Prior to the start of the 2013-2014 season, few could have imagined that the Rangers would trade their heart and soul captain, Ryan Callahan, at the March 5 trade deadline. But such is life in the salary cap world – GM Glen Sather determined a contract number he wouldn’t exceed for both Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi. Girardi proved willing to negotiate within Sather’s limits, Callahan did not, and he was stunningly traded for Martin St. Louis.
Why bring this up now? Because just as with last fall, the Rangers are about to open camp with a few mega contracts looming on the horizon. New York has a bit more financial wiggle room this time around, especially with the salary cap ceiling likely to increase, but there are still tough decisions to be made. So what lies ahead?
Who will be the captain? – Not all of the major personnel decisions are financial – who will be the next face of the Rangers is as important a decision as any. The logical candidates – Girardi, St. Louis, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh – all come with questions. Girardi’s play dipped dramatically in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs after he signed a six-year, $33 million contract, so it could be a risky move to give the 30-year-old blueliner this honor without knowing if he can maintain his previous level of play. St. Louis has just one year remaining on his contract and is 39 years old, so while he might be the perfect veteran leader right now, that could represent flawed short-term thinking. Like St. Louis, Staal has just one year left on his deal and faces an uncertain future with the organization. That all leads to McDonagh, who’s certainly the unanimous choice among fans. It would be a major shock if he didn’t receive the C, but that’s also a lot to throw onto a 25-year-old who’s still blossoming as a player.
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Loads of armchair GM’s have had one thought on the backburner of their mind since Ryan Callahan was traded last March: who will be the next captain? Instead of instantly naming a new captain, a move which the Lightning made immediately upon the captain-for-captain swap of Callahan for Martin St. Louis, the Rangers simply promoted Dan Girardi to full time alternate. Joining Marc Staal and Brad Richards proudly wearing the ‘A’ on their sweaters was a promotion of sorts for Girardi, who signed an extension during the regular season.
Around now is when I would cite some reliable sources about the most recent news as to who will be leading our beloved Blueshirts through seasons to come, but quite frankly I would rather irresponsibly yap about my opinion and play a few rounds of Devil’s Advocate. We know that Richards can’t be the captain, leaving us with two logical guesses in Staal and Girardi. Many are convinced that Ryan McDonagh is a lock for the role. How about veteran and former captain St. Louis? Or another former captain in Rick Nash? The possibilities are endless.
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Nash is Canadian for frustrating.
Rick Nash – There were three Rick Nash’s this season. There was the timid, perimeter, unengaged Nash who sleep walked through parts of the season. There was the hungry, physically dominant, clutch Nash who was joint third in the entire league with nine game winning goals despite missing almost a quarter of the season. Then there was the postseason Nash whose effort and determination couldn’t be questioned but whose production certainly could.
Nash will enter next year closely watched by one and all to see how he responds to what was a hugely difficult postseason for him. Nash needs to produce more, and more consistently, given his contract, reputation and incredible size and ability. Nash managed to score a solid 26 goals in the regular season which was interrupted through injury, but everyone knows he should be the Rangers best goal scorer and he wasn’t. Grade: C
Brad Richards – Thanks for trying Brad. Brad Richards is almost certainly an ex-Ranger as his buyout is a mere formality at this stage. During the regular season, Richards actually produced quite well given his diminishing importance to the club on the ice. With 20 goals and 51 points, Richards was solid. However his second lowest shooting percentage of his career and being arguably the biggest defensive liability amongst Ranger forwards, Richards was very hit and miss.
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Winner. Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
Stay of execution or the start of something special? The Rangers held on to get their first win of the Cup finals Wednesday night and give the fan base a glimmer of hope. Let’s have a little muse about how things went down.
Earlier this week we considered a few reasons to be cheerful despite the Rangers being 3 down in the series. One of those reasons was Chris Kreider who had a huge part to play in the game winning goal. Kreider’s mere presence causes problems, even against the best defenses in the league.
If Kreider can continue to go to the net, continue to play physically and get a little less reckless in his own zone, the sky’s the limit. Yes, Kreider needs to develop more facets to his game but he’s already scaring teams.
Martin St Louis. He leads the team in goals; he has three game winning tallies amongst his eight markers. If someone told me the Rangers would give up two first round picks and a captain that was pricing himself out of town for a trip to the Finals, I’d have definitely taken that deal. Well, that’s what we got. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and while St Louis hasn’t been brilliant every game he’s certainly justified Sather’s decision to bring him to New York.
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Scott Levy/Getty Images
Of course that game ended 1-0. Why wouldn’t it? For better or worse, this organization never makes things easy. Of course, the score should have been more like 4-0, if not for the heroics of young Dustin Tokarski. He kept a tired and outpaced Canadiens team in it until the end.
Now, you’ll forgive me for being a little disjointed in the aftermath of this victory, so if you wouldn’t mind I’m just going to meander a little bit through the jumbled mess that is my brain following the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup Finals berth in 20 years…
I became a Rangers fan back in 1992-1993. I started playing street hockey with some neighborhood kids and was hooked immediately. It was the very end of the regular season and the Blueshirts had failed to qualify for the playoffs. But hey, I was a huge Yankees fan, so why wouldn’t I support the Rangers?
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Does Kreider have the overall game to be the Rangers go-to guy on offense? (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Rangers are on the cusp of the Stanley Cup for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is their team depth. Eight players currently have ten or more points in this years playoffs, while nine forwards currently average over fourteen minutes per game. However, among this depth is also a lingering problem; no player has truly emerged as the go-to guy on offense.
Martin St Louis has recently shown a consistency that the entire league has been accustomed to seeing from him for a decade, and when you factor in his tragic circumstances, his performance has been admirable. Meanwhile Chris Kreider has produced in bursts and is the only Ranger that is producing at a point per game rate (nine in ten, to date) but Kreider has been defensively erratic and has produced in bunches. Can he be relied upon to be THE difference maker?
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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
The Rangers dropped a disappointing OT game to the Montreal Canadiens last night, by a score of 3-2. The Rangers dominated possession and shots on goal, but came up just a little short. Dustin Tokarski played fantastic and the Habs got just enough lucky bounces to the cut the series deficit in half. In the aftermath, I thought I’d share some…well, thoughts.
- As I mentioned (and Dave’s Fenwick chart shows), the Rangers dominated possession from start to finish. This is usually a recipe for winning a game, but Dustin Tokarski threw a wrench into that.
- It’s Tokarski’s upside that was the basis for Michel Therrien to give him the nod over Budaj when Price went down. Tokarski flat out stole that game and is the only reason we aren’t breaking out the brooms on Sunday.
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It’s funny how the playoffs work. During the regular season, sample sizes grow and long-term narratives take hold. Discussions emerge, debates rage and quantitative analyses are produced. The playoffs are a whole different animal. Most factors surrounding playoff teams are fleeting. Only as relevant as the last game. This makes life exceptionally difficult on hockey writers. Especially when your piece could become completely irrelevant in the next twenty-four hours.
At BSB, we prefer to take the long view and allow our analysis to play out over the appropriate sample. This is difficult this time of year, and the luxury of research and trial and error aren’t guaranteed. It’s this phenomenon that has grown my fondness for these “thoughts” posts. You may think that they are very similar to Chris’ musings posts. You’d be wrong. His are better. But for now, you’re stuck with me. Here are some Ranger related thoughts heading into Friday’s clash in Philly…
- It’s really nice to see Marty St. Louis coming to life in these playoffs. He is so sneaky and elusive that the suspect back line for the Flyers can’t do much about him, especially with Nash on the ice to worry about. Still not a fan of giving up the first round picks when Slats kinda had Yzerman dead to rights in negotiations, but I think St. Louis will be a huge factor in any success the Rangers have this postseason.
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Things didn’t go so well for Martin St. Louis in his first 19 regular season games with the Rangers, but the trade for him on March 5th was never about the 82 games between October and April.
The deal was made because A) New York wasn’t going to re-sign Ryan Callahan and wanted max value in return, and B) St. Louis is of capable of carrying the Rangers much deeper into the postseason than Callahan is at this stage.
So sure, one goal in 19 games was a disappointment, and eight total points was pretty unimpressive. But everyone goes through a slump, and St. Louis clearly had a major adjustment to make upon arriving in the Big Apple.
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Rangers forward Martin St. Louis has been named a finalist for the Lady Byng trophy. The trophy is awarded to the player who player “adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
St. Louis has been a finalist eight times in the last ten years, and has won the award three times in the last four. The last Ranger to win the award was Wayne Gretzky in 1999.