Friday, May 20, 2011

The Sky Has Fallen

It is a very good question to ask: With all of the recent New York Ranger prospect signings then does this mean Glen Sather has finally gotten it right?

How to answer this question is in itself a good question to ask but for now the best answer is to take a "wait and see" attitude with what has gone on.

Since even before the Ranger off-season got underway the Rangers went to work on tomorrow. Dylan McIlrath and Ryan Bourque along with free agents Tommy Grant and Jason Missiaen were signed.

Then it was Carl Hagelin along with Roman Horak, Jason Wilson before reaching Thursday when Christian Thomas's signing became official. But there is another one in Scott Stajcer to be made official on Friday.

9 prospects and for the Rangers some credit is earned because these signing all came well before the deadlines for each player which alone is a major change in how the Rangers operate. Ethan Werek fell in disfavor and was traded which leaves Dan Maggio as the only member of the 2009 draft class who appears will not be signed.

As much as Ranger fans have disliked the overall performance of Glen Sather as General Manager then at what point do Ranger fans give Sather credit for any of these signings?  Granted for many a Ranger fan even acknowledging Sather still having his job with the Rangers is going to be very hard to do after 11 years.

For the Ranger fan in me then Glen Sather has to win a Stanley Cup before he goes as nothing less removes him from the dislike list. Yes to all of you who will say he got way too much time to turn things around and I will go one further.

As great it is to see the Rangers finally making a huge investment in homegrown talent, nothing has really changed. The person who covers Ranger prospects in me say let us see where the franchise is in 2013.

Why 2013 you ask? Because it will be 5 years after the first real draft (2008) where the Rangers made a committed effort to a homegrown foundation via the draft. 5 years is the accepted norm in evaluating how a draft worked for a team so that has to be the starting point.

Yes the Rangers have had plenty of other drafts but the 2008 draft is the first true effort at bringing in talent to build around. The Rangers have signed 5 out of the 7 draft picks from that draft class and so far 4 out of the 5 have appeared in NHL games wearing a Ranger uniform.

The 4 are of course Michael Del Zotto (1st), Derek Stepan (2nd), Evgeny Grachev (3rd) and Dale Weise (4th) but of the 4 only 2 made the team out of training camp.

Because Michael Del Zotto took not one but several steps backwards in his second season then he basically has to start his career all over. Derek Stepan thanks to Del Zotto now will have people holding their breath to insure that he too does not go backwards.

Evgeny Grachev got in 8 games last season and while he did nothing outstanding it was his play after he was returned to the Whale that reignited the hope that Grachev had a future with the Rangers. Grachev remains a question mark and has now some lowered expectations towards his potential.

Grachev has to show at training camp that he has made not small strides but huge ones to show that restoring faith in him is worth the effort. He does not have to make the team but he has to show he is getting very close to it.

Dale Weise in a way is someone who is in a really tough spot as what was Derek Boogaard's spot on the roster is going to be his to lose. He has more offense than Boogaard would have provided but how to you compete against a ghost?

Weise also needs to look over his shoulder as the signing of Jason Wilson has to also prod him as Wilson can offer the same skills as Weise only he is a couple of years younger and not coming off injuries. Weise has to make the team out of training camp or the exit door will begin to open for him as a Ranger.

The 5th member of this class Tomas Kundratek had his ups and downs during his first professional season so he gets a pass for now. Kundratek though also has to show improvement in all areas to earn the spot as the 7th-8th defenseman (first call up).

Again going back to accepted standards regarding a draft; a good one gets you at least 2 NHL regulars with anything else a nice bonus. Rangers have 5 players who could be contributors in 2013 so at least for a change there is legit hope with the youth.

At the same time it is very hard not to acknowledge the effort made by the Rangers to secure the youth with contracts. Now it is up to them to earn their places on the Rangers over the next 2 seasons.

The 2009 class (2014) could be even better as the Rangers could wind up with 6 players if you include Oscar Lindberg as well as Mikhail Pashnin to Kreider, Bourque, Horak and Stajcer.

2010 (2015) will offer up 5 more prospects who should wind up with contracts as only Randy McNaught is not expected to be offered a contract. Andrew Yogan should get a contract based on his play in limited time with the Whale but other things need to be proven by him first (injuries).

Jesper Fasth has another year on his deal with HV-71 but he has shown some very good potential by his play for Sweden at the 2011 World Under-20 and the main HV-71 team.

In all right now we are looking at 16 possible Rangers from 3 draft classes something that has not been done since the 1988-1990 classes. But before you get too excited only 2 players out of that group was part of the 1994 Cup team.

Now can we talk Glen to start signing the RFAs before June 1st too?

(Sather courtesy of the New York Rangers)

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