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Posts tagged: Vinny Prospal

Musing’s Day; Everyone has a deal day

I was going to pen today’s Musings much like Dave did with Dubi last week, as ‘Cally-day’. Then the future Rangers captain went and ruined it all by signing up on Wednesday instead. Anyway, onwards!

My thoughts on the Callahan signing: Obviously he was always coming back and the cap hit is fine. In an ideal world he’s no more than $4m/year but even I won’t argue with $300k difference. Disappointed by the length a little though, although I also understand why it’s not longer. That said, here’s a poser for you: Does Callahan see in his 30th as a Ranger? Will he be too expensive for their liking after 3 years are up? Just a thought….

Get Jealous: Every facet of my Stockholm trip is finally booked. Yours truly will be seeing Henrik in Henrik land and the official debut of the latest greatest Rangers center, Mr B Richards. Good times.

Get Jealous II: A very kind twitter follower/Rangers fan informed me that there is a beer/food festival in Stockholm the same weekend as the Rangers games. Seriously, that weekend couldn’t be more promising!

How you like them apples: I’m making a prediction that the Rangers have three 30 goal scorers next season. Big call as not many teams even get two. I’ll let you think who I’m referring to.

Ex Rangers done good? I’m happy that Vinny ‘the tan’ Prospal landed in a good situation. I liked him as a person and as a player and personally felt he could have still contributed in NY but I also don’t blame the club for moving on. With the right line mates, (Nash and Carter) Vinny could very well hit 55 points next season.

Ex Rangers done not so good? I’m disappointed Nigel Dawes’ career has resorted to a short term deal in the KHL. Hopefully, like many others have, he uses the league (and a good season) as a way back. I always thought he had the tools to be a regular 20 goal scorer in the NHL. He made the Rangers a couple of years too early.

Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Brandon Dubinsky will all be in the 50 point club next year. Given that none of them will be on the top line I think it’s another bold call on my part. They could form to become the best second line in the league. Wow… I’m full of boldness today.

Funny moment: Yesterday a woman came into my bar and told me that I look like Cristiano Ronaldo. I tried not to laugh. My riposte? If he’s fat, un-tanned, and has a team-first ethic I’m your man. Clearly, CLEARLY I look nothing like him. Dave will surely attest! (be nice Dave…)

  • Where do you guys think Brad Richards finishes in league scoring as a first year Ranger?
  • Quick poll: Over/Under on Gaborik’s total games played? I’m going with over 70.
  • Henrik Lundqvist over/under for total wins? I’m going for over 40. For the first time.

Which prospect is likely to be the first call up during the season? I think there are So many genuine candidates it’s impossible to predict and that’s a great thing. The point here: Depth baby, depth.

Not beyond the realms of impossibility: The Rangers AND the Whale making the conference finals.

Rangers I’m most intrigued at seeing in October: Brad Richards (obviously), Tim Erixon (hopefully) and Mats Zuccarello (maybe).

Film time: I recently watched the chick comedy Bridesmaids. Not bad at all but if they remove the fat chick it’s not a funny film. I’m watching Horrible Bosses tonight. Guarantee it’ll be funnier.

Has the Rangers summer arrived – are all their moves made? I think they are done until camp but maybe it depends on who becomes available. Think it also depends what Torts has planned for Dubinsky and Wolski. If he’s happy to begin the year with the two of them as his top left wing pair I think they are definitely done. It might all rest on WoWo.

Prospect Talk; Do you guys think JT Miller (and other NYR prospects) would be better off in college or with Plymouth of the OHL? Personally I like to see prospects play as much as possible if they are physically at an advanced stage already. Miller is apparently in good physical shape for his age so 70+ games in juniors is my preference. Would Miller’s chances at a WJC spot be damaged by heading to the CHL?

And the grandstand finish: Glen Sather is a good general manager.

see you’z all next time.

The Prospal Era Officially Over

Vinny Prospal definitely isn’t coming back as a Ranger. TSN have reported that the now former Ranger has signed in Columbus for one year worth $1.75m.

While Columbus look re-vamped and dangerous (think Nash, Carter, Mason, Wisniewski, Huselius when he gets fit, and now VinnyProspal) they needed to make splashes this off season and are in a spot often, previously associated with the Rangers. What spot is that you ask? Over paying to convince players to play for them. The Rangers often had to entice players using the strength of their cheque book.

Prospal is still a solid player but even at 1.75m is getting a lot more than the Ranger would have considered giving him at this stage of his career while Wisniewski really cashed in when he too signed in Ohio. Not many teams would have taken Jeff Carter’s contract on either but Columbus needed to acrue talent whichever way they could. It seems throwing money around is their new methodology.

The signing of Prospal ends a solid era for the likeable veteran in New York. Many still considered him a solid player and he could have been a cheap addition although the Rangers certainly didn’t need him any longer. The youth movement is fully underway and Prospal simply didn’t fit in with that any more. Hopefully Prospal continues to prove doubters wrong and show that the tank is still not empty. Good luck Vinny, just not against the Rangers.

Free Agency Watch: Simon Gagne

The Rangers are 99.99…..% likely to at least try and seduce Brad Richards into making Madison Square Garden his home from home – should he make the free agency madness that begins July 1st. Whether they get him or not however, the Rangers would be foolish to put all their eggs in one basket and not consider other targets, either as back up plans or as additional talent to compliment both Richards and the impressive young core assembled in New York.

This is one area that many Rangers fans disagree on. Not whether the Rangers should go after Richards but whether they should look to add more talent short term to aid a contender or continue to build patiently and not put everything on black. Can you build patiently and add talent to try and win at the same time? Tampa Bay are looking like a good example this season that suggests you can, and it’s at Tampa Bay we start our Free Agency watch, in regards to players that might interest the Rangers.

Simon Gagne

When fit (words so often heard around Rangers signings…) Simon Gagne is a great goal scorer and has been an elite goal scorer for several years. His career includes four seasons of more than 30 goals and 2 seasons where he eclipsed the 40 mark; for his career Gagne boasts 276 goals in the regular season. Indeed, it seems the only thing that has stopped Gagne being even more successful has been injuries. If you thought Gaborik was injury prone, take a look at Gagne. Yet, despite all those injuries, he still remains enticing. Gagne played in just 63 games this regular season and scored 17 goals and 40 points. In 9 games during these playoffs, the French Canadian has 8 points in 9 games proving he still has point/game talent when fit.

With a young Rangers team lacking in pure skill and goal scoring ability Gagne offers both, in addition to the massive experience he brings to the table (99 playoff games and counting). Gagne will likely hit the market this July for the very reason the Rangers should be cautious to add him; injuries. However it’s mainly for that reason Gagne should come cheap. No longer the genuinely elite winger he was in Philadelphia the 31 year old will not command the big dollars or length of deal he once would. A short, relatively modest deal could work for both sides. Low risk, potentially high reward for the Rangers and a chance to play top line minutes with the likes of Richards and Gaborik in NY are among the benefits for both player and team. Given the depth and youth (as well as a certain elite goalie) in New York, finding a true top line could boost the Rangers into the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference and a line of Gagne – Richards – Gaborik is certainly top line material.

The Rangers are not in win now mode but younger players certainly benefit from entering a franchise that has a winning culture (Detroit being exhibit A). While still integrating the young prospects such as Kreider, Thomas and Hagelin over the next few seasons, the Rangers would benefit from some genuinely successful seasons that featured a few solid playoff runs. Adding some veteran talent such as Gagne – on short deals – can help reach that aim. Will the Rangers make a move for Gagne? Who knows, but Gagne fills many voids in New York and could do so at a modest cost. While Alex Frolov didn’t work out in a similar scenario Vinny Prospal certainly did, proving that rolling the dice on a veteran – under the right conditions – can bring good results.

 

Stay Or Go: Vinny Prospal

Vinny Prospal had a disappointing season only because his season was severely shortened by injury.  He played just 29 games this season, although he was very productive in those games, putting together 23 points (9-14-23) in those 29 games.  In the playoffs, he –along with the rest of the Rangers– pulled a bit of a disappearing act, and finished with just one goal in the five games series against the Caps.

Prospal’s greatest asset to the Rangers is that he has terrific chemistry with Marian Gaborik.  When Prospal returned to the lineup in February, Gaborik went on his first real points streak of the year, and had two more streaks of at least three games following his return.  Prospal is a leader in the locker room, and brings a passion to the ice that is very evident whenever he scores a goal.

Perhaps Prospal’s biggest weakness is his age and recent injury history.  His knee injury was so severe that at one point, he didn’t know if he would be able to play again.  Although he came back just fine, that’s still on everyone’s mind, and it’s not like he’s getting younger.  Also working against Prospal –and what may wind up being the deciding factor in bringing him back– is something completely out of his control.

Since the current CBA expires after next season, there is no bonus cushion for the 2011-2012 season.  The bonus cushion allowed for teams to exceed the cap in bonuses, and have any payouts applied to the following year’s cap.  It’s the reason why the Blackhawks had to trade away half their roster after winning the Cup.  This year, any bonuses granted will count directly against the cap this year.  That single fact may keep Prospal from signing any deal in the NHL, let alone with the Rangers.

Prospal has been a great influence on the kids, and the promise of chemistry with Gaborik is always a plus.  I would want him back for another year, as the locker room presence is much needed for a locker room that is so young.  I wouldn’t bet on him returning though, and it will be sad to see Prospal go.  I wouldn’t be shocked, however, to see Prospal back in camp on a PTO, assuming he doesn’t find a home for next season.

Could the Rangers Look the Same Next Year?

As the Rangers looked to get in to the playoffs down the stretch and now in the playoffs, some of the Rangers best players have been their oldest. These were players deemed not good enough for other teams, even players that didn’t have a team. Ruslan Fedotenko –a try out in camp don’t forget– may have summed up the Rangers work ethos with his spectacular defensive play earlier in this playoff series against the Caps, while Vinny Prospal continues to log big minutes and score important goals. The Rangers should look to bring back both players. Both players –albeit in different ways– lead by example for the Rangers. If it’s not Prospal’s enthusiasm and offense, it’s Fedotenko’s work rate and hunger. Even as the Rangers mature next season these are two players that the younger roster players can still learn from.

Then there’s the forgotten man in New York this year, Michael Del Zotto. A poor start to the season (certainly in comparison to his rookie year) culminated with demotion and injury to cap a miserable 2nd year as a pro for the skilled defenseman.  However barring a spectacular trade offer, Del Zotto will be a Ranger next year – they clearly still value the talented blueliner. On top of the likely return of Del Zotto is the news (rumour?) that the Rangers are considering offering a new deal to Matt Gilroy. Add all this up and do the math – there are a lot of familiar faces that should or could be returning next year.

The one position that will likely see a major change is the top line center. With Brad Richards permanently linked to the Rangers, they appear to have their answer in the Dallas pivot.  But beyond Richards there may be little change on the horizon. That’s not a bad thing, as the free agent market (beyond Richards and goaltending – certainly not a need) is very weak and most of the Rangers prospects would benefit from another year of seasoning. Bringing back this year’s club with Richards as an upgrade is still a very good, competitive (and still young and developing) team. Bringing back Prospal and Fedotenko as the veteran presence every team needs is the right thing to do. Many doubted Prospal’s ability to recover from his long injury but he’s proven (and is still doing so) that there is still a lot left in that overly tanned body of his. Fedotenko is low maintenance and would be cheap – as well as building a team with the right players the finances need to add up and both veterans should fit in to the financial plan.

Obviously there are a few maturing prospects that could make the team (Weise, Grachev, Valentenko) and several others, maybe getting looks in camp (Thomas, Bourque) that will excite and lead calls for another shot of youth next season but Rangers fans shouldn’t be disappointed if next year’s club looks similar to this year’s. A developing team shouldn’t be rushed and this year’s team is showing Rangers fans that there’s a lot to like and a lot to get excited about already adorning red, white and blue.

Prospal, the Evergreen

He was supposed to be out of gas, injured to the point of being irrelevant and maybe to the point where his NHL career was in doubt but since returning from injury Vinny Prospal has proved just why he was such a good acquisition for the Rangers; highlighted by his 2 goal game against the Bruins Monday night. Prospal’s proving why the Rangers should bring him back next season so long as the veteran doesn’t get greedy in the summer.

The Rangers, in the most important part of a transition season have required the veteran leadership and enthusiasm that Prospal brings. It serves as a perfect compliment to the youthful exuberance provided by the likes of Callahan, Dubinsky and Staal. With next year (hopefully) being the next stage of the development from re-build to contender the Rangers will still need some veterans to fill out the roster, add depth and leadership and there is absolutely no reason to look past Prospal once more.  Prospal is needed whether the likes of Chris Kreider are ready or not. There is no substitute for experience providing that experience still comes with production, and in Prospal you get still get both.

Prospal has an impressive 21 points in 27 games since missing the majority of the year through injury. Over a course of a season he’d be on around 63 point pace which is all star calibre at 36 years old. Prospal provides chemistry with whoever he’s paired with, provides positional flexibility either on the wing (or if needed, at center) and is both a power play and even strength threat. Simply put, at this stage Prospal is still a critical element of the Rangers offense.  Only Ryan Callahan has been more prolific since both returned from their respective injuries.

Can Prospal be just as effective next season? Hopefully he wouldn’t need to be as much of a focal point but instead, more of a complimentary scorer and exhibit A of the Rangers depth. With the maturation of Stepan, Anisimov and another year of significance out of Callahan and Dubinsky (not to mention a hopeful return to form from Gaborik) Prospal could be the perfect cap bargain next season. You look at the best teams around the league, the successful teams, and they often have veterans contributing at the most important times of the year. Don’t forget that Prospal has significant playoff experience even if he was not with Tampa as they won the cup. It’s his experience coupled with his personality and ability that makes Prospal a must next year for the Rangers, regardless of the prospects on the horizon.

 

Prospal Shows Veterans Are Indeed Necessary

Last night, the Rangers trailed 3-0, and seemed to be lacking confidence on the ice. They couldn’t seem to keep control of the puck, or get shots on goal against likely Vezina winner Tim Thomas. The crowd is booing, the fans at home are squirming in their seats, and then Vinny Prospal shows up. Prospal carried the Rangers on his back in the second period, and without his two goals to make it a game, we are singing a whole different tune this morning. It was the oldest active Ranger, and one of a handful with a Cup, that took the game by the reigns and said enough is enough.

The Rangers youth in this game was its greatest strength in the third period, but it was also its greatest weakness. Confidence in young players is a roller coaster ride, and the roller coaster last night was at its low point. Veterans know how how a bounce here or there, or one key goal, can really elevate a team, and they push for that. Instead of folding under pressure, or putting his head down, Prospal came thrived, and almost single-handedly kept the Rangers from losing.

A team with all youngsters is doomed to fail because there is no one to learn from. A team comprised of all veterans is doomed to fail because there is no youthful jolt of energy. The perfect mix always consists or core young players, and veterans to fill the holes. That’s what the Rangers have now. Their core is almost entirely home grown, and almost all are under the age of 26. They have key veterans playing key roles on the team, and providing leadership to those young kids that will soon become veterans and be leading this team.

As much as fans say the Rangers need to play the youth –wake up, they are–, there also needs to be a balance of veterans on the team to help the kids deal with pressure, and difficult situations. Last night was no different when Prospal took over the second period. Sunday was no different when Bryan McCabe, 35, launched a rocket from the point with less than a second remaining in the first period to tie the game against the Flyers, or when Ruslan Fedotenko scored to give the Rangers the lead. Veterans are what help the kids get through the jitters of playoff type games, and the playoffs…of which the latter are rapidly approaching.

Rangers Top Line Hot At Right Time

With yesterday’s win over the Penguins, the Rangers made it four wins in a row, and wins in six of their last seven games. While the entire Rangers team has been producing during this run, the top line of Vinny Prospal-Erik Christensen-Marian Gaborik has been one of the teams top scoring lines. Gaborik has five goals and an assist in this time frame, Prospal has two goals and seven assists, and Christensen has two goals and four assists. That’s a total of nine goals and 12 assists for the top line during this run. The fact that this coincides with the Rangers winning streak is no coincidence.

The Rangers have had secondary scoring from their bottom three lines all season, with Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Brian Boyle all over 20 goals; and Derek Stepan (19) and Artem Anisimov (18) both within striking distance. What had been missing from the Rangers is the primary scoring, which is what they are getting in abundance right now. With the top line producing in ways we haven’t seen all season, the rest of the team benefits.

Marian Gaborik will always command top defensive pairings against, but his off-year has led to coaches shifting those top pairings to the Dubinsky-Ansimov-Callahan line. That shift led to a drop-off in production for that line. Now with Gaborik and Prospal producing top line numbers again, coaches once again have to shift their top defenders to face Gaborik. This means lesser quality defensemen for the Pack line. This means more opportunities from the Pack line, and more goals.

What also may be lost in the streak here is that the Rangers are finally starting to convert powerplay opportunities. Of the 21 points for the top line, ten of them have been on the powerplay, including four of the nine goals. Powerplay production sets apart the good from the great, especially in the playoffs. The addition of Bryan McCabe may not have a direct impact on the score sheet, but it is definitely spreading out the opposition’s penalty kill, and leading to more opportunities down low for the forwards, which they are converting.

Assuming the Rangers top line can continue scoring at least a goal per game, and continue with at least a 20% efficiency (8 for their last 23), then the Rangers are going to be a force to be reckoned with come April and May. They may not have enough to make a deep run, but they can definitely play spoiler in the first round, whoever they face.

Rangers Drop Third Straight In Disappointing 3-2 Loss To Rival Devils

The Rangers can talk about the chances and how close they came both at the end of the first and the end of the game, but the reality is this team has blown five prime points in their last three games by getting complacent in their play.  Good teams, playoff teams, beat the teams they are supposed to beat and take every game with a sense of seriousness and urgency to not let inferior teams hang around.  The Rangers have failed to do that in each of the last three games and only have one point as a result.

There is no doubt that on this night the blame starts in net with Henrik Lundqvist.  Fact of the matter is that he simply was not good enough tonight and his coach said so after the game. Those who will seek to use a performance like this to bring up nonsense like Henrik is garbage and the Rangers should trade him are morons and not fans of the team.  Plain and simple it was a bad night and everyone is going to have them.  The key for the Rangers is to hae it stop right here because they are going nowhere without Lundqvist at the top of his game.

If there is a bright spot to take from this game it is clearly the play of Vinny Prospal.  For a guy who has missed the entire season to this point, Vinny played like he was at full speed in this one.  There was some rust, but that was to be expected.  What I did not expect was for Prospal to be able to go through the whole game with the kind of impact he had tonight as for me he was clearly the Rangers best forward in the game.  We will find out tomorrow if the game for Prospal was the adrenaline of being back or it was something he can build on, but on this night he was clearly the positive note.  The celebration after his goal was pure Prospal and the kind of enthusiasm this team could use more of.

Details of the game.

The start was certainly not what the Rangers wanted as just 1:04 into the game Ilya Kovalchuk had his shot deflect off the knee of Michael Sauer and beat Henrik Lundqvist high glove.  The goal while great placement is one of those Henrik would love to have back and he went down way too soon on the play.

A few minutes later Vinny Prospal had a golden chance in front as the puck came right to him, but being rusty he rushed and slide the backhander wide to the far post.  Other than that the Rangers best chances came late in the period, when on the power play they got multiple shots through from the point and Brandon Dubinsky ended up with a wide open net, but he would backhand a shot off the crossbar.

The second period was no better for the Rangers All-Star netminder.  Just over eight minutes into the period Henrik would have a Zubrus shot in the slot trickles through his pads.  Dan Girardi would try to save the puck from going in as he swiped it off the goal line, but it would bounce off Lundqvist’s back and in the net.  The night would end for Henrik after giving up a third goal to Brian Rolston just over 15 minutes into the period.

The Rangers would get one back in the second when Ryan Callahan would score a goal very similar to Kovalchuk’s in which Brodeur went down too early and got beat top corner, short side.  Prospal would get his goal from a bad angle shot 2:11 into the third while the Rangers were on a 5-on-3.  The team would have chances after that, but the combination of bad plays and failure to capitalize on opportunities would leave them a goal short.

It would take another third period comeback to salvage points in this one and for some reason I did not see it happening tonight.  I said before the third that the team would get within one, have chances to tie but like Montreal and Philly fail to ever get it. Unfortunately I was right.  The Rangers will look to rebound from this funky play on Saturday in Montreal, which has been a house of horrors for them.

  • Dubinsky is either really rusty right now or hurt and fighting it as he has horrific finishing the last two games
  • Gaborik had flashes, but still no real results
  • Brian Boyle was as invisible as I can remember this season
  • Michael Del Zotto needs to go down the AHL and stay there NOW
  • Gilroy is in the PP doghouse for some reason

Rangers Getting Good Health News For A Change

As I relayed earlier, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi were both back at practice as expected and both will play tomorrow against the Penguins.

Following the good news of Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Christensen and Vinny Prospal all taking part in a full practice there is even more positive news for the three of them in terms of return dates or at least timetables.

The only one certain at the moment is Vinny Prospal. Vinny is a definitely for Thursday and is apparently only being held until then so that he can get in two more full practices for conditioning purposes.  It is still completely unclear what, if anything, can be expected of Prospal considering his age, the injury and the fact he has not played a game in 10 months.  All of that said, I still expect Prospal to get a shot to play with Gaborik immediately, whether at center or on the wing.

Brandon Dubinsky was back on skates today for the first time since he was taken out of the lineup with a stress fracture in his leg.  Dubinsky took part in hard conditioning skate, rest, and then full practice and was said to be feeling good.  He would rule himself out for tomorrow’s game and that it would depend on how the leg responds in the morning.  Jesse Spector tweeted John Tortorella having similar thoughts on Dubinsky in not ruling him out and that if he is pain free he will likely play.

In terms of Christensen and Fedotenko, Darren Dreger tweeted that EC could be back by Saturday and that Fedotenko could be ready within 10 days.

Amazing how all of these guys could be getting healthy basically all at once.  This is great news for the team and the depth of the club, but also means that roster decisions will need to be made both in terms of lines and who plays/sits.

To remind everyone, here are the lines from earlier

Avery-Anisimov-Gaborik
Wolski-Stepan-Callahan
Zuccarello-Boyle-Prust
Grachev-Newbury-Drury

My thoughts on these lines can be found in that same article linked at the top.

If Dubinsky plays these lines will likely change with Avery being the obvious candidate to move down to the fourth line and Grachev sits out.  There could be other shuffling going on with the top three lines depending on if coach Tortorella wants to put Callahan and Dubinsky back together or even reunite the full line of Dubinsky, Anisimov and Callahan.

The only other lineup spot that is not sure is on defense as coach Tortorella would not rule out playing Michael Del Zotto tomorrow despite the fact that Dan Girardi will play.  This would mean someone else would sit, but there will be more on that tomorrow.