DefenseInjuriesOffseasonState of the Rangers

The enormous impact of Michael Sauer’s potential return

Recent reports from radio color commentator Dave Maloney and from Jess Rubenstein at The Prospect Park that Michael Sauer has made “tremendous progress” have added to what has been a spectacular late-July for the New York Rangers.

Though Tim Erixon was a necessary piece to acquire Rick Nash, trading him left the Blueshirts woefully thin on the blueline.  The top-four of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto rates among the best in the league, but after them New York was left with only Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel.

Bickel was a decent fill-in for the Rangers, but it became very clear that Coach John Tortorella just didn’t trust him in big situations.  As a seventh defenseman Bickel would be tolerable, but there’s simply no way New York would have been willing to pencil him into the top-six heading into the fall.

However, it now seems that Sauer, who 18 months ago was the third-best defenseman on the club and a critical piece of the puzzle, may indeed have a shot at resuming his career in New York at the start of the season.

As we learned with Staal, it’s still unwise to bank on steady concussion recovery, but if all goes well then Sauer could have enough time to recover and condition by October (or later if there’s a lockout).

It still seems probable that the Blueshirts will add another NHL-worthy defenseman prior to the start of training camp.  Last year, New York has as many as 11 blueliners that had a reasonable chance of earning a roster spot on Broadway (McDonagh, Girardi, Staal, Del Zotto, Sauer, Bickel, Erixon, Steve Eminger, Brendan Bell, Tomas Kundratek and Pavel Valentenko).

This year, you could really only make the case for seven, if you include Sauer.

But perhaps the recent positive reports regarding Sauer’s health mean that the Rangers will only be looking for a decent short-term substitute as opposed to investing in a long-term replacement.  If Sauer can return to his previous level of play, it will make New York’s defense three pairs deep and unquestionably the best unit in the league.

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  1. If Sauer’s condition hadn’t improved to the point that management felt comfortable, the trade of Tim Erixon would have never been made!

    Say what you may, but Stu Bickel did a good job for the most part last year, and if push turns to shove, I would have him in there again, and feel comfortable enough with his defensive play. He can also fill in as a forward in case of injuries, so Stu would make the perfect 7th d-man on this team.

    As for Sauer, first of all, let’s hope he is healthy, because head injuries can be major issues long term. If healthy, Sauer could play on the third pair, build his strength slowly, and hopefully his injuries are far behind him. We would have three very good d-pairs, with Hank back there, I would not want to have to try and score on us. Sauer, along with Girardi, and Staal would be great shut down, stay at home guys, with MDZ, McD, and Strahlman as our offensive d-men, I like that line up big time!!!!!

    1. I think Walt has summed it up nicely. The pairs are good, probably better than good. I just would like to see their play improve on the PP. It may be coaching or the system as I do think they are capable.

      1. Well said. Don’t forget DZ had over 40 pts last year I believe in his 2nd full pro season 4 less than Suter. He is only getting better with a high ceiling. Nash will open up lanes for DZ in the point. I would love leetch to be involved to help the PP.

    2. While I agree that Stu is a very good player, and only a rookie last year, so he’ll almost definitely improve on that, I have to strongly disagree with one of Walt’s points. Walt, I assure, the health of Michael Sauer had NOTHING to do with trading for Rick Nash. Sather knew he was deep at D, knew he could get a solid vet if necessary, Tim Erixon was going for Nash whether Sauer healthy or not. Just because he’s made great progress recently doesn’t mean management has any clue what kind of player he’ll be in 2012-2013. The Nash deal was getting done, period. As for the writer saying that the Erixon trade left us “woefully thin” on the blueline, that’s a beyond ridiculous statement. Other teams would literally assassinate you to have that kind of top 4, Erixon wasn’t even on the team last year, they basically have the same 6 that went to the Eastern Conference Finals, maybe minus Eminger. Woefully thin, seriously? It’s already one of the best, if not THE BEST, D in all of hockey, even if Sauer never touches the ice. Ask the Flyers if they want to trade D’s, see what they say.

  2. I’m a fairly recent Ranger fan for a guy my age (67) – only fell in love back in ’79. This year was one of the funnest of my time bleeding Ranger Blue. Next year I believe will be even better. JUST WANT YOU ALL TO KNOW THAT THIS BLOG ROCKS!! You have added so much knowledge to my limited hockey sense. THANK YOU!
    I am going to miss Dubi and AA, but am looking forward to this dawning new era. Was looking forward to Erixon , and am hoping along with you all that Sauer gets healthy, but I’ve changed my mind about Sather and have confidence that we’ll go into the season with 6 studs on D.

  3. I think Sauer will play next year, but it won’t be at the start of the season, most likely not ’til after Gaborik returns. We definitely don’t need to re-sign Eminger, obviously Torts made it clear that he prefers Bickel over him. I think we definitely need to add somebody on D.

    1. Don’t kid. This keeps me up at night. I worry that somehow the new CBA will make us carry his cap hit. He might actually have to play in NHL. I pray this never happens.

      I’m forced to root for Donald Fehr in the CBA, I feel dirty.

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