Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wolski a Missing Piece To Help a Run or Next In Tortorella's Dog House?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Good Morning New York Rangers fans and for many it is a good morning indeed to have woken up to realize that the trade yesterday of Michal Rozsival for Wojtek Wolski was indeed something that actually happened and not a dream.  As with most things that seem too good to be true the night before there is the next morning where you find out it was really as good as it looked the night before and we have arrived at that point on the trade.  The elation for Rangers fans in removing Rozsival from New York as Jim Schmiedeberg on Blueshirt Banter Radio (which you should all be listening to) last night meant that they did not care if Wolski turned out to be a Polish Sausage it was well worth the move.  That is the prevailing sentiment and I cannot fully disagree but let us ask if we are getting a true player that can help lead a run or another Zherdev ending up in the doghouse?  The answer is no one really knows, but that should make it fun to watch.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound winger was a first round draft pick of the Avalanche in 2004. He spent nearly five years with the Avs before they traded him to Phoenix last season in a deal for another talented but underproducing forward in Peter Mueller. In his time in Colorado, Wolski, put up some spectacular numbers. In his first full season, Wolski recorded 22 goals and 50 points in 76 games played.  Following that season the expectations for him to take the next step as a star were high, but over the following two years the growth was not there and he appeared to have stagnated.
On pace for similar numbers last season, though slightly improved the trigger was pulled on the trade with Phoenix and he exploded for them netting 18 points in only 18 games.  His strong play continued in the playoffs where he put up a line of 4-1-5 in the first round playoff series against Detroit.
Those things caused him to received his two year contract this summer at 3.8 milllion per and have expectations once again increased that he could repeat or exceed the 65 points he put up last season, but that did not happen this season.
Every knock you read about Wolski involves something that can surely be a problem here in New York which is concerns about his effort.  I have not actually seen it yet, but the summation of the descriptions would lead you to believe the adjective “enigmatic” is not far off in describing this talented but inconsistent 24-year-old who has the skill of a first liner and even the production at times but at others cannot get out of the doghouse.  How exactly is that going to work with a coach like John Tortorella who has been known to love putting people in and never letting him out of the doghouse? 
The most common name thrown out there in the last 18 hours to describe Wolski is that of Zherdev and we all know how that went once Torts took over the Rangers.  Tortorella appears to have mellowed to some extent since then but do not mistake that for going softer or less inclination to lock Wolski down and throw away the key if he does not play the system.  Wolski skill or not will be required to backcheck, forecheck and overall play hard consistently.  The fact that Dave Tippett who has similar standards if not a similar external approach to Tortorella had issues with Wolski is a red-flag on the move.
I think the key for this move is not really Wolski himself or Tortorella but the Rangers team as a whole because when you walk in that room and you are surrounded by the likes of Prust, Dubinsky, Callahan, Boyle, Fedotenko and you watch the way they play the game on both ends of the ice you feel a little more compelled to chip in that way.  Along with that I believe the room beyond Torts demands that kind of energy and effort which can be a very good thing for a player like Wolski.
In the end the prize you picked up the night before might not be as sexy as you thought it was the night before but it does not have to be because you eliminated a much uglier entrant from the competition hoping to mold this one into a prize.  Reality states that even if all Wolski ever is for the Rangers is Zherdev 2.0 every single Rangers fan signs up for the idea of dealing Rozsival for that and the upside makes this while still a roll of the dice, one worth throwing your chips in on.  I for one am betting that at least in the short term the light clicks for Wolski and the Rangers get a piece crucial to making them a contender.