Friday, December 31, 2010

Daily Recap: Rangers Contenders in 2011?; Best Arrivals and Departures 2010; WJC: Kreider, Bourque, Fasth

Today on the site was both reflective on the season to this point, the year as a whole and looking forward to what is coming in 2011 for the New York Rangers. This afternoon I looked at the year so far as how as someone who has taken the approach of I will believe it when I see it with this club I am beginning to buy into the fact this year is not only different than last year, but that there might be something here to make a run.  As I said in the piece I am not talking about planning any parades but as someone who before the season had trouble really envisioning this team as a playoff club and if they got in anything higher than 6-8 with a first round exist I am seeing evidence of more possible.  Rangers exceed expectations to close 2010; contention in 2011? looks at the pieces of evidence I am seeing to change my tune and have some hope not just for what was coming down the road in the future but what they are doing right now.  Who knows they could do like they have done before and just have built us up again to fall apart, but at least for now the hope is fun.

Beyond that with the club I took a look at the top arrivals and departures from the team in the year 2010.  The list is fairly obvious in terms of the names that are on it, especially names like Derek Stepan, Brandon Prust and Wade Redden, but beyond the names there is a theme or meme I see.  The difference of those on the list coming in and the one going out is the energy and passion all the newcomers display while the ones on the departure list did not.  That in and of itself leads back to the reason the team is doing better and part of why I am believing in the possibilities.

In Rangers prospect action at the WJC Chris Kreider scored his second goal and fourth point of the tournament as the USA held on to win against the Swiss.  Ryan Bourque was very good in the game and was awarded the Player of the Game award even though it should have gone to Mitch Callahan for scoring the game winner.  With the win Team USA wins the group and gets a bye into the semi-finals where they will play the winner of Canada/Switzerland.

The reason the USA could play Canada in the semi-finals is because Jesper Fasth and Team Sweden defeated Team Canada in a shootout to win the group and get a bye into the Semi's where they will play the winner of Russia/Finland.  Fasth was held scoreless for the first time in the tournament. 

There was a fun video of a couple coming up with the best use of a vuvuzela I have seen.  At an AHL hockey game the couple used the vuvuzela as a beer bong to down beers on $1 beer night.  Beyond that hilarity there are other elements to the video that make it a must watch.

Other than that today there was some WC coverage starting this morning with my discussion about the NHL obsession with promoting Sidney and Ovie, why I understand them having this as the match-up for this year but how if it does not stop it is hurting the overall game by failing to promote the league beyond these two players.  The bottom line is that while the two man rivalry it is good for TV you have to ask if it is good for the sport.

With the weather delay for the WC I am taking a poll to see whether the rating impacts the fans think that moving the game from the afternoon to the evening will be.  Personally I will now be watching the Rangers instead of the Classic, but maybe I catch the third period.  Vote here.

Beyond that there was a fun incident with Ovie during the team skate where he and the son of the Caps GM squared off in a mock fight that ended with Ovie giving the kid a wedgie.

Finally on a personally note since this is the last post of 2010 I want to thank all of you for your support and encouragement over the last couple months as I started this thing because it means a lot to me personally and I certainly hope to see you as we together keep it going in the new year.  Best wishes to all you and yours, Happy New Year.

Previous Daily Recap: Rangers-Flyers Winter Classic 2012?; Christensen out 4-6 Weeks; Rangers in WJC; Ovie Plays With Dolls; Stamkos Spins

Video: Winter Classic a Family affair as Ovechkin wedgies GM's Son

If you did not believe the Winter Classic was a family affair before during today's practice skate for the Washington Capitals in a bit of fun Alex Ovechkin squared off with general manger George McPhee's son Graham and after pulling the kid's Ovechkin jersey over his head and spinning him around with one hand, Ovechkin finally drops the stick and glove to give the wedgie.

Poll: Will Starting Game at 8 PM Help Or Hurt Winter Classic Ratings?

There are various theories floating around out there about whether the later start time will help or hurt the ratings of the game.  On the positive side there seems to be the thought that the football competition at night is in less natural hockey markets so more potential viewers along with giving people more time to get up from New Year's Eve.  On the negative side there is the fact now the NHL audience can be split by the five other games going on particularly with New York and Boston markets playing.  Personally I think the NHL games will hurt to some extent but the fact that the NHL now has three more hours of coverage to hype the game probably improves the ratings overall. I will be watching the Rangers. So what do you think?

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.

Video: Hockey Fans Turn Vuvuzela into Beer Funnel

If there is one unforgettable noise of the 2010 year it is the buzzing horn of the vuvuzela from the World Cup and while thankfully it has not invaded most US sporting events, here is a proper use for one shown by a couple at an AHL hockey game.  I must ask, Is there any object that a hockey fan will not try to drink a beer from?

There are so many epic things about this clip from the boyfriend and girlfriend shotgunning the beers, to the dude in the background screaming about prositutes to th frat boys five rows up cheering the woman on as she struggles with the proper technique to the little kids being five feet away and not knowing what is going on.

This would certainly be one way to boost attendence at Rochester Americans games.  Can see it now: "College Night," shotgun a beer through a vuvuzela and it's free.

Hat Tip – [Unique Daily]

Rangers Exceed Expectations To Close 2010; Contenders in 2011?

When this season started I was among those who believed that with the New York Rangers basically bringing the same team back from last season that not much would change.  The expectation was that the team makes another run for one of the bottom three playoff spots and either squeaks in and loses early or misses the playoffs entirely.  At least for now I can gladly say that I was wrong.  Through 39 games this team has shown that even with largely the same cast of characters you can get a different set of results.  What they have also shown is that the reshaping of the team that has been going on over the past number of seasons to more homegrown talent both in the NHL and throughout the system has been well worth it.  The reality is I expected the Rangers to be like they are right now, but not for another year or two when some more of that talent was infused into the lineup.  So with the Rangers changing the timetable on how quickly they would improve their play I have to change mine and wonder if this team can be a serious threat or even a contender this season.

Over the years I have had a somewhat jaded sense about the team built in because this team has consistently built up expectations and as soon as you believe the other shoe drops and you are left holding nothing but disappointed dreams.  I have said it on more than a few occasions in looking at individual games that this team is different than those in the past because there is more consistency and substance to how they are going about their work this season.  I am not talking about the results column because lord knows they have had their share of hot streaks in previous years, but I talking about how they have built a legitimate foundation based on their identity as a hockey TEAM.

Crosby Vs. Ovechkin: Great For TV; Good For The Sport?

There is no denying that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are amongst the top couple players in the NHL with Crosby leading the way.  It is also a fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are among the upper echelon of teams in the league.  Combine that with the fact the NHL is on the verge of negotiating a new TV contract and it was a no brainer to put it's two most highly marketed stars on the ice against one another for their biggest regular season showcase game, the NHL Winter Classic.  The NHL is a business and the higher the ratings this year the bigger the leverage the league has in the next negotiations.  This game will undoubtedly be highly rated television after the endless promotion it has gotten and the added bounce HBO's 24/7 will give to the festivities, so for the business side it should be a clear win for the league. 

What can be asked though is if the non-stop promotion of just two players and their teams by the NHL is good for the sport.  Every night no matter what game you are watching you cannot escape a conversation or a commercial that contains at least one of the two of them.  As I said in certain aspects the promotion of these two has been good for the game and with the upcoming Winter Classic I have no doubt that HBO never signs on to do 24/7 without the match-up and storyline of Crosby vs Ovechkin.  It is that draw not a real rivalry between the Capitals and Penguins which made HBO go out on a limb with its critically acclaimed series, but the sport has to be about more than those two.  Luckily for the most part HBO has done a pretty good job, better than the NHL in showcasing the teams on which these stars play and not just having it be solely about them.

There will be many who will watch the Winter Classic purely because it is Crosby vs Ovechkin and that part of it is good for the NHL in terms of revenue.  On the flip side I believe it is a problem that Winter Classic has become in large part Crosby vs Ovechkin instead of Penguins vs Capitals.  Life in the NHL dictates that no matter what either individual player does on Saturday the game will be decided as much by all the other guys on the ice as those two.  If the NHL wants to change the rules and let them go one-on-one for the two points in the standings then that is a different story, but Ovechkin will not be marking Crosby and vice versa so each will rely on their teammates to slow the other down and give them a chance to work their own magic in getting a win.  I am not saying that these two tremendous athletes are not capable of dominating on any given night or for long stretches as we just saw with Crosby's 25 game point streak, but what got lost in that streak was the tremendous team record and spectacular play of teammates like Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang.   

The reality though is the way the NHL has promoted the game and the league as a whole the articles on Sunday, if the game even happens Saturday with the weather, will not be about the Penguins and the Capitals but a comparison of the two individuals.  Is that good for the sport?

Daily Recap: Rangers-Flyers 2012 WC?; Christensen out 4-6 Weeks; WJC; Ovie & Dolls; Stamkos Spins

Main thought on the article today was looking ahead to next year’s Winter Classic and based on all the factors the NHL has to consider the most logical choice is for the Rangers to meet the Flyers in 2012 Classic.  Obviously there are other cities and other teams that will be under consideration, but the best way to keep the momentum that the Crosby vs Ovechkin match-up hopefully brings to the game is to bring the game to New York and have the Rangers play their hated rival Philadelphia Flyers.  In the article I go through the revenue side of it, the HBO factor, who else the Rangers could play and finally what venue is likely to be the site of the game.

In Rangers NHL news it was announced today that center Erik Christensen is going to miss 4-6 weeks with the knee injury he sustained in last night’s game.  As we already know Dale Weise has been summoned from the Whale to take Christensen’s spot in the lineup.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Video: Stamkos Hypocrisy? TB Star Goes Spin-O-Rama On Penalty Shot After Criticizing Omark

Fancy shootout moves have been the talk of late, but what makes this one different is it was during regulation play and meant a goal for the Lightning as star Steven Stamkos drove hard towards his forehand and then slammed the brakes and spun around using his backhand to beat Carey Price.

Don't think Ryan Malone and Dan Ellis will be complaining about this one like they did with Linus Omark, do you?

Does Stamkos change his comments about Ovie or Crosby not doing something like that since he just did?

Personally I did not have anything wrong with what Omark did the first time and thought it had very little to do with the goal itself, and the overreaction to it was unjustified.  On this particular occassion the move had everything to do with the goal and the point after all is to score so kudos to Stamkos for doing his job and putting it in the back of the net.

Video: P.K. Subban Cleans Out Dana Tyrell With Open-Ice Beauty

Montreal Candiens rookie defenseman P.K. Subban is going to get a reputation if he keeps flattening apponents in the neutral zone.  Two weeks ago it was Marchand and tonight it was Dana Tyrell of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  It is great to see open ice hitting still a part of the NHL game.

Video: Team USA Highlights Vs Germany

Erik Christensen Out 4-6 Weeks With Sprained MCL

According to multiple reports, New York Rangers Center Erik Christensen has been diagnosed with a second degree sprain to his right MCL and will be out of the lineup anywhere from four to six weeks.  Christensen sustained the injury last night during the second period when he was knocked into the post, where he immediately grabbed for the knee.  He would not return to the game and now we know for how long he will be missing.  Christensen, 27, has totaled six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 37 games this season for the team and while he has played at times with star Marian Gaborik his biggest contributions of late have been in the shootout.   The Rangers have already recalled Dale Weise from Hartford to take Christensen’s place on the roster, but questions about the lineup have not yet been answered.

Video: Ovechkin Obliterates Russian Dolls In Shooting Practice

If the NHL really wants to change All-star weekend into something that gets more national attention than it currently does, then they should be doing things like what ESPN did with Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. ESPN had Ovie take the traditional accuracy competition and "spiced" it up by changing the traditional disc targets to Russian Dolls and filling them with Russian salad dressing.

What ensued was a highly messy but even more entertaining display of the skill one of the top players in the world has to put the puck wherever he wants to at any moment. This is the kind of ingenious move that would help build the sport to a higher level among a national audience, so let's have more instead of the same boring commercials and gimmicks like fantasy drafts at the ASG.

The key beyond the skill and the mess which will make people pass this on to all they know is the personality of Ovechkin when he grins and says, "I'm glad I'm not one of the dolls." Now you know what NHL goaltenders must be thinking every time he breaks in on them.

Recap: Whale Win Behind Kennedy OT Goal Vs Former Club (Video)

The Connecticut Whale continued to ride the wave up the standings with Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over the Portland Pirates.  The Whale is now a superb 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 and 10-1-0-1 in the 12 games since the name change and those marks have moved the Whale into third place in the Atlantic Division only 1 point behind the Pirates for second.  One of the biggest keys for the Whale resurgence has been that on any given night a different guy could be the hero and on this night former Portland Pirate Tim Kennedy was that hero.  Just 36 seconds into overtime Kennedy would patiently hold the puck at the right faceoff circle looking for and faking multiple passes before finally firing the shot that would beat Pirate’s netminder Jhonas Enroth to the short side high.  The shot had beautiful placement on it, but if not for the patience and fake passes Enroth probably has a better chance to square up the shot and possibly save it. 

For Kennedy beating his old club has to add a little something to what has been a tough few months for the 24 year old who two seasons ago with Portland was on the AHL all-rookie team and led all first year players with 67 points and 49 helpers.  Kennedy would go to the big club, Buffalo Sabres the following season and have a decent rookie season in which he posted 10 goals and 16 assists in 78 games.  All seemed to be heading in the right direction but then Buffalo walked away from Kennedy’s arbitration award.  Trying to stay in the NHL Kennedy would sign with the New York Rangers but fail to make the club and end up back in the AHL this season.  Kennedy has had some ups and downs this season for the Whale but has gotten his game going of late with 1G and 3 assists in the last three contests including the game winner on this night.

As for the rest of the game the first period had no offense to speak of and as the highlights show the only real entertainment was a huge hit by Dale Weise in his own zone and then in the two fights that happened literally within five seconds of each other.  Brodie Dupont took on Tim Conboy and Conboy was in charge early in the fight, but Dupont would land the biggest punch of the fight to even it out by the end.  In the other fight Justin Soryal and Dennis McCauley would square off and while McCauley got in some good shots of his own I think Soryal won the fight overall, but a very good scrap.

While the first had little offense, the second had its share of chances and if not for strong goaltending by both Chad Johnson and Jhonas Enroth goals would have come.  The best chances stopped by Johnson were from Derek Whitmore who was left alone in front for a one-timer on a play from behind the net which Johnson would stop.  Then again while the Whale were on the power play Weise would try a backhand pass to Wade Redden at the point but it would be Whitmore streaking the other way on a breakaway Johnson would stone with the pad as Whitmore tried a wrist shot low stick side.

Early in the third while on a 5-on-3 power play it would be Enroth’s turn to make some big saves as he would stop the initial shot from Jeremy Williams and then stone Tim Kennedy’s rebound attempt and then Kennedy would attempt to slide it across the crease to Dale Weise but it would not connect. 

The scoreless tie was finally ended when Ryan McDonagh made a very smart play at the point when he held the Pirate’s attempted clear in the zone.  McDonagh instead of just playing the puck to keep it in fired it at the net and with Portland looking to break out it left three Whale players in front with only one Pirate defender and Kelsey Tessier would be the beneficiary as he would collect the rebound and have an open net to shoot at.  The Whale took the lead 1-0 4:58 into the final period.

That lead would be short lived however as just 1:11 later after Portland barely maintained the zone Colin Stuart would feed Paul Byron at the top of the left wing circle and he would wind and fire one by Johnson to make it 1-1.

Following the goal the Whale would have a few more chances lead by Evgeny Grachev taking a feed from Williams at the left side faceoff circle and firing a shot that beat Enroth but would then he the crossbar and stay out.  Finally the Whale would have a power play late in regulation, which would be the same one Kennedy scored on early in OT, but Chad Kolarik would be denied by Enroth in the waning seconds.

As most of you know following the game the Rangers called up Dale Weise from the Whale and also that the Whale will be getting Todd White in time for their weekend games.  It will be interesting to see how Gernander handles the lines with Zuccarello and Weise both in New York and where he incorporates White’s veteran presence in the lineup.

Rangers vs Flyers Only Real Choice For 2012 Winter Classic

With the 2011 Winter Classic just two days away it is not too early to start thinking about where the 2012 version of this annual event will be held and the implications that choice could have on various aspects of the sport.  Each year the event has become bigger and bigger after starting in Buffalo, moving to Chicago, then Boston and now Pittsburgh.  The next logical progression is to bring the game to the New York City area with one of the leagues original six teams, the New York Rangers as the host team.  New York makes tremendous sense because it gives you a vast array of different match-ups you could market both in terms of team rivalries, the sport and geographic considerations.

The Winter Classic has become the NHL’s signature regular season game in terms of audience and maybe even more importantly revenue.  Just yesterday Chris Botta over at AOL Fanhouse talked about the evolution of the event and revenue stream that has come out of it for the NHL.  From the article:
According to data provided by the NHL, it appears Burwick was on to something. League sponsorship revenue is up $330 million over the last three years, with the signature New Year's Day event as the driving force. All broadcast spots on NBC are sold out, with NHL partners buying 37 units -- up from 28 last year. Geico and Verizon have created hockey-centric spots, a rarity for major companies in the U.S. The Winter Classic gear by Reebok (knit hats, scarves, workout shirts) is such a massive revenue generator -- 38,000 jerseys have been sold as of this week -- Collins refers to the merchandising as "our 31st team." HBO's four-part "24/7" documentary is bringing the NHL closer to the casual fan. Projected revenue for the 2011 Classic is up 20 percent from last year's game between the Bruins and Flyers in Fenway Park and more than 200 percent over the 2008 game in Buffalo.
Speaking of HBO 24/7 having just watched the third episode the series leading up to the Capitals Penguins game all I can say is that I wish HBO covered the NHL in their next TV contract and that I want more 24/7, including if HBO and the NHL were willing a similar type event for the playoffs as a whole or just the finals series.  As much as many fans might not like to admit it the real reason the NHL got HBO to sign on to do 24/7 at all was because of the match-up of Ovechkin and Crosby.  What we have now though because of the exposure HBO has given the game beyond the normal NHL fan is an opportunity to expand the marketing of the game past just Ovechkin and Crosby and back to the overall quality of the game.  The problem is you need something large to draw the attention of HBO again to continue their willingness to be a part of the package. 

I believe New York gives HBO that kind of potential draw given the city itself and that the team has remade itself from one that relied solely on big name stars to a homegrown club improving by becoming a single unit instead of a collection of individuals.  That said the Rangers do have an interesting group of engaging personalities in the locker room like Sean Avery, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky while behind the bench John Tortorella is always entertaining whether you agree or disagree.  Along with the personalities you have star quality in terms of Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik with rising players with Marc Staal at the top of that list.  On the merchandise side, I believe given the global reach of the New York Rangers brand it is tough to fathom them not only sustaining the merchandise sales but increasing the reach of the game, especially if the right match-up is involved.  For both HBO and the NHL the match-up will be critical to the success of any event involving the Rangers. 

For many there is a natural inclination to keep the game a New York game and pit the Rangers against either the Devils or the Islanders, but with the struggles of both clubs this season I do not see that as a viable option and is probably too narrow for the league as a whole.  There are four match-ups that can appeal to the NHL on differing levels in terms of an opponent for the Rangers, though one stands above the rest.

The best option I believe is playing against Philadelphia as it has both a team and city rivalry aspect to the game which will draw out a level of intensity to the game that probably has not been seen in any of the previous match-ups other than Detroit/Chicago.  In Philadelphia you have a team that went to the Cup finals last season, is among the favorites this year and boasts an extremely young and talented roster with marketable players like Mike Richards, Chris Pronger and burgeoning star Claude Giroux.  In terms of 24/7 there are plenty of characters on the team that could make for entertaining television and a look at the New York/Philadelphia dynamic both on and off the ice as well.  The drawback is that Philly was just in the game against Boston, though so was Pittsburgh when they played Buffalo in the inaugural event and that did not disqualify them from making a second appearance.

Playing against Boston has many of the same positives as Philly with a possibly larger city vs city dynamic and the original six component, but possibly less intense being non division.  The main drawback is also the same drawback as a match-up with the Flyers.

Playing the Los Angeles Kings would give the NHL the ability to bring in a West Coast team that would never host a game due to the weather, and also give a tip of the cap to the history of the first NHL outdoor game just over 20 years later as the game took place Sept. 27, 1991, which took place in Las Vegas.  The Kings are a very talented team with marketable talents like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty and New York against Los Angeles brings ratings in just about anything they do and will certainly sell merchandise.  The negative is there is little on ice history to the rivalry, so some of the bad blood between the teams and fan bases would not be there like with other match-ups.

Playing Montreal would give the NHL the ability to market the game as an original six match-up and against the most successful NHL franchise.  This would allow the NHL to include a Canadian team which it has yet to do in the previous four incarnations of the game.   The match-up would oppose the second and third most valuable NHL franchises according to Forbes, but there is a reason the NHL has yet to include Canadian teams in the Classic and that is because the ratings do not crossover and ratings are what drives advertising dollars.  Besides the NHL will tell you there is already the Heritage Classic for teams north of the border.

The biggest impediment to the Rangers getting the Winter Classic for 2012 is the venue.  If Yankee Stadium was available I think this would already be wrapped up but because of the commitment the stadium has with the Pinstripe Bowl that is not a possibility.  It has recently been said the NHL is considering both Citi Field and the New Meadowlands for potential sites for the Classic.  Citi Field is not really a viable candidate for the game, but while there are complications to using the Meadowlands (having to move two NFL teams for two Sundays) and it will not have the same mystique as using Yankee Stadium it is a very viable option for the game; similar to that of Heinz field this year.  The stadium is brand new, state of the art along site and goes along with Gary Bettman previously saying that football stadiums often offer better viewing for the hockey events; especially in the lower sections.  The capacity at the stadium is 82,500, which while not the Big House at Michigan, would be the largest capacity of any of the host sites the NHL has used thus far and offers the NHL the ability to one up the NFL who is afraid to schedule their biggest game for the NYC area.

Factoring in all the potential sites and match-ups that could be viable for the NHL in the 2012 Winter Classic the best solution to advance the NHL and this game in particular is New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers at the New Meadowlands stadium.  How could HBO possibly turn down the chance to follow Tortorella, Avery, Pronger, Carcillo around to see the next crazy thing that is going to come out of one or all of their mouths?  How great would a Rangers-Flyers alumni game be with Messier, Richter, Leetch, Graves and more taking on Lindros, LeClair, Brind'Amour, Hextall, Tocchet, Kerr and any of the Broadstreet Bullies that still wanted to still go?  How great would it be filming Christmas and New Year's in New York?  It is clear the only choice is Rangers vs Flyers.

Tell me your thoughts on where you would like to see the game and who you want in it.

Daily Recap: Rangers Grind; Christensen Hurt, Weise Back; Del Zotto to Minors Good?; White Gone

A lot went on around the New York Rangers today starting most notably with the Rangers finding a way to get the two points behind Lundqvist, Boyle and Dubinsky most notably.  The game was by no means pretty, but it was another one of those examples of why this year’s club is different from prior ones in that they come out with these wins in some form or fashion.  Coach John Tortorella echoed those thoughts to some extent in his postgame press conference in which among other things he talked about the Rangers having a certain mentality they play with.

Lundqvist was brilliant as he normally is against the Devils and the two best Rangers offensive players over the course of the season had a hand in all three of the teams goals and so while they were likely outplayed over the course of the game they got the most important thing; the result.  The full recap of the game has more complete thoughts on the game, who played stood out most and as always details on all the goals and big plays.

During the game the Rangers lost center Erik Christensen to what is currently being called a knee sprain, but no timetable was given this evening as to how long he would be out.  In response to the injury the Rangers announced tonight that they have recalled Dale Weise from the Connecticut Whale.  Personally with the Rangers finally sending Todd White to Connecticut this afternoon I thought Weise would be here soon either way, but this certainly sped up the process.  The question now is with losing Christensen how the lines will shake out as the team has a lot of wingers and this might mean Drury goes back to center on the fourth line.  More detailed thoughts on all of that another time.

This morning’s story was about the hot topic of yesterday whether Michael Del Zotto might go down to the minors and I looked at the pros and cons of the move along with a potential option as a power play quarterback who is still out there on the free agent market to fill that void along with a left handed defender if they do send MDZ down.  I am very mixed at the moment on sending Del Zotto down, though moving more towards liking the idea than I was previously because I think a large part of the problem right now for DZ is what is going on with him and Torts.  I do not think Torts is putting him in the best scenarios to succeed in terms of whom he is paired with and matched up against along with the way he is allowing him to play as he seems to be taking away some of his biggest strengths and as a result DZ is playing scared hockey.  The biggest worry is obviously that it will put Michael in the tank confidence wise like it did with Gilly last year.  More thoughts in the article.

This afternoon I looked at the rumors surrounding the Atlanta Thrashers looking to move Niclas Bergfors and whether the Rangers should get involved and overall depending on the price I am intrigued enough by the talent to think it might be worth a shot.  Like I said it is very dependent on the price though and so it is really about how badly Atlanta wants to move him as with Torts it could flame out and I would not want to risk dealing anything of real value.

In the video department there were a couple of entries:  During the game there was a decent scrap between Brian Boyle and Dainius Zubrus.  From the WJC there was video of Rangers 2010 6th round pick Jesper Fasth scoring against Russia on a pretty play that showed a goal scorers aptitude for me.

Finally in a story that will surprisingly make Rangers fans very happy the Islanders and Rick DiPietro managed to finally end the scoring streak of Sidney Crosby.  Now let us hope that it means the end of that hideous disease on the top of his lip.