Saturday, June 1, 2013

Answers you might not like

Glen Sather (New York Rangers)
So while everyon, their aunts, uncles and cousins are boldly predicting who Glen Sather is going to hire as the next coach of the New York Rangers, the bigger question you should be asking is which direction will Glen Sather take the franchise with his off-season moves? Sure naming the next coach is important but the Rangers have some very tough decisions to make with their player moves.

For starters I am not talking about buying out Brad Richards as that one is a no-brainier but rather can the Rangers count on Marc Staal to remain healthy enough to stay in the lineup? While I am seeing people looking to trade Dan Girardi; they had best first be sure that Marc Staal can still do the job. It is one thing to miss 5 games like Staal did in the 2010-11 season but 46 games in 2011-12 and just 21 this past season raises a legit concern about Staal's ability to remain healthy.

Look I am a big fan of Staal's and in fact named one of my key prospect evaluation tools after him (The Staal Standard which measures playoff performance to see how NHL ready a prospect is) but let's be realistic here, a concussion and now an eye injury that Staal is telling people may never be 100% again. It may sound cold and cruel but if you are looking at the 2013-14 season do you dare move Girardi without being really sure about Staal?

Trading Girardi right now would be one of the bigger mistakes the Rangers could make especially when the Rangers were honestly down to just 4 defensemen by the time they were eliminated by Boston. If you have hopes of looking for a Top 4 defenseman among the UFAs then you might think twice when you look at how many over 30 defensemen are out there and realize that it is not a pretty sight.

If anything you have to root for Marc Staal to make a full recovery and have an even better training camp so you can trade him while he is healthy. Sorry but the odds of Marc Staal making it through a full season anymore without getting hurt are very low so move him while you can get as much as you can back. Like I said look at the list of free agent defensemen and then realize how much a healthy Staal at 26 can bring back in trade.

Realize also how many holes in the Ranger lineup they will have to open the 2013-14 season with and you have to pick your poison. Sure there will be those who will on July 1st just like Pavlov's dog start begging Glen Sather to sign one of these guys but if by now you haven't learned the lesson of Glen Sather and UFA players then you never will.

The other option then becomes to take one of your best offerings in a trade (IE Marc Staal) and hope Sather can do much better in a trade for some more offense. To me it was trading away Marian Gaborik that started Glen Sather on the road to fire John Tortorella not what Henrik Lundqvist said.

If you don't think so then look at Gaborik's numbers as a Ranger 42 goals in his 1st season, 22 in a 2nd season where he was injured by a dirty check and then 41 in his 3rd season before the lockout. Glen Sather has to sit there and wonder why John Tortorella was treating Gaborik the way he was.

Even more so is how angry Glen Sather must have gotten when he had no other option but to trade Gaborik? Actually he did have another option but on the heels of the Rangers announcing an increase in ticket prices for 2013-2014 there was no way Sather could do so.

That does beg the question "What might have happened if Glen Sather fired John Tortorella at the trade deadline instead?" Keep Gaborik and fire Tortorella most likely would not have changed the outcome of a Ranger/Bruin playoff series but at least whoever the next coach is would have more weapons to start nextfromon with.

With the announcement that both Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin needed surgery to repair torn labrum in their shoulders, it isn't just that they will miss training camp and the start of the 2013-14 season. No what people are not realizing is that neither player will be able to get in their full off-season workouts.
In today's NHL not being able to get in your off-season workouts is just as bad as missing training camp.

That might mean that neither player will be in 100% game shape until November or December. Oh while you are at it remember that Glen Sather was aware of both player's status when Tortorella was fired. That too had to factor in to why Sather decided he wanted a change and was not going to give Tortorella a half a season that so many were thinking he was going to get.

No Glen Sather knows that the Ranger roster is a mess and that he needs time to try to fix things. The guy he picks to be coach has to have a strong background as a teacher because Sather doesn't have many options with the roster. That too had to be a factor in why Tortorella was fired as Sather just had to be worried about Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller not being trusted by Tortorella.

The Rangers just might be forced into playing kids like Kreider, Miller, Christian Thomas and Michael St. Croix even if they are not 100% NHL ready. Sather will need a coach who is also a teacher and can get something out of the kids while Callahan and Hagelin are healing.

Sather is going to need Jeff Beukeboom working his butt off to help a Dylan McIlrath speed up his development or somehow Stu Bickel into someone who can buy Sather time on the blueline. I have to admit that how John Tortorella was able to get away with getting rid of guys Sather brought in as enforcers I don't know.

Most Ranger fans have never heard of Dave "Cement-head" Semenko but he was Wayne Gretzky's bodyguard when Sather was coaching the Edmonton Oilers and perhaps one of the best enforcers to ever play in the NHL. Nobody dared touch any of the star players that the Oilers had or else they had to deal with Semenko which made the way Tortorella would prefer guys who nobody feared to protect his best players.

Oh do you notice that now nobody is worried about the Ranger's restricted free agents now that Tortorella is gone? Subtract the Brad Richard's salary and you actually can sign Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, and Ryan McDonagh to contracts with health raises and still have close to 14 million in salary cap space (for use ONLY in trades).

The Ranger roster is a mess and anyone expecting a miracle from whoever is hired as the new coach to lead them to a Stanley Cup overnight is kidding themselves. Fixing the team will not require tanking for a few years like some teams did but getting back to contention is realistic with the right coach.

The question is how patient will Glen Sather, James Dolan AND the Ranger fans be? If they aren't they might do just as much damage as John Tortorella did last season.

Good Signing

Very happy to see that the Rangers worked out a deal to sign 2011 5th round pick Samuel Noreau of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. If you understand the mindset of Gordie Clark then Noreau provided a textbook example of how a prospect can play his way into a Ranger contract. It is all about forward progression meaning making progress on and off the ice from the moment a prospect is drafted.

As Clark told me back in March:

He carries himself real well; he didn’t want to be known as just a fighter and it was the same with McIlrath as you can’t be just a fighter. It is great that you will stand up for your teammates but you have to be able to play.

Sam will tell you that and he has worked so hard on his skating. His team was not very good when we drafted him but now they are looking at a run in the playoffs and Sam knew he had to get better to get ice time.

You can see him out there thinking and then he will make a play whether it is poking the puck or rubbing a guy out. He is a project and not going to kid you he has a long way to go.

Noreau is 6'5 225 is coming off a season where he served as an assistant captain for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Noreau posted career highs in goals and points (7-25-32) as the Drakkar made it all the way to the finals of the QMJHL where they lost to eventual Memorial Cup Champs the Halifax Mooseheads.

Noreau is expected to contend for a spot on the Hartford Wolfpack.

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