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Posts tagged: Paul Mara

The Obligatory Paul Mara Post

With one single article, Katie Strang of ESPN New York sent all of New York into a frenzy.  Per his agent, the Rangers “might” be looking at Paul Mara as a veteran defenseman.  One simple sentence, and every single Ranger fan was questioning the health of Marc Staal. I have to admit, it was kind of funny to witness on Twitter.

Yes, the Staal concussion is a concern, but it is not a big concern yet, and it is not something the Rangers would really be planning around at this stage, especially because Staal partook in practice yesterday. He is not going to scrimmage or play in preseason games for a week or so, but he is at least on the ice and taking part in Camp Torts.  Reading between the lines here, I don’t think a Mara signing would be because of Staal’s injury.

In fact, I think it would be an insurance policy against Tim Erixon and/or Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto has been having a relatively rough camp, per the beat writers.  Erixon has been looking very smooth, but he’s still a kid, and nothing is guaranteed.  For the sake of this post, let’s assume one isn’t ready, and none of the kids are ready to assume a full time role. That thrusts Steve Eminger, who is having a strong camp, into a regular defenseman role.

All of a sudden, the Rangers are without a seventh defenseman. That gives them little flexibility in case of an injury, especially because in this scenario, the other kids further down on the depth chart aren’t ready.  Insert a veteran presence as a seventh defenseman in Mara to serve as the seventh guy.

Remember, the roster on October 1 is never the roster on April 1. It may not even be the roster on January 1 either. Last year is a perfect example. With a rash of injuries, the Rangers were forced to promote Mike Sauer to top-four duties, and call up the most ready of the AHL defensemen in Ryan McDonagh. Both exceeded expectations, so they traded Michal Rozsival.

Of course, that is one scenario, and no two scenarios are the same. In this case, since Mara is demanding a NHL contract, it is unlikely that he signs with the Rangers.  That’s a very good thing, since Mara is unfortunately a shell of his former self, and it mostly has to do with his skating.  He simply can’t keep up anymore, and it’s the reason why he went unsigned this offseason.  He can’t skate, he can’t pivot, and he just gets burned by faster skaters now. The beard is glorious, but the feet are not. If anything, I would be bet that his agent is name dropping to boost his value.

Non-Draft Roundup

I’ll get to the draft round up tomorrow. I want to get some specifics on the players before I post about them.

As for the rest of the Ranger news:

  • Sather made qualifying offers to most RFAs, but Fred Sjostrom was not included in that list. The notables included: Nikolai Zherdev, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Lauri Korpikoski. You can breathe a sigh of relief.
    • It’s safe to assume that Jordan Owens will be given the opportunity to take Sjostrom’s place. It’s just all business with that decision.
  • The Rangers traded a 3rd round pick in 2010 (supposed to be a thin draft) for C Brian Boyle. That pretty much spells the end for the Blair Betts era in New York. With both Sjostrom and Betts gone, there goes the best PK unit in the league.
    • Boyle, 24, is an RFA, is 6’7 250 lbs (he’s a freaking beast), and you have to assume he has been qualified. He’s a tough guy, and if he plays a full season, can give you maybe 10-10-20 at his peak. He was solid defensively in the AHL last season.
  • Paul Mara and Derek Morris won’t be back, Glen Sather is quoted saying that he has five defensemen knocking on the door (Sauer, Sangs, DZ, Potter, Gilroy). Expect one or two of them to make the team, and maybe a stay-at-home bruiser type signing.
  • Nik Antropov won’t be back, his asking price is too much. This shouldn’t shock anyone.
  • Colton Orr isn’t going to be resigned, so the entire 4th line will be different next year. This is old news, but I neglected to mention it until now.
  • We should start hearing about accepted/rejected qualifying offers before July 1. It will be a fun few days before free agency begins.

Over the next few days, I’m going to research each of the picks and write little blurbs about them. Keep checking back.

Finals Thoughts and a Recap on a Season on the Brink

I allowed myself to decompress for 24-48 hours after the Rangers season officially ended to talk about what happened.  Much like a legendary player being asked to retire when he’s ousted from the playoffs, you have to sift through your emotions before you give an honest assessment of things.  100% agree with Dave that the better team won this series, but ironically, I thought the Rangers were the better team for the most part in Game 7.  The game itself was a microcosm of the the Blueshirts season and series:  strong to start, treading water in the middle, and plagued by an inability to score and create chances in the end.  This team truly gave their all in the final game though, and that makes the sting a bit more bearable.  Now that the smoke has cleared, it has become obvious to me (and hopefully all of you) that John Tortorella got the most out of a team that has seemingly zero offensive firepower, and the fact that he got them to claw all the way into the playoffs says a lot about the type of coach he can be for this franchise.

So now that the sting is starting to subside, lets take a look back on the highs and lows of this season, and what’s to come from the 89 games:

HIGHS

-The Blueshirts got off to a fantastic start, going 10-2-1 in the month of October and staking themselves to a huge early lead in the Eastern Conference

-Three players had their numbers retired: Harry Howell (3), Andy Bathgate (9), and Adam Graves (9)

-Tom Renney and his stale style of hockey were finally replaced by John Tortorella’s aggressive attack, making for a much more efficient and relatively exciting Rangers team to watch.

-The Rangers re-acquired Sean Avery off waivers from the Dallas Stars, adding the edge that the team needed down the stretch.

-Henrik Lundqvist gave no doubt to the fact that he is easily one of the top 3 goalies in the world today

-After falling out of the playoff picture in late February/early March, the Rangers made a remarkable turn around, headlined by John Tortorella’s coaching, to finish 7th in the Eastern Conference standings.  The team had several key wins down the stretch to jump into the playoffs.

-Nik Antropov and Derek Morris were acquired via trade at the deadline, and provided some size and stability to their respective positions.

-The combination of Blair Betts and Frederik Sjostrom (throw Hank in there if you’d like) emerged as the best penalty killing unit in the NHL.

-While maybe not necessarily a high, Markus Naslund provided exactly what was expected of him: a 20-25 goal season and consistency up front.

LOWS

-The start of 2009 brough no joy to the Rangers, as they started to collapse under the Tom Renney regime.  The low-point was highlighted by a 10-2 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Stars, and ultimately would signify the end of the Renney era.

-The tragic death of top-tier prospect Alexei Cherapanov cast a shadow over the Rangers future.

-Nikolai Zherdev’s did not provide the 30+ goal output that many believed it would, and the youngster crumbled in his first post-season

-The offseason acquistion of Wade Redden was nothing but a complete disaster.

– Michael Roszival’s absurd contract extension (mainly its length) is beginning to rear its ugly head, and the combination of Redden and Roszival’s salaries and contract length will plague this franchise for years to come.

-The power-play never amounted to anything, under both coaches, and has been the most pressing issue since the lockout ended.

-An inability to provide consistent offense or any offensive threat whatsoever doomed this team as the season progressed

-Leading 3-1 in their opening round playoff series, the Blueshirts fell apart when it mattered most, a series headlined by the suspension of John Tortorella for Game 6

-Versus continues to cover the NHL

WHATS TO COME

-Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Lauri Korpikoski, Sean Avery, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi will be the core of this team under the John Tortorella regime.  The new coach must also find the right players for his style of play, as it became obvious that the current group cannot provide the type of play Tortorella would like to play.

-Blair Betts, Frederik Sjostrom, Colton Orr, and Nik Antropov MUST be re-signed.  Betts and Sjostrom combine to be the best PK tandem and 4th line in the league.  Orr is the best fighter in the NHL, and you still need at least one of them on your team.  Antropov provides much needed size and scoring touch going forward.

-Markus Naslund, with only one-year remaining, should be dealt somewhere.  The aging forward, once considered the best two-way player in the NHL, did not thrive in Tortorella’s system.

-Time for Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to finally step up and take the reigns as the elder statesmen on this team.  The honeymoon is over boys.

-Say goodbye to Paul Mara (regretably), Nik Zherdev, and Derek Morris.  In addition, Sather must find a way to part ways with either Redden or Roszival, either through a buy-out or trade.

-Its time for the Rangers projects and farm system to step-up and become elite players in the league.  This includes players currently on the team (who have now played in enough tight playoff series) and players in their farm system (who up until this point have done nothing but be talked about).  History shows that free-agent/trade acquisitions don’t do it for this team, and the home-grown talent must finally rise to the top.

-If they are going to keep him for the next 3 seasons, the organization must get on the league’s case about the officiating bias towards Sean Avery.  While he is no saint, the abuse this guy takes on a nightly basis is absolutely absurd.  Game 7 was just an example.  Generally speaking, the officiating around the league in general must change, as these ticky-tack calls are making even the most die-hard hockey fan’s head spin.

-While no fault falls on him, Henrik Lundqvist must find a way to be better than spectacular come playoff time.  I’m talking god-like, all the time.  If you want to know what I’m looking for, see Giguere for the Ducks and Khabibulin for the Lightning.

-The power-play can no longer be the Achilles heel of this team.  Either through someone currently on the team stepping up or by acquiring someone via free agency or trade that can FINALLY do it themselves, the Rangers must learn to capitalize on the opportunities provided.

-Whatever the makeup of this team comes to be, they have to find a way to be consistently good all season long.  The continuous ebb and flow of the Rangers the past few seasons has come back to haunt them in the playoffs, as the lack of home-ice advantage has made things very difficult.

Whew.  I’m sure there are plenty of things here that plenty of you agree/disagree with.  I’m pretty sure there are plenty of things that I missed and will think about later.  It was a crazy season for so many reasons, and to try to cover it all would take weeks and months.  I’d like to hear about what you all have to say about the Rangers season, and what you think should/shouldn’t happen as the organization moves forward.  Either way, this has been a very enjoyable experience, and I’m looking forward to adding thoughts and insight to a team I love so much.

I saw this going bad when….

I saw Colton Orr was not in the lineup and Donald Brashear was.  Don’t laugh.  Think back to a time when Tom Renney failed to have the big enforcer in the lineup for a game against the Flyers, and they proceeded to run rampant all over the Blueshirts.  After that game, Renney vowed to never sit Orr again and #28 has been a staple ever since.  Especially after watching Brashear challenge Orr during pre-game warmups, you had to believe he was going to be in there right?  Right???

Well apparently not, and the injury sustained by Blair Betts is a direct result of not dressing Orr.  Brashear knew he could perform that act without fear of having to face the reprecutions of Colton Orr.  I applaud Paul Mara for standing up to him, and we can argue until we’re blue in the face about how many minutes Brashear should have gotten for it.  As a player, when you see that happen to a teammate of yours, it does something that’s hard to explain.  Whatever it is, it takes a lot out of you and its hard to recover from.  Brashear didn’t get much ice time after that, and you can speculate as to whether or not this was premeditated, but the Rangers staff allowed it to happen by not having Colton Orr ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I’m in no way pinning the Rangers loss solely on this decision and subsequent event, but it definitely was a factor.  Now the Rangers are likely down their best faceoff man and penalty killer.  I’ll bet Colton Orr will be dressed for Game 7.

Either way, its time to find out what these Rangers are really made of on Tuesday night….

Game 63: Rangers vs. Florida

Update 9:30pm: With the regulation loss, and Buffalo/Carolina each getting at least a point, the Rangers have dropped to 7th place in the East (8th if Buffalo wins), just 2 points ahead of Carolina.

If there was ever a crucial game for the Rangers, this would be it. The Rangers sit 2 points ahead of Florida for 6th in the conference, but Florida has 2 games in hand. They also sit just 1, I’ll even spell it out for you, ONE, point out of 9th place.

They need this game, no if, ands, or buts about it. Not only do they need this win, but they need it in regulation. Buffalo (#8) faces Carolina (#9) tonight as well. Should the Rangers lose, and Buffalo wins, the Rangers drop to the #8 seed. If Carolina wins, the Rangers drop to the #7 seed. I’m not going to run all the scenarios, but I hope this illustrates the urgency behind this game.

The Panthers website is reporting that Vokoun will be a game time decision tonight. Not like that matters, Craig Anderson is a very capable backup, and has given the Rangers some problems in net.

More later.

Update 6:15pm: Now that the game gets nearer, I’ll move this up to the first post on the page, ahead of the Whitney/Kunitz trade.

None of the beat reporters have lines up, and it looks like Torts isn’t going to disclose that information until game time.

My guess is that he will be using the same lines as last night, maybe inserting Mark Bell somewhere.

Tomas Vokoun has an inner ear infection, and it looks like Craig Anderson will get the start tonight.

Update 6:35pm: Reitz/Sjostrom out, Mara/Voros in.

Update 7:10pm: They aren’t even going to review that? Well, I guess if Torts isn’t arguing, it’s no goal.

Update 7:14pm: Well, the Rangers have been generating some good chances early on, including that no goal by Dubinsky. Let’s see if they keep this up.

Update 7:17pm: What a save by Hank. Wow.

Update 7:22pm: That’s what happens when you drive to the net. Nice play by Callahan to get the puck out of the zone, nice pass by Kalinin to Gomez, nice job by Naslund to get the loose puck into the net. 1-0 Rangers. Naslund from Gomez and Kalinin.

Update 7:30pm: So that’s what Glen Sather looks like…

Update 7:36pm: Denis Potvin is in the house, on the 30th anniversary of his hit on Nilsson.

Update 7:39pm: The Rangers are getting a lot of good shots on net. Craig Anderson is standing on his head.

Update 7:43pm: Phantom call on Rozsival to end the period. 1-0, end of 1.

Update 8:03pm: Even the penalty is more aggressive under this new system. They are certainly much more fun to watch.

Update 8:04pm: Wow. Craig Anderson just made an absurd save. He is single-handedly keeping the Panthers in this game.

Update 8:20pm: The PP will take some time to get used to the adjustments. Micheletti said it best, it’s not natural yet to rotate around. It will take time.

Update 8:30pm: Lift the puck please. That’s twice.

Update 8:35pm: Hit the net please. Disregard, deflected by Anderson.

Update 8:54pm: Dubinsky and Staal are the ice time leaders for forwards/defense through 2 periods. Good to know Torts trusts the sophomores.

Update 8:59pm: Nice passing play on the PP, nice save by Anderson. I think the Rangers would need a 5-on-2 to score a goal though.

Update 9:03pm: Oh come on Gomez. How do you not bury that? It was an empty net and the puck was on your stick. What the hell man?

Update 9:07pm: The Rangers are looking real tired right now.

Update 9:09pm: Ouch. Zednik just took a slap shot off the neck. This man and his neck, he’s just unlucky.

Update 9:10pm: Oh man, it was a McCabe shot too. That has to hurt.

Update 9:12pm: Crap. Booth slides it through Hank’s legs. Hank wants that one back. 1-1. Booth from Weiss and Ballard.

Update 9:16pm: Someone blew an assignment. Horton was left wide open. 2-1 Panthers. Horton from Zednik and McCabe. The Rangers need a goal, and they probably won’t get it.

Update 9:21pm: It was Gomez that blew the assignment. So he couldn’t score and blew that assignment. That’s a 2 goal swing courtesy of one player.

Update 9:22pm: And the FIRE SATHER chant rains down from the heavens (the Blue Seats).

Update 9:30pm: Another Ranger loss. This one in regulation. I’ll put the updated standings at the top of the post.

Game 62: Rangers at Toronto, Torts Debuts

John Tortorella begins his stretch as Ranger head coach tonight in Toronto, the second meeting of a home-and-home meeting between the clubs.

In keeping up with Tortorella’s theme of a clean break, this marks the first game of the remaining 21. If the Rangers want to make the playoffs, they will have to win at least 13 games. Let’s hope they are up to the task.

The forward lines will remain intact from the last practice:

Dubinsky-Drury-Callahan
Naslund-Gomez-Zherdev
Dawes-Korpo-Prucha
Sjostrom-Betts-Orr

The defense is as follows (as per Zipay):
Rozsival-Redden
Staal-Girardi
Kalinin-Rietz

Expect the top 13 to get plenty of ice time. I am really nervous about that Rozsival-Redden combination, it could either work really well or fail miserably. I don’t think there’s a happy medium there. I like Staal and Girardi together though. They both have the offensive potential and the defensive mindedness to work with each other. Kalinin-Reitz will be interesting to watch, I’m not sure how I feel about that combo.

Aaron Voros is scratched, and Paul Mara is still out with his shoulder injury.

I won’t be doing a live blog tonight, I don’t even think I’ll be watching the game tonight. I have a work function I have to attend and it’s from 6:30-9:30. I am not happy.

Mara’s Injury Not That Serious

We all cringed when Paul Mara, one of the few bright spots on the porous Ranger blue line, went down with what looked like a severe shoulder injury. Zipay reported earlier in the week that there was no structural damage on the shoulder, and he will be back within 2-4 weeks.

That’s great news for the Rangers. They will need Mara back if they want to make a serious push to stay at that 5 seed.

Side note: I, like most of the fans, have really overlooked how lucky the Rangers have been with injuries. This is the first post I’ve ever had to make about a “serious” injury. Let’s hope luck stays on our side.

Game 59: Rangers vs. Islanders

With the loss on Monday in St. Louis, we could be looking at Tom Renney’s last game as the Ranger head coach. If the Rangers lose and Renney does not get fired, then we are stuck with him until the end of the season.

The Rangers are 1-6-2 in their last 9.

The Korpedo is out with an injury, so Dawes is back in. Mara is still out indefinitely.

It’s a 7pm start on MSG tonight. More later.

Update 7:03pm: Drury on the point on the PP tonight. Think it would have come to this if Sather went after Streit and not Redden?

Update 7:15pm: Wow. They can’t but a goal. Two posts in one shift.

Update 7:16pm: That was a hell of a shift that led to the goal. Nice shot by Dawes, assists from Dru and Pru. 1-0 Rangers.

Update 7:21pm: This Dawes/Drury/Prucha line is looking real good. For all you Prucha doubters out there, let’s see you get a shot off when you get a slash to the wrist. That should have been a penalty.

Update 7:22pm And they give it right back. Someone missed their man. Streit from Comeau and Okposo. I wish Streit was a Ranger. What is it with this team and giving up leads within 2 minutes. It’s absurd.

Update 7:40pm: Joe Micheletti is talking about how the Islanders have no pressure and play easier because they aren’t worried about being benched. I don’t see how this is any different from the Rangers. If your name isn’t Petr Prucha (or Nigel Dawes), you aren’t getting benched.

Update 8:00pm: Good to know the buzzer works.

Update 8:03pm: Can someone please put Staal on the PP? Please?

Update 8:08pm: You ever notice that when Hank makes a glove save, he never closes his glove? He just curves it a little bit. Between that and the heading of the puck, he’s a strange character in net. Awesome goalie, but strange.

Update 8:10pm: Is it against the rules to just say no to the PP?

Update 8:13pm: What the hell just happened? A PP goal? That’s a flukey goal, Gomez surprised him a little bit. I’ll take it, anyone will take it. Danis should have had that though. Gomez from Dru and Hank. 2-1 Rangers.

Update 8:14pm: Another header by Hank. Think Richter cringes when he does that?

Update 8:17pm: Someone lit a fire under Gomez’s ass tonight. He’s playing like the Gomez we expected.

As I wrote that update, all hell broke loose. Everyone got involved. And Prucha is taking on Bergenheim. I would call it a draw. The fans are raining down with Pru chants.

Update 8:31pm: This is old school Rangers/Islanders. Lots of scrums, some fights, good edge to this game so far.

Update 8:37pm: That was a solid period for the Rangers.

Update 9:00pm: Hank just made the save of the game on Bailey, who was left wide open in the slot.

Update 9:22pm: A PPG here would seal the game.

Update 9:27pm: Sjostrom takes the flip out of the zone from Drury to seal the game in the empty net.

Good win for the Rangers tonight. They played very well. Let’s hope this isn’t the exception to the rule. Big game against Buffalo this weekend. That is another must win. Rangers win 3-1.

Game 58: Rangers at St. Louis

Usually I begin these game threads with something along the lines of ‘looking to rebound’ or ‘looking to keep the winning going’. I decided that’s not the case. I am fed up with the lackadaisical play of this team. None of us think the team is top in the conference, but we as fans deserve better than the effort we have been seeing over the past few weeks.

A few notes, Paul Mara didn’t make the trip to St. Louis. Considering the description of the injury so far, I would guess either dislocated or separated shoulder, which would put him out for a long time, probably the remainder of the regular season. Dmitri Kalinin is skating in his place, his first game since injuring his back, and Corey Potter did not make the trip.

The Blues have only lost once in regulation in the past 7 games. They allow a lot of goals, so maybe, just maybe, the Rangers can put more than 2 in the net tonight.

Game time is 7pm on Vs. tonight. Sorry, but I won’t be live blogging the game.

Update: I forgot to add that Renney’s job is likely on the line tonight and Wednesday against the Islanders. Two wins secure his job for the time being.

As for Sather, no word on if Dolan has watched a game this year.

Hundqvist & Mara sick, and not because of the offense

As Dave alluded too earlier, Corey Potter is back with the club, but not to serve as the 7th D-man. Steve Zipay notes that the flu has made it’s rounds in the locker room, and neither Henrik Lundqvist or Paul Mara skated this morning. With Dmitri Kalinin’s back still acting up and uncertainty surrounding Mara’s available for tomorrow night’s game in Dallas, Potter’s presence was more necessity than luxury.

Jane McManus also reported on some (surprise!) new line combos, as Aaron Voros skated with Scott Gomez and Markus Nasund this morning. The Betts-Orr-Sjostrom and Drury-Dubinsky-Zherdev units are still in tact, while Nigel Dawes was skating with Lauri Korpikosi and Ryan Callahan. Petr Prucha will again be a healthy scratch. I’m sure Dave’s thrilled.