If you are like us then the following words are going to put a smile on your face: Will all New York Ranger prospects who will be playing in the 3 leagues that make up the CHL please report to your teams for training camp.
Yes friends we are more than happy to let you all know that the end to one very long off-season has shown up and we are getting ready for another season of HOCKEY. If you are like us then it seems as if this off-season was never going to an end as we dealt with more soap opera-like drama than we did anything else.
So with great pleasure we would like to welcome to the ranks of the Ranger world: Michael Del Zotto of the Oshawa Generals (OHL), Evgeny Grachev of the Brampton Battalion (OHL), Dale Weise of the Swift Current Broncos (WHL), and Chris Doyle of the Prince Edward Island Rocket (QMJHL). In addition even though he is going to miss the season with Tommy John Surgery, we got news for Mitch Gaulton; we will be keeping an eye out for you as well.
2008-2009 is rather different for us here as there is only one prospect returning to the CHL ranks in Antoine Lafleur but Lafleur still does not know who he will be playing for this season other than it will not be Prince Edward Island. It does not matter because Lafleur will be playing somewhere and we will be there to cover him.
Right now is the chance for the prospects to take the lessons they learned at the Ranger Developmental camp to some use as most should get at least a couple of exhibition games with their junior teams in before they leave for Traverse City. For us it will be a chance to get an idea who listened to the Ranger staff and who will get their "wake up call" from the Ranger staff.
This is the time of year where both fans and prospects get to shake off the rust of the summer and get ready for the best time of the year which is of course hockey season. For the 4 who will get to play, it will be a chance to show off their Ranger gear from their trip to the Ranger Developmental camp and even share the journal that they were given.
Dale Wiese gets to "break the ice" as Weise has the honor of being the first Ranger prospect to report to camp but if you listen to the folks in Swift Current they do not expect the Rangers to send him back.
Over at "Keen's Korner", Swift Current GM Dean Chynoweth told Jon Keen on the subject of Wiese becoming Team Captain;
"That has to still play out again. Everyone keeps saying he's back or will be back more than likely... I still don't think that's the case."
"I think he's (Wiese) in great shape and had a real strong Ranger's development camp. Once he goes back and the Rangers see him I wouldn't be surprised if they try or have to make room for him."
We have a lot of respect for anyone named Chynoweth when it comes to the WHL but in this case, we are almost 95% sure that Wiese will return to Swift Current this season and be their captain.
In the Renney/Clark/Schoenfeld era, we are still waiting for the first prospect to make a direct jump to the professional ranks in the year he was drafted. The Rangers have stuck to a plan in which they give a prospect time to work on the areas they want to see that prospect improve on before signing him.
It is not as if we do not want to see it happen but the Rangers under Renney/Clark/Schoenfeld have done a good job developing Ranger prospects and we do not see them changing their formulas. It has been become almost a given that a prospect will spend at least one season in the CHL before being signed to a contract as this allows that prospect to work hard on the areas he needs to make that jump to the next level.
The other thinking is the Gordie Clark mantra of "Dominate at one level before moving up to the next." It has worked with just about every single prospect who has played in the CHL and then moved on to the professional ranks.
The "Master Plan For the Prospects"
As we have been led to believe those prospects who will be attending the Traverse City Camp will have their first practice as a team on September 13th according to the folks over at Red Wing's Central followed by their first game against the Red Wing Prospects that evening.
We are still awaiting the announcement of who will be on the Ranger prospect roster but we expect that most of those who attended the Development camp in June will make up the roster.
Speaking of Which
At the same time we are also kind of disappointed that the Rangers are blowing a golden opportunity in our eyes to help introduce these same prospects to the Ranger fans. It used to be that the Ranger ownership believed that Ranger fans would never support a rebuilding because Ranger fans would not root for no-name kids as they grew up.
Ranger fans have clearly blown that theory to bits as they (Ranger Fans) showed their support of the Dubinsky's, Dawes, and others. If you want to help wet the Ranger fans thirst for the upcoming season then show them some live hockey.
No Ranger fan is going to care if the play is sloppy, they are not going to care if the games do not count but they do care about one thing; those are Ranger uniforms out on the ice and that is what matters the most to them.
Let the Ranger fans get an idea about Michael Del Zotto, Evgeny Grachev and the rest. Let the Ranger fans get an chance to see why they just might get excited about the Ranger's future as the Rangers themselves have done a lot of talking about the quality of these prospects.
Seriously given how little MSG Network has to show right now except the "best of" stuff that they should take advantage of this time to show Ranger fans their future. Show the fans a game or 2 of the Traverse City tournament to give Ranger fans this peek into the future.
In our eyes the Rangers blew the best chance to showcase the future by not televising last year's championship game even on the web. The Rangers had a great opportunity to generate a lot of excitement for the upcoming season by showing off the kids.
Another mistake we believe the Rangers make was to cut just about all the prospects and return them to their respective teams. For one thing as a reward for winning Traverse City the kids at the very least deserved a chance to travel to the Ranger training camp even for a day or 2.
For the newly drafted prospects a chance to see those very same people that they watch on television working out is one of the most powerful teaching tools there is. We are still waiting for the first prospect to return from his very first training camp not in awe of the amount of work they see the Ranger players put in.
We still recall how Dubinsky was so motivated about making his way to the Rangers by getting to paint the Ranger logo on the Garden ice. Give one of the kids that chance and let him look up and see Leetch's, Messier's and Richter's numbers hanging from the rafters
Give the prospects a chance to see first hand what kind of work they need to put in if they are going to become NHL players. Call it the ultimate bonding experience for these prospects as they can return to their teams with more knowledge about how hard they have to work.
Give these prospects a chance to see the game played at the NHL speed as a teaching tool, a chance to meet Drury, Gomez but perhaps more importantly those that some of the prospects have gotten to play with or against.
A Dale Weise is going to remember going up against a Dubinsky when both were in the WHL and now seeing him in a Ranger uniform sends such a message that is hard for any coach to top. Showing the prospects that this one day can be their future can not be measured in dollars or cents.
Keep the kids until after the Ranger first home preseason game on September 22nd not so they can play but for the experience of seeing Madison Square Garden in person. Let them walk out onto the ice and introduce them to the Ranger fans so they can experience their first ovation from the fans.
Send the kids back to their junior teams with stories about life as a Ranger to tell their teammates. Few NHL teams have the kind of place like the Rangers have in Tarrytown and compare them to what the prospects will be heading back is like sending them to another planet.
Happy Days are We Hope Almost Here
Given that Portland is our base of WHL operations and where Prospect Park got it's "birth" the rumors that the Portland Winterhawks are about to be sold are almost as good as winning a Memorial Cup.
If you followed us during last season then you know the the current Winterhawk ownership has alienated their fan base with their methods and antics. The once proud franchise has had the worst record in all of the CHL over the last 2 seasons and if sold hope will return to the fans of the Winterhawks (as well as for us)
Just Call Him Swami
We could not let this one go by because it caught our eye. It came from the press release announcing the naming of the coaching staff for the Montreal Juniors in the QMJHL. What caught our eye was from this part about the resume of the newly named goaltending coach Eric Raymond:
"During his playing days, Raymond guarded the net for the Fredericton Canadiens and the Rochester Americans of the AHL, and spent some time with the South Carolina Stingrays and the Huntington Blizzard of the ECHL. He worked with revered goalie guru Benoît Allaire throughout his entire junior career and still credits him as a mentor and a source of inspiration. As a 24-year old, Raymond was also a member of the 1995-1996 Canadian Olympic hockey team.
And all this time we wondered why we hardly ever saw Allaire behind the Ranger's bench. Does anyone know what the Alliare cult happens to be called? No disrepect to the Ranger goalie coach intended but so far we have not seen anything out of the coach to suggest he is either a guru or deserving of being revered.
As the camps open we will have more news and notes as the camp we are wanting to watch is Brampton where Evgeny Grachev is expected to join the Battalion this season.
(Dale Wiese picture courtesy of the Swift Current Broncos)
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