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Since we often preach patience and the long-view around here, I find it very difficult to identify specific narrative topics when the season is only five games old. Many of our observations will normalize or end up a blip on the big picture radar. Most sample sizes are too small, trends too tenuous and in the case of the Rangers, too injury dependent. Once Stepan and Boyle return, we will start to see the true colors of this team, but until then, I feel like some random thoughts are more appropriate than digging into too much data or player performance numbers. I’ll be curious to see if your thoughts are consistent with mine during this time of upheaval…
- Is it wrong that I was excited just to see that second win so things didn’t spiral out of control like last October?
- Man, Lee Stempniak has been great. We all were fully on-board with the signing when it happened, but he has gotten off to a much better start than we could have reasonably expected.
- Ryan McDonagh played over 30 minutes last night. In October. Loco.
- Rick Nash is a monster. I had a feeling that the post-concussion symptoms were holding him back last season. He was horribly snake bitten in the playoffs, but has broken out again in a big way to start this year. Goals aside, he had made strong moves to the net, utilizing his size and reach with great results. If he can stay healthy, he will be an absolute force this season.
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The Rangers have formally announced that Ryan McDonagh will be the 27th captain in New York Rangers history. The Rangers were without a captain following the trade of Ryan Callahan and the buyout of (more or less) acting captain Brad Richards. Naming McDonagh captain was the worst kept secret in the organization, as it was widely expected this summer.
Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Martin St. Louis, and Derek Stepan will be the alternate captains.
Thank you Bob Gainey, Scott Gomez, and all those involved in the Gomez for McDonagh swap.
What to expect from Jesper Fast? (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
The Rangers are entering the home straight and the regular season is almost upon us. It’s a Thursday so let’s throw together some thoughts about the past few days in Rangerland.
Anthony Duclair. Everyone’s favourite Rangers’ prospect appears to be forcing the organisation’s hand into finding him a roster spot. 5 points, 3 goals in 3 games. Blazing speed, a wicked shot and respectable defense for a 19 year old rookie who, two weeks ago, wasn’t on anyone’s radar (for this season).
The thing is this: if he makes it, if he plays, he has to be on a scoring line to be effective. Is there an appropriate spot up for grabs and who suffers as a result? The most realistic scenario would be Mats Zuccarello slipping to the third line (also a productive line under coach Vigneault) but can the team justify pushing their top scoring forward of last year down to the third line for a 19 year old? It’s a great dilemma to have but also a major headache, potentially.
October 9th, at St Louis and then at the Blue Jackets two days later. Do the Rangers have the hardest opening two game set? A road trip to the big, physical Blues and Jackets? It gets physical quickly for the Rangers.
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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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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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Dan Girardi – What a roller coaster year Girardi just completed. He looked totally lost at the beginning of the season (like several Blueshirts), but quickly turned around his game and played like his old self during the second-half. Management was convinced that Girardi’s early-season hiccups were an anomaly and rewarded him with a six-year, $33 million contract, essentially choosing Girardi over captain Ryan Callahan. But Girardi again looked like a liability once the playoffs started, culminating in his train wreck performance (mixed with a healthy share of bad luck) during the Stanley Cup Final that left many fans calling for a trade. Girardi had no more than a dislocated finger during the playoffs, so his pylon-like play should raise eyebrows given the substantial financial commitment New York made to him just a few months prior. Nevertheless, Girardi has been a tremendous player for the Rangers during his eight-year career, and, just as Brad Richards did at the start of this year, Girardi seems likely to bounce-back from this most recent embarrassment in a big way. Grade: B-
Anton Stralman – For almost his entire tenure in blue, Stralman was the most underappreciated player on the team. But thanks to his particularly stellar play during the postseason and some gushing comments from talking heads and bloggers alike, Stralman is now viewed as a must-keep player by many fans. Advanced metrics make Stralman look like a true stud, but he’s been a very good second-pairing defender, not necessarily a $5 million a year blueliner. Stralman contributes next to nothing offensively – though some argue that his possession metrics suggest he was a victim of bad luck and believe Stralman actually does far more to help the attack than his point total indicates. Stralman has certainly emerged as a very good defender, but he seems like a guy that was underrated for so long, he’s now overrated. Grade: A-
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Unofficial Conn Smythe winner. Photo: Willens/AP
The Rangers came up short, for the fourth and final time in the Stanley Cup finals on Friday night. Dustin Brown hoisted the Cup for the Kings for the second time in three years and the Rangers are left to think what could have been. Sorry for no goal breakdown today but here’s a few thoughts and reflections on game five and the Rangers in general. Chin up Rangers fans, our team did us proud.
The World’s best: Henrik Lundqvist cannot do more than he did last night or in the entire series. He has emphatically proven he is the best goalie in the world and should have been a Conn Smythe contender even on a losing team.
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Dom Moore: Hugely deserving of a new deal this summer (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI)
The Rangers are within two wins of the fan base going crazy with excitement. With the danger of looking too far ahead, let’s keep it sane and throw up a musings a day early shall we?
So much in sport depends on timing. Success is so often about peaking at the right time. In Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers have the best goalie in the world playing at the very top of his game. A (the?) leading Conn Smythe candidate, the Rangers have a huge advantage when he’s on his game. Right now it’s on fluke deflections that seem to be his undoing.
We’ve discussed it before, but the way he’s elevated his game (even further) in recent weeks it needs saying again; the Rangers have to keep Dominic Moore beyond this season, don’t they? Moore has beyond a strong penalty killer, a great defensive presence and has chipped in with leadership, some offense and filled in admirably for Derick Brassard. He’s a keeper.
Prediction: Ryan McDonagh will win a Norris trophy within the next four years. Not a wild prediction.
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It’s a pretty obvious statement to make but the Rangers’ top defensive pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are critical to the Rangers hopes of progressing to the Conference finals and beyond. Dan Girardi and, particularly Ryan McDonagh, have been inconsistent in this series but a dominant performance from both – in addition to the assumed performance from Henrik Lundqvist – would go a long way in helping the Rangers clinch in Pittsburgh tonight.
The Rangers live and die by their defensive core. McDonagh was a plus one and logged over 26 minutes in the emotional game six victory Sunday and had a goal and assist and almost 27 minutes of ice time in game five. The result? Two huge victories and another game seven for the Rangers to look forward to.
The Rangers are a much tougher proposition when their top pair are on their games and following an indifferent start to the playoffs, McDonagh’s form is trending in the right direction. It has to continue tonight if the Rangers want success. This team can invest in as many offensive players as it wants but their success will always begin and end with players #30, #5 and #27.
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