It’s time for the kids to step up

Probably the most ready (Photo: Blueshirts United)
Probably the most ready (Photo: Blueshirts United)

It doesn’t matter if you liked what happened on Tuesday or hated what happened on Tuesday. We are all Ranger fans, and we will all cheer for the team. What we can all agree on, based solely on numbers, is that some of the kids in Hartford are going to need to step up and take a roster spot. When I say numbers, I mean this:

In: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka (AHL: Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick, Chris Mueller, Chris Bourque, Cedrick Desjardins)
Out: Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk

Seven NHL players left the Rangers on July 1, and only three came back. The defense was more or less a one-for-one swap, with Boyle replacing Stralman and Kostka replacing Diaz (Falk I consider to be a #8 defenseman at this point). So, barring any trades, the Rangers are pretty much done with the defense. It is also unlikely we see Dylan McIlrath or Conor Allen on Broadway this year. The roster numbers just don’t work.

As for the forwards, one forward came in and four left via free agency. If you assume Glass takes Boyle’s spot on Dominic Moore’s left, that leaves two RW spots open for competition (or a 3LW and 4RW, as Mats Zuccarello can play both sides), and a 2C/3C. There are really only three names that come to mind when it comes to kids on the cusp: J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg.

Miller we know all too well. He’s got some great “grit” and “determination,” but he’s tire fire away from the puck. That’s nothing to worry about, as he’s just 21 years of age. Chris Kreider struggled mightily without the puck, but he put it all together this season to become a mainstay on the first line. Miller doesn’t have first line potential like Kreider, but he has middle-six potential if he can find a way to play competent hockey in his own end. He can play center and wing, giving the Rangers some options if he earns his spot.

The problem with Miller is that, based on the way Alain Vigneault deploys his fourth line (in the defensive zone), he’s miscast as a fourth liner. That’s not a bad thing, he just doesn’t excel in the defensive aspect of the game. AV can use him on the third line in a scoring role, but only if he proves that he has moved beyond his unmitigated disaster in the DZ days.

Lindberg is a bit of an unknown at the NHL level. But we know three things about the young Swede: He’s great on face offs, he’s great defensively, and he’s mobile. He had a big offensive outburst in his final season in Sweden, but scouts say that his offense won’t necessarily transfer over to the NHL. He put up 18-26-44 last season with Hartford though, so he obviously has some offensive touch. If he’s used on an AV fourth line, expect him to get a boatload of DZ starts with Moore.

Fast is probably the most NHL ready. He didn’t look out of place when he made the team out of camp last September. He didn’t look out of place when he played in the playoffs briefly. He’s my lock for the team next year. Of course, we all thought Kreider was a lock out of camp last September, but he was cut before forcing his way back on the roster. So what do I know anyway?

There are some dark horses: Ryan Bourque has been getting review ranging from NHL-ready to AHLer for life. Danny Kristo can figure out how to play defense (he’s worse than Miller in the DZ, and that’s being kind). Anthony Duclair has unreal skill and speed. There are always the undrafted UFAs (Mat Bodie, Ryan Haggerty, etc), but those are more likely to turn out like Matt Gilroy than Dan Girardi.

No matter which way you look at it, the cap crunch has forced the Rangers to look within to fill some significant holes on the roster. The positive side to the kids is that they are cheap and have the potential to be productive. Then again, potential is a very important word. Competition breeds improvement, and right now the kids have no competition.

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  • The Kings were pleasantly surprised by the two kids that played with Jeff Carter. Maybe that will happen to the Rangers too.

    • Your right Sally, and that’s because they were hungrey!!

      I’m for the young players, they have something to prove, and therefore play their hearts out. The older farts have no hunger, and on too many occasions they go thru the motions. Give me a kid, they are exciting, and want to stay with the parent club!!

      Next season the key player will be Lindberg, who is solid two ways, and has some good speed. He will force management to play him, I’ll bet on it….

      • We won’t know until they try it???????

        The biggest problem with New York is the need for a marquee name, and we always tend to over pay for them!!

        Lindros, Fluery, Druery, Gomez, Richards, Gaborik, MSL, Nash, are examples of what I’m talking about. We tend to trade kids who turn out to be stars in the long term, ( Amantie, Weight, Zubov ) are examples!!

        • For sure. Infusion of youth is key to any successful team. But you said it in your previous post, they should be put in a position to force management to play them, not given jobs because there isn’t enough depth.

        • I understand where you’re coming from, but saying we traded those kids for those names you mentioned doesn’t make sense. Amonte and Weight were traded for pieces that won a Cup. The Zubov deal was stupid. But none were made by Slats.

          All except MSL and Nash were UFA signings. Gomez turned into McDonagh. Nash was a deal you needed to make, same with MSL.

          I get the point you’re trying to make, but other than Dubi, which player do you really want back from those trades?

          • I wouldn’t mind having Artie back. I think he’d excel i AV’s system. To me, he’s like a much better and defensively sound Pouliot.

          • Agreed. Other than his defensive skill set, Artie’s real abilities were subdued in Torts’ system.

          • That was probably the only issue I had with Torts when he was here: His fourth line was his “spare parts that he didn’t like.”

          • Artie center the second line between Cally and Dubi a lot more than he played fourth line minutes.

          • Dave

            I’m not pinning the trades of those players on Slats at all. The point is we have always gone after big names, and more times than not, they were duds! The only reason they went after them were their names, thinking that it would draw in the fans, not careing that they were over the hill.

  • As currently there is no other choice, these kids need to be given guidance and some latitude in their play. I was a bit miffed that the Islanders signed Grabovski, as I thought he could have filled in nicely at center somewhere, allowing the kids a little more room to learn.

    AV seems to be a bit more patient than previous coaches, so lets cross our fingers and hope for the best.

  • I am willing to bet dollars to donuts, this is not the roster going into training camp. They will get at least one more NHL player.

    • I think adding another NHLer is in the cards, it may be a reclamation project NHLer, but competition at camp is a very good thing.

      • Once the RFAs are signed there should still be about $3M in cap space left. The problem is there aren’t many middle-six caliber centers left out there.

        David Legwand, Derek Roy or Mike Santorelli would all be nice fits but they may want too much money. After that you get into guys who are really fourth liners, Steve Ott, Zenon Konopka, Adam Hall or Busted prospects like Zac Dalpe or Andrei Loktionov. This Scott Gomez guy is out there as well.

        • I know this isn’t a positive name around here, but I would like somehow to get Danny Heatly in here. He may need a fresh start and something to prove. At his worst, he could be on the side, but his upside has quite a ceiling.

          I also think Slats needs some room to get Zucc, Kreider and Brass under contract. The NHL player can only get whats left.

  • I like the idea of playing Lindberg on the 4th line wing because he is a good defensive player & I think he could chip in with a few goals.

    • I like it, too, but I don’t think he’s destined to be a fourth liner, and it would be a shame to see him get stuck in that role.

        • Dave, I’m starting to get it in my head that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. The kid put in 18 goals and 25 assists in his first year the AHL. He’s got like checking line written all-over him, and you want to pencil him in to a fourth line spot?

          Artie was doghouses to fourth line his rookie year, then his sophomore season he centered the teams best line. The point is, you don’t bury young talent on the fourth line.

          • Playing on the fourth line isn’t an insult. AV uses his fourth line as the checking/shutdown line. That’s a role best suited for Lindberg.

      • He’s a better fit on the 4th line than JT Miller. Lindberg’s game is based on solid 2 way play, which suits AV’s 4th line better than Miller, who is more of an offensive threat, but needs work in his own zone.

    • He and Moore become somewhat redundant on the 4th line, though. Sort of a waste of faceoff prowess if one is on the wing.

      Someone is needed to anchor St Louis and Hagelin. Right now, those options are Moore, Lindberg or Miller.

      Miller seems a better fit on the wing (less defensive responsibilities) so he’s the logical Pouliot replacement.

      That leaves Moore or Lindberg as the middle-6 C between Hags/MSL.

      Moore filled in there nicely in the playoffs when injuries forced AV’s hand, but Lindberg has more offensive upside.

      • Again, multiple scouts have said Lindberg’s offense won’t translate to the NHL. He was a 40 point guy this year in the AHL.

          • I rely on scouts, they are more in tune with this stuff than I am. Plus, before his offensive outburst in his final SHL year, he was always destined for a fourth line role.

        • So, you see him as a perennial 4th line center? That’s a drastic dose of reality, considering all the hype surrounding him these past several years. He put up a line of 17-25-42 in 55 games with Skelleftea in 2012-13 (the SEL is a notoriously defensive league), and then followed up that campaign with 18-26-44 in 78 games with Hartford, his first experience with North American play.

          By all accounts I’ve heard, he’s a 3rd line C, good on faceoffs, defensively responsible, good playmaking and hockey IQ, who can net 40 points or so.

  • Haggerty and Kristo along with fast will get real good looks for the RW position. Haggerty is quite interesting and the one I will keep my eye out on. We need righted handed shots on our roster. There is a glaring problem there. Currently Stepan is our only righty.

    • Considering Sather sacrificed a year on his ELC to sign him, they must see something in him, so maybe he could find a spot on the roster come camp.

      • I think we bring in an NHL calibre player or two to NOT allow that to happen. Let all these guys earn their way on. There are spots for them if they show they deserve them, but penciling them in at this point may not be the best approach.

          • What is Fast’s upside? He’s never been a scorer wherever he’s played. What’s his role?

          • I’m curious as well, where do you play Fast?

            He’s speedy and mobile, good puck-handling, positionally sound and defensively responsible. He’s also quite small.

            I guess he’s a 4th liner, too. But not the grinding, physical type that thrives in the NHL.

      • How come everyone forgets about Marek Hrivik?!?!? In my eyes, from what I saw in last years training camp leading into pre-season, Marek Hrivik was just as impressive to me as Fast or Kristo. So he didn’t light it up on the Wolfpack this year but the kid can skate, shoot and hit!

  • JT Miller has the potential to become more then a 3Rd line player. The kid can score goals. He had proven it in junior, world cup junior and the AhL. I think the assertion that he is a poor defensive player is overdone. Jesper Fast is a great skater and student of the game, but hasnt yet shown any sign of offence. I think we will see conner allen get some games this year as he stepped up and played very well last year. Mciirath has fallen down the depth chart and since he doesn’t fit into av system the rangers are better off moving him. Lindberg had put up great numbers looking forward to seeing what he can the same with kristo and borque.

  • This reminds me of Chicago after they won their first cup.

    Remember they traded away a few players and had to get rid of a lot of those pieces that helped them win because they were in a cap crunch. Over the past 3-4 years, they’ve plugged in young guys (who were not high draft picks by any means) and added a few vets for cheap here and there and they’ve won another cup and is a force to be reckoned with year in, year out because they kept their core together (Kane, Toews, Hossa, Seabrook, Keith).

    We are doing the same thing because we’re keeping our core together (Hank, McD, Hagelin, Nash, Girardi, Stepan, Kreider). Like the post states … it is time for the kids to step up, like they did in Chicago. As the season progressed, AV really grew on me and I think he will put the kids in the best position to win if that is who we have out there.

    If we had this offseason with Torts, I’d be sh%$*$ my pants because I wouldn’t feel confident that he would get the most out of the lineup. There will be growing pains and we will be upset at times this season but they have to learn at some point.

    Let’s Go Rangers!

    (I also think Mcilrath will get a couple more looks with injuries this year and I’m excited to see how he handles himself)

  • The Rangers are definitely not done at this point. Assuming they sign the seven RFAs, they will have 46 players on the 50 man roster, not unreasonable. However, specifically they will have 23 forwards, 18 defensemen, and 5 goalies. Typically you have twice as many forwards as defensemen. With Graves still in juniors (but also Duclair) and Anderson in Europe, some imbalance is reasonable, but not this much.

    Maybe a Klein trade???? Or maybe trade McIlraith.

  • Considering the available UFAs still on the market (Heatley, Legwand, Ribiero, etc, we’re probably not able to land any center worth the money that we can actually come up with ($2-4 million available after signing our own RFAs). Unfortunately filling our biggest hole is a pipedream at the moment.

    With that said, we still need a legitimate replacement for Pouliot, thus creating competition for the youngsters and allowing Miller some flexibility to fill other holes as needed).

    So, any interest in Devin Setoguchi?

    He’s a RH winger, only 27 years old. He has seasons of 31-34-65 in 82 games, 20-16-36 in 70 games, 22-19-41 in 72 games, and 19-17-36 in 69 games. He seems to be Pouliotesque, and could be had for $2 million likely for a 1-year try-out.

  • Ay some point you gotta push your kids in the pool to see if they can swim.

    And help them get better along the way.

    At this point the only thing that can help them is to play on the big stage.

    • And can you imagine how wide eyed, and anxious they would be to be part of the “big club” that was just in the finals? You know that there gonna be hungry and make sure to put there best foot forward to make the team.

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