Great news this morning as Rick Nash is on the ice for practice, per Pat Leonard. Nash is also in a contact jersey
, which hopefully means he will be playing tonight. Leonard also noted that Ryan McDonagh is not on the ice this morning, and neither is Marc Staal. Staal is probably just off for maintenance, but McDonagh is likely still feeling the effects of that Max Pacioretty hit that didn’t warrant a suspension.
Even though McDonagh isn’t out there, let’s focus on the good news that Nash is back.
No, Girardi and Staal are not brothers. They are elite defensemen.
The Rangers may have leaked goals in bunches at times this year and may have been, at best ‘rusty and inconsistent’, to begin the year. That said, the Rangers blueline – at least the top end – has been at the very heart of why the Rangers are back on the winning trail. With Dan Girardi and Marc Staal leading the way (and Ryan McDonagh getting back to previous form) do the Rangers have a Norris trophy candidate?
In a shortened season points surely can’t be the sole measuring stick of a Norris candidate, and if the best defenseman award goes to, well, the best defenseman then the Rangers could be in the mix for the award. With Erik Karlsson unfortunately out for the season due to a nasty injury and Nicklas Lidstrom working on his golf handicap, two of the main front runners are no longer in the running. With Shea Weber playing beneath the level of hockey we have been accustomed to – missing Ryan Suter by any chance? – there’s certainly an opening for a new winner.
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Do you own a pair of skates? Give Glen a call, you could be of help!
Yesterday we discussed how the Rangers may eventually look outside of the organisation for help on the blueline. Unless you think Stu Bickel, Matt Gilroy or Steve Eminger are the answer then it’s perhaps inevitable that the Rangers are on the lookout. Of course, this is assuming team brass do not want Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh on the ice every other shift. So, with other teams such as the Red Wings signing viable alternatives such as Kent Huskins already, who’s still out there that could help?
The Rangers decision to bring in another defenseman will depend on what the Rangers want from their last pair. The options from either a free agent or trade perspective are limited, but there are some intriguing options, both defensive and offensively.
From the unemployed pool, Campoli would likely be the most expensive, but at this stage of an abbreviated season, anyone looking for work isn’t likely to make dollars a major stumbling block. The former Islander has likely plenty of gas left in the tank, but has been injury plagued in recent times. What makes him appealing for the Rangers is that he only costs dollars. Given the issues with moving the puck out of the zone, Campoli could help given that he’s a solid puck mover. If it’s offense and mobility the Rangers are after, then Campoli is the best of the rest at this stage.
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There’ll be plenty of celebration this season, despite the slow start
Here’s an interesting statistic I read after the Pittsburgh loss: The Rangers will play their 48 games in 99 days. Last year they played their final 48 games in 100 days. Basically there is no great concern or big deal to be made of the compressed schedule. There will also be sufficient practice time.
The Rangers managed to win the Atlantic Division last year and came mighty close to winning the President’s Trophy. How they achieved last year’s success was on the back of a stingy, hard working defense providing Lundqvist with the platform to play to his Vezina winning standards. They also evidenced in the second half of last year an ability to adjust to their opponents styles – something that practice time will help achieve.
This season – all two games of it – the defense has been awful. Poor coverage, players guilty of chasing the puck and not remembering their positional duties and poor zone exits, not to mention a poor first pass; the defense has done precious little right thus far. That said, look at the players that make up the Rangers blueline. Marc Staal can still be forgiven for needing a few more games to get back up to his best but is a quality defenseman, particularly in his own zone.
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We know Ryan McDonagh is back in the US and we know Carl Hagelin has terminated his deal with his hometown team back in Sweden. We also know Rick Nash has had his own injury issues despite scoring at an impressive rate in Switzerland. It goes without saying that the NHL is the best league in the world when they’re actually playing hockey. So why then are so many Rangers players struggling to adapt to playing in inferior leagues with inferior players?
Rick Nash aside, and perhaps Hagelin – although in Sweden’s second tier, don’t forget – no Ranger has exactly set the world alight in Europe thus far. In one way it’s hard to be overly critical. After all with little practice time, familiarisation to their clubs, their leagues’ playing style and teammates and a lack of long term perspective (given the short term deals struck with clubs) there isn’t a great basis for success for players heading to Europe.
Again, to be fair it’s not just Rangers players that have failed to make a significant impact. For example Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t exactly got his game back on track in the KHL, Evander Kane suffered a torrid time in Russia while Max Paciorettey had a miserable time in Europe and came back at the first opportunity following a somewhat bitter divorce with his Euro employers.
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Per Andrey Osadchenko, who covers the KHL, Ryan McDonagh is on his way home, as he has been granted a leave of absence from Barys to deal with personal issues and an injury. Pat Leonard has additional information, noting that the injury is not believed to be serious.
McDonagh would be the third Rangers roster player to suffer a minor injury while playing overseas. Rick Nash suffered a shoulder injury in September, missing a little more than a week with Davos in Switzerland. Carl Hagelin also suffered a shoulder injury a month after Nash. While Hagelin’s injury was also minor, it led to the termination of his deal with Södertälje SK in the second-tier Swedish league HockeyAllsvenskan (s/t to surlysailor for the info/link).
Last night, Ryan McDonagh made his KHL debut for Barys Astana, notching some significant ice time and finishing the 5-1 victory with a +1 rating. Some names that you might notice that are playing with McDonagh on Barys: Nik Antropov, Brandon Bochenski, Dustin Boyes, Nigel Dawes, Victor Hedman, and Andrew Hutchinson. Not exactly a lineup lacking in NHL and/or North American players.
Carl Hagelin also continued his great play in Allsvenskan, notching a goal and an assist in Södertälje SK 5-1 win. That update comes courtesy of Bill Meltzer, who has been doing a great job of tweeting updates from all around Europe and Russia. Definitely give him a follow, as he gives updates on leagues, like Hagelin’s Allsvenskan, that we find it difficult to locate game stats.
As per Pat Leonard, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh has signed with HC Barys of the KHL. Per Laurie Carr, McDonagh will join former Rangers Nigel Dawes and Nik Antropov with Barys, as well as former Connecticut Whale captain Andrew Hutchinson and Tampa Bay Lighting defenseman Victor Hedman.
McDonagh is the third Ranger to bolt overseas for hockey, joining Rick Nash (HC Davos – Switzerland) and Carl Hagelin (Sodertalje SK – Sweden).
One of the keys to remaining an elite franchise in the NHL – or any sports league for that matter – is the ability to continually evolve, integrate players, coaches and systems and build a solid foundation on which a club grows. In the NHL, the best example in recent times has been the Detroit Red Wings.
Despite never enjoying the benefit of lottery draft picks, the Wings found ways to win Stanley Cups and be a consistent contender thanks to routinely excellent decision making and timely roster management. They are in many ways the model NHL franchise.
The Rangers have begun to show the same traits as the Red Wings over the past few years and it is therefore no coincidence that the Rangers boast a quality prospect pipeline, have their most successful season in recent memory just behind them and a bright future ahead of them. The Rangers however, need to continue with their evolution to remain successful and it is this reason why the club should seriously consider moving Marc Staal.
There are many reasons Staal is a ‘keeper’. There may however be more reasons to trade him. No one foresaw the rapid development of Ryan McDonagh. The young Ranger is arguably already the best defenseman on the team; is a future perennial All Star and has a more rounded game than Staal. With Dan Girardi and Mike Del Zotto fixtures on the blueline going forward and the likes of Mike Sauer and Dylan McIlrath in the mix the Rangers can afford to move Staal if the return is favourable.
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Despite it being the dog days of the summer for the pros there has still been some important hockey played by some of the Rangers most prized prospects. Steve Fogarty, Brady Skjei and JT Miller have been attending the initial US world juniors’ evaluation camp over the last week and all three have performed well. Chris Peters of the excellent United States of Hockey website (a blog dedicated to US hockey) has been following the camp and has been kind enough to give us some updates on all three Rangers representatives.
Chris has been monitoring the US evaluation camp closely and what follows is some insight on each of the Rangers prospects, how they performed to date and offered some opinion as to their NHL futures.
This is what Chris had to say about college bound Steve Fogarty:
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