Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lines, etc.

Wow, I talk too much. Let's recap.

Centers: Anisimov, Boyle, Drury, Dubinsky, Prospal
Right Wings: Callahan, Gaborik, Kotalik, Lisin
Left Wings: Avery, Brashear, Higgins, Voros
Defensemen: Del Zotto, Gilroy, Girardi, Redden, Rozsival, Semenov, Staal
Goalies: Lundqvist, Valiquette

(assuming we sign Semenov)

Opening night lines become a slightly easier and less interesting game to play, since Semenov doesn't have a contract just yet, and reports on Avery have unsurprisingly returned to "probably going to be out on Friday." But let's talk ideal lines for a moment. Ideally, our top line is going to be Avery - Dubinsky - Gaborik. Or Higgins - Dubinsky - Gaborik. Presumably, our fourth line is shaping up to be Voros - Boyle - Brashear (I'm unconvinced Donald would even notice he's on the opposite side). This leaves Anisimov, Drury, Prospal, Callahan, Kotalik, Lisin, and Higgins (or Avery) to form our second and third lines. It seems logical, then, to have Drury center line two and Anisimov center line three, moving Prospal back to the wing.

But Torts hasn't tried Prospal (or Anisimov, for that matter) on the wing yet, at all. It seems like both Prospal and Anisimov are being prepared as centers. I can't imagine moving Drury to the wing, as the Anisimov article I linked to in the previous post suggests, though I suppose that's possible. The other option is that we sit a center, either Anisimov or Prospal (if we move a center to wing, presumably, Lisin would sit).

Note that I am here using "sit" to mean "sit or be sent to the 4th line to replace one of them, because they'll play like 4 minutes a game anyway."

Here's what I would do, if I were in charge:

Avery - Dubinsky - Gaborik
Higgins - Drury - Kotalik
Prospal - Anisimov - Callahan
Voros - Boyle - Lisin (yes, I know...)

How close to that will Torts come (the obvious Brashear-in-for-Lisin replacement aside)? I dunno. It seems reasonably likely that Higgins and Avery will be switched. It's not entirely impossible that Prospal and Drury will be switched, or that Prospal and Anisimov will be switched.

With Avery out, I'd expect Higgins on Dubinsky's line, with Lisin filling in on the second or third line left wing (depending on which center ends up in that other position - without Sean, a center must play wing, because we're out of forwards otherwise).

I'm curious to see what Torts does Friday with Avery out, because which center he tries on left wing will be fairly telling as to which center he sees on wing as a longer term move.

As for defense, there's no rush to get Semenov a contract, because of the Del Zotto situation: we can play Del Zotto for nine games before his entry-level contract kicks in (and he's no longer eligible for the juniors, we have to keep him on roster and start paying his salary, etc.). So, though I imagine the decision will be to keep him in the end, I would expect the Rangers to play a lot of him early, so that decision can be made. While we're playing him, since our top 5 (Redden, Rozsival, Staal, Girardi, Gilroy) seem pretty set, we won't really be playing Semenov anyway. I expect that we'll sign Semenov, but I don't expect us to rush to get him into the lineup on opening night.

It's not worth discussing my "ideal" lineup (Staal/Gilroy, Girardi/Semenov, Del Zotto/Rozsival), so let's talk about what we might see. For all the talk about pairing veterans with kids, Torts hasn't split up the Albatross Twins since preseason game 2 in New Jersey two weeks ago. I anticipate them as a pair to start the season. So what I'd really like to see on opening night is:

Staal - Gilroy
Redden - Rozsival
Del Zotto - Girardi

It's reasonably likely he'll switch Gilroy and Del Zotto.

With Semenov in the mix, Del Zotto will likely be the first to sit. I don't imagine a Semenov/Girardi pair, unless Staal and Gilroy develop really good chemistry very quickly. So we'd probably end up with something like:

Staal - Girardi
Redden - Rozsival
Gilroy - Semenov

Anyway, at least we know who our starting goalie will be.

In around-the-league news we care about, there's a nugget buried in here saying Blair Betts is likely to be a Flyer on opening night. Can't blame 'em. I hate it when the Flyers do things I agree with. Also, the Coyotes (who, for the time being, remain in Phoenix) continue to be the place Rangers go when they leave New York by recalling and signing Ryan "we didn't like him much when he was here" Hollweg. Interesting, coming only a few days after Gretzky stepped down as head coach over what appear to be "artistic differences." Oh, well. Now it's less likely than it was a week ago that I'll move to Arizona and buy a jersey with a dog on it (though the word is Prucha is going to be getting regular ice time there, on a line with men named Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata).

Gonna miss Sean on Friday night. 3 more days! Let's Go Rangers!!

This is a very long post and I'm sorry

So, the Caps beat us 4-3 on Sunday. It appears as if, in usual Ranger fashion, we were a completely different team in the third than we were in the first two. In the first two, we allowed 24 shots on goal (4 went in), while only taking 11 (and getting shut out), including 1:35 of 5-on-3. In the third, we took 20 shots on goal, allowing only 4, and scored all 3 of our goals (while, of course, shutting them out) - but, as usual (and as we saw so recently against the Caps), playing very good hockey for some non-100 percentage of a hockey game doesn't really get the job done.

We played:

Higgins - Dubinsky - Gaborik
Lisin - Prospal - Callahan
Grachev - Anisimov - Kotalik
Brashear - Boyle - Voros

Redden - Rozsival
Del Zotto - Semenov
Staal - Girardi


and pulled Hank after the second. (For those of you paying attention, this leaves Avery out with his knee issue and Drury and Gilroy as the healthy scratches.)

Word on the street is that Anisimov continued to look very good and belongs in the lineup Friday night. Meanwhile, Torts was apparently unhappy with Girardi's play, which is apparently a trend this preseason. That is exceptionally bad news. If Girardi isn't one of our star defensemen (which was always a bit much to ask for him, honestly - I always preferred Tyutin, back in the day), we're going to have some real defensive liability. Look at who's left. Don't be surprised if the '08-'09 Ranger we miss most as of January is Paul Mara. The general feeling from our first two periods, relevantly, seems to be "defensive liabilities" - the Caps reportedly broke through our defense all day, creating turnovers and winning every battle. Any of this sounding familiar?

In other game news, Donald Brashear scored a goal on his former club. Bruce Boudreau called it "a little soft." Also, Grachev was very disappointed with the game he played, despite his goal in the third, saying, "the first period for me was the worst period for me, ever. I didn't think I'd get more ice time. I was way too bad in the first."

Apparently the Rangers didn't disagree entirely, because despite giving him that ice time in the rest of the game, we sent him back down to Hartford yesterday. Don't panic: this isn't entirely bad news. The kid is 19 fucking years old. He's gonna spend some seasons with the Wolfpack, being very good at hockey, and being called up occasionally, and then in a few years, he'll be a Ranger regular. No institutional worries here.

So why bother sending him down at all, given that we were already looking at the 23-man size limit? For that, we have to revisit our old friend, the salary cap. I hadn't mentioned him much, as we seemed to have everything pretty well under control, but the jump in Dubi's estimated salary certainly didn't help things. Let's go back to Salary Cap Land briefly and take a look at where we stand. Remember this season's cap is $56.8 million. As always, all numbers are cap hit, not salary.

Centers: Drury ($7.05 million), Dubinsky ($1.85 million), Prospal ($1.1 million), Anisimov ($821,666), Boyle ($525,000)
That's five centers for $11,346,666.

Right Wings: Gaborik ($7.5 million), Kotalik ($3 million), Callahan ($2.3 million), Lisin ($790,000)
Four right wings for $13.59 million.

Left Wings: Higgins ($2.25 million), Avery ($1.9375 million), Brashear ($1.4 million), Voros ($1 million)
Four left wings for $6.5875 million.

Defensemen: Redden ($6.5 million), Rozsival ($5 million), Gilroy ($1.75 million), Girardi ($1.55 million), Del Zotto ($1.0875 million), Staal ($826,667)
Six defensemen for $16,714,167.

Goalies: Lundqvist ($6.875 million), Valiquette ($725,000)
Two goalies for $7.6 million.

This adds up to $55,838,333, or only $961,667 of space left under the cap. Now, the wilier among you will notice that these numbers are missing two names you expected from our previous 23-man roster: Grachev and Semenov. As you may or may not know, Semenov is at camp on a tryout basis. He has not been resigned by his former team (the Sharks), and he is free to sign with the Rangers (or anyone else), but he has no current contract. Grachev, on the other hand, has an $875,000 contract with the Rangers. We could keep him up in New York, but that would leave only $86,667 under the cap - not nearly enough to sign Semenov. Since we won't play Grachev in the top 12 much anyway, it seems smarter to keep him in Hartford (from where we can call him up easily if we need to later in the season) and leave that $961,667 in the cap, which should be plenty of money to sign Semenov (whom Tortorella has made clear he wants on the club).

Why doesn't the same logic apply to, say, sending Voros or Boyle down? Because Grachev is young enough that he doesn't have to clear waivers. When you send someone to the minors (unless it is specifically on a specific-length-of-time "conditioning assignment"), generally, because you're saying "meh, we don't want him," other clubs are given the chance to pick him up on their roster. You'll recall that this is how we picked up Sean Avery (the second time): the Stars wanted to send him to the minors, but he didn't "clear waivers," because the Rangers picked him up when given the chance. He was then sent to Hartford on a "conditioning assignment," the Stars had to (and continue to) pay half his salary (hence his modest $1.9375 million cap hit), and then brought up as a Ranger.

The idea is that a hockey club is unable to take a good player and keep him around in the minors, not allowing him to play hockey, for the strategic advantage of doing so. It makes sense. However, it can be a huge pain if you're sending down a player you actually want around in your system. To allow teams to keep young players developing, developing players are exempt from waivers, according to their age and how few games they've played in the NHL. At 24, having played over 60 games in the NHL, for example, Brian Boyle is not exempt from waivers. Voros, being 28, is not exempt because he has played any games at all in the big leagues. Evgeny Grachev, however, is only 19, so unless he has played 160 games in the NHL (he hasn't), he can be assigned to Hartford without first clearing waivers.

Artem Anisimov is the only other roster forward who could be assigned to Hartford without clearing waivers (though had Lisin played only 3 fewer games as a Coyote, he would also have this distinction), and if the choice has to be made, it seems smarter to keep Anisimov in New York and send Grachev to Hartford, rather than vice versa.

So, in conclusion, sending Grachev down was the right move: it gives us room to sign Semenov and the ability to recall him.

You know what? I was gonna talk about possible line combinations, with our 13 remaining forwards, but fuck all if I don't talk too much. That'll come in a separate post, this one would already make Dickens green.

He got paid by the word, people.

Friday, September 25, 2009

You're embarrassing yourself

First of all, the brief, actually informative portion of today's lesson: we beat the Caps 3-2 last night. We started with the following lines:

Higgins - Prospal - Gaborik
Grachev - Drury - Kotalik
Lisin - Dubinsky - Callahan
Voros - Anisimov - Brashear

Redden - Rozsival
Del Zotto - Girardi
Gilroy - Semenov


and we switched Prospal and Dubinsky for the third period. The Rangers reportedly played a good game, especially Dubinsky, who apparently made a great move to get the puck out to Higgins for the final and game-winning goal. Gaborik had the other assist on that goal and scored the other two. Some very positive vibes are going around about Higgins (who also assisted on one of Gaborik's two).

Brashear, who got into two fights, was actually cheered a bit at the conclusion of his second one. Which I guess is a positive step? The booing resurfaces as a topic of discussion because Torts made a point post-game to call out the fans for being disrespectful (and, as is his wont, did not pass up the opportunity to somehow blame the media). Michael Obernauer's blog post about the situation is worth a quick read.

Speaking of Tortorella blaming the media for shit, it looks a great deal like Larry Brooks got his feelings hurt again. In today's issue of Brooksie's LiveJournal, rather than writing anything at all about, say, Dubinsky's first game now that his contract holdout has ended, or, like, Brashear being booed again and responding that he'd "find a way to win [our] hearts," Brooks gives us an almost-certainly-out-of-context one-liner from the mouth of the head coach and then wastes an entire article talking about how ridiculous it is.

The gist of the article (which, in an unrepentant move of maturity, includes yet another of Brooks's traditionally flattering images of our head coach) is as follows: Tortorella, in a pre-game interview yesterday, said of his roster of defensemen, "I don't like having extra bodies around. If it were up to me alone, I'd prefer six." That is an insane thing to do professionally, in the current incarnation of the NHL, so therefore John Tortorella is a bad crazy person.

This tirade of Brooks's would be a completely reasonable rant, if the coach had actually seriously suggested that we might be dropping down to only carry 6 defensemen on our 23-person NHL roster. As Brooks rightly suggests, that is a megafoolish, ridiculous-pants idea. We get 3 spare slots on a roster, and filling them all with forwards is asking for trouble of the "what if a defenseman gets injured or just decides to suck?" variety (see also: the entirely unaccountable Rangers defense last season (which, actually, would have been an interesting parallel to draw, had Brooks been in the business of drawing interesting parallels and not crying into his cereal about the mean Tortorella-man)).

But, um, Larry, you see, the thing is, that's not actually happening. It hasn't even really been suggested. The Rangers roster, right now, at training camp, is at 23. 14 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goalies, as is pretty standard. The thing about John Tortorella is that he tends to be a little...I dunno...strongheaded?...about the way he runs his team. If he actually had any plans to ever seriously cut the Rangers roster to 6 defensemen with 15 forwards, wouldn't he do more than, like, make the comment "if it were up to me, we'd only have 6" in some bullshit pre-game interview and then move on? Of course he hasn't moved forward with that idea: it's not tenable. And until I hear actual evidence otherwise, I'm gonna stick with the overwhelmingly likely theory that this was taken a little out of context, and that there's no way any modern NHL coach (even if he is the Boogeyman, Larry) would every actually attempt to handicap a roster like that.

Interesting corollary to that theory: there is no good goddamn reason to write a whole article about this. Yes, it's a layup to decide to include Del Zotto on the roster, at least for the first nine games (which don't count against his contract). That's why we're doing it! There's nothing to actually complain about here, Brooksie. Simmer.

That's all I got. If real news breaks that Tortorella actually wants to take our roster down to 6 defensemen, for real, then I apologize, I regret everything I wrote here today (except the first bit, about last night's game and Brashear), and Brooks was right to uncover this problem early. Doesn't seem likely, though, does it?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick News

Bobby Sanguinetti was assigned to Hartford today. So, our roster is down to 23. Will post more when not busy at work. We now have 23 men at camp, and it looks like that's our roster. Let's Go Rangers!

On Defense

Okay, you know I'm not one to question the head coach, but this blurb by Steve Zipay has me a little worried. I appreciate the idea of bringing the albatross twins back into the fold, claiming they can be good defensemen, and giving them an honest fresh start to the season. I really do like a team culture that does that. It's great.

And I'll even say I'm ready to buy into the Tortorella "don't waste time playing defense" "safe is death" philosophy. I like it when my defensemen join the rush, and while my ideal philosophy probably falls somewhere between the two, I'm fully confident that the Rangers are on the correct half of the Tortorella-Lemaire continuum.

However, defensemen stop a team from giving up goals. That's what they do. And giving up goals is very bad. And as much as I'm bitter about giving up the best penalty killing tandem in the league for what is looking increasingly like Brian Boyle and Aaron Voros, I was at least somewhat sated by the idea that our defense is ostensibly going to improve this season. After all, not only did we lose Derek Morris (and, sadly, Paul Mara) for some very exciting-sounding kids, we also picked up a head coach who seems to appreciate both how good Marc Staal is at hockey and how much of a liability overpaid veterans can be. Under Torts, I expect to see more of those talented kids and less of the older liabilities. So, generally, though I'll miss Paul Mara, our defense is looking up.

So why am I worried? Well, first, 'cause I'm a Ranger fan, and it's all I know how to do. But second, and more to the point, is this seemingly innocuous idea that Torts has split up the Staal-Girardi and Redden-Rozsival pairs. His defensive strategy so far seems to be "put a young inexperienced guy with an old experienced guy." In theory, it's a pretty good strategy.

But here's the thing. The pairs Zipay highlights are: Del Zotto-Redden; Gilroy-Girardi; Staal-Rozsival; Sanguinetti-Semenov. I'm ignoring that I really don't understand which side these people play on (I think that in each of those pairs, the defensemen are the-same-handed) and moving forward. Sometimes, defensemen make mistakes. This happens. Defensive mistakes often lead to opposing scoring chances (and hence to opposing goals). Sometimes, when a defenseman makes a mistake, however, his defensive partner covers for him. This usually puts that partner in a worse state: out of his own position, not where he intended to be, covering for someone else's mistake. But it often successfully prevents the aforementioned scoring chance, and therefore the goal.

Here's the point: putting a bad wing next to an incredibly skilled center is often a reasonable thing to do. You spread out your offensive talent and all of a sudden every line can score. I've often said, for example, that I probably could have gotten 50 points a season centering Jagr and Straka. Defense doesn't work like that. If I were on a pair with Staal, he'd spend all his time covering for my fat ass, and he probably wouldn't be a terribly effective player. At least last season, Redden and Rozsie were eventually confined to the same pair. You may have noticed something about Dan Girardi: when he found himself on a pair with Staal, he became a better player. This is because he was free to do his job and not cover for one of the old men.

Gilroy-Girardi is a pair I can kinda get behind, and you know I had suggested Sangs-Semenov myself. But think about how held back Staal is going to be when paired with Rozsival, as compared to when he can skate around with Girardi. And Del Zotto-Redden? Really? Del Zotto-Redden? I can't think of a better way to completely ruin a kid's career than to give him real NHL ice time under the Garden spotlight and make him skate around cleaning up Redden's shit all game, every game.

Anyway, I'm probably overreacting (and I definitely used way more words than I had to to make this fairly simple point), but I really don't like the idea that a Rozsival or a Redden will be on the ice for two thirds of every game. That worries me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

25 becomes 24

...as the Rangers bid a fond farewell to "wait, he was still at camp?" forward Pierre "P.A." Parenteau, reassigned to Hartford this afternoon. See you next September, or at least for some random Western Conference game sometime in February, P.A.

Meanwhile, that leaves us with the following roster:

Centers: Anisimov, Boyle, Drury, Dubinsky, Grachev, Prospal
Right Wings: Callahan, Gaborik, Kotalik, Lisin
Left Wings: Avery, Brashear, Higgins, Voros
Defensemen: Del Zotto, Gilroy, Girardi, Redden, Rozsival, Sanguinetti, Semenov, Staal
Goalies: Lundqvist, Valiquette

14 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 2 goalies, with one more cut to be made before opening night: almost certainly a defenseman. With Gilroy, Girardi, Redden, Rozsival, and Staal basically being guaranteed opening night roster spots, that leaves Del Zotto, Sanguinetti, and Semenov to provide us the one of these 24 men who won't still be a New York Ranger 10 days from now. I'm guessing Semenov is gonna make the cut, because he's bigger and older, and Del Zotto and Sanguinetti fill more similar roles to each other. Which of these two gets cut is unclear: Torts seemed to have more of an affinity for Del Zotto early, but it could go either way. Having seen neither of them play for any time at all, I have no strong opinions on the matter.

So, with our 14 forwards and 7 defensemen almost decided, we can start to play the Opening Night Lineup game! I mean, I'm not going to play, right now. But you should! Leave an opening night lineup - 4 offensive lines and 3 defensive pairings - in the comments. For argument's sake, we'll include Avery (even though he'll probably realistically sit that night) and call it an "ideal injury-free opening night lineup." On defense, you can even include "Del Zotto/Sanguinetti" as one person representing whichever one of them makes it. For extra credit, feel free to submit an Avery-less roster as well. Explanations of why you felt the way you felt are appreciated, and partial credit will be given.

In a few days, when I'm bored at work and no one has commented at all, maybe I'll play too.

A collection of small news

Avery sprained his right knee in practice yesterday. I tell you this so I can tell you not to worry about it. It's reportedly the kind of thing where he'll be out for a few games - he will miss the rest of the preseason and maybe not be in game condition for opening day - but he should be back soon after. So, no Sean for a bit = boo.

Meanwhile, Torts is doing with Dubinsky exactly what he should be doing - making him go through all the grueling conditioning he did with everyone else a week ago. He might be ready to play a preseason game by Thursday (I imagine Torts will want to get him into one of our two remaining games, a home-and-home Thursday and Sunday against the Caps), but there was no way he was gonna play last night. This is good, this is what I want him to be doing with Dubi right now.

So, here's who we played last night against the Red Wings:

Higgins - Prospal - Gaborik
Kotalik - Drury - Lisin
Voros - Anisimov - Callahan
Grachev - Boyle - Parenteau

Semenov - Gilroy
Del Zotto - Girardi
Redden - Sanguinetti


Yeah, that's right. Marian Gaborik. (Is it funny (sad) to anyone else that Gaborik is going to be the most game-ready of our theoretical first line as of opening night?) Word is he was very good. He played 19:38, which actually is a good sign. Larry Brooks even said he "displayed flashes of brilliance." Ooooooooh.

We won 4-2. Torts said he thought we played a great first period and a terrible second period, then found a way to grind out a win through the third. That sounds...eerily familiar. But fine, it's preseason. Our goals came from Prospal, Lisin, and Callahan, plus Anisimov in an empty net.

Finally, New York Rangers Blog is right in thinking ESPN's "the albatross twins" is a term with some sticking power.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Guess what that post title means!

Yes, that's right (and by Internet standards, it's old news by now, but still) - we finally signed Brandon Dubinsky. And in no small way. It looks like Sather and Dubi both spit in the face of the recommendations of our friend Math and signed a bigger deal than they'd been talking about, which I imagine delivers in no small part the message "sorry things got so complicated, you really are important to us": a 2-year deal for $1.7 million this year and $2 million the next - a $1.85 million cap hit for 2 years. Yeah, he's worth that. And somehow, his holdout actually helped him get it, despite what is traditionally seen as "no leverage."

So now we wait and see how much damage the Rangers and Dubi did to themselves while Dubi was holding out for the bigger bucks. If this had happened a week ago, camp would be starting with the first line center Dubi's position to lose. Now, there are three preseason games left, and the season starts in 12 days. Can Dubi find his way into that role that quickly? Would Torts even want him there October 2 in Pittsburgh? I imagine reports from the next week or so of camp will start to tell these stories.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings beat us 4-3 (we went up 2-0, then gave up 4 in a row in the third), and yesterday we won our first preseason game, handing the Bruins their first loss, 5-2. Gaborik did not play either game. Sanguinetti played in both. Reportedly, Torts was again very pleased with Del Zotto and Gilroy, giving them both a lot of ice time, and he also had nice things to say about Anisimov, which was a nice change (although apparently his shorthanded goal helped that situation - credit where credit's due, it was a really pretty move). The fourth line, Brashear - Boyle - Voros, was apparently also "pretty effective," which I assume is Torts's code for "laced up their skates on the correct feet and didn't accidentally murder anybody." Sanguinetti got a healthy 15 minutes, and was +1. Meanwhile, even Steve Zipay says that Redden and Rozsival (neither of whom played in Boston, but who played as a pair together in Detroit) are "playing like a third pair right now." Yeah, or a fourth...

As for the roster, the Rangers yesterday assigned Paul "thanks for your time but we finally signed Dubi" Crowder, defensemen Heikkinen and Potter, and The Other Two Goalies (Johnson and Zaba) to Hartford. According to the latest roster, the five men we assigned to Hartford but "technically kept in camp" last week (Arnason, Locke, Byers, Owens, and Rissmiller) are not "considered active players under consideration for the final roster." So, with the addition of Dubinsky, that brings us up to 25 (34-5-5+1, children!) on the roster:

Centers: Anisimov, Boyle, Drury, Dubinsky, Grachev, Prospal
Right Wings: Callahan, Gaborik, Kotalik, Lisin
Left Wings: Avery, Brashear, Higgins, Parenteau, Voros
Defensemen: Del Zotto, Gilroy, Girardi, Redden, Rozsival, Sanguinetti, Semenov, Staal
Goalies: Lundqvist, Valiquette

I imagine we will carry 7 defensemen and 14 forwards. On defense, with Del Zotto looking like he's earned the coach's good graces, Sangs seems the likeliest to get cut, as Semenov takes the "big dumb veteran" role. This would leave our opening night pairs as: Redden-Rozsival; Staal-Girardi; Semenov-Gilroy; with Del Zotto as the seventh. As for forwards, it seems like a team looking to cut one from a corps of 6 centers, 4 right wings, and 5 left wings should cut a center before anything else, but remember that Prospal could always find his way back to wing. Regardless, it seems like one of Grachev or Parenteau should get cut here (I'd say Grachev clearly makes it over Parenteau, but he's still really only 19 years old). Not gonna make any guesses as to lines here just yet (though I have some guesses), but it looks like our roster is close to solidified. Thoughts?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tonight's roster

For the game in Detroit, according to Steve Zipay watching practice this morning.

Higgins - Drury - Callahan
Brashear - Boyle - Voros
Avery - Crowder - Parenteau
Grachev - Anisimov - Lisin

Redden - Rozsival
Heikkinen - Potter
Semenov - Sanguinetti


Stupid Stupid Stupid

Larry Brooks reports that the Dubinsky negotiations have gotten somewhat closer. Ooooh. The report claims that Dubi is now seeking a one-year, $1.1 million deal or a two-year, $2.15 million deal. The Rangers, meanwhile, are sticking to their one-year, $700,000 offer or their two-year, $1.85 million deal. Okay, great, a little bit of progress.

Hang on a second here. I'm getting a phone call.

Hello? Yes, this is he. Oh, Math? Hey, Math, it's good to hear from you! Man, it's been so long, we used to be so tight! You what? You want to guest-write the next segment of my wildly popular Rangers blog, Play Petr Prucha? Why, sure, Math! Go right ahead!

Hello children, this is Math. For today's lesson, we're going to cover arithmetic. I don't wanna bore you with addition or multiplication: that's kid stuff, children! Ho, ho, ho! No, today, we'll be covering division and subtraction. Let's start with division. Good to get the hard stuff out of the way first, right? Ho, ho, ho!

Now, let's say a hockey player asks for a contract of $2.15 million for two years. How much would we say he wants to make per year? We can find out using division! Simply divide 2.15 million by two and you've got your answer: $1.075 million per year!

Let's practice that. Say a hockey team has offered a contract of $1.85 million for two years. Can anyone apply the same logic to tell us how much they're offering per year?

Um...if we divide 1.85 million by two...we get...$0.925 million per year?

Ho, ho, ho! Excellent work, children!

Thanks, Math!

Shut up, I'm talking! Now, it's time for the final lesson. Let's use our division results to learn some subtraction. If a hockey player, who claims he is very dedicated to his team and who has no other NHL outlet, asks for $1.075 million a year, and the hockey team, which desperately needs a player of his caliber at his position, offers $0.925 million per year, how much money are they really disagreeing over? To answer this, we use subtraction! Simply subtract 0.925 from 1.075 and you get...0.15. $150,000 a year! Ho, ho, ho! That's hardly any money at all! Why, it's less than a third of the minimum NHL salary! But that's a lesson for another day: fractions. Until then, have a great day, children, and remember: without Math, nothing adds up! Ho, ho, ho!

Wow, thanks for stopping by, Math! Golly, that was helpful. Without Math, we never would have learned that this contract debate has actually come down to a completely trivial $150,000 a year for two years! Imagine: we might not have been able to put into such stark perspective how completely moronic this whole thing is!

Look: there are five preseason games left. By about 32 hours from now (Saturday evening: do agents even work on weekends?), there will be three preseason games left, training camp will be over a week old, and the season will be less than two weeks (13 days) from starting. No one at all, who understands hockey, anywhere, could possibly think that the $150,000 a year for two years (or even, in the case of the one-year deals, the $400,000 total) is anywhere near as valuable to either Dubinsky or to the Rangers as the training time Dubinsky is losing. If Dubi is going to be a Ranger, then holding out right now is strictly worse for both parties than signing any contract anywhere between their two offers would be. As my old friend Math taught us, this is fucking stupid. Sign a 2-year, $2 million contract, everyone eat $75,000 a year worth of pride, and get to fucking work.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I was close

The first run of cuts has been announced! The following 20 players were cut from Rangers training camp today. The 5 starred players (*) were returned to their teams in the Juniors, and the other 15 were assigned to the 'Pack:

Centers: Bartek, Bourque*, Dupont, Horak*, Maccarone, Werek*
Right Wings: Ambuhl, Weise
Left Wings: Didiomete, LaCouture, Soryal
Defensemen: Glass, Henley, Klassen, Kundratek*, Urquhart, Williams, Sauer
Goalies: Stajcer*, Wiikman

No real surprises here, except that I expected a few more to go than did, because of the widely publicized "30" figure. This leaves 34 to 35, depending on how you count Dubinsky. The other 34 are:

Centers: Arnason, Anisimov, Boyle, Crowder, Drury, Grachev, Locke, Prospal
Right Wings: Callahan, Gaborik, Kotalik, Lisin
Left Wings: Avery, Brashear, Byers, Higgins, Owens, Parenteau, Rissmiller, Voros
Defensemen: Del Zotto, Gilroy, Girardi, Heikkinen, Potter, Redden, Rozsival, Sanguinetti, Semenov, Staal
Goalies: Johnson, Lundqvist, Valiquette, Zaba

Updated roster is found here. Dubi is included, but tagged with a special double-asterisk meaning "Unsigned restricted free agent." Yeah, haven't learned anything there. Centers Arnason and Locke and Left Wings Byers, Owens, and Rissmiller are also marked separately because, despite being part of the Rangers' considerations for roster, they are going to be playing with Hartford during the remainder of the preseason. This doesn't really matter in terms of roster, it's just some weird technical thing about waivers. So, that leaves 29 people actually playing at Rangers camp, 5 more being considered but playing with the 'Pack, and 1 more being considered but sitting on his ass at home.

The preseason will continue tomorrow night in Detroit and then Saturday afternoon in Boston. As for future cuts, I don't know when the next major round will happen (of the 35, we need to cut another dozen by opening night), but Torts did say we'd be down to two goalies after this weekend, so it seems like another round of cuts will happen then. It's easy to guess which two goalies are getting cut.

Other clues as to the future? Between Steve Zipay and Andrew Gross, we think Gaborik will play Saturday but not tomorrow, and Byers and Locke will play tomorrow. On defense, we think Del Zotto, Gilroy, and Heikkinen will each play in at least one of these two games, and Sanguinetti will play in both.

Also according to Gross, "Tortorella, while addressing the media, also said he was happy with the way his young defensemen were playing but had not been happy with his veterans' performance." So, there that is.

Yes, I'll Play

What the hell? I'm bored at work! The following are my best guesses as to how we'll be breaking down our 55-man roster later today. My numbers leave us with 31 on the roster, cutting 24. As I'd said, many of these are pretty obvious, but I put it together nonetheless. Forwards are broken up into Centers, Right Wings, and Left Wings, based on how they're listed on the Rangers site, for reading convenience. We'll see how right I was soon.

Centers (Keep 8, Cut 7)
Keep: Arnason, Anisimov, Boyle, Drury, Dubinsky, Grachev, Maccarone, Prospal
Cut: Bartek, Bourque, Crowder, Dupont, Horak, Locke, Werek

Right Wings (Keep 4, Cut 2)
Keep: Callahan, Gaborik, Kotalik, Lisin
Cut: Ambuhl, Weise

Left Wings (Keep 7, Cut 4)
Keep: Avery, Brashear, Byers, Higgins, Parenteau, Rissmiller, Voros
Cut: Didiomete, LaCouture, Owens, Soryal

Defensemen (Keep 9, Cut 8)
Keep: Del Zotto, Gilroy, Girardi, Potter, Redden, Rozsival, Sanguinetti, Sauer, Staal
Cut: Glass, Heikkinen, Henley, Klassen, Kundratek, Semenov, Urquhart, Williams

Goalies (Keep 3, Cut 3)
Keep: Johnson, Lundqvist, Valiquette
Cut: Stajcer, Wiikman, Zaba

Yesterday and Today

We lost 3-2 in a shootout after coming back from a 2-0 deficit. Our shootout men were Kotalik, Lisin, Gilroy, Parenteau, Del Zotto, Prospal. I love the preseason.

On defense, apparently Gilroy played a great game, which is exciting news. Del Zotto was reportedly not as good as he had been, but Potter was apparently good enough that Torts has already announced him as someone who will survive this afternoon's cuts. On the flip side, Redden and Rozsival were again reportedly bad. Is there a word that denotes the extreme opposite of "surprise"? I feel like "obvious" isn't strong enough. Goddamn it I'm finding it very hard to keep withholding judgement here.

Up front, Prospal's line, centering Avery and Lisin, was reportedly great. This is promising news. I expect great things from Sean (who, predictably, was assigned a goalie interference penalty that disallowed a Lisin goal), but we're also going to need Prospal to have a great year, especially if we continue to not have Brandon Dubinsky on the team. Some scholars think Prospal's going to fill in as first line center regardless, at least as the season starts, on account of Dubinsky doing all of that not-skating-with-his-potential-wingmen-at-all that he's doing right now, compared to Prospal's actually-working-with-his-teammates.

Also up front, everyone is talking about how great Grachev is. That's fascinating, on account of how 19-years-old he is. But if he keeps playing great hockey, good for us. Here's a whole article about it.

This morning, we had a scrimmage at 9am. You should probably sit down. Are you sitting down? I'll wait. Good. Now, reports are that Marian Gaborik actually played in the scrimmage this morning! A whole scrimmage! And no word about anything breaking, either! Allelujah! At this rate, he'll play in an actual NHL game by sometime in November! Yahoo!

There will be one more scrimmage in about 10 minutes (1:00), and then later this afternoon, the first set of roster cuts gets made. For those of you who don't want to go find it yourselves, here again is our current 55-man roster. The word is that it will get cut down to 30 (or, by some reports, "approximately 30") later today. Thought exercise! Feel free to make guesses as to which 30 we keep and which 25 we dump. Most of it should be easy. If I have time later, I'll post some guesses.

Thought exercise bonus round! Of the 55 men on that roster, as you may know, 54 have been to camp and skated and stuff. The other one...hasn't yet. It's easy to keep one no-show on a roster of 55. Think he'll make a roster cut of 30? Probably. But how long can a coach be expected to keep a phantom roster spot open?

Stay tuned for roster cuts...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roster update

The real roster for tonight (maybe):

Avery - Prospal - Lisin
Grachev - Boyle - Kotalik
Rissmiller - Arnason - Parenteau
Voros - Matt Maccarone (?) - Jordan Owens (?)

Same defense and goalies.

Fuck the Devils!

How did I miss this??

In Larry Brooks's this is stupid article, near the bottom, is a paragraph that I ignored because it contained the word Zherdev.

That was dumb!

The Post has learned that the agent for Nikolai Zherdev, who rejected the Rangers' $3.25 million qualifier and then became a free agent when the team walked away from his $3.9 million arbitration award, called the club this week offering to return for $3.25 million. The offer was refused.


Preseason woo!

Here is the lineup we used last night:

Higgins - Drury - Kotalik
Grachev - Anisimov - Callahan
Brashear - Boyle - Parenteau
Byers - Matt Maccarone (?) - Lisin

Staal - Gilroy
Del Zotto - Girardi
Alexei Semenov (?) - Sauer

Matt Zaba (?)

Marian Gaborik's absence, unlike other absences such as Sean "told a fan to get rid of his Gomez jersey" Avery's is notable, because Gaborik was forced out with a sore groin. But don't worry, he skated at training camp again yesterday. 2 days in a row!

We lost 2-1 to the Bruins. According to Larry Brooks, Grachev was impressive and Anisimov wasn't. No surprises. The most promising news was that Higgins, who scored our only goal, was apparently very very good. This not only from Brooks and Steve Zipay, but also from Torts:

I thought he was probably one of our strongest players on the puck, especially in the second half of the game. If we're going to be a good team and a competitive team, he needs to be a goal-scorer for us, he needs to be a penalty-killer for us, he needs to be a top-six forward for us. He needs to accept the responsibility of that, and tonight was a good sign. I thought he played really hard on the puck in both ends, and that line, Drury's line - him, Kotalik, and Higgins - I thought in the third period was probably one of our best lines.

Torts also had very nice things to say about both Gilroy and Del Zotto, bringing up multiple times throughout the press conference that he liked their tendency to get into the play and shoot the puck. So, overall, a positive message coming from the head coach.

Oh, and Brashear was booed every time he touched the puck.

Tonight, at the Rock, we are playing:

Avery - Prospal - Parenteau
Voros - Arnason - Lisin
Grachev - Boyle - Kotalik
Rissmiller - Matt Maccarone (?) - Dan LaCouture (?)

Redden - Gilroy
Del Zotto - Rozsival
Brent Henley (?) - Potter


Tomorrow (after tonight's game and the Wolfpack vs Lowell Devils game that is going on right now), the current 55 (54?) -man roster will be pared down significantly, to about 30 players (it needs to be 23 by opening night).

Also fuck the Devils.

D-men and Dubi

Preseason stuff coming in a second post; I was afraid of talking too much in this one. Some interesting thoughts from Torts out in the Post today. Basically, his mentality seems to be that ideally, to start the season, our third pair won't be two neophytes from Hartford: instead, it will be one neophyte from Hartford and one veteran we try to find somewhere. We'll carry an additional Wolf as our seventh. The reasoning goes something like "Staal and Girardi keep playing to make us forget that they're like 12 years old, which is great and all, but they're still like 12 years old." And honestly, do you want Wade Redden and Michael Rozsival to be your only veteran defensemen? So, I can kinda get behind that idea - as long as it's some 3rd-pair big guy who is signed for his desire to check people, not his ability to quarterback the Power Play. So, we're on the hunt for another vet, and 2 young D-men will be 6 and 7, to start the season. Cool. Dangerous-sounding in the past, sure, but it's a new guy at the helm, and I'm OK with it.

Brooks brings up an interesting point in his article about the above, which is that Dubinsky seems like the right market value for a defenseman of this caliber. Uh oh. Here comes the stupid train. Someone please sign a contract. I don't care if it's for $700,000 or $1.4 million or 400 gold pieces and 24 cattle. Someone sign a fucking contract. Get it done.

Sather gave MSG a brief interview on the subject which basically states what those of us coming to his defense have said:

At this stage in Brandon's career, he is a restricted free agent: it's the only time in his career that the team has any strength in negotiating a contract. He has no arbitration rights; next year, he'll have arbitration rights. If he has a good year, you know, who knows what he'll end up with? And I think he's making a mistake by not being here and learning from all the other players what it's going to take to be committed to win in this organization. And if he decides that he doesn't want to come back, after November 1, if he's not here, he can't play in the NHL. So, it's a little foolish right now.

Which brings me to the "then what?" conversation. Sure, Dubi may be cutting off his nose to spite his face here, but at the end of the day, losing him leaves a pretty big hole. To paraphrase my father, for a team with a lot of centers, we sure don't seem to have any centers. The simple answer is that we somehow trade Dubinsky away for a comparable first-line center.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah, I thought not. More likely we pick up a third-pair defenseman, like Torts is looking for. Then who are our centers? Probably 4 of Drury, Prospal, Boyle, Anisimov, and Grachev. Five 2nd-through-4th-line centers, no first-line centers. Sound like last year to anyone else? Do all our hopes land on our silent-but-silent captain taking up the reins?

Insert chicken-with-its-head-cut-off joke here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stuff that isn't about Brandon Dubinsky

1. Marian Gaborik, after spending the first two days of training camp sitting out because training camp is dangerous for oft-injured players, actually skated with the team yesterday. He didn't join the scrimmage or anything, but at least he skated at camp. Anyone else getting the jibblies about this? Not that I don't trust them or anything, but it's a lot harder to believe the whole "all the injuries are in the past" thing when you keep him out of the first two days of camp. Still, Torts says it's all precautionary and he's fine, and he skated yesterday, so...we'll see. Yeah.

2. They played a scrimmage game today. It was tied 3-3. They used some lines that don't matter. I'm only telling you this so I can tell you that Sean Avery left the ice joking that the refs were letting other players get away with too much shit on him. That's funny.

3. Preseason starts tonight! Wish I could watch it. Boo to living not-in-New-York. I guess that's what I get for being able to afford housing. It's at the Garden at 7:30, against the Bruins. We will be using the following lineup:

Forwards: Drury, Anisimov, Grachev, Boyle, Higgins, Lisin, Parenteau, Brashear, Kotalik, Callahan, Byers, Matt Maccarone (?)

Defensemen: Stall, Girardi, Gilroy, Del Zotto, Sauer, Alexei Semenov (?)

Goalies: Valiquette, Matt Zaba (?)

Let's Go Rangers!

Since I can't actually watch the game, here are four commercials from tonight's opponents to get us in a hockey-is-awesome mood (like we needed help).


Monday, September 14, 2009


"Stupid" is the word in all the Rangers headlines, and "stupid" is the word I'll use in mine. This is fucking stupid.

The one and a half of you who regularly read this blog are aware that I have been panicking about the Brandon Dubinsky situation far less than the rest of the Garden Faithful. Everyone has been crying "Sather's doing something stupid again!" and not entirely unjustifiably: no doubt, Dubinsky is worth more than the $522,500 qualifying offer (less than he made last season). And yes, we have a history of giving orders of magnitude more money to people less deserving. My response has consistently been that it ain't really about being fair: Dubinsky is a restricted free agent unlikely to receive an offer sheet, so let's sign him for the minimum possible to get him to play for us. He's up for arbitration next season, anyway, so we'll sign him to a bigger contract then (like we did with Callahan) or mid-season this year (like we did with Lundqvist). You'll recall me telling everyone to chill the fuck out.

Well, this weekend, some things happened. Friday night became Saturday morning (as it so often does). With Saturday morning came the start of training camp (officially). With Friday night came no news of a new contract for Dubinsky. And so, with the start of training camp came no Brandon Dubinsky.

Today is day 3 of training camp (full updated roster can be found here), and Dubi, still not under contract, has still not reported. Now, we have a problem. And honestly? I'm starting to blame Dubinsky.

At the end of the day, it is Dubinsky (or, more correctly, his agent) who is rejecting an invitation to come play for a hockey club. News came out today that he has been offered at least $700,000 by the Rangers, and is still rejecting it. This is stupid. He just doesn't have the clout to hold out for a few hundred thousand dollars at this point. It's just a waiting game: he has nothing to gain here. He keeps saying "I expect all this to get worked out and I want to be there on the Rangers," but how badly can he want that at this point? His agent (theoretically) is now making a power move to keep him out of training camp? For what, a few hundred thousand dollars the year before he's up for arbitration anyway? It just doesn't make any goddamn sense. Sign the contract, reneg next year, and meanwhile, get your ass to training camp.

It's easy to blame Sather here - "just pay the guy his money and get him started!" - but really, Dubi's the one being stubborn into foolishness here. I think, as I usually do, that Torts put it best:

Stupid. It's stupid. I'm not going to get into negotiations, but it's stupid. He's a young man who needs to be in camp with his teammates, who needs to go through the process of understanding what a pro is. I'm not sure where the thinking's coming from, but I still think players need to think for themselves. I think we blame it on agents all the time - I think his agent's stupid. I'm hoping he realizes that there's teammates here, too. So I'll leave it at that.

Where do we go from here? Hopefully, the stupidness ends soon, Dubi signs a deal (for $700,000 or whatever else is on the table), and we get a first-line center to camp in time. But meanwhile, every day of camp that goes by without him is another day harder it is for Dubi to actually do what's necessary to fill that role. And do you really think Torts's training regimen is on hold until Dubi gets his shit together? Torts, any chance of Dubi coming to camp anyway?

He's not under contract, he doesn't want to be with us. He's not coming to camp until he signs a contract. I think Dubi understands my feeling, and I think he understands how Glen feels about it too. Glen - and I was privy to the conversation - I thought was very honest with Dubi the other day as a general manager, man-to-man, and as a friend - all different options. I thought it was terrific what he did with the kid. But whoever has decided not to do this at such a young age, I think it's - it's not my decision. So we move on.

Surely as Fridays become Saturdays, day threes of training camp become day fours, and day fives. 15 players on the training camp roster (so, Dubinsky notwithstanding, 14 players actually AT training camp) are listed as centers. How long do you really think the Rangers are going to put up with this bullshit, Brandon? Yeah, you're home-grown. Yeah, you're good at hockey. So is Evgeny Grachev. So is Artem Anisimov. And they remembered to come to work on time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Okay, okay

Here's some "news" you may have heard about. We'll do it round-up style, cause there's a handful of stuff, and I'm busy. I promise I'll post more regularly when there's anything to talk about.

--September 12 is the first day coaches are allowed to work with players. However, there's an "unofficial" training camp that's been going on since the beginning of this week: Rangers players have been skating at the practice facility (no coaches allowed, by NHL regulation). Steve Zipay's Blue Notes has some day-to-day reporting on this unofficial camp, if you're interested. Basically, it just means pre-training camp has begun. Woo.

--Dave Maloney hosted a fan forum with Drury, Gaborik, Kotalik, Higgins, and Brashear the other night. True to form, Ranger fans booed Brashear the moment he walked on stage. When he got to the stage, Brashear responded "those fans that are booing, I'll take you one by one," which admittedly warmed them up to him some. The situation seems to me to be one of mutual "well we hate you, but we can help each other, so, here we go." And so, the Gollum to our Frodo had a pleasant interview. Other highlights: apparently some fan asked Higgins if he was single? Blah blah blah.

--The Traverse City Tournament begins Sunday. The what? The Traverse City Tournament is a 5-day prospects tournament hosted by the Red Wings in Traverse City, MI. It's a pretty neat idea: teams send their prospects up to practice and play each other. Rangers prospects will play against the prospects of the Hurricanes Sunday, Thrashers Monday, and Red Wings Wednesday (as well as a fourth game, to be determined, on Thursday). Fun times! Here is a list of the roster we're sending. The names you care about, most likely, are Evgeny Grachev and Michael Del Zotto. Depending on performance, we could theoretically see anyone at all from this camp find their way near a Rangers roster, but Grachev and Del Zotto are probably the only 2 that might.

--While we talk about those two other camps, actual actual training camp is coming up soon. Today, the Rangers released the actual training camp roster. It contains 44 men (26 forwards, 12 defensemen, 6 goalies) and will be bolstered somewhat by the addition of some prospects from Traverse City (that tournament ends 2 days before training camp starts). No real surprises here, but it's nice to have an official list of names, for what it's worth. Interesting fact: the average age of our training camp roster, not counting the prospects, is 25.8. Keep listening to your friends about how the Rangers are a team full of old men. Other interesting fact: the oldest player on the team (by a good 3 years)? Donald Brashear, 37. Third interesting fact: we have another hockey player named Nigel!

--Aaaaaand the Dubinsky saga continues. In the Post today, Larry Brooks points out that our numbers have been somewhat off, and that Dubi's qualifying offer isn't the $698,500 figure that everyone has been using, it's actually $522,500. Which, as Brooks (and everyone else) calls it, is a squeeze. Yes, everyone, Dubinsky deserves more than that. Yes, he does. Okay? The Rangers probably know that too. Here's the deal: no one is giving Dubinsky an offer sheet. Dubinsky is a restricted free agent. Dubinsky can sign with us for $522,500, or he can not play in the NHL. Those are his choices.

Yes, we should pay him more than that. And we will: when we have to. All summer, he's been "completely off the table" in any trade discussion with us. We're not throwing him under the bus, we're just underpaying him as long as we can. We'll sign him to a bigger contract, effective next season, once the season starts and it won't count under this year's cap (like we did with Lundqvist), or we'll wait until next off-season and sign him to a bigger contract when he seeks arbitration (like we did with Callahan).

Sure, it's still the Rangers, and it's still Glen Sather, and at any point we could do something incredibly stupid to prove me wrong. But this really just sounds like run-of-the-mill Ranger fan paranoia to me. All signs point to Dubinsky in a prominent roster spot come October 2, and to Sather being a shrewd businessman, not paying more than he has to, and not signing a lengthy contract extension before he has to. Pre-training camp has started: Let's Go Rangers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


And Rob wants me to post more, so here. I e-mailed my Dad:

oh my god so bored

wanna play the make-a-lineup game again?

He e-mailed me back:


Graves – Messier – Kovalev
Hadfield – Ratelle – Gilbert
Prentice - Popein - Bathgate
Brashear – Boyle - Voros

Staal – Girardi
Leetch – Beukeboom
Howell - Harvey



That's it. That's all you get. Maybe next week, when the Traverse City Tournament begins, anything at all will happen.

Not likely, though.