Sunday, July 10, 2011

Unleash The Beasts

So do we have a pool going as to which New York Ranger will make it to arbitration or can Glen Sather pull off the impossible and go 5 for 5?

OK getting serious as it is really nice to see Sather and the Rangers changing the way they are doing business getting the players under contract whether they are prospects, playing for the CT Whale or the Rangers.

The sooner players are under contract the sooner the pressure is off both sides. For the players, despite what they may say but it is hard to get in your off-season workouts when you are worrying about your contract status.

Just because they play hockey does not mean the players do not have their own worries about their own job security. You can try seeing your job status argued all over the web and see how you handle it.

For the team, protracted contract disputes are the kind of problems that have an effect on just about every aspect of the franchise. If you have a popular player like a Ryan Callahan how do you go into arbitration and rip him to pieces then put a "C" on his jersey?

If the Rangers can avoid arbitration with all of their players then it is a very good public relations coup for the franchise. It is hard to find reasons to complain about a team that is going into training camp with all their players under contract ready to play.

For Ranger fans even if the teams is opening the season in Europe, they have every reason to feel good about the direction of the franchise for the first time since the 1990's. The question now is going to be what exactly would be a realistic expectation for this team going into the 2011-12 season?

Here we say that as anything lower than the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference and 2nd in the Atlantic Division would be a disappointment. For us the very first thing to showing progress is changing the expectations from the 8th seed and a prayer to a 6th seed and at the very least into the second round.

The Rangers have made strides but honestly there is still a way to go as this team now has to find a new chemistry and a coach who will take the leashes off some players. The money spent on Brad Richards will be wasted if John Tortorella continues the "grind it to death" style used the last 2 seasons.

Oh can we please stop saying the Rangers need a veteran defensemen because Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have 4 seasons under their belt. Ryan McDonagh was not a green rookie last year and Michael Sauer proved he can play.

It is also time for John Tortorella to unleash the skaters like Stepan and Del Zotto as the best way to create scoring chances is pressuring the defense by attacking. The Rangers proved they have 4 very good defensive defenders so risks can be taken.

Going to still say that Derek Stepan remains the best possible choice for the left wing spot on the Richards line. Nothing against Dubinsky but his chemistry with Callahan and Anisimov should not be disrupted.

Putting Stepan with Richards means that Gaborik just needs to find a spot he wants to shoot from and leave the rest to Stepan and Richards. Both Richards and Stepan are strong enough goal scorers that defenses will have to respect them.

Fedotenko with Prust and Boyle will give the Rangers 3 stable lines, something they have not had in over a decade. Even better is that for the most part even the 4th line looks set and that is something to like.

The biggest question mark that remains is going to be; can John Tortorella show enough faith and confidence in his players to let them go play? As far as we can see, the one thing that will stop the Rangers will be their own coach.

Showing confidence in Stepan and Del Zotto will go a very long way in erasing the lack of offense that has hurt the Rangers in recent years. As much as people think adding Richards to the Rangers is important; so is letting Stepan and Del Zotto use what is their strengths which is their skating.

The one thing we have not seen out of both players that we know they can do is go end to end. And nothing stretches a defense than speed generated pressure. Speed generated pressure forces defense to make decisions that wind up opening up space.

To this day the best goal we ever saw Derek Stepan be a part of was him on a 2 on 1 breakaway and Stepan was banging the ice screaming for the puck. Both the goalie and the defensemen went to Stepan leaving a wide open net for an easy goal.

Stepan never even touched the puck but it was his skating (and mouth) that forced a response. Del Zotto during his time with the London Knights of the OHL was carrying the puck into the offensive zone forcing defenders to come to him which left his teammates wide open for plays.

Oh and by the way, that also happens to be the original idea for "safe is death" which was employed by Tortorella in Tampa Bay. No the Rangers do not have a Vinnie or a St. Louis but what they have can bend a defense.

And the hardest thing that Tortorella needs to change about himself is the constant line shuffling as you can not build a team chemistry when lines are changed on a whim.

Let the Rangers play coach and we will see results, stay with the grinding style and they will wind up down to the last day of the season once again.

Unleash the beasts coach please.

But We Interrupt This Feel Good Moment

Enjoy it while it lasts as there is a storm coming that sadly will plunge the NHL into another protracted labor dispute. As much as I normally disagree with Larry Brooks rumors and how he does things, what he writes about the labor situation in the NHL is sadly dead on.

Next time, the NHL is going to introduce the ultimate one-size-fits-all cap. Percentage of the gross will be dramatically reduced. The midpoint will essentially become the cap, with the ceiling and floor separated by perhaps $4M-$6M. Deviations of salary within a contract will be kept to a minimum. The cap charge will be defined by the average of the three-to-five highest salaried seasons. Contracts will be kept to a minimum of five-to-seven years.

Which is why earlier this week we urged Dubinsky and Callahan take front loaded contract deals for no more than 3 years. All the crazy spending that has taken place over the last couple of weeks is playing right into Bettman's hands.

Bank on this happening as come when 2011 turns into 2012 and it gets closer and closer to when the current CBA is going to expire that the NHL will be claiming that they are swimming in sea of red ink.

Deals like you have seen the last few years will be a thing of the past as the loopholes will be shut nice and tight. Nice and tight until the first lawyer discovers the new loopholes but front ended deals like what Richard got will be the first target by the NHL.

This time things will get down right dirty and nasty because Gary Bettman has never had to deal with a Donald Fehr before. Anyone who remembers when Fehr was in charge of the baseball player's union will remember that Fehr does not back down from ownership.

As Brooks points out what the NHL owner's stance will be then watch Fehr and the players strike back with the 2 words that big market teams do not want to hear: "revenue sharing"

Expect that the NHLPA to say that the best way to fix the NHL would be for the "haves" to share with the "have nots." Imagine how fast the Dolan family will freak out when they see that the NHLPA plan would require them to help support the Islanders and Devils by giving them more of the local television revenue.

The Fehr strategy will be to pit NHL owner vs NHL owner as imagine the reaction the Dolans will have when they are told to open their books to the teams covered by the MSG Network (that includes the Sabres too). Anyone want to bet how fast the Dolans as well as the folks at Comcast (owners of the Flyers) will freak out when they have to show how much they have been making off their fellow owners.

The owners may not like those words and they will fight over this issue (much to the pleasure of the NHLPA) in time it will have to happen. It is almost a given that unless the NHL wants to keep having to prop up places like Phoenix that revenue sharing will happen.

(Ranger logo courstesy of the New York Rangers)

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