Thursday, May 8, 2008

Just Our POV (Part 4 The Goalies)

The easiest part of our own look at the Rangers this week comes here as we talk about the goalies. Real tough it starts and ends with Henrik Lundqvist because as King Henrik goes then so will the fortunes of the Rangers no matter which forward or defenseman they sign/do not sign.

We will not waste any time trying to break down Lundqvist because his game is right there for Ranger fans to see so instead we have to play the "worst case" scenario card and see what happens if the Rangers were to lose Lundqvist for an extended period.

We start by saying that the Rangers need to resign Stephen Valliquette as here is one player we are happy to say that we were wrong about. At the beginning of last season we were screaming to the heavens about how Valliquette was not the kind of quality backup the Rangers needed to have so if someone would be so kind to pass the mustard for our plate of crow which we will gladly dine on.

Valliquette in some cases had Ranger fans begging to start against certain teams like the Flyers who he owned. Despite only appearing in 13 games, Valliquette posted a very nice 2.19 goals against with a 91.9% save percentage.

However it was more than just strong play but his attitude that made us fans of Vally because he was the perfect role player behind Lundqvist. In fact we would like to see that if Vally is resigned then he be given more playing time to keep Lundqvist fresh.

The question though does remain: What happens should Lundqvist suffer some sort of injury and is out for an extended period? We simply do not know because as much as we like Vally the backup, Valliquette the starter remains unproven but we have a lot more confidence in him than we did last season.

So then we turn to who would move up should either goalie become injured. First up comes Restricted Free Agent David LeNevu who the Rangers received when Al Montoya was traded. While goalie coach Benoit Allaire feels that he could fix the kinks in LeNevu's form we actually think that if given a choice then we would want Miika Wiikman first.

Yes LeNevu put up some good numbers with the Wolfpack and has already got some NHL experience, we just believe that from a fundamental standpoint that Wiikman has a stronger development potential. The other problem for LeNevu is going to be how much he could be paid since of his RFA status.

LeNevu if the Rangers want to keep his rights will have to be offered a NHL contract of 700, 000 and since current Ranger backup Stephen Valliquette only made 635,000 and is a UFA it does not make much sense to keep both especially if LeNevu could ask for a one way contract.

LeNevu just does not show us the kind of personality to handle being a backup if needed or the jump into the fire starter. If you have read us in the past then you know we believe that players who come from winning programs have a winning attitude and those from losing the opposite.

LeNevu spent 5 seasons as a part of the Coyote franchise so do we need to say more about being used to losing? Nothing against LeNevu but then when we look at Miika Wiikman then we simply think that LeNevu is not worth keeping from a cap standpoint.

See we believe that Miika Wiikman is the better choice to be the Ranger's 3rd string goalie as the first thing that stands out with Wiikman is his numbers; what we mean is that we are not seeing a 2.03 one season then a 3.40 the next. Instead since the 2002-03 season in Sweden and continuing on with Hartford, the numbers have looked like this 2.83, 2.18, 2.38, 2.09, 2.59, and 2.30 .

We also in talking to those who have known Wiikman have learned that his personality is ideal as he will adapt to whatever the situation requires and that is exactly what the Rangers need from basically the number 3 goalie in the system. Not to mention we loved how fast Wiikman adapted to playing in North America.

Given how poorly that 2007 2nd round draft pick Antoine Lafleur played for Prince Edward Island then UFA Wiikman becomes that much more of a bonus signing. The more we look then the more we believe that down the road the Ranger goalie tandem will be the 2 headed Swedish monsters.

Behind Wiikman comes Chris Holt who spent more of the season with Charlotte in the ECHL as he has the last 3 seasons. Holt has never had that statement season to push past anyone and we think that he is going to be passed by next season. It is a shame too because it is not that Holt is a bad goalie but simply it is about numbers and potential.

Holt had a chance to grab the 4th string job and missed on his chance which in our eyes opened the door then for another free agent goalie this time Matt Zaba.

Matt Zaba spent most of his season with Idaho of the ECHL and just like Wiikman, Zaba has been consistent with his numbers no matter where he has played and as we are learning it is a reflection of a goalie's personality.

Even though he too is a RFA, Zaba still offers promise and because the Rangers can sign him to a Hartford contract as they did last season with Wiikman can also allow the Rangers to save one of the "50 contracts" everyone loves to talk about.

Now that we have worked our way though the Rangers coaching staff and current roster comes the fun stuff. Tomorrow we will get to play Ranger General Manager and retool the Rangers via free agency and/or trades and promotions.

And looking past that we will go back to working on the 2008 NHL Entry Draft including starting our lovefest for the 2 prospects that WE want the Rangers to use their first round draft pick on.

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