Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just Our POV (Part 2 The Defense)

It is very interesting to see how fast Ranger fans have divided into the Keep Jagr/Dump Jagr Camps but before we stick our own two cents in on that subject; there are others who we believe the Rangers have to make decisions on.

Some are in some sort of free agent status while others we believe have outlived their usefulness as members of the Rangers and need to be replaced. We feel that we have to start with the Ranger defense since it was without a doubt the weakest area on the team.

There are two decisions that are the "no-brainers" but others are going to be unpopular with several people but for the Rangers to move forward need to be made.

The first "no-brainer" is defenseman Marek Malik as other than those who really want to have a whipping boy there is little reason to resign someone who earned 2.5 million and did little to earn his money. Malik generated more headlines for his off-ice antics than his play so we doubt that we have to make any case to be rid of him.

The other is of course Daruis Kasparaitis who the Rangers waived to Hartford and then allowed to return to Russia. There is no reason to discuss that the Rangers will make no effort to resign him.

We will have make a case for Paul Mara to stay but not at the 3 million price tag or cap number. Mara for that price is simply not worth the money as while we really have not defining complaints, we look at 17 points (but just 1 goal) in 61 games so he is not an offensive force.

At the same time despite being 6'4, Mara was not a real physical defender but we will kudo him for defending his teammates even when he was hurt. In our eyes if Mara wishes to stay then it has to be at a lesser dollar figure.

Then we have Michal Rozsival who did put up some pretty decent offensive numbers at 13-25-38 but most Ranger fans got very nervous when they saw Rozsival on the defensive end. It was always an adventure when it came to seeing Rozsival in his own defensive end.

This one is going to be one of those decisions that will split many a Ranger fan, on one hand you have the Rangers only real offensive weapon from the blueline as none of the current roster come close to the 13 goals Rozsival scored.

At the same time, only Christian Backman scared Ranger fans more with his defensive play. Rozsival will benefit from by the lack of offensive minded defenders in this year's UFA pool so the question is how much would the Rangers be willing to pay and for how long?

We believe that the Rangers can spend the money on others who can offer some offense while not raising the blood pressure of both fans and coaches with Rozsival's serious weakness on defense. We think the Rangers should spend this money elsewhere.

We also have Jason Strudwick who we really respected for his "team first" attitude, his awesome affect in the locker room and not to forget his willingness to protect his teammates. We can not forget how valuable he was because Strudwick could also play forward. For what the Rangers paid him they got a huge bargain for just 500,000.

At the same time at 34, it is time for someone else to become the depth role player and we believe that there is a role that will help the Rangers for a lot longer as we want the Rangers to offer Strudwick a job as a player/coach in Hartford. We believe that one day Strudwick will make an excellent NHL head coach, he is smart, a great teacher and most of all well respected.

The best move the Rangers could make is to have him teaching the future Rangers while helping Strudwick transition from player to coach.

We do want to see the Rangers make a move to correct a mistake they made at the trading deadline when they gave the Blues a 4th round pick for Christian Backman and his 2.3 million dollar cap number.

Backman got off to a rough start as a Ranger with many a fan screaming for his head. His play improved for a while towards the end of the regular season as Backman show glimpses of why he was a 1998 first round pick.

Yet when the playoffs came then Bad Backman returned; no points at all in 8 playoff games. If anything Backman helped the Penguins and Devils score with his turnovers than he helped the Rangers.

Backman wound up as a healthy scratch in the last 2 playoff games when the Rangers really needed some offense but clearly the Rangers could no longer afford to gamble on which player would show up.

Give him away for the wonderful future considerations, buy him out, waive him or what ever just get rid of him as he was a mistake who does not deserve another chance plain and simple.

We say keep Fedor Tyutin but want to see his role clearly defined for next season as we want to see more consistent play out of him. Tyutin in our book is a very good player but as several fans commented played "scared" during the playoffs and we agree. He must improve himself.

Dan Girardi on the other hand was overall the Rangers best defenseman for the season. Yes he had some tough stretches but Girardi wound up being the Rangers best defender. We would like to see more offense from him next season as his defense we do like.

Marc Staal we predicted would make the team after his play in the OHL playoffs. We thank him for making us look good as he had a pretty solid rookie season. Now we want more out of the player we believe will one day become the Ranger's captain.

We start with a demand that Staal gain a lot more upper body strength and fill out that skinny frame of his. We also want Staal to take charge of the defense not defer to anyone no matter who the Rangers bring in next season.

We want to see more end to end rushes and more offense as we know Staal has it in him. We believe Staal is a Top 2 defenseman and next season we want to see him move towards that goal.

We covered the Ranger defense but we can not ignore those who played in Hartford

Many a Ranger fan wanted to see Andrew Hutchinson be given a chance by the Rangers based on his play with Hartford. We were not one of those as we saw what Hutchinson really was which is a career minor leaguer. Forget those numbers as the AHL is full of players who can score at the AHL level but did little at the NHL.

Hutchinson was waived by the Rangers at training camp and none of the other NHL teams made a claim. At 27 and a UFA we see the Rangers offering to play him good money to play for the Wolfpack but it is doubtful the Rangers believe that he offers any real NHL potential.

Thomas Pock can claim that he did something that few in hockey ever did which is get Tom Renney really angry at him. Pock voiced his displeasure via the media about his lack of playing time with the Rangers and soon found himself in Hartford.

We do not expect to see him playing for the Rangers again and he can only blame himself.

Ivan Baranka is a restricted free agent who got to play in one game for the Rangers, the problem for Baranka has been his inability to stay healthy for an entire season. To keep Baranka the Rangers would have to offer him at least 600,000 for an NHL salary next season.

We think they will do that but only for one season as their way of saying "last chance Ivan". We believe if Baranka can stay healthy then he could be a 6 on the Ranger defense. Baranka is stronger than an ox and has many a tool but again it boils down to can Baranka stay healthy.

We are rooting for him to do so as Baranka is a very likeable prospect.

Our stealth prospect to possibly sneak up on people and earn a roster spot as a 6 or 7 will be Corey Potter. While all the attention has been on Staal, Sauer and Sanguinetti, Corey Potter a 6'3 205 defender has quietly improved his play as he has developed over the last couple of seasons.

We think that Potter can play the role of extra defender as he develops his NHL skills but we like that Potter does his job without a ton of fanfare but rather as one of those who you think is invisible but when you look up has played a pretty solid game.

His numbers this past season at Hartford were not that bad 3-27-32 +33 with 102 PIMs. We believe Potter could fill the role that Strudwick did and perhaps as time goes by work his way up the depth chart.

Tomorrow the forwards

Memo to Brian: Jared Staal's stock dropped this past season as he was gone from a sure first round pick to as of the last CSB rankings down to 43rd. Despite his name there is no way we would ever support the Rangers using the 19th pick on him.

We project that someone might gamble on him early in the second round depending on his combine workouts but at best we would say if the Rangers wanted to move up in the second round for him then yes but not in the first.

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