Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rumor: Rangers Negotiating With Sami Lepisto?

Per NHL Gossip, a Finnish Website is reporting that the New York Rangers are in negotiations with Sami Lepisto on a contract for next season. Lepisto, 26, spent last season with the Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets.  Last month Columbus decided not to tender Lepisto a qualifying offer and he became an unrestricted free agent. 

Obviously this is just a rumor and should be taken as such, but let us look at whether it makes sense for the Rangers.  Lepisto has shown offensive abilities in the AHL, but not to this point in his career at the NHL level so he would not fit the need of a puck moving defender.  While he does have 150 games in the NHL this would certainly not seem to classify in the realm of the veteran defender that many are hoping the Rangers sign this summer.  This could be a low risk type gamble for the Rangers as it should come with a low price tag, but there is not a whole lot to get excited about with the move if it happens.

Video: CT Whale Look At Prospect Development Camp Part 1

Brian Ring, media relations manager for the Connecticut Whale, tweeted this video which gives a behind the scenes look at Rangers prospect camp from two weeks ago.  In the first of two installments the video shows both interviews with potential Whale players Jason Wilson and Ryan Bourque, but also conversations with Rangers Assistant General Manager/Whale General Manager Jim Schoenfeld.  The conversations with Schoenfeld deal with the chances for Wilson, John Mitchell, and Chad Kolarik to make the NHL roster this fall while giving insight into how each player plays the game.

For all four of these guys the chances of making the club are slim because as Schoenfeld says they have to take someone else's job so the standard for them to win a roster battle is higher than a player who is already in the NHL.  Regardless all four of these players will look to leave an impression with the NHL coaching staff even if they fail to make the team so that in case of injury that impression is there when deciding which Whale player gets the call to help out in New York.

Excellent work by Brian and everyone at the CT Whale to put this together and give some spotlight to prospects and members of the organization that sometimes get lost in the discussion of bigger names.  Be sure to follow @CTWhale and @BrianRing to keep up with the latest things going on with the Rangers AHL affiliate.

Will Tortorella Loosen System To Allow Rangers Skill Players More Freedom

The 2010-11 New York Rangers team was one that lacked multiple elite offensive players and instead relied on a system that saw them focus on forechecking and outworking the opposition.  Given that the majority of the forward core consisted of grinding type players, the system was perfect for them.  The way the Rangers played in their dump and chase mentality allowed players to generate offense from their work in the opposition zone as opposed to having to rely on pure skill to create chances.  Whether New York was able to impose their will in a given game and establish the forecheck played a large factor in the success or failure of the club on a given night. 

The negative to the system was that it seemed to stifle the creativity of the more skilled offensive talents on the club.  While many other things contributed to the down season Marian Gaborik had last year, most notably Gaborik himself, the system did not seem to mesh with the things he does best.   The question now is whether with another elite talent like Brad Richards in the fold if Tortorella will loosen the leash on everyone playing the system and allow the higher skilled offensive players to use their creativity more freely.  Expecting a return to the old “safe is death” version of Tortorella is expecting too much, but there is no reason that he cannot have unique plans for lines to best use their abilities.  Every player on the team will obviously be expected to be defensively aware, but that does not mean it has to stifle the explosive talent certain players have.

No place was this more evident last season than the power play.  The Rangers utter lack of aggression on the power play was baffling especially given how aggressive they would play both at even strength and especially shorthanded by pressuring the opposition.  Some of this has to go back to coaching whether it be with Michael Del Zotto or even with an acquisition like Bryan McCabe.  McCabe came in and for his first few games was firing shots from the point with no hesitation but after a few weeks with the club he seemed petrified to let the shot go.  Adding Richards to the point on the power play gives coach John Tortorella someone he knows and trusts to handle the duties back there and should allow the team to implement a more aggressive approach both in terms of screening the goaltender and carrying the puck on entry instead of pure dump and chase, which often resulted in immediate clears by the opposing team.

Obviously the Rangers have a system they want to play which allows them to rely on their defense and Henrik Lundqvist to give them a chance each night, but that does not mean they cannot open up the offense a little more to take advantage of the skills Gaborik and Richards being to the table.  The combination of the grinding style for certain lines and the skill and creativity the new top line can have is what makes the Rangers dangerous next season, but that only works if coach John Tortorella is willing to allow for deviations from his system to put players in better position to succeed.