Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Video: Tortorella Calls Out Team Following Embarassment:, plus My Take

In the past I have been one of the toughest critics of John Tortorella's post game press conferences for the bluster and BS that he would use to sugarcoat the play or his refusal to call out some players when they clearly deserved it.  Since that was the case let me be the first to pat him on the back for this one as he was absolutely right in everything he said, the only thing I wish he added was about how Staal and Girardi were awful tonight and he himself failed to make any defensive adjusments.

Let's go through what he said:

  • There is nothing to build off when you do it after being spanked
  • A few guys have been carrying the team and they are tired now
  • St. Louis is as responsible for that PP as anyone
  • The guys who haven't carried need to step up
  • Called out Gaborik for not showing up
  • No situation with Henrik and team hung him out
In speculating on who he is talking about being tired I am going to start with Anisimov who has looked sluggish in a couple of the last games, Callahan did not have his usual energy tonight to name a few.  The obvious guys who need to step up but have not consistently as our best players are Gaborik who he named, Frolov, Del Zotto offensively, Staal more consistent defensively to name a few.

Rangers Play Like Turkey's in 5-3 Embarassment vs Lightning

The only question watching tonight’s debacle in Tampa for the Rangers would be whether they were suffering from tryptophan issues from eating early turkey or just looking forward to tomorrow because they played like turkeys for the first two periods tonight.  I guess I will blame it on tryptophan since they did wake up and decide to play in the third period but after two they were already down 5-0 so the three they would manage in the third were all essentially meaningless to the outcome. 

I am sure that the team will look to build off of the third in preparing for Florida, but I cannot let go of the embarrassment that the first two periods were quite so easily.  The team hung it’s star out to dry again as Lundqvist will be charged with five in the boxscore, but I think played well in the game and they let him be continually run again with no one smacking a guy in the crease only one time where Dubinsky boarded a guy on the other end of the ice.  The team had no belief or desire tonight until the game was long decided and this is yet another speed and skill team that has dominated them as Philly and Colorado did earlier this year.  The Rangers need to play a physical grinding game to be successful and against these teams that are quicker they never get that game going it seems.  This team is not talented to play run and shoot with any of these teams especially when Gaborik is missing in action, so either they learn how to play against these teams and make in game adjustments or this is going to happen repeatedly.

Details of the game inside

Avery vs Ohlund in Third Period: Let's Cut the Garbage Over Clean Hits

The other night against the Flames there was a wide discussion among fans about how too many times now on perfectly clean and legal hits someone on the other team is taking offense and wanting to fight over the play.  In my analysis of the Marc Staal hit I was challenged by a comment that if it had been a Ranger player who took instead of delivered the hit that I would be outraged over the play instead of deeming it as a clean play.  Obviously I would like to believe that is not true, but tonight is an example of me showing that and also calling out some fans who are playing hypocrisy on an incident in tonight’s Rangers game.

In the third period there was yet another incident of a guy making a perfectly clean hit and having to have a fight because of it when Mattias Ohlund stepped up and crunched Erik Christensen in center ice and Sean Avery decided he actually wanted to care tonight and fight about it.  This is the point where I will call out fans who are praising Avery for the play.  I do not want to hear about you have to defend your teammates or any of that garbage because you have no need to defend a guy from a perfectly clean it because you know what they are playing hockey and hitting is part of the game.  If it is an illegal hit I am all for defending your teammate and even dropping the gloves over it, but this garbage of fighting over clean hits has to end no matter what team is guilty of it.

Yes, the story will probably get more attention in the media now because Avery was the one that did it, but that does not make the story any less right.  What I want to know from the people who will say it is about sticking up for teammates, where was that fire and passion before the game was over at 5-0?  Where is that desire to defend teammates every time the Rangers stand around and watch Henrik get run and do nothing about it?  So while the media will blow the story up because it was Avery, let us not also defend it because it was Avery.

Video: Day Before Thanksgiving 2008: Stamkos Fights Zherdev

Almost two years ago to the day when the Rangers were in Tampa Bay on the day before Thanksgiving For two skill players these two definitely threw some bombs in what was Stamkos only fight so far in his career.

Pregame Pondering: Rangers at Lightning, 11/24/10

New York (12-9-1) vs Tampa Bay (12-7-2)

Key Opposition Player: Steven Stamkos (20-15-35)

Rangers Lineup:

Frolov - Stepan - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Callahan
Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust
Avery - Christensen - Boogaard

Staal - Girardi
Del Zotto - Eminger
Gilroy - Sauer


The New York Rangers will take the ice tonight looking to continue the momentum of two straight wins against a much improved Lighting squad who come in winners of four straight.  The hoopla that will surround the unbelievable start for Stamkos might actually help the Rangers as it allows them to remain focused on the task at hand instead of letting mind drift creep in.  The challenge will not be easy as Steven Stamkos right now is the best player in this league Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and especially Henrik Lundqvist better bring their ‘A’ game if the Rangers want to walk out with their third straight win. 

Working in the Rangers favor is that they have played very well on the road and their style of road game is the one to give them a chance in this one against a very good home team.  The Rangers will need to play with that physical edge on both ends of the ice as it is what helps them create chances offensively and prevent them on defense.  If the Rangers are forechecking and blocking shots it likely means they are playing a good game and are giving themselves the chances to win.

After two games and four days off Henrik Lundqvist is expected to return to the net for the Rangers this evening and he will have to be the Lundqvist that was in between the pipes the last time he had a two game layoff, last Monday against Pittsburgh.  In that game going up against great offensive players in Crosby and Malkin, Henrik was stellar stealing a game for his club on the road.  He will likely have to do the same tonight against Stamkos and St. Louis.  Marc Staal is coming off an excellent game against Calgary including possibly the hit of the year and Dan Girardi continues to play an All-star caliber level.  It is safe to assume that Tortorella that Staal and Girardi will be together tonight against that lethal line of the Lightning. 

Offensively the Rangers are going to need more from their own star in Marian Gaborik who has not scored in three straight and has been up and down in his impact on the games since his return.  The Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line is likely to draw the assignment against the Stamkos line and not only will they need to be responsible defensively but it will be important for them to play their game and forecheck/cycle against them in Tampa defensive zone.  The best way to stop an offensive weapon is to make it be pinned in its own defensive zone.

Beyond Stamkos the Rangers certainly have to worry about Martin St. Louis who has routinely killed the Rangers with 32 points in 34 games against the boys from Broadway.  Aside from those two Steve Downie is the biggest threat with Vincent Lecavalier out of the lineup.  The Rangers appear to catch a break in net as Mike Smith is going to get the start over the hotter Dan Ellis tonight, though Mike Smith has had some excellent games against the Rangers in the past.

Key to Game: Special Teams: Lightning 4th in NHL at 23.7% on PP; Rangers come in having killed 24 straight and 30 of 31 over their last 10.  Rangers need to stay out of the box as much as possible as it will help the penalty kill the less it has to be out there and help limit Stamkos who has 17 of his 35 points a man up.

Prediction: Rangers 4-3 SO (Stepan, Gaborik, Dubinsky)

Rangers Smarter Summer Leads To Better Fall and Future

Over the last few summers the Rangers have taken the big splash approach to free agency starting which included the organization overpaying people to fill the needs areas of the club.  It appeared this year was going to be the same when they gave Derek Boogaard an obscene contract on July 1st, but then it seemed the philosophy shifted.  The team went into the backup goaltender market and got Martin Biron who I did not believe was the best candidate nor was two years necessary but the salary was not bad and gave them a proven player behind Lundqvist.  The Rangers showed interest in Alexander Frolov, but refused to meet his demands in salary or years and eventually they would wait him out long enough to get him for one year at a reasonable salary.  The Rangers took the approach of the prior summer in getting a former Tortorella player in on a tryout as a motivated player can be a valuable commodity.  There was the moving of useless parts in Brashear, Lisin and Aaron Voros for Todd White and Steve Eminger.  Other than Boogaard none of these moves were panic moves, the trades were for players with one year left on contracts and Frolov and Fedotenko were one year prove it deals.  It was a quieter approach and it has paid dividends this fall and will in the future and I would argue it was because of prospect development both at the NHL level and in potential NHL readiness that the Rangers didn’t panic as badly as they had the prior summers.  Let us look at how each has paid dividends this season.

Martin Biron – The play of Biron in the early going has been nothing short of stellar as he has given the team a great chance to win in 6 of his 7 starts and compiling a record of 5-2.  Biron is a great team and locker room player as well so there will be no issues when they start riding Henrik down the stretch and in the meantime as a proven NHL goaltender he gives Tortorella the flexibility to do things like Monday versus Calgary and start Martin just to give Henrik a few extra days.

Ruslan Fedotenko and Alex Frolov – The additions of these two wingers gave the Rangers some more veterans to lengthen the lineup and create more scoring threats to help Marian Gaborik.  Fedotenko has been solid all season as a third line player capable of being very effective on the forecheck and scoring some tough goals.  For Frolov after some early season scoring troubles he appears to be playing with significantly increased confidence since the return of Marian Gaborik and the production is coming as a result.  If he can be a legitimate threat to aide Gaborik the Rangers have gotten what they wanted from both of these one year prove it guys, and the 9 goals 13 assists combined is not a bad start.

Steve Eminger – Gotten for Aaron Voros another guy Sather overpaid to be a tough guy a few summers ago the bar for Eminger was not high in being more valuable than Voros, but it did not look good in preseason and the first few games that count.  To Eminger’s credit he has turned it around and especially since the injury to Michal Rozsival has shown himself to be a valuable member of this club capable of a significant role.

Todd White – Todd White’s trade to NY was more about getting rid of Brashear than it was ever about getting production from White and to be fair to White he has gotten little to no chance to show anything with players that can be a threat.  Then again you have to earn those opportunities, but even in a failure type move it has no downside because it was a one year deal, so you cut bait and walk away.

Derek Boogaard – This is the only move this summer that screamed panic and to this point it is the worst of the moves mostly for his salary but in his last few games Boogaard has shown he can be effective on the forecheck in creating opportunities for others.  Let us hope he can continue to do that because his role as stopping people from running Rangers players as if that was ever realistic is not working and few guys in the league seem to have any interest in fighting him.

Derek Stepan – I know he does not count as a free agent move but it was a move to bring someone who was not in the professional ranks in by convincing him to leave Wisconsin and turn pro.  The move was widely anticipated by the Rangers fans, but is one of those under the radar type moves that was allowed to happen because the trust in our system let Sather not have to overpay a veteran on the market.  The roster flexibility of all the one year contracts along with the preseason injuries gave Stepan the chance to prove he belongs and the staff was not shy to let him prove it, which to this point he has and is only proving more with each game.

The other change in the system for the Rangers is that they stopped taking the short way out in terms of their own players in locking them in for short deals to lower the immediate cap hit because of the cap hell they got themselves in and started locking up core pieces of the team longer term.  Many believe that you build a team from the back out and the Rangers worked hard this summer on that locking up both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi for long term deals to be the cornerstones of the defense.  If the Rangers stick to these principles again this coming summer in locking up Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and even Artem Anisimov long term while avoiding the long-term contract temptation on the open market the team’s viability as a contender will continue to grow because they will allow their youth to continue filtering in and growing at the NHL level while have the flexibility to make smart investments on what they need.

*New title and shorter version of earlier post from this morning.

What If Steven Stamkos Had Become a Ranger?

I am sure by now you know the story of the potential/almost trade of Steven Stamkos to the New York Rangers during his rookie season as was told by Glen Sather to Larry Brooks back in April.  Obviously I have no idea how real the story is or is not, but it does not really matter for this particular exercise in which I am going to play out the hypothetical trade and see what the Rangers would look like today if it had happened.  Yes I know it is for all intents and purposes a pointless exercise since it did not and will not happen, but then again why not for a few moments examine what we would be looking at if the best player in the game right now was a blueshirt.  In this exercise I am limiting any additional trades from being done as a result of these moves, but free agency and the draft obviously could have shifted.

The deal as described by Sather to Brooks was said to be the following, “By the time the Blueshirts visited Tampa on Thanksgiving of 2008, the talks had become serious. Barrie was asking to choose two or three from a wish list that featured Michael Del Zotto, Evgeny Grachev, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Dan Girardi.”

Obviously right now any and all Rangers fans would do the deal for any combination of the players listed with the toughest to take possibly being Brandon Dubinsky and Dan Girardi, but still done in a second.  The difference was at that point Stamkos was struggling mightily in his rookie season and had only two goals and five assists in 21 games, which is why Barrie would even consider dealing him.  The acquisition of Stamkos for the Rangers would have only increased the desire to move Gomez as they would the following summer and they would still have looked to add a scorer with him so Gaborik likely still happens.  If it had been Dubinsky or Callahan and Girardi for Stamkos the salaries are close enough that no other drastic changes to the club have to happen.  That would put the Rangers last season adding Stamkos year to Gaborik and only subtracting out a subpar year for Girardi and Callahan with a relatively similar year to previous for Dubinsky and with that combination you have to believe the Rangers make the playoffs, though a defenseman would definitely would have to have been added.  Now during the season it would have meant the Jokinen trade likely never happens, so there would be no Brandon Prust on the roster.

It changes this past offseason because Frolov is not necessary but defense help would be if not made up for the year before and the Rangers probably go after Michalek, Hamhuis or Volchenkov with the combination of Frolov and Christensen money if Girardi was the one who was traded or a Paul Martin if it was Del Zotto who went in the deal.  The roster projection this season would likely have looked something like this:

Avery- Anisimov-Callahan
Fedotenko – Stepan – Drury
Boogaard – Boyle – Weise
White Kennedy



This lineup makes it with a million to spare under the cap and would be a very good roster overall, just wondering if they could have survived all the injuries the actual club had so far this season.  Now if Dubinsky was still here and Callahan was the one in the deal I put him up top with Stamkos and Gaborik, let Prospal play with AA and Aves/Fed.  I still don’t buy the club as a true contender, but if say Paul Martin, Girardi were there with Staal and Rozi as a top 4 I might.  Just to finish that thought off with a bit of hot topic conversation anyway if MDZ had been the one gone in the trade, Cam Fowler would have been taken over McIlrath in the draft, though the Rangers likely aren’t picking 10 for it to matter.

For the Rangers it really would have depended a lot on how the combinations played out to see if the deal makes the Rangers a contender, but I find it hard to argue that they are better now than they would have been had the deal happened.  It is tough for me as a fan of this team to imagine it without Dubinsky or Callahan or Girardi, especially the way all three of them are playing this season, but for Steven Stamkos you make the exception.  Steven Stamkos to me is the best player in the NHL right now and there is not a team in the league that would not be better with him on it.  The real question is the combination of Stamkos, Gaborik, Staal, Henrik, Anisimov, Stepan, Dubi/Cally, MDZ/Girardi and mainly filler enough to be a contender?  The answer is that I do not know, but I do believe if you added in over the next couple years the youth that is on the way they would be though unfortunately we will never find out.  The joy of watching Stamkos on Broadway 41 times a year would have been immense, but so is getting to watch and enjoy watching all of those homegrown Rangers continue their growth in their Rangers sweaters, which we should all be thankful for.  Also with any luck Staal, Girardi and likely Dubinsky, Anisimov and Callahan will shut down Stamkos tonight.

So while in the end a pointless exercise for me it made me appreciate the depth with which the Rangers team possesses right now and internally decide who I think is expendable and who is truly critical to the club. Hopefully for you this exercise was more fun for you to have taken in than depressing because that was the point, but leave whatever thoughts you have in the comments.