Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saving Traverse City

Figuring out which goalies will be playing for the New York Ranger prospect team at Traverse City is the easy part. Scott Stajcer and Jason Missiaen with be in the pipes for the prospect team when they hit the ice on September 10th against the St. Louis Baby Blues.

But when Traverse City ends then who winds up where could be a rather interesting battle. With the Ranger's announcing that they had resigned Chad Johnson on Tuesday then for a change the Rangers actually have too many goalies in the system.

First Traverse City as Scott Stajcer who was the 2nd of two 5th round picks in the 2009 draft is coming off an injury plagued season for the Owen Sound Attack. Stajcer actually got off to one great start last season winning his first 8 starts and being named the Vaughn CHL Goalie of the week for the week ending October 3rd.

Stajcer even helped Team OHL give Canada their first win in the Subway Super Series as he stopped all 21 shots he faced to help Team OHL earn a 4-0 win over the Russian Selects on November 11th. 9 days later, his regular season would come crashing to a halt as Stajcer was pulled after giving up 4 goals in just one period.

His Owen Sound Attack announced that Stajcer was being held out to rest a chronic injury but the injury which turned out to be his hip never go better and Stajcer underwent surgery in December.

Stajcer wound up missing the rest of the OHL regular season but worked his butt off to get ready for the OHL playoffs. Stajcer missed out on the first 4 first round games but got in some garbage time in game 5 and nobody really thought much about it since Owen Sound won the series 4-2.

In the 2nd round of the OHL playoffs, Stajcer came into the first game to start the 3rd period and earned a overtime win. Then Stajcer ripped off 3 more wins to help Owen Sound sweep Plymouth in 4 games.

In the conference finals, Stajcer earned a game 1 win then lost for the first time in the playoffs before rebounding to win the next 3 to lead Owen Sound into the OHL finals. Stajcer's luck ran out in the finals as his injury woes returned dropping his first 2 starts then got tagged for the loss in Game 3.

What outsiders did not know at the time was that Stajcer because he had stopped and started his hockey season also had to restart breaking in his skates which led to an infection that led to his being knocked out of action yet again.

And to make matters worse for Stajcer was that by the time he was healthy again he was asked to do the impossible in the Memorial Cup. His Attack had been decimated by injuries (no read that as 2 really dirty hits that knocked out players) and the Attack went with Stajcer in the tiebreaker game.

Stajcer took a ton of heat for giving up 6 goals before getting pulled but the truth was his team had ran out of players and then gas. It was a shame that for many Ranger fans that was their only viewing of Stajcer.

We gave him most of the space here because the Stajcer fans saw in that Memorial Cup game was nothing like the Stajcer we saw make one hell of a comeback from hip surgery. Stajcer blamed himself for the loss when he did not have to.

Stajcer's fellow goalie at Traverse City will be Jason Missiaen who was signed as a UFA back in March. The move was seen as a very curious one as Missiaen had yet to post a winning record on any of his teams during his junior career.

Originally a 2008 4th round pick of the Montreal Canadians, Missiaen was not signed by the Canadians and became a UFA. This will be Missiaen 2nd straight appearance in the Traverse City tournament as last season he was on the Columbus Bluejacket team.

The big thing on Missiaen is just that he is big at 6'8 and most scouts see him more as a "fun" project for Ranger goalie coach Benoit Allaire. You can not teach size which is what Missiaen has but that size is also we fear going to paint a very misleading picture of Missiaen for those seeing him for the first time.

Because of his size, to the average fan Missiaen is going to appear clumsy and awkward for a kid just a couple of months past his 21st birthday. He has a 3 year deal with the Rangers which gives Allaire that much time to see if he can turn him into a real goalie prospect.

Right now we project Missiaen at best as a member of the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors as we seriously can not see him beating out Chad Johnson or Cam Talbot for a spot with the CT Whale.

Which leads us back to the signing of Chad Johnson by the Rangers to a 1 year deal as to be honest it is a signing that has us scratching our heads. Why sign a guy who you lost confidence in last season because an ECHL goalie took away his job?

Once Marty Biron went down CJ was at best the doorman for the Ranger bench as he got in all of 20 minutes of action for the Rangers. Biron is healthy and there is no disputing that he is the Ranger backup.

Maybe it was because Cam Talbot could never stay healthy long enough to make the Whale job his or because last season's Whale MVP Dov Grumet-Morris has not been signed by the Rangers (or did not want to sign with them) as we honestly do not know where he is going to play in 2011-2012).

We are currently projecting the Ranger goalie depth chart as such:

1- Henrik Lundqvist (if you need an explanation why then please seek help)

2- Marty Biron- Forget Brad Richards as the Ranger season is actually going to wind up riding on his shoulders. With the start in Europe followed by the west coast swing then Biron has to stay healthy for the Rangers.

Every game that Biron can start means that much more rest for Henrik Lundqvist as if the Rangers can squeeze 25-30 games out of Biron then the Rangers have a real shot of getting out of the first round.

3-Chad Johnson- is on a short leash with just a 1 year deal and 3 other guys with 2-3 years left on their deals. If he struggles like he did last season and Cam Talbot plays well then Johnson is in trouble.

4-Cam Talbot- if he could have stayed healthy would be 3rd but he played in all of 20 games which might explain why Johnson got another season. If he does stay healthy then he too had best play well because.

5- Scott Stajcer- despite his own injuries woes was actually the 3rd best Ranger goalie from a statistical point of view. 10-3 2.91 GAA and .901 save percentage. In his 14 regular season appearances Stajcer up 2 or fewer goals in 6 of those games.

But because last season was a lost one for Stajcer the ideal situation would be to send him back for an overage season in the OHL. The problem with that idea is that his Owen Sound Attack already have replaced Stajcer.

If they can find a good home for Stajcer then yes send him back and save a season on his entry level deal. But what we left out until now was that Stajcer was goalie coach Benoit Allaire's star pupil and if he shows the same level improvement as he did last year then bye-bye Johnson and/or Talbot.

5-Jason Missiaen- have to be honest as at the first glance we thought this was a bad idea but since it saved the Rangers from having to use a draft pick they did not have then why not? Worst case is that if he does not pan out then the Rangers are only out 203 K in salary.

The Rangers can bury him in the CHL like they have done with other failed projects so why not? It is only money and to us a chance to see Beniot Allaire show us something. Seriously with Lundqvist and Biron already established then what has Allaire done since joining the Rangers?

None of the Ranger goalies prospects has established themselves during Allaire's time so maybe it is time for him to show off his teaching skills.

Of course we do have to wonder why the Rangers ask that guy who used to wear number 35 to come in and work with the Ranger kid goalies? If you have an asset then use it as we have seen Mike Richter's efforts as a volunteer coach at Yale.

All he did there was turn the Yale goalies into top notch performers so Glen pick up the phone, swallow some ego/pride and use Richter (and Brian Leetch too) to build tomorrow.

(Stajcer courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

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