Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Video: Matt Cooke's Latest Dirty Hit; Charging Fedor Tyutin

The number of Matt Cooke incidents just keeps piling up.  The scary part is they seem to be picking up in their frequency and this was the second straight game with a dirty play by the Pittsburgh forward.  During tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cooke was assessed a 5-minute major for charging when he left his feet to slam Fedor Tyutin into the boards.
Here’s the video:

The Cooke apologists have been complaining about how Tyutin saw Cooke and turned his back to Cooke, which is what caused the contact to happen the way it did.  There is absolutely no excuse to justify this hit where he leaped, making it a clear charging call.  Cooke had time to pull out of the hit if he wanted or just go in with his skates on the ice and it might be a different discussion, but that is not the way Matt Cooke thinks hockey should be played.  If there is a chance to take a liberty, Cooke will take it and he did here.
The fact that the NHL continues to do nothing to punish Cooke for his repeated violations is what allows this to keep going on and you have to wonder what exactly Cooke has to do for the league to slap him down. 
Thankfully Tyutin is ok, but the fact that he is should not be the basis for the penalty or any subsequent action by the league, but unfortunately that seems to be the way it works for the NHL these days.

Rangers Potential Trade Targets: Calgary

The NHL trade deadline is now less than three weeks away, and with that the trade rumor mill is bound to start bursting into flames with rumors involving the New York Rangers. Speaking of flames, at least until recently, the Calgary Flames looked destined to be sellers at the deadline, though a recent winning streak has them in the thick of the playoff race.  Should the Flames fall back out of the race, do they have anything that could fix the Rangers holes for this season.  The way I see it those holes include a big shot on the point, and a guy who can win some faceoffs.
The organization has made it abundantly clear that there will be no move to sacrifice the future just to try and improve the club this year.  That position likely eliminates Jarome Iginla from the realm of trade targets given the cost in salary and assets as well as his age.  The focus should be on players that are either young, or have expiring contracts, so the team has as much flexibility this summer as possible.
Alex Tanguay (UFA): Tanguay is a guy that many Rangers fans have wanted to bring into New York for a long time.  After struggling last season in Tampa, Tanguay took a one-year 1.7 million dollar contract from the Flames in order to try and resurrect his career in a place where he previously had success.  The gamble has worked out well for both sides as Alex has put up 14 goals, 28 assists and 42 points in 54 games thus far this season.  Those numbers exceed the point totals he accumulated in 80 contests last season.  Having previously been a top line player, Alex is more of a second line player, but his passing ability could make him an attractive target to pair with the struggling Marian Gaborik.  Tanguay has a proven track record as a solid playoff performer as well.  Combine that with his low salary cost and there is a lot to like in this kind of a move, excpet all those things add up to high demand in the trade market.  The other problem is the Rangers have a logjam of forwards as it is when they get healthy with likely Drury and Christensen or Avery being on the outside looking in, so room is an issue.  Bringing in Tanguay at the expense of Zuccarello playing time or a significant trade chip would be a bad move for the Rangers, but if Calgary has interest in Christensen that could be a potential option. 
Brendan Morrison (UFA): Morrison joined the Flames in training camp on a one-year 725K contract.  Brendan has had a solid season putting together a line of 9-23-32 while winning 48.4% of his faceoffs.  Morrision would certainly be a cheap add, but not sure he is a big upgrade over anything the Rangers have to really be worth exploring.
Curtis Glencross (RFA): Pass
Robyn Regehr (2 yrs 4.02 million remaining): The only player on the Flames I would consider dealing for despite the fact he is not a free agent this summer.  Regehr is a rugged crease clearing defender and the Rangers have been looking for one for a long time.  The emergence of Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh combined with the asking price and contract cost of Regehr makes me pass in the end.
Anton Babchuk (UFA): Babchuk’s best quality is his cannon from the point, which would certainly be a welcomed addition on the power play.  Overall on the season Babchuk has a line of 6-16-22 in 54 games, which would put him on pace for 34 points this season.  Babchuk was in the KHL last season, but the 2008-09 season with Carolina he scored 16 goals (9 PPG) and had 19 assists.  Anton’s contract is only 1.4 million this season which means the cost for the Rangers is negligible for the rest of the year and the cost of dealing for him should not be too high.  Dealing for Babchuk would give the Rangers the chance to evaluate the 26-year-old free agent this summer to see if he could help them next season as well.  Matt Gilroy has played much better of late, but Babchuk would add something Gilroy cannot, so maybe that is the kind of swap the team makes.
Steve Staios (UFA): Certainly fits the criteria of a veteran defenseman that would come cheap, but he has little left in the tank and has been a healthy scratch a number of times this year.  Pass.
Calgary does not have a lot that is attractive in terms of expiring contracts, but Tanguay and Babchuk both have the ability to fill needs for the Rangers if the price is right.  The problem is if you are Calgary your bigger concern is unloading some of your longer term deals and the Rangers must say no to any of those types of offers.  It will be interesting to see if Calgary can stay in the race the next few weeks, and if they fall out who they attempt to move.

Whether Decision On Del Zotto Is NHL or AHL, Rangers Must Stick To It This Time

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
At this point it is becoming painfully clear that the New York Rangers have no idea what to do with second-year defenseman Michael Del Zotto.  The number mixed messages the team is sending to him and about him is reaching staggering proportions right now.  All we do know for sure is that at some point over these three days off the Rangers will make a decision on whether to send Michael back to the Connecticut Whale or keep him here with the NHL team.  We have no idea if a decision in either direction will be stuck with for any length of time because they cannot stick with the ones they have already made, or at least the public comments about him. 
When Del Zotto was initially brought back due to the rib injury to Dan Girardi, coach John Tortorella went out of his way to tell anyone who would listen that the reason for his return was purely about the injury and not improved play.  It was a clear statement of intent and an accurate assessment of the fact that the six games he had played in Hartford had not cured the ailments that forced him to be sent down.  Following the two games in which he filled in for Giardi, Del Zotto was sent down to the AHL to play while the NHL All-Star Break happened.
Based on what Tortorella had said upon Del Zotto’s initial recall, and the play of the Rangers defensive core before the Girardi injury, one would not be out of bounds in expecting Del Zotto not to return after the break with all six defenders healthy.  Well, he did.  The Rangers initially recalled Del Zotto again while claiming him as a sort of insurance for Girardi if he was not fully healed in time for the their next game.  Turns out he was, but Del Zotto was in and Steve Eminger was scratched. 
After an up and down first two games following the break, before Saturday’s game against the Canadiens coach John Tortorella made a declaration of sort when it came to Del Zotto.
Tortorella said, “We’re in the process of developing him, too. When it comes to younger guys and older guys, though Emmy is not 35 years old, we’re going to continue to work with the younger guy if we see fit. He’ll continue there unless we see fit to make a change.”
Just two days after that statement, and off a decent game for Del Zotto against Montreal, Tortorella said before Monday’s game that Michael could head back to Connecticut.
"We've been keeping our eye on all the 'D,' and we'll make decisions over the next few days. With Michael, it's still part of a process. Is it best for him here, is it best for him there [in Hartford]? We have to figure what's best for him because eventually, that's what's going to be best for the organization."
My thoughts on what the team should do with Del Zotto are very clear from last Friday and the way this is being handled only furthers the stance I have not only on what they should do, but who is to blame for this scenario. 
The organization needs to bite the bullet one way or the other when it comes to Del Zotto.  Either you commit to leaving him for the whole year and taking the ups and downs that go with it or you send him down to develop and leave him there for the rest of the year.  All these mixed messages are not good for Del Zotto’s psyche and neither is the dance of sending him down and calling him up.  Make a decision before you end having the lack of one ruin this tremendous talent.

Rangers Should Promote Avery to Play With Gaborik Permanently

This season has seen a lot of players for the New York Rangers accept their roles and thrive in them.  There has been no Ranger who has accepted his role, whatever it might be better than Sean Avery.  There has been no complaining about how no matter what he does on the ice he somehow continually ends up on the fourth line to give other players of more skill opportunities over him.  The interesting thing about it is both last night and possibly against Montreal, there has been no Rangers forward that has played better than Sean Avery. 

I have never been the biggest Avery guy, but this guy is working his tail off this season to do whatever it takes for the betterment of the team.  He has played the skill game when he has been asked.  He has played the agitator when asked to do that.  He has fought when he felt the need was there.  Instead of basically patting Sean on the head in the press for what he has done, it is time that coach John Tortorella put his lineup where his mouth is and move Avery up the lineup.  The man has more than earned it.

There is no player on the club who has had better chemistry this season with Marian Gaborik than Avery and yet at every turn, with every new or returning player to the lineup, Avery is moved away from Gaborik to try and use that person in the spot.  I am not saying Avery is a top line player because on pure skill he is not.  However, I am saying that Avery has been the best partner for the player they cannot seem to get going consistently and it is time to reward him for that fact as well as his other contributions to the team.  When you are constantly tinkering with lines because you are failing to have Gaborik find chemistry, it is time to keep it simple and put him with those whom he has had it with this year, and Avery tops the list.

Until such time as Avery forgets to play disciplined hockey and loses his focus there is absolutely no reason to separate him from Marian Gaborik.  Think of the two of them in the same fashion that you do Boyle and Prust and work on combinations from that point forward.

Later I will examine which center should work between these two.