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.