan missing 10-12 games will not cost the club long term. No need to panic. Prospect development time is upon us.
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Ryan McDonagh is a bargain. Relatively speaking. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Now the dust has settled after the draft, week of pre-free agency negotiation and free agency itself, a few days of quiet are upon us before arbitration hearings, contract negotiation rumors and the scraps are picked at in free agency. With that all in mind, let’s take a little look around the league and reflect on the Rangers this summer so far.
Patrick Kane and Jon Toews got identical contracts but that’s where the similarities end – in my opinion. Toews is a natural leader and figurehead. He’s not worth the money he’s just got but if either player is worth it, it’s certainly Toews and not Kane as Toews brings so much more to the table than ‘just’ offense.
Patrick Kane is a Star. He’s a point/game playoff player and is incredibly talented but he just got $10.5 million per year yet has only once scored more than 73 points in a year and has one 30 goal season in his seven years in the league. Sure, it’s not just about numbers and sure, the Hawks are paying to keep the faces of the franchise in town but the money getting thrown about is out of hand. Nothing we didn’t know already, right?
Every additional, major contract signing that gets announced makes me love the Ryan McDonagh deal that much more. Five more years of 25 minutes a game, elite defense and 40-50 points per season for $4.7m a season seems like a bargain.
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(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
When the music stopped on the NHL’s annual game of July 1 musical chairs, the Rangers were clearly left standing. Not only had they lost Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman and Brad Richards, but they were also left with minimal cap space and a much smaller group of incoming players. The kicker to all this is that none of the new players were centers.
All throughout the Finals, the narrative was the Kings’ depth down the middle and how the Rangers could match it. It was an area targeted for improvement this off-season, and it was the one area the Rangers seemingly couldn’t find a way to upgrade.
I don’t hate the Dan Boyle deal. I do hate the Tanner Glass deal, but we are talking about a 4W here, so it’s far from the end of the world. Sather added some nice depth the minor league club and created a pool of reinforcements should injury strike, but when we are potentially counting on one of just two possibly ready prospects to play significant minutes without any veteran competition, it becomes a little concerning. Read more »
Probably the most ready (Photo: Blueshirts United)
It doesn’t matter if you liked what happened on Tuesday or hated what happened on Tuesday. We are all Ranger fans, and we will all cheer for the team. What we can all agree on, based solely on numbers, is that some of the kids in Hartford are going to need to step up and take a roster spot. When I say numbers, I mean this:
In: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka (AHL: Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick, Chris Mueller, Chris Bourque, Cedrick Desjardins)
Out: Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk
Seven NHL players left the Rangers on July 1, and only three came back. The defense was more or less a one-for-one swap, with Boyle replacing Stralman and Kostka replacing Diaz (Falk I consider to be a #8 defenseman at this point). So, barring any trades, the Rangers are pretty much done with the defense. It is also unlikely we see Dylan McIlrath or Conor Allen on Broadway this year. The roster numbers just don’t work.
As for the forwards, one forward came in and four left via free agency. If you assume Glass takes Boyle’s spot on Dominic Moore’s left, that leaves two RW spots open for competition (or a 3LW and 4RW, as Mats Zuccarello can play both sides), and a 2C/3C. There are really only three names that come to mind when it comes to kids on the cusp: J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg.
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Some quick practice notes this morning, aside from the end of John Moore’s suspension. First, Cam Talbot was not at practice, and there is no update on his status. Talbot suffered from an undisclosed injury in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals, and has been day-to-day since. Also, J.T. Miller, who hurt his shoulder in the Eastern Conference Finals, is good to go. Miller likely won’t get action unless there is an injury, but he adds some decent depth in that scenario. Both of these bits come from Andrew Gross.
Alain Vigneault announced yesterday that J.T. Miller would be returning to the lineup, probably in light of the Dan Carcillo suspension. Some doubt may have been cast when Derick Brassard announced he would be returning tonight, but now with the confirmed news that Derek Stepan will be out with his broken jaw (not surprising, despite what Doctors Gallagher and Briere say), it is certain that Miller will play tonight.
No lines have been announced, but my guess is that Brassard skates on the top line with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. Dominic Moore would slide into the third line with Mats Zuccarllo and Benoit Pouliot, and Miller would play on the fourth line with Derek Dorsett and Brian Boyle.