"No More Respect" was the battle cry from the coach of the New York Ranger prospects Ken Germander when he rightfully chewed out the team during the 1st intermission. Yes the Ranger prospects lost to the Buffalo Sabre prospects 5-2 in the finals of the Traverse City Tournament but as we said before winning was a nice bonus.
First Star- JT Miller
Miller played his best game of the tournament at both ends of the ice and we liked the energy as well as the smarts he showed here. His first period goal said a lot about his offensive talents as Miller went through traffic, found his spot then nothing fancy but a one-timer off the Carl Hagelin pass to keep the Ranger prospects in a game they really were never in.
Miller was not intimidated by the bigger Sabre players and was willing to go toe to toe with them. Miller led the Rangers with 5 shots and was one of the few Rangers to play hard all 3 periods.
Sorry North Dakota but Miller showed us that he made the right decision by choosing the OHL over North Dakota. We saw a side of Miller that was not on any scouting reports and that was a rising to the occasion of a big game.
Nothing against North Dakota but Miller playing in 70-80 games in a season will help speed up his development. North Dakota is a great hockey program but in this case Miller is best off in the OHL.
If not for Miller's first period goal the Rangers were going to be blown out of this one. Miller's goal off a great pass from Carl Hagelin rallied the team out of their funk and stopped the bleeding.
Why is the coach our second star you ask? Because his 1st intermission butt chewing was exactly what was needed and more importantly what the team responded to.
Gernander's performance as we said yesterday also was being evaluated since he is charged with developing these very prospects when they are playing in the AHL.
More than anything else we just loved it when he screamed "No More Respect" at his team. He demanded and got the team to play better in the 2nd period.
We asked that he toss away the cliche handbook which is exactly what he did. Gernander mixed in advice with his butt chewing as he spelled out exactly what they were doing wrong and how to fix that.
Anyone can chew someone out but the trick is how to turn it into a teaching moment as Gernander did. And a second place finish out of a roster that had 15 first time players on it does warrant a couple of stick taps.
Next year leave the TV cameras out of the locker room and let Gernander do his job which is teach these prospects.
Third Star Ryan Bourque
Had the Ranger announcing trio spent more time detailing the action and less time interviewing others then Bourque's play would have been more noticed than it was.
Bourque was everywhere trying to make plays and it was way more than just his 2nd period goal. Bourque repeatedly stepped into passing lanes to break up plays and was not afraid to go into traffic.
Bourque killed off a Sabre power play by stepping in front of a pass, jumping back to the offense and forced the Sabre's Zach Kassian to grab him for the holding call. (The yuck yuck squad was too busy talking to Adam Graves to notice as were the guys in the production truck)
Bourque is not a Petr Prucha or a Mats Zuccarello as he is going to give the Rangers play at both ends of the ice so forget worrying about his size. Very happy to see Bourque finally get some notice for his hard work.
Ranger MVP- Tim Erixon
A funny thing is going to happen down the road when Ranger fans argue about the Sather era. Which trade is going to go down as his best trade; the deal that brought in Ryan McDonagh or the trade that netted Tim Erixon?
Not sure about the rest of you but the more we watched Erixon, the more it seemed that 2 second round picks and Roman Horak was a steal. On a franchise that already has 4 first round picks for defenseman; the fifth one Erixon shows glimpses of being the best 2-way defender of the bunch.
What we can not wait to see is how he responds when playing with the Ranger veterans especially on the power play. Erixon we expect to see in the opening night lineup after his performance here at Traverse City.
The Good, The Bad And The Announcers
The good was that the New York Rangers did something that the NHL should have done and televised the Traverse City games. Ranger fans have no idea how huge a risk this was by the Rangers and they deserve credit for taking this risk.
If this prospect team had performed badly then the PR damage to the Rangers would have been off the scale as the Rangers have been touting the prospects like never before. A second place finish out of a roster that featured 15 first time players is nothing to be ashamed of.
Stick tap to the Rangers here as Ranger fans now can put faces to the prospects and have real hope. Stick tap to players: Carl Hagelin, Christian Thomas, Shane McColgan, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Samuel Noreau, and both goalies
Kudos to Randy McNaught who in our eyes has earned himself a AHL contract with his performance. He still needs a lot of work but as we saw, here is a player who does want to be more than a goon and is willing to work at it.
Sam Noreau also joins the "risks worth taking" even though he was one of those who let the Sabres play mind games with. He needs to be taught how to better use his size to his advantage.
The bad we are sorry to say is those who hurt themselves with their performance at Traverse City. Jyri Niemi had a good 2nd period but his play overall is going to be why we can't see him as Ranger material.
Too many bad decisions, too many times getting caught out of position, and worse of them all, turnover after turnover. Blake Parlett on a bum knee was still a better player than Niemi.
Jason Wilson was someone who we really expected more out of because of all his hard work. Wilson is going to need a monster Whale training camp to avoid being sent to the ECHL.
We really like Wilson as he has the tools to be more than just a 4th line player but if you are a 4th line player at Traverse City then do not expect to be a NHL player for a long while.
Lee Baldwin is another who badly needed to give a strong performance which he did not and could find himself fighting for playing time in the ECHL again. He is an older prospect so his "window" is very limited and he should have done a lot more here.
Hate to say they played badly but it was more that they just did not do enough: Collin Bowman, Taylor Jordan, Tommy Grant, Jordan Hickmott, and Kale Kerbashian.
And yes it was great that the Rangers answered questions from twitter, yes it was great that we got to see live coverage but what the Ranger trio of Dave Maloney, Joe Micheletti, and John Giannone forgot to do was call the action.
Not going to apologize for being harsh here but did they forget that the focus was supposed to be the Ranger prospects? Ranger fans tuned in not to listen to scouts or general managers of other teams but to learn about the Ranger future.
Missing plays is one thing, misidentifying players is another but you would expect 2 former NHL players to highlight game changing plays or in the case of the Rangers what kept them into the game.
You would have hoped that guys who knew firsthand what these kids were going through would have explained how a prospect works his way to becoming an NHLer.
Yes they got the Hagelin pass to Miller but cmon Thomas was a shell of the player after that hit to the head. Thomas had 1 shot the entire game which alone should have been a clue that something is wrong.
The same for Stajcer as a player who had hip surgery, you could see on TV that his lateral movement to the left was affected after he twisted something. Missing the penalty called on Bourque in the 2nd period was another bad call as they were too busy talking to Ken Holland.
The biggest question to ask this trio was how do you question whether Gernander wanted to win this game when you barely covered the play by play. Both former NHL players should have known better as to how important a game like this was to the hopes of many of these prospects.
Despite the announcer's yuck yuck work, again the Rangers do deserve some praise for televising the prospects and their efforts. Now may we beg the Rangers not to stop here but now take it further.
Send a camera crew out on the road during the season and follow the progress of the prospects like Miller and McIlrath. Highlight the efforts of the prospects as they go back to their junior teams and show their progress.
Show it during a pre-game or during an intermission as you have opened a door for the fans to look at tomorrow's Rangers, please do not close it.
Think if you do that then selling tickets to Ranger home games won't be as hard a sell when the fans get a regular dose of what we see all the time. Twitter showed that Ranger fans are energized about this year but also the future so do not let this chance go by.
The Prospect Rangers will be flying home (or are already there by the time you read this) so we believe the plan is to keep some but return the rest to their junior teams. Too many CHL teams are missing so many players that exhibition games are being canceled.
QMJHL is already in their regular season but the OHL and WHL begin play next week. Best guess right now is non-roster invitees and AHL contracts will be sent off first, then lower round picks.
Rangers we believe will keep Stajcer with CT Whale so they can take Chad Johnson to Europe. With the exception of Tim Erixon and Carl Hagelin, we do not believe the Rangers will take any prospects with them to Europe unless they are legit candidates to make the team.
Andrew Yogan reportedly has a separated shoulder which is the last thing he needs. His hopes of making the CT Whale disappeared because a young player missing a day of training camp is equal to missing 2 days.
Rangers will keep him for medical treatment but Christian Thomas we really wonder if he was hurt more than he showed. Did not see any of his typical brand of hockey and no it was nothing the Sabres did other than the elbow to the head.
(Miller/USA Hockey, Gernander/New York Rangers, Bourque/NHL Media)
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