Friday, January 21, 2011

Nathan Gerbe Scores 2 In 5 Seconds for Sabres (Video)

The Buffalo Sabres might have lost tonight’s game but Nathan Gerbe showed he can provide some quick strike offense in the process. Gerbe set a franchise record for the fastest goals by one player as he scored twice in 5 seconds. His first goal, on a backhander from the right circle, came with 3:22 left. He then scored on a wrist shot with 3:17 remaining.

The 5-second span matched Pete Mahovlich for the third-fastest goals by a player in NHL history. Mahovlich did for Montreal in 1971. The record is 4 seconds, set by the Montreal Maroons' Nels Stewart in 1931 and matched by Winnipeg's Deron Quint in 1995.

If those five seconds were not entertaining enough for Gerbe he would also take a penalty seven seconds later.

Buying Out Chris Drury Is The Right Move For Rangers

The other day I discussed whether Chris Drury should be the player benched when the Rangers get their missing forwards back.  Nothing that has happened in the games since has changed that view, rather even with increased ice time in  a blowout and last night getting a chance to start on the third line have reinforced how far Drury’s game has fallen.  While I took a look at Drury and his role for this season, Dave Shapiro, my boss at Blue Seat Blogs, took a look at what the financial costs and savings of a Drury buyout would be in terms of next year and subsequent seasons.
Buying out Drury during the summer of 2011 would result in a $3.7 million cap hit for the 2011-2012 season (saving the Rangers $3.35 million in cap space), and a $1.67 million cap hit for the 2012-2013 season, a season where Drury's initial contract would have expired. The $3.35 million in cap space saved goes a long way, especially considering Wade Redden and his $6.5 million cap hit will be on the summer cap. During a summer when the Rangers will look to sign Brad Richards, every dollar in cap space is important.
Dave went on in the article to correctly caution that replacing the leadership skills that are continually talked about, penalty killing and faceoffs are not easy to replace, as well as not to assume Brad Richards wants to be in New York.  While leadership, faceoffs and penalty killing are all important characteristics to winning clubs, they can be had for a much cheaper price than the current rate of Drury.  There is also the fact that the Rangers have shown this season they can kill penalties without Drury in the lineup.  The team has had the advancement of Dubinsky and Staal to go with Callahan as young leaders.   The reality is with what Drury is giving the Rangers he is Blair Betts at the rate of a first line scorer,

I have been against buyouts in every situation in which they have been brought up concerning Rangers players in the past as I do not like the idea of paying for extra years on a contract to not even have a player on the roster.  This situation for me is different.  The fact that Drury only has one year left makes paying a buyout over two seasons significantly more feasible.  The 3.35 million in savings is crucial to the Rangers if they do want to complete the signing of Brad Richards and bring back all their current RFA’s. 

Based on the current cap of 59.4 million the Rangers are 15.7 million under the cap with 15 players under contract.  The key restricted free agents that need new contracts are: Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov, Michael Sauer and possibly Matt Gilroy.  To have signed those five players, Richards and likely two other contracts for 15.7 million seems very unrealistic to me.  That additional 3.35 million makes it significantly more reasonable to assume the possibility as 19 million as I believe the main five restricted players will take approximately 10 million to bring back.

The cap space and the desire to keep all the young talent the Rangers have with expiring contracts has been my lone hesitation is terms of getting on board with bringing in Brad Richards, but that extra money makes the ability to pull it all off significantly higher.  Combine those factors, the lack of top talent in the 2012 free agent class and other money the Rangers have coming off the cap to cover the 1.67 million they would pay on Drury for the extra season and the move to buy him out strikes me as the right one both for the short and long term health of the franchise.

Kris Newbury Making Case To Stay By Filling Needed Roles

When the New York Rangers brought Kris Newbury up from the Connecticut Whale following the season ending injury to Alex Frolov expectations were he would fill a role and then go back down when injured players began to return.  Here you had a 28-year-old player who had seen limited stints in the NHL with Toronto and Detroit, but never latched on as a full-time player. 

“(Newbury) has had a pretty good year down there (Hartford),” Rangers coach John Tortorella told the Rangers media after practice. “He had a good camp with us, he’s dropped some weight, which we asked him to do, so we’re going to give him an opportunity.”

That opportunity would not come as expected because the team traded Michal Rozsival for Wojtek Wolski, which left Newbury on the outside looking in as a healthy scratch. 

“He got screwed,” Tortorella said of Newbury when he was forced to watch the initial game follow his recall.

Newbury would remain a healthy scratch for two games, but then he would get his chance in the lineup against Montreal.  Once Newbury got that opportunity he has shown that while reckless at times he has the ability to fill two roles that the Rangers desperately need help with right now; faceoffs and fighting.  From his first shifts in Montreal and throughout all four games to this point Newbury has shown he can be a great fit for the system and those two roles.  With each shift he looks to hit, is good on the forecheck, has some passing skill and is certainly not afraid to mix it up. 

In four games Newbury has had three scraps in which he won two of them.  The wins and losses in the fights are not as important as the fact it can take some pressure off Brandon Prust to be the team fighter and let him have his injured shoulder heal as much as possible. 

Beyond the fighting the Rangers are currently 28th in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage at an embarrassing 45.9% as a team.  Newbury, on the other hand, in his limited attempts is winning 69% of his draws (20/29) and 75% in his last three games (18/24). 

Following last night’s game Tortorella showered praise on fellow rookie Chad Kolarik and Newbury for their play emphatically stating, “They’re going to stay in the lineup.”

If Newbury continues to show the value he has shown in these four games throughout this battle through injuries, then he will make a case to stick around once the injured heal up.

Will Grachev Get The Message This Time?

Two seasons ago Evgeny Grachev was a man among boys during his only campaign with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL.  Due to his 40 goal 40 assist season in just 60 games, the New York Rangers overlooked all the other signs that the player was still a boy in a man’s body in terms of his desire and work ethic to be a professional.  Grachev was rushed from Junior hockey to the AHL in the hopes of developing quickly and being an offensive answer for the franchise that has searched for one for years.

The hope has not been realized thus far in the 20-year-old winger.  What happened instead was a poor first season where he managed only 28 points and had all the flaws on and off the ice exposed by players who were more prepared to be professionals.  Following that performance many of us held out hope that he would transition from year one to year two much in the way that Artem Anisimov did; survive the first year, learn and then dominate so you force your way to the next level.  The level of hope left is running out at the moment.

The Rangers called Grachev up earlier this season for a six game stint so that he could work with the NHL coaches and hopefully get the message of what he needed to do to get back here.  While he has improved his game this month (seven points in eight games), the loudest message he should have received is watching virtually everyone else on his team that can be called up without waivers going before him right now.  Five guys who were in Connecticut with Grachev a month ago are now in New York while he sits in the AHL watching those guys and other prospects pass him on the depth charts.  For Mats Zuccarello to pass him is somewhat understandable given the skill and history of Zuke at professional levels.  What needs to send the message to Grachev is that journeymen like Kris Newbury have passed him too along with other young forwards Brodie Dupont, Chad Kolarik and Dale Weise.

When he went back down to Connecticut following his stint in New York, Grachev said it motivated him to want to do what was necessary to get back there.  Now is the time to prove that as he is virtually all that is left down there.  Put in the work and prove to the coaches there and in New York that the desire is real and the production can match it.  At each turn over the past two seasons Evgeny Grachev has talked about how he has gotten the message.  Let us hope that this time the message got delivered.  Tonight is his first chance to show he is really getting it.