Season Preview: New York Rangers

Another excruciatingly long summer is over. Actual hockey games are on the horizon. Because this is the 265th most widely read hockey blog on the internets, MYFO felt a deep obligation to our dozens of readers to prepare this series of previews telling you about every single team in the NHL. By “prepare” we mean, we found other people to write many of them for us. We were looking for people who (unlike us) might have an actual clue about these teams, but were also eager/willing/dumb/not self-respecting enough to work for free. Within those constraints, we think we did an admirable job.

Today’s preview of the Rangers is brought to you by First Derivative of The Puck Stops Here.

Well, being that it’s either a Ranger preview or the script for Mystery, Alaska (Courtesy of Hex), I felt it was necessasry to defend my Prince of Whales Conference Contenders for the upcoming 08/09 season.

After the second most disappointing end to an 07-08 campaign in New York (see Clinton, Hillary) the Rangers and their fans have some high hopes for 2008. On the plus side, Malik’s gone, although worries about how they will fill the slow, big, yet soft defence role on the team remain. Can they continue their play up until the Penguins debacle in the playoffs? Who will replace Avery’s physical presence on the ice, and impeccable dress off it? Is the King healthy? Will my regular, “I’m having Valiquette’s baby,” ever make it onto the Garden Vision?

The Good:

The Centermen Starting with the Centers, the Rangers are looking at putting out a competent, two-way center on their first 3 lines, and a good face/off man, defensive forward on the 4th line in Blair Betts. One of the most under-appreciated members by the fans and Media, Betts is tough, grind it out center that gives the Rangers a great presence on the PK, despite his uncanny ability to make every goalie’s save percentage against him equivalent to Patrick Roy.

The Goalie (warning: contains caveat) If Henrik was a WWE character, his theme music would definitely be N.E.R.D. – “Rock Star,” He’s the fucking king of the Garden, and anyone who’s been there hears the crowd’s reaction whenever he touches the ice. However, his acrobatics might be a little more difficult with bum wheels. So, naturally, he played in the World Championships. I’m sure that won’t present a problem during the playoff push. Luckily, Steve Valiquette is backing him up, whom my irrational love for rivals East Village Hipsters and Jenny Lewis. (Note – I love Jenny Lewis too)

The Fans – Love ’em or hate ’em, The Garden gets more fired up for hockey than any other New York sport. The Rangers have the ability to carry the city with them more than any other team, even the Yankees. In 1994, the whole city went Ranger-crazy. Last years playoffs were the loudest I have ever been attending a sporting event, including game 7 of the Mets – Cards NLCS. Traveling to Jersey, there were about 40% Ranger fans in my section, and created at worst a Neutral Site feeling to the Pru.

The Bad:

The Wings – I’ve been in constant debate with some other fans about this, but fuck it, its my preview and if I’m worried about it I’ll put it in. For our first line, we’re obviously going to move Naslund to wing, but how’s that going to work? Also, do we really feel that confident with Dawes and Prucha on our second line, or do we bring back the reanimated corpse of Brendan Shanahan. For the record, I support number 2. Sure, he wishes he had Nancy Kerrigan’s wheels post Tonya Harding right now but the man can shoot, and we need that badly.

The Power Play How in holy hell can this much talent produce so little offense? Jesus Christ, that power play was an embarrassment last year. There more shots at an AA meeting than the Jagr led power play. If I was Tom Renney (and I thank God every day I’m not) I’d stick a first line of Drury and Gomez down low, Naslund playing the sniper role, with Shanny and Redden up top. For a second Kid-led unit go with Callahan, Prucha, Dubi, Rosie, and Staal and lets hope for the best.

The Coach Now, in his defense he has led us to the playoffs the past two years. However, his instance at putting players like Marek FUCKING Malik next to Staal, ensuring they develop at gymnast-esque levels is enough to make you want to pull a Sprewell. Also, his love affair with the fourth line, sending them out in the final four minutes of games is inexplicable. Game 3 of the Pens Series, putting Ryan Holliweg, the modicum of good decisions and level headedness right after tying the game was brilliant. (Note: “Ryan Holliweg Bad Penalty returns 16,800 hits) Good riddance, last year was a let down, one more early exit and “Roll Four Lines” Renney should be out the door.

Other Questions abound for this team too. I actually have confidence in the defense, and like skating a Top 4 of Rosival, Redden, Staal, and Girardi gives us a really solid nucleous. Nikolai Zheredev and Dan Fritsche were fantastic additions at forward. Zherdev especially turned it on last year, and the former first round pick does have great legs (no homo) and showed a burst to the net last year that was lacking in his previous seasons. The question arises where do we put him? (Perhaps paired with Alaskaman Russell Crowe Scott Gomez?)

Also, finally, a pet peeve – the team needs a damn captain. I’m all for putting the C on Drury, whos heart is something that the team can really feed off. Oh, and also his ability to get in front and score clutch goals. The Rangers, post Jagr, are going to be a team searching for identity, and Drury is the one player with enough force of personality to transform the Rangers into ‘his team.’

I guess we’ll need a prediction to finish this preview up. The Rangers are in one of toughest divisions in the league, and will have to really keep up their strong play against their regional rivals. Aside from the Islanders, the other teams are all potential division winners, let alone just playoff contenders. The only team that had a really crappy offseason was the Pens, as they mortgaged their future for a guy they didn’t resign. Anyone whose been the Nassau Colliseum saw the force that was Miroslav Satan, and would recognize that maybe, just maybe, he’s not the answer.

I’m absurdly optimistic about this season. I ponied up for a half a season worth of tickets (with playoff options), and really really hope it wasn’t money dumped down the toilet. I think the Rangers start out struggling as the new players integrate themselves into the team, but by Christmas the Rangers turn into Bam Bam Bigelow – The Beast from the East. Mark ’em up for 104 points and first place in the East. They get home ice, roll through till the finals, when Detroit, sadly, smacks them up like Tina Turner.

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10 Comments

  1. Nice preview…but what is the relevance of the Islanders picture?

  2. @Pam

    For a Rangers fan, the Islanders winning the cup is bad news. (For more information, see: Sports Rivalries.)

  3. @ Pam – Yeah, luckily, on the day I was born, the Islanders cupless streak began.

  4. Cornelius, I assure you that I’m somewhat familiar with hockey in the NY metro area.

  5. @ FD: I see, perhaps this means that as long as you live, there will be no Stanley Cups on Long Island? I’m okay with that!

  6. @ Pam – Same here – I guess that means time to start exercising again and getting into shape!

  7. @FD: If Pam’s statement is true, I’d watch your back

  8. I think you nailed it, you are absurdly optimistic.

    Though you’re spot on with the Jenny Lewis comment. She’s the best thing to hot alt-rock redheaded chicks since Edie Brickell went missing.

  9. @mcs – I know, I just have a good feeling about this team. I think that early on they will struggle, but the loss of Jagr will let Gomez and Drury stand out more and ultimately help the team. I just think they quietly this offseason became a better team, I think that Hossa’s loss will really hurt the Pens, and Henrik looks ready to carry the team on his back.

    And if I’m wrong, I’ll manage. Hope I am wrong too – about the Wings smoking the Rangers in the Finals.

  10. I guess we’ll need a prediction to finish this preview up. The Rangers are in one of toughest divisions in the league, and will have to really keep up their strong play against their regional rivals. Aside from the Islanders, the other teams are all potential division winners, let alone just playoff contenders.


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