Sunday, July 31, 2011

Photo: Is This The Rangers Winter Classic Jersey?

While the NHL is still working out the contractual issues with Citizen's Bank Park before officially announcing that the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will be the 2012 Winter Classic game, potential game jerseys have popped up on the internet.  Ricky Otazu (@Dagoon44) tweets the above picture of a jersey that is currently selling online.  There is no telling if these are going to be what the final product will look like as it could just be a knockoff jersey maker looking to get a jump on possible incarnations of the jersey.  The use of Messier instead of a current Ranger only makes determining how real it is that much more difficult. 

Not sure how I would feel about the use of the shield on the jersey instead of likely New York in letters diagonally across the jersey.  The idea of basically a road heritage is something I think would go over very well.

Is Derek Stepan The Ideal Candidate To Complete Line With Richards, Gaborik?

The New York Rangers had an eventful July with their unrestricted free agent work to start the month and their successful signing of all five key restricted free agents over the course of it.  Now that the key pieces of the roster are in place the questions shift to who plays with whom.  The biggest of those questions in terms of determining how the rest of the lineup will look from night to night is about which forward will pair with Brad Richards, and Marian Gaborik.  Earlier this summer I took a look at the main candidates for the job, but I left out those that would have to switch positions to do so.  Others have suggested already that Derek Stepan should be the guy and my hesitation was not about him handling the top line, but not believing that the Rangers would shift his position this soon.  Combine that with the glut of players who can play left wing and it didn’t make a lot of sense, but given the options it clearly is the best one right now.

Moving Stepan there provides another highly skilled player who can both finish and create for the Rangers two most skilled offensive weapons.  His combination of vision and finishing should mesh well with the unselfishness of Richards and the sniping ability of Gaborik.  His willingness to play in the corners and defensive awareness are also positives to add to the line.  Stepan is very effective along the left wing wall and has played there a little in the NHL, but also spent a good amount of time there at Wisconsin, mainly on the power play.  This is not about the need for Stepan to improve on his faceoffs, but his comfort along the wall makes the transition, whether temporary or not, a relatively easy one for him to make. 

Since the Rangers should make every effort to keep Dubinsky, Anisimov and Callahan together, Stepan represents the best combination of skill and consistency to play with Gaborik and Richards.  The best part of about the move is how Stepan himself would handle the opportunity of playing with those two elite talents.  Stepan would take the opportunity as a challenge and instead of feeling he could get away with doing less because of the talent around him, it would only push him to work harder and get more out of himself.

That is evident from what the New York Rangers official twitter put out after talking with Stepan about that potential move.

Stepan can obviously move back to the pivot down the line if it is the best position for him, but for the team next season, having him on the left wing with Richards and Gaborik is the best thing in terms of balancing the lineup.  It allows the Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan line to stay together as the second line and Fedotenko, Boyle and Prust to be the third line.  Those three lines give the Rangers their ideal mix of offense and defense in their top nine forwards.  The real question is whether the Rangers will do it, but then again with how coach John Tortorella loves to mix and match it is bound to happen at some point.