Friday, January 25, 2013

A Guy's Guide to a Girl's Guide to Watching the Rangers

Good idea: Open up a section on your slightly popular fan site, Blueshirts United, where fans unaffiliated with the organization can post their own takes on fandom.

Bad idea: Debut that section with an article about how women can cope with their men's love of hockey, called "A Girl's Guide to Watching the Rangers."

The thesis of the article, which was somehow written by a real, live, possibly self-respecting female, is basically: men are obsessed with hockey, but don't worry! You can try to watch with them, sometimes, and this article will tell you how. Enough, sports world. It is 2013. Why the fuck, as a society, do we still have to deal with garbage like this? Also, do you people not remember the whole "While the Men Watch" disaster from not so long ago?

As a Privileged White Male whose two main passions are nerdy shit and sports, I find myself in some very male-dominated worlds. And I find myself frequently embarrassed by the shit I see there. The Internet has a whole goddamn meme about this weird "fake geek girl" construct, where somehow girls who play video games are automatically not as "authentic" as the guys who do. It's a bizarrely self-victimizing idea, wherein nerdy guys complain about not being able to find suitably nerdy girls, while simultaneously lashing out at any girl who comes anywhere near geek culture for not being "nerdy enough." Look at the most popular criticisms of long-time Attack of the Show! host Olivia Munn: they're always about how she was just there to be pretty, how she didn't really "get" games. Or, hell, go read just about anything at all on Reddit (NOTE: do not actually do this; it is depressing).

In the sports world, for better or for worse, the sexism is a lot more angry and a lot less sad. Absolutely every female hockey fan I know -- every single one, from my girlfriend to people I follow on Twitter who have no idea who I am -- has at least one story about being totally disregarded as a fan because of her gender. My sister told me just the other day that she was at the Flying Puck in her Avery jersey, and some dingleberry called her out with "you wear that just because you think he's pretty."

My sister -- obviously -- took him to school, but that's not the point. The point is that absolutely every female hockey fan has to deal with this, pretty fucking constantly. It's unacceptable. Sure, my sister knows far more about hockey, and about Avery's contribution to the Rangers, than Bar Asshole #3, and she shouldn't have to deal with that, but here's the real point: it wouldn't be okay, even if she didn't. Let's say she was just some casual fan in a jersey wandering into the Puck. If some male casual fan wanders in, the reception is "oh, cool, he's on our side, but he doesn't know that much. Whatever, go Rangers! Maybe when he leaves, he'll even like hockey more!" If it's a female, it's "of course she doesn't know that much, she must just like him because he's pretty," the end.

I take my nerddom and my fandom for granted, because I am a Priveleged White Male. I can wear the Triforce on my shirt, and no one will say "I bet he thinks Zelda's the guy." I don't know fuck-all about the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when I wear my Pirates hat, no one calls me out for not knowing my Andrew McCutchen from my Daniel McCutchen. When I tell people I'm a software engineer, no one's words say "oh, cool" while his face says "oh, really?" And because I am not in a position to be discriminated against as such, I am instead in a position to be very fucking embarrassed by my fellow Priveleged White Males.

And so, cue this sexist garbage, the debut of Blueshirts United's fan-written articles, "A Girl's Guide to Watching the Rangers." We'll dive in in a minute, but you should understand that the reason I'm not linking to it is the good news: we all did our jobs and tweeted and commented at the Rangers about how terribly sexist it was, and the article came down about 2 hours after it went up (with no official word about it, and no further reference to the feature on the site).

But here's the good news! Today's hero, Sports Illustrated's Sarah Kwak, Tweeted before it came down "Because if I know the Rangers, that slideshow will be scrubbed from existence and then they'll deny it ever existed, here are screenshots!" And then she took screenshots of every page and posted them. And then the Rangers did absolutely exactly what she said they would. So, I've taken the liberty of painstakingly transcribing this article for you. And I've added my own guide, Just For Guys, explaining how to deal with your lady when she wants to play sports fan.

Understand: I don't mean to vilify this Mirna Mandil character, who wrote this dreck. She is guilty only of having bad taste and writing about it. The New York Rangers are guilty of thinking that this article was in any way appropriate for its fans, and for thinking that, 1 weeks after a 4-month lockout, a pretty good strategy would be to alienate 50% of the population.

And so, without further ado, I give you... A Guy's Guide to a Girl's Guide to Watching the Rangers!

I was recently one of four females in a house packed with about 20 guys watching the game - football, I think.

Man, it sure is annoying when girls come to watch sports, right guys? I mean, most women are so ignorant about sports, they literally cannot identify football.

The men were there for the game, while I was there for the food: deep fried turkey, which quickly turned into deep frying everything in sight. Sure, I could've sat and watched with the men, but I don't care for football, nor do I pretend to. I'm not going to fake an alpha-male-level obsession with a sport because, frankly, that just seems exhausting.

Now, that's what I like to hear! None of this sissy only liking something a little to get in the way of my liking something a lot! If you don't like a sport as much as I do - if you do not literally have an obsession with it - then you're just getting in my way. Good choices so far, Mirna! You sound hot.

That being said, when having either guy friends, brothers, boyfriends, or husbands in your life, watching games in any sport becomes unavoidable.

Men, take note here. Everyone knows all men want to watch sports, and no women do. Obviously. But I want you to notice how accepting Mirna is of that. When you're with women, of course they don't want to watch sports. Just make them! Problem solved!

And if you live in New York and have one of the aforementioned male figures in your life, then chances are you can't avoid their obsession with the Rangers. The fact that every single one of the guys watching this football game was wearing a Rangers jersey is a true testament to the loyalty of a Rangers fan. It's not just a phase. It's not just an obsession. It's a Rangers lifestyle. News of the NHL lockout's end caused as much excitement in the male world as a 70 percent off sale does in a woman's. If you're completely oblivious to what the end of the lockout means, think of it as the premiere of the newest season of "Girls" being delayed by months, and then suddenly, it's announced that it will be coming back but with a lot fewer episodes to make up for lost time.

Guy Tip! Men, if you're like me, you absolutely cannot wrap your meaty head around what your lady means when she says she's excited about a "sale" or a "television show." Fortunately, Mirna has made the translation for me, and other sociopaths who have no idea how to empathize with anyone of the other gender about even the most basic things. Now you know: those things your woman talks about are just like sports!

Have [sic] said all that, this article is an attempt to help you at least understand their obsession, enthusiasm, and passion, and help you hold your own during game nights.

They're expecting you to ask questions, just know when to do it. Carl Hagelin has the puck. The boys are all standing and screaming and you're going to yell "what's happening!?" Nope.

Guys, Mirna's right. It's a huge pain when know-nothings (or, as I call them, ladies) try to ask me questions when I'm watching the game with my all-male group of friends. My strategy? Just ignore them completely! See if it works for you!

You need to sense the tension at certain points in the game and let them do their jumping, screaming, and cheering thing. You can tell if something huge has happened by their reaction, and if you're absolutely lost, wait for the replay. There's always a replay after a major play.

(Autistic) men, this tip works for you, too. You can tell how your lady feels about something by her reaction to it.

Still confused? Wait until a penalty or other whistle to ask. The clock stopped so there's a pause in the game, and at this level you won't need to know why a penalty was called anyway (unless there's a fight, which is pretty self-explanatory). Everything else? Not important in your world... yet.

It's important to make sure your woman doesn't get too informed about the game. After all, we wouldn't want to risk upsetting the natural order of things! So if there are any women in around when you're watching a game, make sure you explain as little as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of them understanding the game, and then they might start to like it! You might inadvertently create the world's first female sports fan! Be careful!

Get to know the Rangers. I'm not asking you to memorize a yearbook, but after watching a game or two, last names will start to sound familiar: Staal, Callahan, Del Zotto. You'll get the idea. The Rangers' roster is easily available online, and even though knowing a last name won't do much in terms of understanding the game, it will build up your connection when watching future games. You'll be more attuned to a game when you hear a name you recognize.

Get to know goalie Henrik Lundqvist. If New York were to have a new face on every quarter, it would be his. He's broken NHL records. His nickname is "The King." He played "Sweet Child O' Mine" on guitar during a recent episode of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." Don't you want him to do well? Don't you want to watch him when he's on the ice? My point exactly.

Now, guys, this advice might seem dangerous at first glance. After all, Mirna is departing from her usual advice of "all women, stay away from sports" and suggesting a reason that women might find the game interesting. And we know that's bad news! But this actually falls into a separate category: player hotness. It's a little nuanced, but I'll break it down for you.

You see, there actually is a situation in which women are allowed to care about sports: when the player or players are sufficiently attractive. You see, if we let them stay interested in the team's looks, but not in what they actually do (you can even let them know Hank has broken records if you don't let them know which ones!), we can appear to be sharing with them, while actually marginalizing them even further! And the best part is: they'll appreciate it too! They get to stare at something pretty, and they're more likely to keep their traps shut while the boys watch the game! It's win-win.

Congratulations. You've officially graduated level one of what to expect when Ranger fans are expecting. Before I wrote this article, I gave all the guys I spoke with the option of saying, 'I don't want her watching the game with me. It's my sport, leave it alone.' Not a single one of them took it.

Guys, I'm disappointed in you.

Don't be afraid to ask questions, but ask questions they'll enjoy answering. Things like who their favorite player is, or who their biggest rival is. If you have a couple hours of free time, go ahead and ask about the famous Potvin chant. You'll certainly be in for a great story.

Careful with this one. While Mirna's obviously right that it takes hours to explain that Dennis Potvin broke Ulf Nilsson's ankle, this is a great example of something that actually makes hockey interesting. If you tell this story too well, you run the risk of making a casual fan -- worse, a woman -- think that hockey might be fun. We can't have that.

If you feel too forced and uninterested, at least know the Rangers' schedule so you can schedule a girl's [sic] night for those times. Oh, and one last thing: don't give the guys and [sic] grief for their playoff beards. Google it. You'll thank me later.

Yes! This is a great suggestion, men: a ladies' night that takes place during the game will get her out of your hair for sure. Some teams, like the St. Louis Blues, seem to think that "Ladies Night Out" for a hockey game means the women all going to the game together. But the New York Rangers know better. Schedule a ladies' night for the next Ranger game - it's a sure-fire way to keep them away!


As I finished writing this, my girlfriend called in from the other room that she finally figured out what bothered her most about this insulting disaster is that it came out of New York. New York, she explained, is supposed to be where shit like this doesn't come from. When the rest of the country is spewing hate speech, New York City is where the diversity goes to thrive, where people don't judge you based on your skin color, sexual preference, or gender.

The Rangers are supposed to be New York's team. Today, they did an embarrassing job of representing their city. Meanwhile, at least two of those female Ranger fans I follow on Twitter who have no idea who I am Tweeted "Go Islanders." The New York Rangers owe us, as fans, a bigger apology than this disgraceful backpedaling.

Everyone is terrible, John Tortorella is a sociopath, The End

OK, so here are a couple of things I wanted to talk about, but then Puck Daddy wrote about them this morning, so you should just go read that instead.

First, following up on my feelings about the Asham-Glass nonsense is Ryan Lambert's piece on opening draw fights. Lambert rightly blames the away team's coach for starting the mess, rightly calls out Torts for placing exactly the wrong blame, and rightly claims that these kinds of fights never actually affect the game. He also says a bunch of other right things (and then one wrong thing about automatic penalties). So go read that.

Second, this jingoistic bullshit about Nail Yakupov's goal celebration is handled perfectly by Greg Wyshynski here. Yakupov scored a crazy-exciting goal last night and celebrated it in a crazy-exciting way. But, he's Russian, not Canadian, so everyone said shit like "act like you've scored before" and "why wasn't he celebrating nearer to his teammates" and other thinly-veiled "I don't like when Europeans are good at hockey" shit. Wyshynski says everything correct about this issue, the summary of which is "it's probably actually pretty good for the NHL if hockey is portrayed as a fun thing," so go read that, too.

So what does that leave for me to talk about? Well, there's always how the Rangers look terrible, yeah? Let's do that. This team has played one good period out of 12 now, and I don't have the time and you don't have the patience for me to talk about all the things I'm angry about. So let's cherry-pick a couple.

One thing I'm angry about: Salary math. I know I've ranted about this before, but Michael Del Zotto is making too much money. Even in a team-wide dogshit performance like last night, he managed to make more than a couple of noticeable gaffes that led to Lundqvist bailing him out. And while eating up 30 perfectly good seconds of a 5-on-3 by futzing around with the puck is something I would normally praise in a defenseman, I'm not so hot on it when he's doing it as the point man on his own team's 5-on-3.

Here's the bottom line, people. I don't mean to pick just on him, as the whole team is sucking right now, but it's a numbers game. Michael Del Zotto is eating up $2.55 million to suck. Arron Asham is eating $1 million to do the same. Matt Gilroy is wearing a suit and tie in a box upstairs. Brandon Prust is making $2.5 million in Montréal, Ruslan Fedotenko is making $1.75 million in Philadelphia, John Mitchell is making $1.1 million in Colorado, and Ranger fans are wondering where all our depth went.

Look, giving up Dubinsky and Anisimov definitely hurt this team's core. But we did it to get back real value, in Rick Nash. Prust, Fedotenko, and Mitchell all left for better contracts than we were willing to offer, so we could spend that money elsewhere. And while I'm not suggesting we should have spent $5.35 million to wrap up all three of those guys, we absolutely could have let Del Zotto walk, not signed Arron Asham, and put Gilroy in Del Zotto's spot. Gilroy would perform almost as well as DZ, if not better, and the $3.55 million saved could have kept us, at least, Brandon Prust and John Mitchell.

Or does anyone think this team wouldn't be obviously and immediately better if we swapped Del Zotto and Asham for Gilroy, Prust, and Mitchell?

Another thing I'm angry about: The coach is perpetually angry about the wrong things. We already covered yesterday how Arron Asham did something meaningless and then Torts got mad that everyone else thought it was meaningless. But then, in last night's post-game presser, the man of few words offered these choice ones: "Our top line simply didn't play well."

So, let me summarize this shit in a run-on sentence, coach. Hold on tight, it's kinda dense. One night after your top 5 forwards averaged 21:28 (which you said was because you weren't yet comfortable rolling 4 lines) and won the game all by themselves, combining for 6 points and a +7 rating on the Rangers' 4 goals and for 19 of the Rangers' 33 shots, you gave those same 5 guys an even higher average of 21:39 (more ice time than half your defensemen got), and the team looked exhausted and was beaten physically and in every footrace, and despite all that, those 5 guys still netted a point on the Rangers' only goal and were responsible for 10 of their 19 shots, and you think the problem is that your top guys didn't play well enough?

Do I live in a different reality than the coach does? This isn't just having a wrong opinion, this is downright lunacy. It is maniacal to think this. If you draw this conclusion from these facts, you are going to fail your SATs. Even if you weren't the guy who is directly responsible for everyone's ice time, this shit would stupefy a Vulcan. How are you going to correct this team's course if you think things this batty?

Too much anger, not enough time. Tomorrow night, Leafs. Two days later, Flyers again. Two days after that, Pens again. All 3 are at home. Our first four games may not really tell a story yet, but these 7 together sure will. So, let's see how those go.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A toast to Arron Asham's injured groin

By my count, it had been 254 days since the New York Rangers had won a hockey game, and after the first two games of the season, it felt even longer. Sigh of relief cut somewhat short, the Blueshirts are right back in action tonight, against the Flyers. Herein lie some things that I feel like I need to say about Arron Asham, followed by some other scattered thoughts on the three games that led to the Rangers' 1-2 start so far.

Arron Asham will be out again tonight, due to the same groin injury that kept him out last night. And that is awesome. Asham is a big dumb douchebag, which is a position I do not have to justify here. But let's talk about the only thing he's done for us so far: his home-opening-faceoff choreographed fight with Tanner "I'd make a pun about his last name and 'Glass Jaw' except that he kicked Asham's ass in the fight" Glass.

First of all, this fight was orchestrated by Penguins head coach and noted hat-wearer Dan Bylsma, who chose to start the game by putting out his second line - and then replacing his right wing with Tanner Glass for some reason. (Take notes, Bob Smizik: the home team gets to pick its lineup after the away team.) John Tortorella (he of the much less classy neckties) followed suit and replaced his scoring line's winger with Arron "seriously, this guy is the worst" Asham, and so the Rangers' home opener started with a meaningless fight.

The lockout made me wait 4 extra goddamn months to watch hockey in Madison Square Garden, and then Arron Asham made me wait yet another 5 minutes.

Here's the thing: there was absolutely nothing on the line in this fight, other than Asham's and Glass's jobs. This was stupid. Blame was placed, sort of?, at least by the coach a little, on the Rangers not pulling the requisite spark from the fight, but that is a stupid idea.

You don't magically rally around a dude getting his face punched, whether he's Brandon Prust or Arron Asham. Prust's fights rallied the team because they happened when they fucking mattered at all. I think Scotty Hockey put it best: some good times to fight in an NHL game might be when you go down by 2 late in the first period on your home opener, or when your team comes out flat in the second regardless, or when deep in garbage time your skill rookie gets flattened at the blue line and doesn't get back up. Those are good examples of when you might want to fight in an NHL game, all of which fucking happened that night. Instead, Asham got his face punched by Tanner Glass for a minute or two before the hockey game started, and -- go figure! -- it didn't have much effect on the game!

Also: in losing Asham last night, we moved Bickel up to forward, and brought Eminger back in on defense. That means that the only things that changed were our fourth line and our bottom two D-pairs. I want to be explicit here. We went from:

Rupp - Halpern - Asham
Staal / Stralman
Bickel / Del Zotto


Rupp - Halpern - Bickel
Staal / Del Zotto
Eminger / Stralman

Look at those two lineups. The one without Asham is just plain better! We keep Bickel in the lineup to be big for 4 minutes a game, and our defensive pairs get way more reliable (not in the least by moving Del Zotto up to where Staal can cover for him). Everything looks better without this guy!

So, here's to you, Arron Asham's groin. May you stay minorly injured for the next 17 months or so.


In non-groin-related news, how excited am I about Rick Nash? Long-time regulars to this space (a chiefly fictional entity) will recall that I have been crushing on Nash for years. Along with a small handful of others (Dustin Byfuglien, Brooks Orpik), he's a guy I've dreamed of seeing in Broadway Blue for a long-ass time. But, like, for some reason, my dream came true on this one, and holy sweet Goddamn, he is so good at hockey, especially when he's on a real team. If this were a 3-game season, he'd undoubtedly be team MVP (and it would be a very disappointing season). Defensively responsible, strong on the puck... seriously, everything you want in a forward. Actually, the more I think about him, the more this news might be groin-related after all.

That was an erection joke.


After a win in which Gaborik, Richards, Stepan, Callahan, and Nash averaged 21:28 of ice time each, and no other forward touched 15:30, Coach Tortorella doubled down on his one-line-to-rule-them-all strategy, explaining: "Quite honestly, I'm not comfortable playing a four-line rotation. I don't think guys have played well enough for me to play a four-line rotation comfortably, because we need to win."

And the worst part is: he's right. Hell, I'm not even comfortable rolling three. Beyond the big three marquee names (who have at least pulled their weight and at most been Rick Nash), there hasn't been much from anyone. We all expected Kreider's play to take a significant dive (or, if you didn't, you damn well should have). But all the other second-and-third-liners really need to step up. I understand that Dubinsky and Anisimov are gone (for good reason), and Prust and Fedotenko are gone (possibly for less good reason), but this team still has Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Carl Hagelin, and Derek Stepan, all of whom need to get rolling.

But there's reason to believe they will. This season started after 5 days of camp with no pre-season. The style the Rangers play -- gritty, in-your-face, shot-blocking, defensive -- takes a longer time to get rolling. That's why we've seen so many scores like 5 and 6 already. As the season starts to settle in, expect overall scores to drop some - and with that, expect the Rangers' defense and middle-liners to get back into their groove. And, by the way, that will include Taylor Pyatt, whom you should start preparing to like, if you don't already. Remember that.

Frankly, it can't come soon enough, otherwise, under Torts, those top three guys are gonna get real tired.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Michael Del Zotto is making too much money

I don't actually care *that* much, because Matt Gilroy probably isn't making enough, which kinda balances out? We signed DZ to a 2-year deal at $2.55 million per. For that price, 2 years is exactly the right length - it's up the year this team gets completely dismantled anyway (because everyone else's contract is also up), so it'll be a very good time to reassess. If Del Zotto has another two seasons like last year, he'll be much more exposed for it, and he'll be up for a pay cut or pink slip. But the money is higher than I'd have liked.

I wrote last week that I'd want to pay him around $2 million, and I stand behind that. For reference points, I'd look at Anton Stralman, making $1.7 million, and Dan Girardi, making $3.325. I think Del Zotto is closer to a Stralman than he is to a Girardi, as he's often an on-ice liability, despite his point totals. But as you know, I don't rate defensemen on their ability to score goals.

Anyway, overpaying him by $550,000 a year is not bothering me a lot today because we also signed Matt Gilroy to a one-year, $650,000 deal. And if I'd heard that deal was a million instead, I wouldn't have blinked. Gilroy's got a very good offensive upside, if not quite Del Zotto's, and he backs it up by being a little bigger, and a little bit older and more responsible. Right now, I'd put Gilroy on the ice for a given shift before I put Del Zotto out there. So, to delude myself into happiness, I will simplify and say that we signed Del Zotto and Gilroy this week, for a total of $3.2 million. I can get behind that.

Those of you who have been paying attention will recall that that leaves us with $2,141,666 or cap space, with everyone signed. That's not a ton of wiggle room, but it's a bit. And remember that we've got an additional $1.25 million of salary we can use to replace Sauer and $1.25 million of bonus overage we could borrow from next season. So, cap-wise, things are not so bad this season at all.

Is it Saturday yet?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Salary Cap '12-'13

OK, so let's crunch some numbers on this season, for the Rangers. I've been wanting to do this for about 4 months, so indulge me. You might even learn something.

First of all, to make the math easy, I'm going to refer to every number as if this were a full season. All cap hits, and the cap, are pro-rated to the shortened length of this season, but multiplying every number here by the same percentage won't change the math any, and it will make things more complicated. So fuck that.

So, this season's cap is $70.2 million, which if I'm not mistaken is exactly what last season's cap was. It's hard to remember, as last season feels like it was about a decade ago. As you'd expect, the Rangers already have most of their roster locked down under contract. Where's that money going?

Returning Forwards (8 for $24,716,667): Gaborik (7.5); Richards (6.666667); Callahan (4.275); Boyle (1.7); Rupp (1.5); Kreider (1.325); Stepan (0.875); Hagelin (0.875)
New Forwards (5 for $11,650,000): Rick Nash (7.8); Taylor Pyatt (1.55); Arron Asham (fuck that guy) (1); Jeff Halpern (0.7); Micheal Haley (0.6)
Returning Defensemen (6 for $11,800,000): Staal (3.975); Girardi (3.325); Stralman (1.7); McDonagh (1.3); Eminger (0.75); Bickel (0.75)
Returning Goalies (2 for $8,175,000): Lundqvist (6.875); Biron (1.3)

That's a total of $56,341,667 on actual roster players, leaving $13,858,333 under the cap. Plenty of room. But there's some more to deal with.

First, as you already know, we have to pay off the final year of Chris Drury's buyout, for $1,666,667. Then, there's the new rule - the Redden Rule - that prevents salary burial in the AHL. The rule is that any one-way NHL contracts, even if the player is playing in the AHL and not on your NHL roster, still count against the cap. How much they count is still not publicly known, but it appears to be everything over the first $900,000 of the cap hit. That's the figure CapGeek uses, anyway. And it's a figure I believe. Redden's full NHL cap hit would be $6.5 million, so he'll be costing the Rangers $5.6 million under the cap this year, to play in Connecticut.

And then, there's the whole Michael Sauer thing. You should stop, in case you still are, asking whether or not Sauer will come back to the Rangers this season, and start asking if he's going to be healthy enough for a normal life - things are apparently really bad. With that said, we're here to talk about the cap, and Sauer is still under contract to the Rangers this season, for a hit of $1.25 million.

Drury, Redden, and Sauer add up to $8,516,667 for non-roster players, taking the Rangers' space down to $5,341,666. And then there are new contracts forthcoming. You'll note that the above player lists did not include noted favorite defenseman of this blog, Michael Del Zotto. He's still in contract talks with the Rangers (talks in which he has no leverage, as a restricted free agent not eligible for arbitration), and he reportedly wants a multi-year deal at over $3 million a year.

For reference, the New York Rangers pay Dan Girardi $3.325 million per year.

On what fucking planet is Michael Del Zotto worth what Dan Girardi is worth?

My paragraphs are becoming one sentence long to show how shocked I am by this idea.

Is it working?

Michael Del Zotto, your qualifying offer based on last season's salary should be $918,750 - maybe less, depending on a signing bonus. Least season, you were the least responsible defender on the team more nights than anyone else on the squad except Stu Bickel, who makes $750,000 to play 8 minutes a game and be 6'4". Where the shit-balls do you get off asking for Dan Girardi money, you deluded sociopath?

At any rate, $5,341,666 should be enough space to re-sign Del Zotto and sign camp invitee, once and future Ranger Matt Gilroy to a reasonable contract (~2 for DZ, ~1.5 for Gilroy?). But it doesn't leave the team very much wiggle room to make moves down the line.

But: There is a little more room than I presented here. First of all, Sauer will of course be on Long-Term Injured Reserve. This allows the Rangers to call up "replacement players" whose salaries add up to no more than Sauer's salary this season (which is also his cap hit, $1.25 million). So, for example, they could call Arron Asham a replacement for Sauer (which, frankly, would be textbook "adding insult to injury") because Asham's million-dollar salary is less than Sauer's, which means that, while Sauer still counts against the cap, Asham wouldn't. That would save the Rangers a million dollars under the cap.

Finally, there's the performance bonus cushion. Some of the above cap hits include performance bonuses - money that is only paid out if that player accomplishes some thing this season (number of games played, number of points, that kind of thing). Any potential bonuses count against the cap, until the accomplishments are no longer achievable. However, teams are permitted to go over the cap by those bonuses in the meanwhile (up to 7.5% of the total cap), and then if they end up getting paid out, that amount is docked from next year's cap. So, it's a last resort, as it's borrowing against the future, but it is technically some wiggle room.

The numbers above include, in performance bonuses, $637,500 for Kreider, $425,000 for McDonagh, and $187,500 for Hagelin, for a total of $1.25 million that the Rangers could theoretically borrow against next season (or, if things go badly for those players, not pay out at all).

This all means that, to sign Del Zotto and possibly Gilroy, and for future wiggle room, the Rangers have $5,341,666 free, plus about $2.5 million by which they can go over (1.25 for Sauer's replacement, 1.25 for performance bonuses). And now you know.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Some short shots

Man, hockey is back with a vengeance, people. Here are some things you should know about.

1) By today, every Ranger has made it to practice. Note that these practices are self-organized, as the coaches can't communicate with the players until the CBA is officially approved. But they're all skating together now. This includes, believe it or not, Matt Gilroy, who is back on a tryout. I'd like to see that work out. I'd also like to see his presence drive down Del Zotto's contract value - hearing he's asking for over $3 million for multiple years. Silly.

2) According to the Twitters, the Rangers have finally done away with the last vestiges of that awful Lady Liberty logo that my Dad likes for some reason - it was still on the practice jerseys, but it won't be anymore. Sorry, Dad, but I'm glad to see it go.

3) Still no answers on the Redden cap hit, but it's looking likely that yes, the Rangers will have to deal with that hit this season with no recourse. How much of it, though, I still don't understand. He's got a $5 million salary with a $6.5 million cap hit this season and next. Capgeek has his hit listed at $5.6 million, and I have no idea where that number comes from or how accurate it is. I'll look at the full cap situation in detail one day, if I can get accurate information ever.

4) On Sunday morning, at 6:49 AM (less than 2 hours after the informal agreement between Bettman and Fehr that effectively ended the lockout), apparently Henrik Lundqvist texted 10 other Rangers who were still in New York, inviting them out to practice. Only 2 (Del Zotto and Eminger) showed up, but still - this guy is really something.

5) What the hell, people? The Leafs fired Brian Burke today. Today. Not 6 months ago, not in a few months depending on how things go. Today. At the conclusion of his role in CBA negotiations, on the cusp of a shortened season in which I imagine Toronto is probably already scrambling to figure out a thing or two. I have a lot of trouble buying this. I like Burke, if not as much as some of my friends do, and there's no denying he's a powerful voice for hockey as a whole, if not necessarily the right answer for the Maple Leafs right now. But regardless, a firing right now doesn't make any sense to me at all. Related: where will Roberto Luongo be soon?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Questions Jim Cerny wants to answer

Jim Cerny hosted a live chat on Blueshirts United this afternoon, to answer fan questions about the upcoming season. Dave Maloney dropped in for a while. It seemed to be a pretty good forum to ask my somewhat concerning 6.5-million-dollar question. So I submitted: "If the Redden Rule (no AHL salary burial) is in effect for this season, but teams don't get compliance buyouts until next season, are the Rangers stuck with Redden's $6.5 million cap hit for this year?"

Unfortunately, either Cerny or whatever moderator picks questions for him wasn't interested in addressing this question, or my follow-up half an hour later: "Jim, sorry to repeat an unanswered question, but can you explain the Redden cap situation? Does full AHL salary count against cap, or only partial? And does it count this season even though Rangers can't use compliance buyout until next?" So, I have no answers for you. Instead, I am forced to provide a treasury of the questions Jim Cerny did answer this afternoon, while he was not answering my question about the Rangers' salary cap situation.

  • Dave, when is Ron Duguay going to get a hair cut?
  • Which Ranger will lead the team in goals this season?
  • It would be nice to see Rupper hammer some guys like he used to do against the Rangers!
  • Even though he is new to the team, do you give Nash a letter on his sweater out of respect?
  • hey jim what do think the rangers chances of winning the cup
  • Hey Jim, are Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti ready for this season?
  • Hi Jim. The Rangers, after many years have finally put a team together that is not simply playing the game of hockey but rather play for each other. Who are the people most deserving the credit for that ? (Note: this one's response started with "Wow, great question, really a good one.")
  • Jim: there was a rumor that Leetch might be brought in as a PP coach. Any truth to that?
  • Hello Jim :) when do the camp start?
  • Will the rangers come out on top in the conference this season?

So, if you want Jim Cerny's answers to any of those hard-hitting, fact-based, relevant questions, they're available.

One question and one brilliant thing

So, the vast majority of reports about these compliance buyouts I talked about yesterday say that each team can use up to two, used in some combination of the 2013 offseason and the 2014 offseason. Most of these reports imply, or outright state, that the buyouts cannot be used right now, in preparation for this shortened 2012-'13 season. However, it seems obvious that compliance with all the rules of the new CBA, including the Redden Rule, would be in place immediately.

So, my question is this: are the Rangers screwed cap-wise this year? Does Wade Redden's AHL value of $6.5 million (pro-rated) count against the cap for this abbreviated season, with the Rangers having no buyout recourse until next season? If so, that would mean that there's no option but to have $6.5 million of this season's cap tied up in Wade Redden. That's not the best.

Meanwhile, in awesome news, a Vancouver-based women's hockey team that calls itself the Ice-O-Topes apparently releases an annual pinup calendar for charity. That's not the awesome part yet. The awesome part is that they've decided, this year, to recreate "classic hockey moments" in their photos. The first photo shown in the article? Miss May, recreating the classic hockey moment "Mike Milbury Beats a Fan with His Own Shoe." That is awesome.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Update: NHLPA vote

Looks like the NHLPA vote on the new CBA will not be complete until Saturday night. That would mean the absolute earliest training camps could start would be Sunday, more likely Monday. Which is a 5-day camp if the season starts the 19th. Not awesome. Sure would be nice, given that the NHL is voting in 2 days, if the NHLPA could get its shit together and vote that early as well - it'd almost double the length of training camp if they did. Longer training camp = less injury.

But hey, what stake does the NHL players' union have in NHL player safety?

We're back, baby!

And the drums did sound, and the trumpets were heard on high, and lo, the hockey was returned to us, and it was very, very good.

As it was supposed to be, a deal was cut just in time to save a partial season, a deal that probably could have been cut months ago. But at least there won't be another blank space on the Cup. Plenty of fans are fed up and claim they won't come back, and good for them. The rest of us knew this whole time that we didn't have a choice. It's an abusive relationship: I know the NHL is going to keep doing this to us, and I know it's wrong and unacceptable, but it remains my best option for watching a highly competitive hockey league, in spite of all its abuse, so I choose to knowingly take it.

A name you should hear, in case you haven't, is that of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who spent all day Friday running back and forth between the two separate locations where the NHL and NHLPA were meeting, before spending all of Saturday bringing them together. Without him, it seems, a deal may not have gotten done. If you ever meet a man named Scot Beckenbaugh, buy him a beer.

As for whether or not the NHL and NHLPA have done irreparable damage to the game, I think Ron MacLean put it best yesterday: "A lot of Picasso's great paintings have been owned by crummy owners, but they remained Picassos."

So, time is short. Let's get down to brass tacks. This weekend (Sunday around 5:30 AM), the NHL and NHLPA tentatively agreed to a CBA proposal for a 2012-'13 hockey season. That proposal is currently being drafted into an official CBA, which will be voted on for approval by each party. The NHL's vote is scheduled for Wednesday, and I don't know when the PA votes (but it will also be this week). Once that passes, the season will officially be on, coaching staffs will be officially allowed to talk to players, etc.

Camps are therefore expected to start sometime in the Friday-to-Monday period and last about a week, with the first game of the season being, most likely, January 19. That should allow for a 48-game, inter-conference-only season. Let's see. Twice per intra-division opponent is 20 games, and 7 times per inter-division opponent is 28. That sounds about right to me. So expect to see our Atlantic Division opponents an extra time this year, even though the season itself is shorter.

The CBA's term is 10 years, with a mutual opt-out at year 8. So that means that we have until 2020 before this bullshit happens again. Which it will. A lot was worked out in these negotiations, some of which, like pensions, was very important to one party or the other, but is not at all interesting to us, as fans. Also, of course, the whole thing has not been released yet. But here are some of the main takeaways that we do care about.

(Grain of Salt Warning: Please note that all of these details are based on various second- and third-hand reports all over the Internet, and I have not confirmed and cannot confirm any of them until the new CBA is actually ratified and subsequently released to the public.) With that said, here's what I think we know so far.

The salary cap for this season will remain exactly where it was last season (pro-rated to the shortened length of the season), $70.2 million. It will be lowered for the 2013-'14 season, down to $64.3 million, and will then grow steadily from there. However, a new rule (colloquially, and appropriately, "The Redden Rule") prevents cap circumvention through salary burial in the AHL. Any players on one-way NHL contracts, even those in the AHL, will count against the cap (minus some nominal amount, like the first $250,000 or something). The salary floor will remain at (pro-rated) $44 million for each seasons.

To help comply with the new rules, each team will be allocated a total of two compliance buyouts that must be used within the next two seasons. These buyouts will follow the same monetary rules as other buyouts, except that none of them will count against the cap. Expect Redden's contract to be bought out almost as quickly as Scott Gomez's is.

Finally, some new contract rules were put in place to combat the Kovaltract. No new contract may be any longer than 7 years - or 8, if the player is re-signing with his own team. That's still a couple of years longer than I'd have liked, but it's a start. Additionally, no contract may vary from one year to the next by more than 35%, and, most restrictively, no single year of a contract may be worth any less than 50% of the contract's most expensive year.

That's all I've got for now - I'll look more into the Rangers' situation specifically soon, when there's an actual CBA to base it on. Right now it's all hearsay, so I'm not diving too deep.


That is all.