Sunday, February 28, 2010

I'm not here to talk about that

Fuck that.

I'm here to talk about Alex Auld! Dallas tried to recall the 29-year-old backup on re-entry waivers, and we grabbed him first. So, Johnson goes to Hartford with Zaba, and Auld become a real backup goalie. That's good news!

Gaborik may or may not remain injured. He didn't play at all in the third period of the bronze medal game his Slovakian team ended up losing to Finland. It's an "undisclosed lower body injury." No word on what that means. I'm hoping it was just his gash re-opening, and that we maybe actually give him real time to rest. Otherwise, it could be something worse. We'll see how that goes.

Bettman's Hockey comes back with one game tomorrow night, the Wings in Colorado at 9. It's back in full force the following night, with 24 teams in action, including us in Ottawa at 7:30. Let's Go Rangers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Watch the Olympics

If there are still some people out there who are bitter about NHL stars participating in the Olympics, if yesterday showed us anything, it was that you're not doing yourselves any favors by not watching the games. Wow.

Russia-Czech Republic, USA-Canada, Sweden-Finland. All unbelievable hockey games. Gary Bettman, are you watching these? Do you know why they're so good? Do you even know that they're so good? Here's the hint: they don't have an agenda. They're not trying to turn hockey into something that isn't hockey (CROSBYBALL!!!!1). They don't call ridiculous penalties under the guise of making the game look safer without actually being safer, or making the game more "exciting" by adding a bunch of goals and giving points to losers.

(Yes, I know - Olympic hockey gives 1 point to an OT loser, but it only gives 2 points to an OT winner, and it gives 3 to a regulation winner, so it doesn't actually ruin the standings. Don't understand that? You're the commissioner of a multi-billion-dollar international league full of the best and most well-known people in the world at their particular craft, which is one of the most popular competitions in the world: read a fucking book on game theory.)

The point is: for those of you who are relative newcomers to our sport, and who haven't seen a lot of older hockey, these Olympics are a chance for you to see what hockey is supposed to look like. And maybe, one day, what it could look like again. Bonus points if you can catch a non-NBC feed. Maybe they'll even show you a faceoff that doesn't have Sidney Crosby in it. No, really, the only faceoffs they showed were the ones Crosby took. Crosby didn't have a very good game, but you wouldn't know that from the number of times the camera showed his face, compared to everyone else on the ice. Come on, NBC, it's the fucking Olympics, and he's not the star anymore. Give us a fucking reprieve.

Now, there was been a lot of debate leading up to these Olympics about whether or not the NHL should allow its players to participate. As you know, it wasn't always this way. The policy was always that the NHL was for the professionals, and the Olympics were for everyone else. In 1998, for the Nagano games, we got on board. That makes these the fourth Olympic games in which NHL players have participated. In the previous three, the majority of the makeups of the gold medal winning teams (the 1998 Czechs, the 2002 Canadians, and the 2006 Swedes) has been NHLers. So there's no denying the change was a big deal.

There's a good argument that allowing NHL players to play in the Olympics is a bad change. It goes, as I've heard it from my father, "the NHL was always for the professionals, the Olympics was always for everyone else." It's a noble idea. Certainly, the Lake Placid gold medal win (which was, as you know, the most important moment in sports in the entire history of the free world) would never have been quite so thrilling if it had been won by a bunch of NHL stars. The Soviet team had been playing together as a unit for years, and the US team was just a bunch of kids who defeated a Goliath. That was pretty sweet, and it's hard to get that feeling back again out of a team full of multi-million dollar professionals. (Admittedly, it's also harder to get without the terrifying shadow of the Cold War.)

Also, it's undeniable that the Olympics fuck with the NHL. We stick this 2-week break in with less than two months left in the regular season, it throws off the rhythm of the teams, and it forces the rest of the season to be compressed to make room for it without extending the season by 2 weeks. It throws off everyone's mental game, either giving them a vacation or causing them to think about a whole new team for a while, and it puts an incredible physical stress on our top stars, as they go off to play as many as 10 games in 13 days in the name of bringing honor to their respective countries.

So there's something appealing about letting the professionals play in their professional league, and letting the best American, Canadian, and other amateurs compete for the Olympic gold.

However, there's also a pretty good argument for keeping the NHL in the Olympics. First of all, it's hard to imagine the inferiority complex-prone KHL making a similar move to remove themselves from competition. Since "Westerners" predominantly go into the NHL, and some great Eastern Europeans tend to stay home in the KHL, it gives the Russians an advantage. Not necessarily a big one, since most of the best players there still tend to come to the NHL, but I think that you'll find a lot more "good but not legendary" North Americans in the NHL, while the "good but not legendary" Eastern Europeans tend to stay home and play in the KHL.

Also, it's the fucking Olympics. It's supposed to be nations sending their best, most bad-ass competitors to face off in crazy sport for metallic glory. Something seems wrong about telling new NHL applicants "well, if you come work for us, you won't be allowed to represent your country in international competition at what you do best." Imagine that in any other line of work: imagine, if you'll pardon a stretched analogy, the President asking a branch of Google to come restructure the West Wing's IT infrastructure, and Google saying "nah, our engineers aren't really allowed to do that. It cheapens the craft."

There's something else appealing there: the idea that the Olympics are all about each nation's best putting aside any other disagreements (whether those be the Cold War or their day jobs as NHL players) and competing in this bad-ass international event that takes place only once every four years. Hell, there might even be something disturbing about Gary Bettman choosing to take that away in the name of theoretical better ratings for his awfully managed CROSBYBALL!!!1 league.

I think Dave Maloney, broadcasting during the third period of our 5-2 win over the Lightning that took us into this break, put it best. I don't remember exactly what he said, of course, but the gist of it was more or less: whether or not you like that the NHL is participating in these Olympics games, it is happening. It may not have happened in the past, it may not happen in the future, it may be right or wrong, but it is happening, right now, this year. And regardless of how you feel about that, it's going to mean some really, really good hockey is coming our way.

I think yesterday was the ideal example of that. No matter how you feel about whether or not it should be like this, you can't deny that we were treated to three fantastic hockey games yesterday. And if you like really good hockey, you're really missing out on some if you choose not to watch.

Here is where you stop reading if you don't care about the specifics of the Olympic bracket.

For those of you looking to follow along at home, here's the deal. Yesterday ended the "regular season" of the Olympics during which the 12 competing teams are split into 3 "divisions," and each team plays each other team in its division exactly once. Those twelve teams, ranked by their standings as of the end of those games, are: USA, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Czech Republic, Canada, Slovakia, Switzerland, Belarus, Norway, Germany, Latvia.

Based on those rankings, the playoff bracket is constructed. Tomorrow, the bottom eight teams will compete in a one-game playoff. The losers will be eliminated and the winners will go on to each play one of the top four in a one-game playoff on Wednesday. The four winners of those games will play each other in the one-game semifinals on Friday, and then the losers of the semifinals will play each other for the bronze on Saturday, and the winners for the gold on Sunday.

The teams are not re-seeded throughout the competition from here out, so the bracket is already decided, and the USA, with the first seed, has really lucked out. In the top half of the bracket, or "the easy half," the United States will play the winner of Switzerland-Belarus, and Finland will play the winner of Czech Republic-Latvia. The winners of those two games will play each other in the semis for the right to advance to the finals. In the other half, Russia will play the winner of Canada-Germany, and Sweden will play the winner of Slovakia-Norway, and the winners of those two games will play each other in the semis for the other spot in the finals.

Interesting bonus fact: because of the way the brackets fell out, the only way any of the three games from yesterday could see a rematch would be in a medal game.

Interesting bonus fact two: Henrik Lundqvist's Olympic save percentage so far is 100.

Let's Go World!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where we at III

Moving on. King Henrik reigns. Every so often, some bozo considers claiming Lundqvist isn't an elite goalie and it's his fault we lose games. This is somewhat like blaming the victims of the Challenger explosion for not being impervious to fire and shrapnel or able to fly. Yes, technically, you're right: they would have survived had they had those abilities, and yet, this does not mean it was their fault. Shut up, that bozo.

In the backup goalie realm, we're...waiting. Here's how it works: for stretches where we think we might want to play a backup goalie, we call up Chad Johnson. For stretches where we think Lundqvist will start every game, we call up Matt Zaba, giving Johnson the chance to start some games for the Wolfpack. Right now, for the Olympic break, we've sent them both down and called Valiquette back up, so that both Zaba and Johnson can get starts in Hartford. (As it turns out, the Olympic roster freeze only applies to inter-team transactions, and we're free to make moves between the Wolfpack and the Rangers during the break.) Are we going to bring in an actual veteran backup at some point? It would sure be cool. It sure doesn't make sense to bring up Johnson as a permanent backup, thus ruining his career. You're supposed to be a good backup at the end of your career.

Anyway, that's where we stand. I'm not grading us. For completeness's sake, to add to the post at the start of this rant, here are the non-forwards to whom we are committed after this season:

Lundqvist: $6.875 million/season for four seasons
Redden: $6.5 million/season for four seasons
Rozsival: $5 million/season for two seasons
Del Zotto: $1.088 million/season for two seasons
Gilroy: $1.75 million for one season

Why yes, that is all of our defensemen except Staal and Girardi. So good of you to notice. It also throws the Redden/Rozsival comparison into stark relief: compare the way Rozsival is playing to two years at $5 million. Now compare Redden's play to double that length at $6.5. See?

So, with an effective 3 days before the trade deadline, these are your New York Rangers. I'd feel a lot better about the whole thing if I didn't have such doubts about the coach's rewards system, especially for defensemen. But hey, at least we no longer have Donald Brashear to deal with!

The question now is: what are we going to do in those 3 days? Don't get me wrong: going to the wins over the Devils and Penguins was pretty much The Best, but we won 3 of 4 going into the Olympic break and are now only one point out of the top 8. We have one more game, March 2 in Ottawa, before the trade deadline. That puts us, as we feared, in the precarious position of Glen Sather possibly wanting to buy at the deadline. If we can get through March 3 without a major catastrophe, I'm calling it a big win. I'm nervous we're going to do something stupid. Just think: with one more under-performing veteran third-line wing, we can squeak into seventh and get eliminated by the Pens in the first round! Go Slats Go!

Everybody hold onto something: that's gonna be an emotionally wrecking-of-the-stomach few days. But until then, it's the Olympics. Take a deep breath and enjoy them.

Where we at II

Right, so, then we have a bunch of people we call defensemen. I...really don't know what to do with them. Any of them. To start with, there are the Albatross Twins. The good news, I guess, is that, barring any crazy Parent Trap-style magical body switches, there is now an undisputed champion of their macabre race to the bottom. Michal Rozsival has started to use his body to make plays. And what do you know? He's been steadily improving over the last few months to the point where he's actually looking decent. Not $5 million decent, but decent! I'm hard-pressed to complain about him lately.

And then there's the other guy. Wade Redden, somehow, despite being terrible as soon as we signed him, has actually gotten steadily worse over the course of the last two seasons. I've moved beyond rational theories. Right now, I think that his skates are connected to an in-shoe heating system which therefore melts all the ice directly around them, causing him to be skating in puddles which put him 3 steps behind absolutely anybody he is trying to outskate. He also often slips on the watery ice, causing him to end up a few feet away from wherever he intended to be. Then, when the puck is anywhere near him, this water that his Hot-Skates have just melted starts to re-freeze around the puck, thus attaching it to the ice surface ever so slightly. This slight bond still allows Redden to hit the puck free of it with his stick, when attempting a pass or rare, elusive shot, but because of the bond, the puck doesn't travel as far as intended, and it often travels off in a completely wrong direction.

Not buying it? Would you believe Gypsy curse?

Wade Redden, on a team full of streaky players and roller coaster performers, is the only man who has really managed to be consistently shitty this season. Congratulations, you fuck. You win the Worst Ever crown. I have no follow-up to this. He's worth a $6.5 million annual cap hit, we have him under contract for another four seasons after this one, he's thoroughly untradeable, ownership won't spend $6.5 million to pay a guy in Hartford for 4 years (though they are paying $1.4 million to keep a Brashear there for one more season), and he's over 26, so if we buy out his contract, we're still on the hook for...(trust me as I do some math here)...$1.92 million a season for 8 more seasons. (Post a comment asking for an explanation of that number, and I'll give you one.)

That contract puts us in a tight spot of, as you well know, already spending $11.5 million of cap space and only having those two guys to show for it. So, we move on as best we can. Marc Staal is widely considered to be our most solid defenseman, but he hasn't exactly had a hallmark (hallMarc?) season. He's been up and down. Girardi has been our most manic defensemen, having multi-week stretches where he was our best D-man, and stretches where he was awful.

The kids, Del Zotto and Gilroy, are just kids. I like what I've seen from them, but they don't have the experience to be solid defensemen. The big problem here is the problem we're starting to see not just with Del Zotto and Gilroy but also with Staal and Girardi: they have no one to learn from. Their example-setting veterans are Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden.

This is where those contracts start to burn us in more ways than just the cap space. Torts has said he doesn't want to rotate in more 'Pack defensemen, like the promising Bobby Sanguinetti, the surprisingly-still-around Corey Potter, and the probably-leaving-next-season Ilkka Heikkinen, because he's concerned about ruining their development. Put aside for a moment the irony of letting Heikkinen walk next season for fear of "ruining his development" by letting him play with the big club a bit. It's fairly revelatory that bringing a kid up in this environment could ruin his development. It's because we have a culture of losing, but it's also because we have no veterans they can actually learn from. Imagine if we had a big, physical, stay-at-home defenseman -- even a washed-up one -- who could teach these kids that you play defense with your body.

Which brings us back to the four kids who, evidently, are good enough at hockey that we're comfortable stunting their development by keeping them up out of the minors. You wanna know why Staal has progressed so slowly this year, why Girardi is so manic, and why Gilroy is floundering? It's because they have so much to learn and no one to learn it from.

And so, again, our attention turns to the coaches. Granted, there's nothing Torts did to deserve Redden's weighty contract. But he is the coach. And if management won't let him stick Redden in Hartford where he belongs, surely he can get away with scratching the man for more than 2 games total. Or at least with calling up a seventh and then not giving Redden more than 3 minutes on the ice. God knows he was willing to do that with some forwards for a good part of the season.

What I'm looking for is that "accountability" stuff. We know Torts came in preaching "we'll play defense by playing offense; they can't score if we have the puck" and has less than a season later already changed his tune to "we'll play offense by playing defense; control the puck in your own end and the chances will come." Fine. But what happened to that other thing he came in preaching: veteran accountability? When 19-year-old Del Zotto takes a 2-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with a ref (a crime to which Torts himself is surely no stranger), he gets screamed at and sent to the end of the bench for the remainder of the period. Why, then, do we never see that kind of treatment for someone like Redden, who is surely singlehandedly responsible for far more goals against than that one? That's on the coach. It's his responsibility to teach the kids how to be reliable defensemen, and he just seems to be chastising and rewarding the wrong things.

This deserves to be its own post.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where we at I

I know it's not "midterms," but this Olympic break seems like a really good time to talk about where we stand as a team. Honestly, since we're an effective 3 days from the trade deadline, perhaps this is a better time than midterms. Plus, it's not like there's gonna be news or anything. The dearth of actual NHL hockey makes it that much more likely that you'll read this long-ass prattling. Awesome!

So, as usual, there's good news and there's bad news. Let's start up front. The good news is that we've made some relatively smart personnel decisions lately. In the last few weeks, we've offloaded Christopher Higgins, Ales Kotalik, and Donald Brashear. That's pretty good, to start with. Some performances are inconsistent, but some are fantastic.

Marian Gaborik is an incredible talent. Vinnie Prospal is playing his best hockey in 5 years. Ryan Callahan is the one guy who plays hard and fast and tough no matter the game situation, and there is no doubt he deserves his place on Team USA.

In the next tier down, Brandon Dubinsky is streaky. When he's good, he wins puck battles and hits hard, and shows why we gave him the money he held out for. He's young, and I'm happy to give him time to get more consistent. But he needs to get more consistent. Speaking of consistency, Sean Avery might be starting to find some. I don't really trust it yet, but he's starting to get in people's faces more. The problem is that he's not a fourth-line player. He's much more effective up on a second or third line, where he has the opportunity to use his actual offensive talent while being annoying. Buried on the fourth line, he is just a loud-mouth, and that makes him impotent. More on Coach Tortorella not knowing how to properly use his players later.

Olli Jokinen has been around for all of six games, people. He's fared pretty well in them, and he's still trying to figure out where he fits in the mix. Lay off. Personally, I like him at the second line center, with Callahan and Dubinsky or someone, with Christensen up on the first line. Speaking of Christensen, what a pleasant surprise he's turned out to be! Not that he has staying power as an NHL first-line center, but on this squad, I like him right there.

Everyone leave Chris Drury the fuck alone. Let him play his game, on the third or fourth line, and score a few goals, and be our best penalty killer that doesn't wear a goalie mask, and do his fucking thing. He's not the best captain, and maybe he makes a little too much money, but his is not our problem salary, people. Chill. Speaking of penalty killers, Brian Boyle is a solid centerman who does a great job of that, and he really helps me not miss Blair Betts very much.

Anisimov, months into the season, remains a young kid who sometimes does something spectacular with the puck and otherwise is fairly inconsistent. He needs to get grounded, and ideally he will. And then there's everyone else. Voros, Lisin, Prust, and this new guy Shelley. None of them have a ton of skill, but some are better than others. I like the way Voros plays, and I like what I've seen from Prust so far. I have no use whatsoever for Enver Lisin. Shelley just got here, and so I can't pass judgement on him.

What I can do, however, is pass judgement on the men that brought him here. According to quotes I've seen but am too lazy to go look up, the coaching staff feels that Shelley is here to fill the role of mid-30s boxing champion, which they feel is an important role on a hockey club. I can't get behind that. Physical players are important to a hockey club. One boxer who does nothing else is not a good use of a roster spot. Whatever, maybe he'll surprise me.

That said, if we allow for those last two forwards to be Prust and Voros, we have a corps of 12 forwards that I can't really complain about, especially given the body of work it contained at the beginning of the season. Also, for those of you who are concerned about salary (which should be all of you), observe how reasonably we've done for ourselves. The following are the forwards' salaries to which we are committed after this season:

Gaborik: $7.5 million/season for four seasons
Drury: $7.05 million/season for two seasons
Avery: $1.983 million/season for two seasons
Callahan: $2.3 million for one season
Dubinsky: $1.85 million for one season
Voros: $1 million for one season
Anisimov: $822,000 for one season
Boyle: $525,000 for one season

That puts our total for next season at $23.03 million for 8 forwards, including Gaborik, Drury, Avery, Callahan, and Dubinsky, and commits us only to Gaborik beyond the next two seasons. That's a good rebuilding foundation. We can re-sign the forwards we want (Prospal and Christensen) and move forward from there.

To me, the bad news with the forwards is that the coaching staff doesn't always seem to know what to do with them. We're starting to balance things a little more, and I like that the coach goes with giving more ice time to whoever is playing best that night, but we still rely a bit too much on the rewards system whereby your best 3 forwards make up your first line, and so on down the roster. We generally reward the right things, but to me, that's a symptom of a bigger problem: not understanding that lines are supposed to have personalities. The reason we let the same guys skate together over and over again is so they develop an identity. Don't "upgrade" Chris Drury to the second line because he is having a really good night on the fourth. Guess what! He's having a really good night on the fourth! Maybe he should stay there!

I talk too much. We'll continue this discussion later.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Toughening up?

Also a thing no one cares about is that for the last game Corey Potter was called up and then he was sent back down. Fine.

But here's a move: we traded a 2011 sixth-round* pick to San Jose to pick up 34-year-old, 6'3", 203-lb left wing Jody Shelley. He fights a lot, it seems.

So, I guess, we dropper Brashear and picked up another, maybe slightly less shitty, Brashear? Reports are he doesn't have a lot of puck skill, but he's a good fighter. Awesome. That's how you toughen a team up. Hire one goon.

Go Rangers?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

But wait

Everything is great now. Apparently, Donald Brashear had asked for a trade a little bit ago? He whined recently that asking for the trade was why he wasn't being played, which I can only hope is not the case. He didn't miss the opportunity to call Colton Orr "a showman," while referring to himself as "a guy that can play and fight." That's a stretch. Anyway, who cares, apparently we released him on waivers today!

The bad (money) news: he's (obviously) over 35. This means that we're still on the hook for his $1.4 million under the cap this season and next. In sending him to the minors, we don't actually clear his salary, but we do, I believe, clear $100,000 of it (so his hit becomes $1.3 million). We could only have off-loaded the whole thing if we had traded him, which management, in an uncharacteristically aware move, decided wasn't going to be too easy. So, we take $1.3 million this season and next, and we have roster room for absolutely anyone else, or possibly no one, which is still an improvement.

And, if some other team wants him, we let them call him up, and they're on the hook for half his contract, leaving us paying $700,000, which, incidentally, is the amount we'd end up responsible for under the cap even if he retired.

You know what? I'll take a $1.3 million cap hit this season and next to keep Donald Brashear in the AHL for the rest of his career.


Today's post title is the entire body of an e-mail to me from my father this morning. That pretty much sums up the situation. But there's no point talking about that again, is there? Beaten to pucks and on all the little battles, flat and lifeless except for Callahan and Avery, making terrible puck decisions, can't score if you're not Gaborik, etc. The story's becoming tired. So what I want to talk about today is: maybe it is partly Coach Tortorella's fault.

Fans of Play Petr Prucha (all both of you) will know I'm generally pretty positive on Torts. And it's easy to be: the man is full of fire and preaches energy, accountability, and team unity to a team whose biggest problem is its lifelessness and lack of all those things. It's hard to blame him for the results, handed a squad full of such under-achievers and so little cap room to work with. It's a financial problem for him to send a guy like Redden to the minors, so he's doing the best he can with the hand he was dealt, etc.

But last night got me thinking. Surely you remember when, halfway through the second period, Del Zotto got an extra 2 minutes for yelling at an official after a call. With like 30 seconds left on the PK, Rozsival had all the opportunity to clear the puck, and instead fired it directly into Ryan Callahan, who was 10 feet away. It bounced off Cally and right out to a Predator, who was able to take Lundqvist by surprise and score what would end up being the last goal of the game.

Of course, none of this was what "got me thinking." This was all, so far, par for the course. But when the Rangers returned to the bench, Tortorella had one of his patented angry-times, at DZ. He screamed at the kid, sat him down at the end of the bench, and didn't play him for the rest of the period. Rozsival was back out a shift later, and led Ranger defensemen in ice time both through the second and for the whole game. Our beloved broadcast team, who admittedly should have conditioned me not to listen to a word they say by now, couldn't stop talking about how the one thing that really gets Torts mad is when you mouth off at the officials.

Hang on. This is the one thing that really gets Torts mad? Look, I understand that DZ made a mistake he probably shouldn't have made. And I understand that, technically, that mistake led to the extra two minutes, during which that goal was scored. But even if you make the argument that he was directly responsible for the goal, was he more responsible than the guy who couldn't get the puck anywhere past his own teammate from 10 feet away? The clear should have been a gimme, so much so that Lundqvist, whose only crime last night was trusting his team's "top" defenseman, relaxed enough to get caught.

This reveals a mentality that frightens me. We're going to teach the 19-year-old "wunderkind" (from the Yiddish for wonderous kindling) that arguing with a ref is an unforgivably benchable offense, but playing flaccid, shitty defense is a great way to earn a huge contract and top ice time every game. And yes, I know that DZ had his ice time made up to him, so he ended up skating almost as much as Rozsival by the end of the game. But Michal didn't get yelled at in front of his entire team in the middle of the game, and Del Zotto did. That's bad conditioning.

When asked in the past why, given our defense's propensity to be shitty, he hasn't brought up more youngsters to give them a chance, Torts has given the questionable excuse of not wanting to "stunt their growth." It's interesting that he doesn't wanna ruin Bobby Sanguinetti by exposing him to this squad, but he's willing to embarrass Michael Del Zotto for showing a little too much excitement on the ice.

Understand: I don't necessarily disagree with Torts's ice time decision, giving Rozsival more because he's basically got no one else, rotating lots of different young people in now and again, but mostly letting them keep developing in Hartford, etc. As we know, he's stuck with a shitty hand. And I don't want this post to be yet another indictment of our shitty Albatross Twins - there's just no point anymore.

But I think it's important to look at this. We can blame personnel decisions on weirdness coming down from Sather. Torts was given a shitty hand and probably feels pressure from his bosses to play the shitty veterans, cause they've got big contracts. It's easy to see Torts as the victim in that scheme, and the simplest explanation is usually the right one. But there's no way I can figure Sather is sending down the message of "scream at kids for dumb shit." That speaks to a bad prioritization, and it seems like something that comes right from the coach. And it's especially concerning, given that it seems so contrary to exactly what we hired Torts for in the first place.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

And another thing!

How does Lou Lamoriello get away with this shit?!? Even as of "final rumors" blogs, like this one, they can talk about how the Devils are in the final three teams, go on all day about what Waddell wants from the Kings and Rangers for him, going into the Rangers in eerily specific detail, and never even once mention what the Devils might be giving up for him!

Even after the trade is announced, as officially as to be the lead story on fucking, they still get away with not announcing what they gave up for him!

Meanwhile, we can't even trade for Olli fucking Jokinen without leaking who we're giving up for him two days before the trade goes through!

What the fuck!!

Oh god no

And here I was, enjoying this game, in which we're up 2-1 after 1 period, after scoring not only a power play goal, but then again 10 seconds after the Caps tied it at 1. And you're gonna tell me the fucking Devils picked up Kovalchuk?!? Are you fucking kidding me?? What the fuck-shit did Lamoriello give up to get that guy!?! Really???? Fucking fuck!

And is his first game with New Jersey going to be Saturday night, at the Garden, when I'm going??


Meet the New Rangers

Same as the old Rangers? Maybe. First, the statistics. Since beating Boston 3-1 on January 9 (yes, January 9), if you discount the two home games in a row that we won by an aggregate 14-4, non-Gaborik Rangers have scored a total of 5 goals. Total. At all. Overall on the season (including those games we somehow won), we're looking at 2.49 goals per game (28th in the league), for a total point differential of -12. On the power play, meanwhile (you should sit down for this), we're 7 for 82 (8.5%) over our last 23 games, 3 for 48 (6.3%) in our last 14, and 0 for 25 (0%) in our last 7.

As Andrew Gross put it, "I'm not missing anything here, am I? That's Caddyshack II bad."

And, yeah, two nights ago in LA, things weren't terribly different. But before you get all "blah blah blargh bleh same old Ranger crap bluuuuu blah bleh" on me (I know what you're like), hang on: did you really expect things to be? We got rid of one guy with 6 goals and 8 assists in 56 games and one regular resident of the scratch club, and we brought in one past-his-best-years veteran and the guy with the second most fights in the league this season, for basically the same money. Did anyone think Olli Jokinen was supposed to suddenly, after playing for the Flames literally the night before, come score 4 goals?

OK, if you thought that, what the hell is wrong with you? We moved some bad personnel around to give some other people a shot, and in the process, we saved ourselves 2 more years of Kotalik's $3 million contract. That's all. So, yeah, the new Rangers pretty much are the old Rangers. What did you people expect?

So, let's keep regarding this as a rebuilding year and hoping our management is doing the same. With that in mind, Torts put together (and sometimes even used) the following lines for the new guys' debut:
Prospal - Jokinen - Gaborik
Avery - Dubinksy - Callahan
Prust - Anisimov - Christensen
Boyle - Drury - Voros

That' That's exactly what I'd like him to do. He then proceeded to actually play all four lines. Which is also exactly what I'd like him to do.

Wow. So, I guess, if we're honestly going to accept that this is not a winning season (duh), then all we have to hope for is that we stay consistent with these lines. Let the young guys play together, let the top line try to score, and let these lines gel some. After tonight (when we play the 11-0-in-their-last-11 Capitals), we have 4 games left before the Olympic break (I am miraculously going to two of them). This sounds like the perfect opportunity to leave the lines exactly the same for the next 5 games and see if they can start to gel.

Who knows, maybe by next season, we'll start to recognize some faces?

Monday, February 1, 2010

NTCs and something I wasn't right about

OK, so I'm not right about everything. Fine. You should still listen to me, because I'm great.

So, I had a whole long State-of-the-Union-type post planned, but then things seemed to actually happen. Last night, before the game, it was announced that Ales Kotalik, scratched along with Brashear again, was part of some trade that had hit some complications, but was still "told he could go home and get his things in order." That sure was the first time I'd ever heard that. Somewhat unrelatedly, I was also at the time explaining to my girlfriend exactly what a no-trade clause is. Who knew this information, which seemed so non sequitur at the time, would become so relevant so soon?

As more information slowly surfaces, it seems like the trade on the table is with the Calgary Flames. The teams have, apparently, agreed to a deal of Kotalik and Christopher Higgins in exchange for Olli Jokinen and some Right Wing named Brandon Prust, whom ESPN awkwardly describes as "rugged." Before we get into the meat of that, however, apparently the deal, as we were so aptly told by the broadcasters, hit something of a snag.

Well, it looks like the snag may be Kotalik himself. Rumors have started to surface that Kotalik has a limited no-trade clause in his contract. You see, some NHL stars are so good they can afford to sign no-trade clause contracts. Basically, this means exactly what it sounds like: the player can't be a part of any trades (unless he specifically chooses to waive the clause for that trade). This effectively means the player has the right to approve or veto any trade his team suggests for him. Naturally, you only sign this contract to someone you're really sure you want.

If you want to give some guy similar incentive to sign your contract, but you don't want to give up the right to give him up, you can always sign him to a limited no-trade clause. In this case, the player can select some number of teams, at the time the contract is signed, that he cannot be traded to. In the case of a trade with one of these teams, the clause is treated exactly like a no-trade clause. With teams outside of that list, the clause is meaningless. The list of teams, of course, is kept confidential.

Lots of players are given these limited no-trade clauses; they're a good incentive to sign a contract, and the team theoretically doesn't lose a ton by agreeing to them. I'm pretty sure Redden and Drury have 8-team limited no-trade clauses for us right now. Anyway, as you have probably guessed, word on the street is that Kotalik signed our contract with a 3-team limited no-trade clause, and that Calgary was one of those teams.

So, the ball (puck?) is in Kotalik's court (rink?), whether to accept this trade and be a Flame, or to reject it, force the teams to restructure or cancel the deal, and then wait and see what happens next (as it's clear that he's not wanted as a Ranger). More news on this as it develops.

Now, what about this trade itself? There's an obvious knee-jerk reaction here: the Rangers have once again made a move for a 31-year-old, used-to-be-great, shitty-this-season, needs-a-jump-start-to-his-career, expensive, journeyman forward as if he's going to be the solution. Sounds like the same old shit, right?

But upon more careful inspection, I think we'd come out ahead in this deal. It's no secret that Kotalik was making no difference to us, and Higgins, while I like him a great deal, certainly isn't one of the top five forwards I'd be saddest to see go (Gaborik, Prospal, Callahan, Dubinsky, Avery). Jokinen, meanwhile, has the potential to be our 6'3" first line center that gives us a little more life every game. Regardless, we weren't really getting that life out of what we gave up, so maybe it's not such a bad thing. In fact, Higgins and Kotalik were the two players I was talking about upgrading not so long ago.

Also, let's talk salary cap. Higgins's contract is for $2.25 million, Kotalik's is for $3 million, and Jokinen's is for $5.25 million. So Higgins + Kotalik = Jokinen. More importantly, Higgins and Jokinen are each on contracts that end this season, whereas we signed Kotalik to a 3-year deal of which this is the first. So, we're giving ourselves options. Not only have we upgraded Higgins and Kotalik to Jokinen, for the same total salary, but we've also saved ourselves $3 million of commitment under next year's cap (and the year after's). Meanwhile, we're not committed to Jokinen in any way past April.

Yes, April. Who are you kidding?

On top of that, the Flames throw in a free, 25-year-old, minimum-NHL-salary, "rugged," winger. Worst case scenario, this guy is completely useless to us, and who cares. Scenarios get better from there up. Who knows? This is certainly to our benefit; it's basically a free resource.

So, all things considered, this isn't such a bad move. Jokinen probably makes us slightly better in the short term, moving Kotalik gives us more freedom next off-season, Higgins wasn't doing much anyway, and Prust can't possibly hurt. So I'm actually totally on board with this, despite the fact that it brings over a guy that seems like the usual Ranger bullshit.

The question remains: is Kotalik on board as well?