So now one is going to wonder which is going to kill the New York Ranger players first; the John Tortorella system, his training camp or the just released 2009-2010 regular season schedule.
For the Rangers it might be easier if they just get killed off in training camp because the NHL 2009-2010 regular season schedule is just plain out nuts.
Yes it is a season with the 2010 Winter Olympics but the only thing that the NHL schedule makers forgot to do is set the Rangers up to play double headers. It is a schedule that is not going to do the Rangers any favors (and yes NHL we know it is as screwed up for the rest of the league as well) but in our eyes designed to run the players into the ground before the season is said and done.
If the NHL tries to tell us that a computer designed this schedule then please allow us about an hour to laugh cause this is a schedule designed by a mad man. Other than the break for the Olympics; the Rangers will be playing and playing and playing some more.
11 times we will see the Rangers playing 3 games in 4 nights, 13 times the Rangers will play back to back games and our favorite is from January 16th to the 27th when the Rangers play 7 games in 12 days. At a glance we see that the Rangers will be playing hockey for the most part every other day with a few times when they will have 3 days off and once there will be a 4 day break.
This schedule has some kind of 3 game home stand limit as the Rangers only have those with no home stretch being longer than that. This next season even has the Rangers finishing the season with 8 of their last 11 games on the road.
The only saving grace there is that those final road games for the most part will be against what is expected to be the bottom of the NHL. Still it does explain rightfully why John Tortorella is warning players to show up in shape for his training camp.
Give Tortorella some serious credit here as he has been though Olympic seasons before so he is preparing the Rangers for it. It is going to put some major emphasis on the players not only to be in not good but great physical shape but also to be mentally strong as well.
From those who have witnessed a John Tortorella training camp then the best description would be that Tortorella is Gunny Hartman from the movie "Full Metal Jacket" and any Ranger who does not work his rear off will be Private Pyle. For the sake of the Rangers Gunny Tortorella just may be why they are able to survive the season.
The better shape the Rangers are in then the better chance they will be able to fight off fatigue. Last season's team would have just totally collapsed under the physical and mental strain of this schedule.
Otherwise anyone who has seen "Full Metal Jacket" will recall Private Pyle's memorable line about the world he is in (this is a family blog which is why we are not repeating it). That just might happen to the Rangers if they are not ready for training camp.
Maybe the Biggest of Factors
This schedule also makes Stephen Valiquette perhaps the biggest key to the entire Ranger season more than any goal scorer or defenseman on the roster. Valiquette is going to have play a lot more than the 15 games he appeared in last season.
In the Tortorella "Safe or Death" system the goalies have to be strong mentally as well as physically because when the offense breaks down the goalies face a lot of shots and odd man rushes. Now toss in this really bad schedule and you see why Valiquette has to play well.
Expecting Henrik Lundqvist to appear in 70 games while also playing for Sweden in the Olympics is begging to either get Lundqvist hurt or into one very long slump. For the Rangers to have any real chance at having anything close to a good season means that Valiquette has to be able to give Henrik as much rest as possible.
Valiquette has to be able to give the Rangers at least 20-25 strong appearances during this season or the Rangers need to bring in someone who can. This is not a knock on Valiquette but a stark reality that the Rangers need Lundqvist to be as fresh as he can be towards the end of the season.
Lundqvist has complained about being worn down at the end of the last two seasons so it is up to Valiquette to show early on he can handle the load so Tortorella will have the confidence to use him early and often. Of course the Ranger players also have to buy Lundqvist some days off by getting off to a good start.
Last season we felt it was a combination of the Ranger's inability to play consistently well and Tom Renney's own lack of confidence in Valiquette that forced Lundqvist to be overworked. It is up to Valiquette to earn that confidence at training camp or hopefully someone else needs to.
It is now July 16th and the player who supposedly could be the Ranger's first line center Brandon Dubinsky still does not have a contract. Now our numbers are nowhere perfect but our best estimate shows that the Rangers still have about 8 million left to spend.
We also disagree that Nikolai Zherdev is an automatic win for the player in arbitration as we know Sather well enough that he is going to be able to keep Zherdev under 4 million in salary. For argument sake we will though use 4 million for Zherdev in salary.
In our eyes Dubinsky as the supposed leading choice to become the Ranger's first line center deserves a contract along the lines of 1.25 to 1.5 million. Despite our fondness for Clan Dubinsky he still has not shown he deserves the money that Ryan Callahan just got so our number is fair to us.
The thing that bothers us the most is Sather's history with his own free agents as the longer this drags out then the chances of this turning ugly will increase almost daily. If Dubinsky is going to be your number one then fine offer him a 2 year deal which offers the young center a chance to earn more money down the road.
There is no question that Glen Sather still has to make at least one more trade before the season starts but the question will be for which position? The Rangers at the moment need a first line center, an experienced stay-at-home defenseman and possibly a top line winger.
Signing Dubinsky that takes one possible problem out of the equation and also allows the young center to concentrate NOW on his off-season workouts. Skip the nonsense that both sides will tell you but contract issues do very much affect a player and his state of mind.
A signed Dubinsky leads to a happy Dubinsky who just might come back east early so he can work out with his new and current teammates instead being elsewhere. Signing Dubinsky also has a symbolic significance as he is supposed to be part of that young core Sather claims is the foundation of the Rangers.
Get him a deal Sather or risk someone coming in and offering him an offer sheet that you will be forced to match or risk losing Dubinsky for just a draft pick. Those options are not worth the risk because then you will have to spend even more to replace Dubinsky.
Make the deal Slats as everyone wins there.
(R. Lee Emery courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, Valiquette and Dubinsky courtesy of the New York Rangers)
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