Posts tagged: Scott Gomez

His First Day

So what does Tortorella get today when he comes to practice? Tortorella gets a team that is in free fall, a team that is 2-7-3 in their last 12. He gets a team that is currently 6th in the East with 69 points, but just 2 points out of 9th, and 4 points out of 10th.

He gets a team that is 29th in the league in scoring, at 2.33 G/G (Nashville is last). He gets a powerplay that has been god awful at 13.8%, good for 28th in the league. In short, Tortorella gets a team that relies on holding their opponent to 1 goal a game.

Tortorella is the exact opposite of Tom Renney. He is an in your face guy, and most importantly, will hold the high priced guys accountable for terrible play. It looks like the high priced guys knew this was coming, because Gomez and Drury have been playing well lately, and Rozsival and Redden have been better. Yes, Redden has been better. He still cracks a little bit under a rush, but his first passes have been solid.

Torts is a “safe is death” guy. So expect a lot more scoring chances, at the expense of defense. I say chances because we never know if this team can actually finish. Hank will have a little bit more of a workload as a result, but that shouldn’t really worry or surprise anyone.

The powerplay should also look a lot better. Torts will get in Rozsival’s and Redden’s faces about shooting more. We may actually see Marc Staal on the powerplay, which will make all of us very happy.

Basically, expect to see the Rangers evolve into a different type of team. They will attempt to play an up tempo game. Torts was the best hire that Sather could have made.

A few side notes from the Torts hiring:

  • Torts does not like Avery. Do not expect him back with the Rangers any time soon.
  • Torts is not the savior of this team. It is still a very flawed team built by a flawed GM. Sather should be praised for this move, and the Zherdev move. But his signings have been ridiculous.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of having Schoenfeld behind the bench as an assistant. He knows this current team better than anyone within the organization, and will help Torts get acquainted.
  • Expect a transition period. The Rangers will be going from a defensive system to an offensive system, and there will be some collateral damage. Expect them to make some glaring mistakes while they adjust.

Who knows what Torts will do. Maybe he reads this blog and knows that we want Prucha in the lineup in lieu of Voros. I can only hope.

What About Columbus?

It is no surprise to anyone that the Rangers have a glut of centers. They have four on the roster, with two knocking on the door. Assuming the Rangers resign Betts and no one offers Dubi an outrageous offer sheet, they will have 6 centers for the foreseeable future.

Columbus GM Scott Howson confirmed on Toronto’s Fan590 that his team has interest in acquiring a center, and will be buyers at the deadline. It is safe to assume that their first choices would be players that don’t have long term contracts, such as Nik Antropov. However, and I’m just being an irresponsible rumor mongorer here, they have the cap room to absorb the cap hit of a higher priced center, like Scott Gomez, and still be able to resign their key free agents.

While I don’t think Gomez is going anywhere, it’s still fun to talk about. Thoughts?

SEAN SEAN….GET IN THERE SEAN!!!!

So today is the day Sean Avery presumably clears waivers and will be assigned to an AHL affiliate of some sort.  As you all know, the Wolfpack seem to be the front (and only) runners to pick-up the agitator, which will begin the chain of events that may ultimately end in #16 returning to the Big Club.  While my colleague David is mainly opposed to this, I could not be more in favor of this move.  My man-crush for Sean Avery and his legend aside, it is a necessary move for THIS team THIS season.  Here’s how it could work, and here’s why it has to work:

1. There have been few cold-hard undeniable facts for these Rangers in the post-lockout era.  These include (but are not limited to): a) Henrik Lundqvist being a top-5 goaltender in the league b) Tom Renney sacrificing offense for defense 99% of the time c) the Rangers are a better team with Sean Avery in their lineup.  The statistics do not lie: with Avery in the lineup, the Rangers are 51-23-16.  Without him, they are 8-10-3, not to mention the Rangers missing that extra “something.”  Just watch a game this season and you will know what I’m talking about.

2.  The Rangers do not have to resign all those players previously mentioned.  If this season has proved anything, its that the majority of Rangers are expendable (Scott Gomez and Chris Drury trade rumors anyone).  The only members of the group previously mentioned that must be re-signed are Big Z, Dubie, Staal, and Girardi.  While I like Dawes, Korpo, and Cally, you can find another other young player in the farm-system to come in and play their role.

3.  The Rangers would only be on the take for half of Avery’s salary, roughly $2 million per year.  When you consider this is only a minor raise from what he was initially getting with the Rangers and a cut from what they wanted to give him in the offseason, its an acceptable number.  If the Rangers choose to re-negotiate his contract, either for less years or less money, they have a distinct negotiating advantage.  Not many teams will take Avery at this point, and he probably realizes that and history shows this can be a productive marriage.  Put whatever clauses and incentives you want into the contract.  They will have the upper-hand in any contract talk they engage in.  So saving money against the cap won’t necessarily be that difficult.  They can also unload either Redden or Roszival in this deal.  While their contracts are long and fat, that’s the price you must pay for giving top-tier money for 2 players that are obviously not top-tier and bring very little to the team.  Those contracts are going to haunt the Rangers one way or another; better haunt them in an effort to make the team genuinely better.  Also, the salary cap will predictably go up, so the value of Avery’s cap hit will be decreased.

4.  The Rangers are vanilla.  As evidenced on Friday night, nobody respects this team.  You can do whatever you wish to them, and will pay virtually no consequences.  Say what you want about Avery in the locker room, but he always came to his teammate’s defense on the ice, and as an opponent, you probably always thought twice about engaging in something with one of the Rangers for plain-old fear of what Avery might say or do to you.  And if he has made the progress in his rehab everybody says he’s making, he will learn to channel his tactics in a productive manner.  He has also hopefully learn from the past mistakes he made in NY.

5.  Avery has skills.  He has better than average speed, a quick release, is tough and gritty, and can throw off a opposing team’s star player on any given night (see Brodeur, Martin; Kovalchuk, Ilya).  Enough of this Aaron Voros “poor-man’s Sean Avery” garbage and just go get the real thing.  He also puts it on the line every single night, evidenced by playing the majority of a playoff game with a lacerated spleen.  I work in medicine, and that is something that can kill you.

6. Fans (myself immensely included) love this guy.  Since the lockout, you can count on one hand the number of players that get their name chanted during a game at the Garden: Henrik, Shanny, whoever is getting their jersey retired that year, and Avery.  Maybe I’m missing a name here or there, but you get my drift.

What happened?

Believe it or not, the turning point of last night’s game was not in the 3rd period when the Rangers looked more like a high school team. It was actually the end of the 2nd period, when Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 18 shots that he faced in that period. That must have deflated the Rangers, and maybe got their tempers boiling that they couldn’t solve him. Talking about that abysmal 3rd period is beating the proverbial dead horse, but this goes back to a post earlier, stating that the Rangers must play 60 minutes of consistent hockey to do well in the second half of the year. They clearly didn’t do that last night.

It looks as if Marc-Andre Fleury has found his game after numerous injuries and inconsistent play. That’s horrible news for the Rangers, and great news for the Pens, who expect Sergei Gonchar back in late February. They will be a very scary team down the stretch, luckily the Rangers don’t see them until March 28 (my birthday, buy me something nice). You can expect half of the playoff teams to again come from the Atlantic division.

And speaking of inconsistent goaltending, what happened to Hank? There seem to be a lot more of these lopsided losses this year. Maybe he’s burned out a little bit? He, like Scott Gomez, is a second half player, so let’s hope this is just another blip on the radar.

Special teams aren’t so special

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.

Mike Axisa writes for River Ave. Blues and can be reached here.

Renney: “Brain dead hockey”

After another uninspired and rather dreadful effort last night, Tom Renney laid into his squad. Via Sam Weinman:

“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.

Mike Axisa writes for River Ave. Blues and can be reached here.

The Odd Joys of Even

It’s amazing how much we as fans rejoice when we see that players are on the plus side of the +/-stat. Nick Lidstrom has been hovering around +182,000 for his career, and he’s going down as one of top defensemen of all time.

The Rangers as a team are -75. This, unlike Nick Lidstrom’s +182,000 above, is not an exaggeration. The Rangers are really -75 this season, with four, count em (Staal, Zherdev, Dawes, Betts), four players on the positive side. Let that sink in for a while….

Ok. Now that you have at least spent some time, probably about one second, thinking about that, let’s break it down further. Who’s the worst culprit?

Do I really need to answer that?

Dmitri Kalinin, whipping boy around these parts, is an astonishing -16 (see: Kalinin Count) with no goals and six assists all season. I have a higher tolerance for an abysmal +/- if the player is at least producing or has been injured (see: Rozsival, Michael).

So what can you do with Kalinin? Trade him? Fat chance. No one wants to pay $2.1 million for the 766th best +/- in the NHL (out of 769). Waiving him is the best option. Send him to Hartford, maybe he can remember how to play defense again. Let Potter replace him permanetly. It will save cap room, and provide a more stable defensive corps. I like to call that two birds, one stone.

It actually makes you wonder why Sather signed and overpaid for the Sabres reject.

Kalinin isn’t the sole offender in atrocious +/-, the other negative double digit offenders are Rozsival (-11) and Gomez (-10). In Gomer’s case, he was -7 for two games in a row. Eliminate those games, he’s a -3, which is what you expect from Gomez. As for Rozsival, refer to two paragraphs above.

Back to Kalinin, I understand that Renney wants to show confidence in his players. But enough is enough. Let Kalinin go. Please. We will do anything for a replacement that is just even.