Saturday, October 1, 2011

Staal Doubts Own Ability To Play In Rangers Opener

The New York Rangers are in Europe preparing to open the season on Friday, defenseman Marc Staal is skating with the Connecticut Whale in hopes of joining the team for the regular season.  However, according to Andrew Gross in today’s Bergen Record, Staal does not seem too confident that will happen while the team is in Europe. 
"It’s skate and see how I feel and then kind of go from there," Staal told The Record. "If I’m not feeling ready to play a game, it’s doubtful that I’ll make it over there. I’ll know more [today] as it goes on."
That is certainly not good news for the Rangers faithful as losing Staal for any game action is a huge loss to the team.  That said, the patient approach is the right one for Staal to take and he knows how ready or not ready he is at this point to play against NHL competition.  That is part of the problem in Staal’s judgement that his lack of being cleared for contract due to his headaches he cannot gauge his level of game fitness.
"I haven’t physically touched anybody on the ice yet so, from that standpoint, I’m not ready," Staal said. "Once I’m cleared to start taking hits and battling guys down low, I can better gauge when I could be ready."
While the talk from the organization has been very positive and upbeat about when Staal will be able to play, hearing Staal himself doubt where he is right now is a more honest assessment.  Glen Sather is talking up how soon Staal could be in Europe while the player himself has no plans to even make it there at all.
"Nothing’s booked right now," Staal said. "Honestly, there’s not really a plan. It’s going by how I feel. If I improve drastically tomorrow and feel good, maybe I’ll head over there."

Rangers Cut Prospects As Trim Roster to 25

The New York Rangers made their second round of cuts this morning and the result is a resulting roster of 25.  The cuts today were defensemen Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath and Blake Parlett along with forwards Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, Kris Newbury and Dale Weise.  All were assigned to  to Connecticut (AHL) except for McIlrath who was returned to the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League.

For some this will look like the Rangers taking a step back in the youth movement because no prospects will make the opening night roster this season, but I do not view it that way.  Erixon, Hagelin and Bourque were all given their chances to make the team.  Erixon did not show as much in camp/preseason as he did in Traverse City, so he will get the opportunity, like Ryan McDonagh last season, to go down tot he AHL and play big minutes to be ready for a call-up during the season.   The competition for Hagelin, Bourque and even Weise was a little more stacked against them as 11 forwards were locked into the roster and Mats Zuccarello claimed the 12th spot with his strong play.  Putting Bourque or Hagelin on the roster as a 13th forward would be a disservice to them both now and going forward.  They will go to Connecticut and play big minutes continuing to get better and waiting for their opportunity.

With Weise the situation is a little different because he has to pass through waivers and it is possible that he showed enough in his preseason performances that another team will claim him on waivers this week.  If he does not get claimed, then I would still look for him to be moved out of the organization through trade to clear a veteran spot on the AHL roster.  It is possible with Kolarik's injury they could keep him, but Weise will likely get moved elsewhere to see if he can crack the NHL.

Goalie (3): Marty Biron, Henrik Lundqvist, Scott Stajcer
Defensemen (8): Brendan Bell, Stu Bickel, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Marc Staal
Forwards (14): Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Prust, Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, Derek Stepan, Wojtek Wolski, Mats Zuccarello

The Rangers will assuredly make two more cuts before opening night with Stajcer being the guaranteed one to be sent back.  Avery and Christensen are battling for the final forward spot while Staal's situation leaves the defense decisions up in the air.  If he can play, then it is said that Bickel or Bell will be the one cut while Del Zotto is safe.  The Rangers could also carry 8 defenders early in the year just in case there is any further issues for Staal once he returns.