Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Video: Brent Johnson One Punch KO on Rick DiPietro

There is little that is more fun in an NHL game than a hockey fight and since it had been four years since the last goalie vs goalie bout it was long overdue.  Penguins goalie Brent Johnson challenged Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and then proceeded to drop him with one punch.

via Crash The Crease

The fight in slow motion.

via Puck Daddy

Vinny Prospal Shows Leadership in Relinquishing "A" to Marc Staal

Earlier this week I brought up the issue of whether Marc Staal would keep his “A” or whether Vinny Prospal would automatically get it back.  Today we got the answer.  Peter Botte tweets that when Vinny Prospal returns the Rangers lineup tomorrow it will be without an “A” on his sweater.  Prospal voluntarily surrendered his alternate captaincy to Marc Staal, allowing him to keep his “A”, following a conversation with John Tortorella about the situation. 

“That’s where our team is going,” coach John Tortorella said. “We’re trying to build a foundation with the young guys. (Prospal) understands the transition. He knew that this was going to happen. He almost wanted it to happen. It’s best for the development of Marc Staal.”

The move by Prospal proves again why he was the right to get the position last season as it shows tremendous leadership and humility to put the team ahead of himself.  This shows that Vinny has a feel for the locker room deep enough and an ego small enough to understand that the young guys are taking on the leadership roles and rewarding Staal with it.  I have to believe that the fact Prospal made the gesture will only add to the honor and pride Staal takes in having it on his sweater for the rest of the year.  It also shows that Prospal understands he does not need the title to be a leader in the dressing room.

Maybe an act like this by one of the veteran leaders on the club will inspire the man who wears the “C” to make a similar act in relinquishing his title to allow the young players to pick up the mantle.  I am not holding my breath on that one, but it would show similar leadership from Drury to do so.  The biggest hurdle to that though might be the realization from Drury that the “C” could be the thing that would possibly keep him in the lineup when more healthy forwards return.  Either way this act by Prospal is one that should be commended and it will once again be an honor to see the number 20 skating around MSG tomorrow night.  Welcome back Vinny.

Prospal w Gaborik Stepan; Dubinsky, Callahan Miss Practice; Fedotenko Apendectomy

As seems to be the case consistently now, lots of news coming out of New York Rangers practice today.  The first bit of news concerns Vinny Prospal and where he will play tomorrow in his return to the lineup. 
Steve Zipay passed along the news that Vinny Prospal skated on a line with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan.  Following practice it was confirmed that Prospal will play against New Jersey.  Not surprising to see Torts go to Prospal in an attempt to get Gaborik going, and will certainly have more on that tomorrow.

The other lines in practice were
Mats Zuccarello – Brian Boyle – Brandon Prust
Wojtek Wolski – Chris Drury – Sean Avery
Erik Christensen – Kris Newbury – Artem Anisimov

As you can see there are two big names missing from those lines and there were moments of angst amongst those following the beat writers on twitter when they passed along the news that both Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky were missing from today’s practice.  Personally I was more surprised to see Callahan not out there than Dubinsky following the way the two played last night, but by the time practice was over the fears had been alleviated.  Both players according to Andrew Gross will play tomorrow despite being out today.  The two were given a “maintenance day” as Callahan was sore from the Letang cross-check and Dubinsky from his flip during the game.

According to Peter Botte , Ruslan Fedotenko had his injury troubles added to when he had his appendix removed.  The original timetable for his return was by the end of next week, but now Botte is saying that it is likely 3-4 weeks before he can return.  That timeline would push the return of Fedotenko to likely after the trade deadline.  Wishing Feds the best in surgery and recovery.

In other injury news Christensen is still said to be about a week away.

Explaining Rangers Cap Space This Summer

There seems to be some misunderstanding of how to best figure out how much money the New York Rangers will have this summer to keep their own players and possibly sign others.   Looking at the salaries which are coming off the books this year is not the best way to determine the space the team has going forward.  The reason that does not work as a guide for next season is the team was below the cap limit this year. 

Unrestricted free agent Rangers this summer: Alex Frolov (3 mil), Steve Eminger (1.125 mil), Vinny Prospal (1.08 mil base, 1.4 mil bonuses), Ruslan Fedotenko (1mil).

Restricted free agent Rangers this summer: Ryan Callahn (2.3 mil), Brandon Dubinsky (1.85 mil), Matt Gilroy (1.75 mil), Artem Anisimov (822K), Brian Boyle (525K), Michael Sauer (500K).

If I added those totals together I would get 13.952 million dollars in money coming off the cap for the Rangers.  This way does not work because it assumes the Rangers were exactly at 59.4 million so this is not all the money the team has to work with this summer.

The other common way I see people calculate space is to add the guys they expect to be gone (Frolov, Eminger, Prospal, Fedotenko, Gilroy) up and say we have 8 million to give raises to the other five restricted guys.  The biggest problem with this approach is that it forgets the bodies associated with those contracts have to be replaced in roster players who also cost money.

The best way to look at what the team might have for next season is to use the contracts they already have committed to players next year.  The cap is assumed to be going up, but since there has been no definitive announcement on what that will be it is better to calculate against this year’s cap.

This season the cap ceiling was set at 59.4 million.  According to Capgeek the Rangers have $42,612,500 committed to 14 players for the 2011-12 season.  They currently do not count Michael Del Zotto in that because he is in the minors.  Adding him in would put the Rangers at 43,700,000 for 15 players.  This calculation would leave the Rangers with 15.7 million dollars to fill likely 7 roster spots.  From this point people can make more informed calculations on what the Rangers actually have as options in terms of resigning their own players and/or bringing in outside ones.

Obviously there are things that can change from these numbers, but for me working it in this fashion gives you almost a worst case scenario of how much money the Rangers will have this summer.  I say that because of the things that can change (Cap goes up, Drury buyout, Boogaard not playing, Christensen waived) all of them would add future space to the cap.  There is a caution in that as well, along with Wade Redden coming back on the cap this summer and his 6.5 million counting against the cap.  The rule does state that a team can exceed the cap by 10% over the summer so Redden is not a huge negative, but he does eat through all of that excess you are allowed.

Hopefully this will help you better understand what money the Rangers do and don’t have for this summer.

Did Brandon Prust Take a Dive? What If Prust Had Been the Puncher?

Last night at 15:27 of the second period Jordan Staal sucker punched Brandon Prust with a left hand to the jaw that sent Prust to the ice.  The play resulted in Staal getting hit with a five minute major and a match penalty.  Those events are not really up for debate.  The interpretation of those events certainly seems to be in the aftermath of the action.

Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy had the fallout the action.

“The majority opinion is that Prust should have at least been given an Emmy nomination for his performance.”

Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote: "Brandon Prust looked like Glass Joe after taking that punch from Staal. Nice sell job."

On the Rangers side Andrew Gross at Ranger Rants had Prust take on the incident
"It was kind of surprising, it happened quick, he caught me on the sweet spot, i got my bell run," said Prust, who sat out the rest of the second period but played in the third. "It was just more the surprise. I told Rammer (trainer Jim Ramsey) I was ready to go. They checked me over. I think it was all a reaction (by Jordan Staal). I came in and hit a guy (Tyler Kennedy) and he came in and stuck up for him. He threw a punch. I agree with the call (a five-minute match penalty for intent to injure and a game misconduct). Stuff happens on the ice. I'm happy he did, we got a five-minute penalty. Thank you."

Regardless of whether one thinks that Prust embellished the outcome of the punch, it is still a sucker punch since it was clearly an unsuspecting opponent. The fact that Staal was thrown out for "intent to injure" makes whether Prust embellished, took a dive or anything else technically irrelvant to the outcome.  I am sure there are many who will argue that it was only called "intent to injure" because of how Prust went down, but I can only deal with what was called.

The reason Staal was tossed is that he broke Rule 21.1
A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.
I am not saying he intended to injure him, but that is what the referees called him for.  So, what does it all mean?

I am on record last night as saying that I thought Prust embellished the result of the punch from Staal, but based on the call by the refs that does not matter to what happened to Staal.  Yes, I am sure it still matters to many whether or not he embellished in terms of their thoughts on the play, so I stand by my belief that he sold it to some extent.  

I can understand people who do not follow the Rangers having a tough time reconciling how Prust can go toe-to-toe with Deryk Engelland, one of the game’s biggest punchers, without going down and then get dropped by what did not even appear to be a vicious punch by Staal.  The problem with that from my perspective is it disregards the element of surprise and the positioning of the punch, which is what Prust was referring to in his comments.  There is also a long reach for me between embellishing a call and being a diver and I will never believe watching as hard and tough as Brandon Prust plays for this team that he is a diver. 

I do not believe that Staal had malicious intent on the play, nor do I think anyone should think he is a dirty player because he clearly has no record of being one, but it is still a clear violation of the rules that got an appropriate penalty.  What will likely happen is the NHL will rescind the match penalty so they do not have to enforce the mandatory one game suspension.  If the NHL does rescind the match penalty what will likely happen is those who believe Prust took a dive will feel vindicated in their beliefs instead of realizing that it was the squeaky clean record that got him a lighter punishment.

I am left to sit here and wonder what the word around the league would be if the roles were reversed and Prust had been the puncher and Staal the one who ended up falling to the ice.  Somehow I do not buy the notion that there would be calls to rescind the match penalty and calling Staal a diver because it would have been a fighter throwing the punch. Fans in Pittsburgh would be looking for the book to be thrown at Prust, and fans in New York would likely be defending him.  

Hit me with your take.

Daily Recap: SO Loss; Prust/Staal; Captain Callahan Returns; Dubinsky Return Too Soon?; Grachev to CT

The Rangers had a tough SO loss to the depleted Penguins in a game where they had to expect going in they would find a way to get two points.  Take nothing away from the Penguins and their effort as they battled in much the same way the Rangers have, but not getting that extra point and failing to take advantage of the Pens injury situation hurts New York if they seek to advance up the standings.  On the bright side they saw the return of Callahan, Dubinsky and Girardi to the lineup and the point they gained created a little more space between them and both Atlanta and Carolina.

During the game there was the controversial play in which Jordan Staal punched Brandon Prust in the jaw with a left.  Staal was given a five minute major and a match penalty which meant his night was done.  My thoughts on the play are in the link along with video of the play. There will be more on this in the morning.

This morning I discussed Brandon Dubinsky possibly returning to the lineup and whether it was too soon.  Dubinsky did make his return to the lineup, and the team was certainly not bashful in putting him out there since he played over 23 minutes on the night.  There were times in the game where he certainly seemed to be in pain/discomfort and it made me think back to what I said this morning about letting him wait longer.  You can tell me if you agree.

Since Dubinsky was going to be in the lineup the Rangers sent Evgeny Grachev back to the AHL.

Video: R.J. Umberger Hit Sends Brent Seabrook Flying

Classic hitting went on the Chicago game against Columbus tonight and nothing fit that description more than this hit by R.J. Umberger on Brent Seabrook as the two battled for a loose puck with Umberger coming out the winner and Seabrook flying through the air.