Everything Happening In The World Of Sports...The Way We See It

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: New York Rangers

In Hockey on July 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm

New York Rangers

A Look Back at 2010-11
One year after the Rangers missed the playoffs for the first time since the lockout, the Blueshirts were back in the dance. Their prize? The top-seeded Washington Capitals and a five-game defeat. The biggest problem? Marian Gaborik, who regressed from a stellar first season in New York, struggling with injuries and inconsistency in the process. The positives? Henrik Lundqvist (a given) and a slew of home-grown talent that showed they are ready for the bright lights in Manhattan. These aren’t the Rangers of old anymore, and even though the result in the playoffs wasn’t what they were looking for, there is plenty for the Rangers to build on next year. Final Grade: B-

A Look Ahead to 2011-12

Brad Richards gives the Rangers the top center they've needed for years

Forwards
The Rangers improved themselves dramatically by adding the marquee piece of the 2011 free agent class in Brad Richards. This team needed a star center the same way LeBron James needs a new PR staff. With Richards, they get the guy that can feed the puck to Gaborik and run the point on the power play. Having Richards assume the heavy lifting frees up some of the team’s secondary scorers. This is where Ranger fans can get excited, because there are plenty of those sitting around. Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan will be freed up to feast on the opposition’s second defensive pairing. Each of those three players are poised for breakout seasons, with Callahan or Dubinsky likely ready to assume the team’s captaincy. Add in guys like Wojtek Wolski, Erik Christiansen, Sean Avery, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust who can score as bottom six players. Even with young Mats Zuccarello in the wings, there’s firepower across four lines for the Rangers, for the first time in a long time. Grade: B (They need to have someone other than Richards and Gaborik be consistent all year. No one else has shown they can do that in their young careers. Look for that to change this year.)

Marc Staal made a giant leap last year, and is now the Rangers' best defenseman.

Defense
The Rangers are loaded with solid, young defensemen. Could they use a veteran to come in and help out? Probably, but the fact remains is that this defensive corps is very good. Marc Staal is the leader on the back end, playing against each team’s best players nightly along with Dan Girardi. Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Steve Eminger and Michael Del Zotto round out the defensemen currently on the roster. One player to keep an eye on is prospect Tim Erixon. He may not come over from Sweden to play, but if he does, the Rangers get another young stud blue liner to add to the group. The biggest issue, outside of the youth is the potential lack of production in points. Girardi led the squad last year with 31 points, and that isn’t anywhere good enough. Del Zotto could be a spark the team needs, as he had 37 points as a rookie and could man the point on the second PP unit. However, he struggled last year and was sent down to the minors because his defense wasn’t up to speed. Where will the production come from? Only time will tell. Grade: B- (Will upgrade if they add a veteran or two to help the depth)

Henrik Lundqvist is my dark horse for the Vezina Trophy this year

Goaltending
Can we get an “Amen” for King Henrik? The guy keeps getting better no matter how much John Tortorella plays him. The Rangers have been in the playoffs for five of the last six years because of Henrik alone (honorable mention goes to Jaromir Jagr). Now that he should have his boys score a few more goals for him, we could be looking at this year’s Vezina Trophy winner. Despite Henrik’s brilliance, I still feel that he needs some more rest during the regular season. Martin Biron is a true pro that deserves a few more starts. However, since the Rangers will be fighting for position all year, that may not happen. The Rangers may still have some questions, but goaltending isn’t one of them. Grade: A

Prediction

The Rangers could make a deep run in the playoffs this year. An injection of offense in Richards and a talented group on defense, along with Lundqvist settling in as a rock in net, and they could give a top team some serious trouble. I still think they’ll struggle to get production from guys not named Richards, but there are enough guys who can score to give teams trouble. They’re one or two big injuries on defense away from digging themselves a MASSIVE hole. For that, I can’t put them any higher. 3rd in Atlantic, 7th in East.

Advertisements