|The most manly man in mandom|
38 wins, 33 losses, 11 OTL, 87 points, 21st in the league.
The New York Rangers have been responsible for more incomprehensible agony to their faithful than probably any other team/fan base relationship in the league . After a decade of being a resort team the Rangers lost their bid for the playoffs in the final game of the season on a missed penalty shot Olli Jokinen last year. Times have been dark in Madison Square Garden but the Rangers are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Blueshirts boast perhaps the best goalie in the game and are beginning to see the benefits of a promising youth movement. The question for the Rangers this season will be can this team's youth hit their stride and can the veterans on Broadway produce enough to make this team a post-season threat?
The New York Rangers are known for huge splashes in the free agent market every off-season. Last season the Rangers pulled a huge coup signing former first overall pick and elite scoring winger Marian Gaborik to lead the offensive punch of the Blueshirts. Gaborik is perhaps the fastest skater in the game who boasts a deadly wrist shot and one of the most slippery offensive acumens. Gaborik was a bit risky being extremely injury prone having only managed one complete season in his career. Gaborik managed to play 76 games while scoring 44 goals and seems to be working out on Broadway. The Rangers big UFA signing this off-season is talented two-way winger Alex Frolov who fell out of favor in LA. Frolov is an enigmatic player who has shown flashes of being an elite player but got stifled in LA. Look for Frolov to blossom in a new situation. Former second round pick 20-year old Derek Stepan has seemingly come out of nowhere to be the likely candidate to center the Blueshirts' first line. Stepan is a playmaking center who's reminiscent of Paul Stastny and exploded in college hockey with 54 points in 41 games last year. Head Coach John Tortorella has praised Stepan's confidence and it seems like Stepan will be a factor in the Rangers' top six this season.
The second line will likely be an all Rangers draftee trio. Competing with Stephan for top six minutes at center will be Artem Anisimov who also has been the recipient of praise from Tortorella. The 22-year old Russian offers good size, a solid two-way game, and creative vision but has yet to display the offensive game of a first line talent. The 24-year old Brandon Dubinsky has already become something of a fan favorte to the Blueshirt faith with his responsible two way game and a flair for dramatic play but this will be a career defining season for him. Dubinsky has shown flashes of brilliance over the course of his career but needs to find the consistency in order to reach his potential. Ryan Callahan has quietly been one of the best players out of his draft. Callahan has been able to find something of a scoring touch to go along with his hard working two-way game. While Callahan isn't a first tier offensive player he has the type of game teams absolutely covet for his balls to the wall team first style. Look for him to bounce between the second and third line this year.
Chris Drury has become something of a loathed figure for the Blueshirt Faithful having signed one of the biggest contracts since the lockout and becoming the symbol of general manager Glen Sather's bizarre hockey decisions. Drury is a two-way defensive minded center who's shown a gift for clutch scoring. Drury will start the season on the injured reserve list due to a broken finger but will return in mid-October likely as the third line center. Sean Avery is a misunderstood genius. Without a doubt the most controversial player and the biggest villain in the NHL. Avery has shined under the big city lights of New York developing into the most infuriating grinder in the league while still being able to pop a point every other game. Likely bouncing between the top three lines this season will be streaky scorer Vaclav Prospal who came to New York specifically to play under Tortorella. Prospal has a freaky pattern to have one great season followed by a not so great season. This pattern looks to continue after Prospal scored 58 points last season and will be entering this season with a knee injury. At the time of this writing Prospal's future remains unclear but expect him to be out at least a month.
Rounding out the Rangers' roster will likely be camp tryout Ruslan Fedotenko who's another player that has excelled under Tortorella in the past. Fedotenko is a decent complimentary scorer who will likely bounce between the second and third line. It wouldn't be a traditional off-season without the Rangers making a bizarre off-season signing and the Rangers didn't disappoint with inking pugilist Derek Boogaard to a four year 1.7 million dollar contract. Boogaard is the Mike Tyson of the NHL while being arguably the heavyweight champ of the league but doesn't offer much beyond his fists. Large 6-7 Brian Boyle will likely fit in with the Rangers as a depth forward this season. Boyle can play any position including blueliner while having a solid defensive game. Role player Erik Christensen will like bounce around in the bottom six. Agitating winger Brandon Prust will factor into several games this year for the Blueshirts. The Rangers also signed former Sabres folk hero Tim Kennedy to be a depth forward.
Marc Staal has quietly developed into a top defensive defenseman and the Rangers' number one defenseman. Staal isn't the most gifted offensive defenseman in the league but he still manages to get a respectable amount of points. At only 23-years old Staal has the potential to only get better from his already elite form. Likely playing with Staal will be 26-year old Dan Girardi who's a capable minute eating defenseman who doesn't really excel at any one facet of the game but can play any role well. Girardi has managed to find chemistry playing with Staal and will likely complete the Rangers' first pairing while playing on both special teams.
20-year old Michael Del Zotto had a spectacular rookie campaign last year scoring 37 points. The young offensive defenseman is a leading member of the new influx of elite defensemen not old enough to drink yet . Del Zotto will once again be the Blueshirts' leading scorer from the blue line but will have to improve his work in the defensive zone in order to become the premiere defenseman he has the potential to be. Playing with Del Zotto will likely be Michael Rozsival who's been a fixture on the Rangers' blue line since the lockout. Rozsival is a capable three zone defenseman who offers a steady offensive game and the ability to efficiently move the puck.
Looking to make his rookie debut this season will be gritty defensive defenseman Ryan McDonagh who the Rangers faithful have big hopes for. McDonagh was acquired in a laugher of a trade with the Montreal Canadiens and has excelled as a big minute defenseman at the lower levels. Pavel Valenteko also stands a good chance of seeing a lot of NHL games this year. The 22-year old Russian defenseman has a nasty mean streak, gritty defensive zone work, and a cannon for a shot. Valenteko has also earned praise from Tortorella this pre-season. The Rangers acquired enigmatic 26-year old Steve Eminger in a trade last season to fill in as a depth defender. Eminger has bounced around the league the last few years unable to parlay his flashes of brilliance into a consistent 82-game campaign. 23-year old Michael Sauer will likely fill in as a depth defenseman.
The Rangers got the steal of the decade when they drafted franchise netminder Henrik Lundqvist in the 7th round of the 2000 draft. The 28-year old Swedish goalie has blossomed into perhaps the best backstop in the world as he can play 70+ plus games a season while putting up all-world numbers on mediocre teams. Lundqvist will once again be the man in New York and will look to compete for the Vezina trophy. Backing up Lundqvist will be quality 1B goalie Martin Biron who hasn't managed to find a consistent job despite several brilliant campaigns in the past. Biron will likely not get much work on Broadway this season but will be an excellent number two should anything happen to Lundqvist.
The Rangers are secretly in the middle of what's looking to be a successful youth movement and rebuild. This team will once again be a contender for one of the bottom playoff spots in the east but the real fun of this season is going to be watching their youth develop. Look for the Rangers to come in somewhere between 15th-20th in the league.
BVB's Projected Opening Night Lineup
Alex Frolov 27 G/35 A 62 P
Derek Stepan - 14 G/38 A 52 P
Marian Gaborik - 39 G/42 A 81 P
Brandon Dubinsky - 23 G/27 A 50 P
Artem Anisimov - 18 G/22 A 40 P
Ryan Callahan - 20 G/21 A 41 P
Vaclav Prospal - 12 G/26 A 38 P
Erik Christensen - 11 G/18 A 29 P
Sean Avery - 14 G/22 A 36 P
Derek Boogaard - 0 G/6 A 6 P
Brian Boyle - 4 G/6 A 10 P
Brandon Prust - 3 G/7 A 10 P
Ruslan Fedotenko - 9 G/19 A 28 P
Chris Drury - 8 G/23 A 31 P
Marc Staal - 9 G/25 A 34 P
Dan Girardi - 4 G/19 A 23 P
Michal Rozsival - 5 G/29 A 34 P
Michael Del Zotto - 10 G/30 A 40 P
Ryan McDonagh - 1 G/9 A 10 P
Steve Eminger - 3 G/10 A 13 P
Pavel Valentenko - 2 G/7 A 9 P 27
Henrik Lundqvist - 37-28-6 | 2.47 GAA | .922 Sv%
Martin Biron - 4-4-3 | 2.78 GAA | .910 Sv%