Friday, December 31, 2010

Stepan, Prust and Redden Among Rangers Best Arrivals and Departures of 2010

Since the year is coming to a close ther is always a tendency to look back at moments or plays that topped the year for a franchise, but I am going to do that with a little bit of a twist.  As in every year on the calendar for sports teams there is an element of turnover and so as we send out 2010 let us take a look at some of the best arrivals and in some cases even better departures for the New York Rangers franchise.  In the spirit of the positive vibes around the club we start first with the positive.

Best Arrivals:
5. Mats Zuccarello-Aasen – As a late comer to the party Zuke has only had a few games to show what he can do, but even in that short time he has shown enough to give the fans plenty to be excited about for the future.  The “Norwegian Hobbit” plays much bigger than his physical size and mixes that with tremendous vision, creativity, passing and shooting abilities.  He is definitely one to watch as he acclimates more to the North American and NHL game.
4. Ruslan Fedotenko – Fedotenko, this year’s John Tortorella blast from the past entrant, came into camp as a non-roster tryout player and showed early on the kind of things he can bring to the club in terms of not only his hockey skill but his work ethic, hustle and battle along the boards.  He has combined with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust to be form the team’s most consistent line of the 2010-11 season.
3. Michael Sauer – This 23 year old rookie defender came into camp off the radar for many in terms of making the club and that is partly because he does not play a flashy game and partly because injuries have slowed his progression to the NHL level.  Well, neither of those are in the way anymore and all Sauer has done is be one of the Rangers most consistent defenders all year by playing tremendously solid defensive hockey, standing up for his teammates and showing a bit of a mean streak when necessary.  If you told me I could have a defense core made up of six Mike Sauer’s I would take it in a second.
2. Derek Stepan – This 20 year old rookie out of Hastings Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin has been everything and more that the Rangers and their fans could have hoped for in his first half a season in the NHL.  He had the unbelievable debut scoring a hat-trick and even more impressive for me is the way he handled his first struggles as a professional and has fought through it with class and dignity to be flying high once again.  For the season Stepan has 11 goals and 12 assists and his 23 points rank him 3rd among all rookies.  Stepan has shown he is the real deal and once he figures out the faceoff circle will be a top 2 center in this league for a long time.
1. Brandon Prust – As great as Derek Stepan has been he is number two on this list because there is no player who has come in and typified the change in this Rangers team from last season to this one more than Brandon Prust.  When Pruster was first acquired from Calgary he was seen as a fighter only and a throw-in to the deal to make the salary cap parts work.  What he has become is an indispensable part of the core of this franchise that has shown ever improving hockey skill that helped the Rangers make their late charge for the playoffs last season and has them in good position so far this season.  There is no tougher player on this team and none that do a better job of defending their teammates and he has been a huge part of why this collection of Rangers players now plays as a team instead of a bunch of individuals.
4. Donald Brashear and Todd White – It might not be fair to lump the two of these together, but I did because if not for the awful signing of Donald Brashear who was a slap in the face to every returning member of the Rangers team from the year before Todd White is never here to waste a roster spot and cap space this season.  Brashear did absolutely nothing for the Rangers and neither did White, but I wish White at least the best now in Connecticut.
3. Ales Kotalik – Last year’s attempt to fix Chris Drury and the power play the signing was one that I dreaded from the moment it was made and while I was ready to eat crow early in the year because Kots hot start it all fell apart to the point that he was sent away from the team while they looked for a trade.  I still have no clue what Glen Sather gave to or had on Darryl Sutter to have him take on Kots attitude and contract, but whatever it was it had to be big.  While it has not worked out the saving of his 3 million on the cap this year did net them another try for a scoring winger in Alex Frolov and the final year’s 3 million will be instrumental in keeping the Rangers core together this offseason.
2. Olli Jokinen – The only good thing about Olli Jokinen and his time in New York was that he was responsible for bringing Brandon Prust to the Rangers.  Well that and all the fun we had making jokes at his expense for that Sex-Panther fu manchu he was sporting.  Other than that it was a player who was completely disinterested in the game and doing what it took to win for this club.  He will go down in infamy as well as the guy who had the Rangers worst moment of 2010 when he was stone by Brian Boucher in the SO during the final game of regulation to end the Rangers season.
1. Wade Redden – After two years of putting up with paying a guy to be a Norris trophy candidate and play like a guy worthy of a minimum contract the Rangers optioned Wade Redden down in late September of this year and every Rangers fan around the globe had reason to believe that things were actually changing for the better around here again.  This was one of those signs that we were actually going to make decisions based on merit and not contract though it was also forced because the Rangers would not have survived the cap without it.  To his enormous credit Redden has handled the move with class and dignity as he did the criticism while he was here.  He has been  such the professional in Connecticut in mentoring all the Rangers young defenders down there that it is entirely likely he will have more of a positive impact on the Rangers franchise once he left New York as while and his 6.5 million dollar cap hit were here.