Rangers Rumors & News
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jagr_loses.jpgThe Rangers were supposed to be better than this. That’s the bottom line. GM Glen Sather added $86.75 million worth of talent up the middle in Chris Drury and Scott Gomez during the offseason and couldn’t find a winger to pair with either, let alone two. While Years 1 & 2 of the Rangers’ post-lockout revival have to considered resounding successes, Year 3 can’t be described as anything but a failure, and a step-backwards for a franchise that has yet to prove it knows exactly where it’s headed.

The Rangers gave their home fans one last excuse to cheer during a gutty Game 4 performance. I guess that’s something. Of course, it’d be even nicer had the team made if off the bus for Game 5. Or was that really a Grade-A effort on Sunday afternoon?

Is it possible we never even saw the Rangers’ ‘A’ game this postseason? Or was this just a ‘B’ squad to begin with?

Road woes. As the regular season wound down, I stressed the importance of overtaking teams like Jersey and Pittsburgh in the standings to secure the home ice advantage and avoid early matchups with either rival. As it turned out, this wasn’t much of a factor against the Devils. The Penguins meanwhile abused the Blueshirts in their road whites this series.

The value of a home crowd can never be underestimated, however, holding the last line change might be the most significant advantage for the team with home ice. Coach Tom Renney illustrated this point vividly during the team’s road contests in Pittsburgh, and rarely seemed capable of buying any open ice for Jaromir Jagr.

Hal Gill for a 2nd and 5th is looking like a pretty sweet deal for the Penguins. Due $2.075 million this season and $2.1 M next, the 6’7″ defenseman played such a physically imposing series that the Rangers were actually forced to game plan around him. In contrast, Glen Sather’s deadline acquisition, Christian Backman, was a healthy scratch for each of the last two games as the team instead opted to dress Jason Strudwick. Unsigned and unwanted, Strudwick was exiled to a Swiss hockey team last season. Backman, meanwhile, was acquired from the St. Louis Blues for a fourth round pick. This was a salary dump for the Blues, plain and simple, who didn’t want to pay the $3.4 M that Backman is owned next season. Can you blame them?

When you’re scratching your head wondering what happened to all the Rangers’ cap space this offseason, don’t overlook that $3.4 million.

The real Russian Rocket. But enough about Christian Backman. Let’s talk instead about Evgeni Malkin, who dominated this series inside-and-out, and proved once and for all that no, he is not a better player with Sidney Crosby out of the lineup, he is just plain phenomenal at hockey, with or without Cindy, rain or shine, snow or sleet. Together with Alexander Ovechkin, the two Russians may just have obliterated the stereotype of European hockey players advanced by the less-than-physically-intimidating styles of players such as Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny, and yes, Jaromir Jagr. These Ruskies hit hard and often, early and late, then they score goals by the bushel, just to make sure you’re good and pissed off.

Malkin is listed at 6’3″, 195 lbs., however I have to believe the 21-year-old is quite a bit more muscular than that. Or perhaps he’s just gifted with the uncanny ability to make large men like Michal Rozsival, Fedor Tyutin, and Daniel Girardi look pathetically small and inadequate.

And speaking of Tyutin and Girardi, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the dynamic duo is an exceptional third defense pair, but overmatched as a no. 2 unit. Tyutin in particular is not the player he was projected to be three or four years ago. These two were asked to do way too much against Pittsburgh’s lethal attack. It’s easy to criticize them, however in reality they were each the victim of being overexposed against a better opponent.

rozsival.jpgBut was there a more overmatched player on the ice this postseason than Michal Rozsival? His three undisciplined and inexcusable minor penalties in yesterday’s elimination game were only the culmination of a horrendous month of hockey for the soon-to-be-ex-Ranger. In fact, just the other day I called him out for foolishly driving an opponent right into Henrik Lundvist‘s head and later attempting to act like a tough guy in a scrum after the whistle only to be intimidated by Pens’ village-pansy Sergei Gonchar.

One of the more telling plays in the series may have come in Game 2, when Evgeni Malkin beat Marc Staal wide only to see the rookie blueliner spin and deftly recover his angle, cutting off Malkin’s lane to the net. Unfortunately Michal Rozsival, Staal’s partner, panicked when he saw Staal beat initially and instinctively pursued the puck while vacating the front of the net – a cardinal sin for any defenseman. The ensuing goal from a wide-open Jordan Staal proved to be the game-winner in a 1-0 contest.

However, in fairness to Rozsival, one could argue that Marc Staal was the only Rangers’ defenseman who was not overmatched against this Pittsburgh team. Regardless, Rozsival will not be returning to the Rangers next season, as much because of what he did accomplish this season as for what he did not. One has to imagine that Rozsival will be seeking a sizable raise over the $2.3 M he earned this past season, especially given the fact that aforementioned Backman is pulling in $3.4 next year. Putting aside my personal feelings on Rozsie, the defenseman played first-pair minutes all season-long and appeared in at least 80 games for the Blueshirts for the third consecutive year. He’s scored roughly 40 points in back-to-back seasons, and while his goal-production slowed considerably in the season’s second-half, his 13 tallies was still good enough for 12th overall amongst NHL defenseman and puts him in the company of some of the league’s premier offensive-dmen.

If Mathieu Schneider can earn $5.750 million from Anaheim, why should Rozsival sign for anything less than $4 million?

And just for the record, it would be lunacy for the Rangers to pursue him for that sum.

I’ll be back with Part II of my thoughts on the Rangers season, as I breakdown the other Blueshirts that I don’t foresee returning next season.

There are currently 2 responses to “Thoughts On a Failed Season | Part I”

Hot Stove New York uses Gravatars — short for Globally Recognized Avatars — for the pictures that show up next to comments.

  1. 1 On May 5th, 2008, Rob Abruzzese said:

    Well the Rangers could cut their losses on Backman by keeping him in Hartford all of next season. Hopefully that’s what they’ll do.

  2. 2 On May 5th, 2008, Thomas Magnum said:

    Go Whalers!!!!!

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