Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Goal for the Goalies

For the New York Rangers, their entire season good or bad is going to be dependent on the play of Henrik Lundqvist. Of course anyone who has been a Ranger fan for more than 10 minutes already knew that.

As Lundqvist begins his 6th season with the Rangers there are some question marks about Lundqvist for the first time since he established himself as the Ranger's franchise goalie. Some of the questions are about Henrik himself but the majority have to do with what happens IF something were to happen to him.

Henrik has averaged 71 games per season during the last 4 years and the Rangers have been very lucky that Henrik has not suffered a serious injury being as overworked as he has been.  Logging over 4100 minutes during this time is going eventually catch up to Henrik and if that happens kiss the Ranger season good bye.

Last season the Rangers tried Chad Johnson, Alex Auld, and Steve Valiquette as backup to Henrik and only Johnson remains as Ranger property. However Johnson unless an injury or just flat poor play by newly signed Marty Biron is destined for Hartford.

While it is hard to disagree that Chad Johnson's development would be best served by playing a ton in Hartford but Marty Biron was the best option as the Ranger backup goalie or just the cheapest? Signing Biron to a 2 year deal with a cap hit of just 875,000 per will make getting rid of him easier but the Rangers had much better options for a backup.

If the idea was to lighten Henrik's workload then why sign a guy who is coming off a really poor season for the New York Islanders of all teams? If the goal is to have a backup goalie who in a pinch can also step in as a every day starter then you are praying that Biron has found a way to regain the form he had as a Flyer.

One has to wonder why a 2 year deal as Johnson was showing signs of he has all the tools to be an NHL goalie. Instead why not sign a Manny Legace who even at 37 gave Carolina some respectable goaltending last season.

We would have given Yann Danis consideration over Biron; Alex Auld did nothing to show that he could not have been brought back or if need be give Henrik a goalie buddy and out bid the Devils for Johan Hedberg who put up solid numbers on a bad Thrasher team.

Somehow when the smoke clears that John Tortorella is going to wind up using Henrik in 70+ games and the Rangers will be praying that nothing happens to Henrik.

Chad Johnson showed in his 5 game stint that he has the tools to become an NHL goalie. For a free agent find, Johnson is a huge steal as he gave the Rangers good performances in the games he appeared in.

It is not good to annoint someone as the backup to Henrik before training camp even begins as it is hard not to believe that Johnson is  ready to play at the NHL level even as a back up now. Johnson blew by Matt Zaba who was the Hartford starter in 2008-09 and remains unsigned as of this writing.

But Chad had not get too comfy in his status as the Hartford starter as there is a new kid on the block who just might shock a lot of people for how strong he elevates his game in the big games. He is most likely the reason why the Rangers have not resigned Matt Zaba as we are talking about Cam Talbot

Last season we wrote that Matt Zaba had to come into training camp looking to become the Ranger backup and to elevate his game to show he still offered NHL potential. Zaba did not and as of this writing remains unsigned by anyone as an Unrestricted Free Agent.  

Replacing Zaba for the time being is free agent Cam Talbot who signed with the Rangers after playing for the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers. While UAH is not exactly going to set the hockey world on fire; Cam Talbot put on one heck of a performance to lift the Chargers to a surprising appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Forget his numbers as they do not tell the story of a goalie who came up not just big but huge in crunch time. Talbot started the season with the Chargers as their backup goalie but by season's end had established himself not only as a starter but a big game player.

If Johnson forgets to work hard then do not be shocked if Talbot passes him by and steals the Hartford starting job. Just when people think they have Talbot figured out the 6'3 200lb will toss you a curve. Really like his potential.

Scott Stajcer is going to have a lot to prove this year as the 2009 5th round draft pick has to prove himself as still having potential if he wants the Rangers to sign him.

A lot of what happened to Stajcer was not his fault as he was stuck on a very weak Owen Sound team who in our eyes ran Stajcer into the ground by the end of the season. Our concern is going to be just how much support the Attack will give Stajcer next season both on the blueline as well as a dependable backup.

One thing that we will say that Stajcer has going for him as he played much better when he faced 30 or more shots in a game than he did when he did not have a lot of work. The question now for the young goalie is how hard he has worked to regain his form during this off-season.

We believe that on a good team that Stajcer can shine and show why he was drafted by the Rangers but if the Attack are not a better team then Stajcer is in for a long season.

We also believe that the Rangers need to add at least one more goalie to have as an insurance policy but the question is do you go for someone who can be an emergency NHL goalie while being a mentor to Johnson in Hartford? Or do you sign sign someone who can share playing in the ECHL while taking turns as Johnson's backup in Hartford?

Our hope is that they go with the latter as the more goalies you can develop to play in the NHL then the better a bargaining chip you have down the road.

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Changes Are Coming to Prospect Park

We are going to take the plunge and expand from a blog to a website hopefully before the season begins. We will be the first to acknowledge that we have no idea as to how to build a website so please if you have suggestions and ideas as to how to build one we are all ears.

The other change coming is that we are hoping to expand past the Rangers and add coverage of the New York Islander prospects as well. Now for some of you this sounds like we are being traitors to the Rangers but we see this as a natural evolution of Prospect Park as we hope down the road to add the Devils prospects as well.

Since we are not affiliated with any NHL team then our voice as being independent we feel offers fans of the NYC area teams a choice in prospect coverage.


(Pic credits: Lundqvist, Johnson, Talbot courtesy of the New York Rangers, Biron courtesy of the NHL.com, Stajcer courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

2 comments:

Mark said...

Chad Johnson was not signed as a free agent. He was a Pittsburgh 5th round pick that we traded for. You were on the right track with "stolen," as the trade was a steal. Pittsburgh couldn't sign Johnson, so rather than lose his rights, they traded him for the Rangers 5th round pick in 2009.

Jess Rubenstein said...

Thanks for catching my error there Mark. As thank you gift; we have for you 8 hours with Gary Bettman discussing hotw a salary works