After a tremendous stretch of hockey going all the way back to December 8 and winning 16 out of 19 games, the Rangers get a much deserved break for All-Star weekend. Once they get through the festivities, they face a tough trip to Long Island to get a second crack to show the upstart Islanders who New York’s real team is. Since there isn’t much specific analysis that the crew hasn’t covered since the OT win again Ottawa, I have some thoughts…
- While I agree that the All-Star Game is kind of silly and since the implementation of the shootout, the Skills Competition has lost much of its luster, the All-Star Weekend is still a great concept for the host city. I was in Ottawa a couple years back when the All-Star Game was held there, and the whole city really came together in a celebration of hockey. We fans might not care at this point, but I’m sure the city of Columbus cares a great deal.
- That said…those jerseys. Yikes. Remember the days when the All-Star jerseys were modeled after old school sweaters? Those were sharp. I’m sure even The Suit approved. These looks like the hockey equivalent of a site worker’s safety vest.
- I’m glad Henrik Lundqvist decided to skip the weekend once Jimmy Howard went down. Over the past few seasons, he hasn’t gotten much in the way of rest this time of year. Between the Olympics and other All-Star festivities, he has been a busy guy in February. It’s only a couple days, but it could go a long way in recharging him for the stretch run.
- You have to be impressed with Matt Hunwick’s play of late, no?
- After reading Dave’s analysis of Marc Staal’s contract the other day, it got me thinking about both Mats Zuccarello and Carl Hagelin. From the Hagelin standpoint, I wonder where the massive increase in value is coming from? He is paid a pretty fair $2.25m per season under his current deal. But, going into his age 27 season, he more or less is what he is. He’s about a 1/2 a point per game, speedy, defensively sound bottom six winger on a contending team. I can’t imagine he would demand $4-5 mill per year with that skill set. He might be able to get it from a bottom feeding team, and if so I could see this turning into a Brandon Prust-type situation where his market value is blown up by one desperate GM.
- Zuccarello is another somewhat curious case for me. I agree that he is a guy you want to keep around if you can help it. He is a little more productive than Hagelin, albeit in a Top-6 role. He has tremendous vision and passing, and is a positive possession player. Truth be told, though, he only has one full, productive season under his belt. If he is willing to take something reasonable, say $4-4.5m per, I’m on board. If he is looking to get into that $5+ range, there is enough wing depth in the organization to keep the cap flexibility.
- These standings in the Eastern Conference are getting a little ridiculous. The bottom has mostly dropped out, leaving really eight, arguably nine teams simply jockeying for position at a little past the midway point. Wasn’t the cap supposed to keep more team competitive? Ottawa, Toronto, Philly, Columbus, New Jersey, Carolina and Buffalo are all at least 10 points out of the last playoff spot. In January! At least there will be sellers at the deadline…
- On the flip side of that coin, you have more or less your eight playoff teams settled, and all within 7 points of one another. That’s just as crazy. The entire field of playoff teams could be completely shuffled around come April. The Rangers have played the least amount of games amongst their competitors, so their position could change drastically from their current 6 seed once the games even out.
- This last line is reserved for Rick Nash. Because he is awesome.
Hopefully everyone enjoys the festivities and a weekend full of stress free hockey. And shh, don’t tell anyone, but I may be chatting today. Just kidding, tell everyone. I don’t want to be sitting there with an empty chat screen. That’d be embarrassing.