Archive for Markus Naslund
One of the main reasons why we here at BSB were so excited about John Tortorella becoming head coach of our beloved Blueshirts was because he would finally make his skill players accountable for their actions and effort on the ice. Too many times did we see lackadaisical efforts go unpunished by Tom Renney (no offense to the Renney lovers, but this was so true it hurt).
All that changed during Thursday’s game with the Predators. First, we saw a change in the lines, as Markus Naslund was dropped to the 3rd line for his inability, thus far, to keep up with the demands on the ice of Torts. You can argue that this happened during the game against Carolina on Tuesday, but it was official for the starting lineups on Thursday.
But the accountability factor really took hold in the first period against Nashville. Nikolai Zherdev, probably the most skilled Ranger, had a lackluster effort throughout the period, which led to a terrible turnover and a goal against. From that point on, Zherdev saw just 6 minutes of playing time for the remainder of the first, and didn’t play at all for the rest of the game. There were several times when the cameras panned in on Zherdev, who looked like someone shot his puppy.
To this, I say, Bravo Torts. It’s about time the star players got punished for not trying. It sure did light a fire under Gomez, who has been the best Ranger not named Sean Avery or Henrik Lundqvist in the past few games. For this team to win, Gomez needs to be at the top of his game, and that is exactly where he is right now.
I am a fan of Zherdev, and if the Rangers resign him, his will be the next jersey I purchase (with the need to retire my Prucha jersey). He is young, skilled, and exciting to watch, when he puts forth the effort. He, along with the rest of the Rangers, need to give 110% every game for the remainder of the season just to make the playoffs, so there is no room for any one player to just mail it in.
Kudos to Torts, kudos to accountability.
Torts switched up the lines a little bit today (as per Andrew Gross). And by switching up the lines, I mean swapping Avery and Naslund. Avery, who has been working his butt off, save for two really stupid penalties, and is getting rewarded for his play. Meanwhile, Naslund, who had the least amount of ice time amongst the top six, is dropped to The Korpedo’s 3rd line. So, with the swap, you get these lines:
Same defensive pairings.
Rick Carpiniello Jane McManus (Wow, I’m really dropping the ball today):
I like having Avery on Gomez’s line, he really complements Gomez’s speed, and will be willing to grind it out in the corners, something that line looked like it was missing. Maybe Naslund will add a little bit of a scoring touch to the Korpedo/Cally combination. This is the first “line change” under Torts, and it took 5 games to get there. It’s not even much of a change either, just a swap of two wingers.
As for Hank, Andrew Gross is reporting that Hank has a “mysterious stomach ailment”. He hasn’t been able to keep his food down, and is always feeling run down and tired. Sounds like mono to me.
If Hank has mono, that doesn’t bode well.
For reasons unbeknownst to myself and others, I have not been able to access this blog for quite sometime. And after last night’s 10-2 debacle, it seems that divine intervention has allowed me to return, to talk about the hideousness that occurred in the Lone Star State.
The honest to god’s truth is that over the course of an 82 game season, you are going to have a collapse such as this at some point. Around this time last season, it was the blown 5-goal lead in Montreal. The year prior, a 7-game losing streak plagued the Rangers during the winter months. But the context in which this atrocity to hockey occurred sets the new standard for the Blueshirt collapse. If you go back to the third period of the Rangers-Pens game on January 28th, the Blueshirts have been outscored a total of 18-4 (insert expletive here). This includes a lackluster effort against the conference’s top team, the Boston Bruins. If you cannot get hyped up enough to play the top team in the conference, what can ya get hyped up for? That was followed by an essential no-show for almost a whole 60-minutes against one of the conference’s worst teams, the Atlanta Thrashers, on Adam Graves night no less. And if it wasn’t for Markus Naslund’s miraculous goal with 11 seconds left, the Rangers would have had their 2nd 1-0 shutout in a row. If you cannot get hyped up enough to play one of the worst teams in the conference on the night one of the most honorable players in your franchise’s history has his jersey retired, what can ya get hyped up for?
To make issues more alarming, Tom Renney does his best Herb Brooks impression by skating the Rangers into the ice in the practice that follows the Atlanta. Now I am all for corporal punishment in the world of sports. I think coaches must send those types of messages to their mostly overpaid, under-achieving, prima donna athletes (does not apply to everyone). But for the Rangers to respond to that message in a way they did last night tells me one thing….
Tom Renney has lost this team. These guys can say whatever they want in front of the camera, but to not just come out flat, but to be embarassed in front of the entire NHL speaks volumes to the trust and faith these players have in their coach. If he cannot turn this thing around in the following week, some drastic measures must be taken to ensure the Blueshirts do not become the laughing stock of the league. Call that previous statement a little dramatic, but I’m pretty sure opposing teams do not see the Rangers as a legitimate threat and in turn, do not respect them (a Sean Avery post is coming soon). That to me is inexcusable in itself.
Monday’s game against the Devils has become the most important game in Tom Renney’s tenure as a coach. When you consider that it is a game against their biggest rival, on their home-ice (a place they have dominated since it opened), who is in first place, on national television (Versus is national right?), in the midst of an imminent implosion, there is no game bigger than this. Rumblings have begun in regards to Renney keeping his job, and if the Rangers do not respond as a team, it will become obvious that they have lost faith Renney. When you know your coach might on the cusp of losing his job and you want him to stay, you play your heart out for him (see Week 17: Jets vs. Dolphins). We will know Monday night how the Rangers truly feel about Tom Renney.
- The Islanders just can’t get lucky. Mike Sillinger is now out for the year. They lost another tradeable asset to help rebuild. It’s unknown what Sillinger could have gone for, considering he played an entire 7 games all year, but something is better than nothing. This just creates more time for us to laugh at the Islanders for their ridiculous team right now. They remind me of the Kansas City Royals.
- Henrik Zetterberg re-upped with the Wings, which shouldn’t really shock anyone. His deal is 12 years, $72 million, which is just a $6 million cap hit (still less than Wade Redden). That deal is great for the Wings. With Michael Cammalleri poised to make Jarome Iginla money ($7 million/year), Zetterberg would surely have received more money from any other team. This does pose an issue for the Wings though, bringing their cap number to roughly $48 million for next year, with Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen set to become UFAs. My guess is that Hossa goes for greener pastures and Franzen stays in Detroit. If Franzen winds up as a free agent, how much will Sather be kicking himself for signing Markus Naslund to two years (or Redden to 6, but I digress)?
- The Vinny Lecavalier to Montreal rumors have all but died for this season. That’s pretty good news for all Ranger fans. The Blueshirts can’t even beat the Habs now, without Lecavalier, can you imagine what it would be like with Vinny in Montreal?
14.0% power play efficiency, second worst in the conference and fifth worst overall
12 shorthanded goals allowed, worst in the league
What in the world is going on here? The Blueshirts have had the third most power play opportunities in the league (179), yet are one of the worst teams when it comes to capitalizing on those chances (25 PPG). Even more alarming is the number of shorthanded goals they’ve allowed. Last night it cost them yet again, as Alexander the Great skated in seemingly untouched and beat Valli with a wrister from the top of the circle. It was the twelfth shortie they’ve allowed this year, double what any other team in the conference has allowed. What’s going on here?
For starters, the guys who are supposed to be doing the job just aren’t. Scott Gomez has seven power play points, all assists. Chris Drury also has seven PP points, and Wade Redden has just five. That’s just 19 PP points out of your three highest paid skaters, totaling $20,907,143 in salary this season. The Rangers’ leaders in power play scoring – Nik Zherdev, Markus Naslund & Michal Rozsival have eight PP points each – are tied for 130th in the NHL in PP scoring.
Secondly, the team just doesn’t have a true quarterback back there. Redden was that guy in like, ’05-’06, but not any more. Marc Staal just isn’t that kind of player, although Paul Mara has been decent. None of these guys are elite puck movers however, and in today’s NHL that element of the game is crucial. This is where the Jay Bouwmeester conversation starts, but would they really give up a package of two or three young players/draft picks for a guy they’ll almost certainly lose to free agency after the year because they don’t have enough cap room? I’m not sure, but it’s clear something needs to happen in this department.
The third problem is just philosophy and decision making. When a baseball team falls into a hitting funk, they go back to the basics: hit and runs, bunts, stolen bases. Hockey’s not much different. Obviously it’s much easier said then done, but when your power play isn’t doing much of anything just go back to the basics: shoot from the point and crash the net. When you try to do to much you end up doing less.
The Rangers have the ingredients to be a Cup contender. They have three lines with the potential to put the puck in the net and a fourth that will work the opposition to the bone. They have a shut down defenseman and four other solid blueliners. They have veteran experience and youthful enthusiasm up and down the roster. They have a dynamite penalty kill (best in the league at 87.8%). They have a world class netminder and a rock solid backup. All that said, this team is going nowhere until they get the power play straightened out.
“Awful,” Tom Renney said. “Brain-dead hockey.”
“I can tell you I’m not happy with how our team played. I’m not happy with performance from some very key members of our hockey club, who need to be better,” Renney said. “They need to step up and start taking charge of this hockey club and start playing the way they can. If we do that, we won’t have to worry about personnel changes. We’ll strengthen ourselves internally by how we choose to play. Nobody has to worry about their jobs at all. Show up. Play hard. Compete. Battle. Want it bad enough. Have some urgency in your game.”
So what “very key members of our hockey club” is he talking about? Chris Drury took a -3 last night, although one of those goals against came when he was miscast as a point man on the PP. Scott Gomez was completely invisible all night, and won only 2 of 13 faceoffs to boot. Markus Naslund? Wade Redden? You wouldn’t have even realized they were on the ice if John Giannone didn’t tell you.
Lauri Korpikoski used his speed and was all over the place last night. Nigel Dawes was hitting everyone in sight. Marc Staal was superb yet again. Ryan Callahan was Ryan Callahan. The young players were the only ones skating with a sense of urgency last night; everyone else was in coast mode. It’s frustrating to watch.
Remember this though: the Blueshirts still top the Atlantic Division, and have played poorly in December the past two seasons (combined 12-15-2 record), but turned it on after the New Year (43-25-15 after). Hopefully this holds true again this season.
As we sit on the eve of Mats Sundin’s big decision, one has to wonder…is this a move the Rangers have to make? Or are they simply reverting back to their old ways, going after the the biggest available name out there, and not necessarily for the right reasons?
One would have to think that given Sundin’s track record that this is not just a move of desperation. Let’s face it….the Rangers offensive attack has all the symptoms of the worst types of anemia, and a big, able-bodied scorer (not named Aaron Voros or Colton Orr…sorry boys) will do wonders for an eye-gouging power play. The presence of another fellow countryman will also help in the progress of Markus Naslund, who will be a critical cog in the machine down the line, not to mention making your franchise goalie feel a little more at home.
But at what cost do the Rangers bring Sundin in? It will take a great deal of player movement and sacrifice to get him signed to the roster at the current asking price. The Rangers have taken great pride in the post-lockout era in holding on to their products, whether it be players they have drafted, or exports that have grown exponentially in their system. A commitment to Sundin will certainly mean the end of Petr Prucha (whom I believe the Rangers organization completely ruined, but thats another story for another time) and surely Michael Roszival, whose combined salary lands at $6.6 million/year. Besides, as a Rangers fan, you can’t help but cringe every time Slats goes after that big name (see Lindros, Eric; Bure, Pavel; Holik, Bobby, etc etc etc etc etc).
We can sit here all night and argue pros and cons over the decision, but it all comes down to which situation one future Hall of Fame center feels better about. In the end, the bright lights of New York, the prospect of playing with his notable natives, and remaining in the Eastern Conference will be enough to sway Sundin to the Big Apple. Then Rangers fans have to ask themselves two questions: how many line combinations will Tom Renney experiment with before he gets it right, and how much will Mats donate to Big Z for #13?