Marc Staal Says He’s Ready To Play, But Is He?

The off-season is a time when teams make moves to bring their team to the next level. The Rangers kept fairly quiet this off-season, only picking up and letting go of some depths players (assuming you ignore the change in coaching staff). That said, if news this week is true, the Rangers biggest move will be the same one they made back in January 2012 – adding an all-star defenseman to the lineup.

Marc Staal was in Calgary for Canada’s Olympic camp and when he met with the media stated that he will be at camp and is 100% ready to play. If true, that will be a much better sight than the one above (although the one above was an incredible sight as that was the first time he was seen after the injury). I know what you’re thinking in regards to the previous sentence – why so skeptical if he stated he was ready?

Because he stated he was ready in March of 2011 and played two months with post concussion symptoms.

Because he stated he was ready back in May, played one game and then took himself (it wasn’t even the training staff, he did it himself!) out of the lineup for the remainder of the playoffs.

Forgive me for saying “I’ll believe it when I see it” but he has given me no reason to think otherwise. If he’s going to play, that’s great. I’ll let you know in the middle of October if I think he should be or not. Marc Staal healthy looks a lot different than Marc Staal injured. Until I see which player is on the ice, I’m going to be skeptical on his return. Especially when you add in quotes like this:

“The eye is still not normal, but I feel back to normal,” Staal told NHL.com Tuesday at Canada Olympic orientation camp. “I don’t see myself having any issues once camp starts. It’ll be good to get into camp to get that timing and feeling back, but I’m excited for that to get that started, get that rolling.”

That sounds 100% ready to me, right?

I’m glad he feels normal and I really hope he can play. I do. But I also hope his desire to play isn’t putting him in more danger.

The above quote came from an article by Dan Rosen on the NHL website. Also thrown into that article was this little tidbit:

Staal said he will continue to wear a visor, but he’s going to try a tinted shield because it takes away any sensitivity his right eye has toward light.

I’ve never had a concussion. Never had an injury even remotely close to what he went through with his eye. That said, I don’t think I need to have been through it to see our all-star defenseman will probably never be what he could’ve been. It’s a sad fact but it’s true. He may still have a long and great career. But these things will affect the way he plays, whether he likes it or not.

And now that I’ve rained on everyone’s parade, I’m going to put those feelings aside and try to be optimistic. At least Marc has been seen and has said he will be in camp. That’s more than we got over the summer of 2012. Now let’s hope once he gets into game action, he feels how he expects to.

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On a separate note, that same article had this little anecdote:

In sit-down interviews Tuesday at Canada Olympic orientation camp, NHL Network host Mark Roe asked seven players who they would pick if they had the No. 1 selection in a fantasy hockey draft. Jordan Staal, Dan Boyle, Corey Perry, Alex Pietrangelo, Corey Crawford and Taylor Hall said Sidney Crosby. The other player who was asked the question was Rick Nash, and he said Steven Stamkos.

Good to know Rick and I would make the same decision with that selection in a fantasy draft 😉

 

(Photo above taken by Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Babies + Updates From Unofficial & Olympic Camps

It’s always a good sign when my twitter timeline is filled with information about hockey camps. Sure it isn’t 30 training camp across North America, but two Olympic camps plus the beat writers actually covering an informal practice the boys are holding are close enough for me.

Let’s start with the local “camp” as many Rangers players are back in the area and training together at the MSG Training Center. One of those found at the rink today was proud new father Dan Girardi, whose wife had a baby girl over the weekend (to complete their perfect family):

At first I was surprised the Rangers announced it but then I figured Dan probably couldn’t get the smile off his face and said okay to them announcing it without thinking. (Any personal news about him and Callahan catches me off guard as they are very private people.) He did say mom and daughter were doing well and that big brother Landon wanted them to come home right away so he could see them. But I think my favorite anecdote was this one from Jim Cerny:

Two days later and still wearing the hospital wrist band. I can’t explain it but I found that adorable.

But as great as that news was, the best news actually came from what Jim saw on the ice as Dan finally did what I have been begging him to do for years but specifically the past 6 months – HE PUT A VISOR ON! I really don’t know what made it finally sink in but he said that seeing what Marc went through, he realized he shouldn’t take the chance and is finally going to use one. I get the reasoning of being used to not wearing it but you only have two eyes and they can’t easily be replaced. Guard them. I’m happy to hear Girardi finally is.

Speaking of Marc Staal, rumor is he and his wife Lindsey are expecting their first child. If true (as this is completely unconfirmed) congrats to them too as you can never have too many Staals!

Marc is actually in Calgary at Canada’s camp (Dan joked it was good he wasn’t invited as he wouldn’t have been there anyway due to when his daughter was born) and was paired with Drew Doughty for an informal ball hockey practice (as the players aren’t allowed to skate). To me, that’s definitely a good sign on his chances to make the team assuming he is healthy. Also have to give the Canadian coaching staff credit for coming up with a way to practice without being allowed to actually practice. That said, I hope it doesn’t help them too much.

Over in the Arlington, VA, the US team had their first day of camp that didn’t lead to much news other than the fact there was a Derek Stepan sighting…something that hasn’t happened all summer. Tom Gulitti, covering for Andrew Gross at the Bergeron Record, spoke to all three Rangers at the camp.

First it was Ryan McDonagh, who was asked about Stepan and said the following:

“He’ll be there,” McDonagh said. “I know he’s going through it and it’s a unique situation for him, but I think ultimately he’ll be a New York Ranger. It’s just a matter of when.

“I think he’s handling it the only way he knows and it seems like he’s doing very well. I think any player you want to be with the group of guys skating that first day of camp and, hopefully, it will work out for him and we’ll see him there.”

I really want to know if he said that with a straight face. Why was he being asked if Stepan would be at camp? Did they expect him to say “nope, he’s holding out till he gets the contract I got”? I get writers need quotes  but sometimes I just don’t understand the questions being asked. (Editors note: I have no idea if Gulitti asked the question or just took the quote so that wasn’t directed towards him, just a general observation.)

Then Derek Stepan spoke and said it best:

“I’m doing everything I would normally do in a summer,” he said. “To put it lightly: I’m going to do my job and worry about doing my job and I’m going to let my agent and the New York Rangers handle their part of it.”

I don’t know if I believe he has no part in it but he’s obviously not the one doing the negotiating. I didn’t like the part later on where he said he didn’t know if he was going to go to NY and take part in the informal practices after US camp ended or head back to Minnesota. I don’t care if he’s signed or not, there is absolutely no reason for him not to be in NY with his teammates. Dubinsky was there up until camp started and he wasn’t allowed to be without a contract. Step better think twice before leaving the east coast in a couple of days.

Gulitti also caught up with Ryan Callahan who gave the same update he’s been giving on his shoulder – everything is on schedule, he’ll be in camp but not sure when he’ll be able to have contact and due to that could miss the beginning of the season. It hurts and I feel bad for him but I would be absolutely shocked if he were on the ice in Phoenix on October 3rd. My guess is he’s hoping to be back by the home opener later that month.

In regards to the Olympics, it’s probably a good sign for Callahan’s chances of being on the team (if he’s healthy, he’ll be on the team) that he was named to a five-player leadership group put together by Team USA GM David Poile that the coaching and management staffs will use as a sounding board leading up to the Olympics. (Other players were Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Dustin Brown and David Backes. Pretty good company for Cally if you ask me.) Apparently, Poile said none of the players were guaranteed a roster spot in Sochi, but let’s be honest – unless they’re injured, those five players will be in Sochi and some combination of them will have letters on their jerseys.

And with that, the countdown continues. Sixteen days until training camp! (Which means fifteen days till Derek Stepan signs!)

(Photo above: Landon & Dan Girardi, screen shot from episode 3 of 24/7)

From Lundqvist To Leetch: Updates From Around The Team

The season is getting closer which means I really need to get back on my game to keep everyone updated. Maybe I need a training camp as well.

Anyway, lots to talk about as we are starting to get actual news the past couple of days.

First, Glen Sather did an interview recently on Edmonton radio (I’m as surprised as you are) and spoke about a number of topics. Some quick hits:

  • Of course he was asked about Derek Stepan and he answered exactly how anyone who has paid any attention to the team in recent years expected him to – they want to give Stepan a two-year bridge contract. I get it but I’m not entirely happy about it and the guess is Stepan isn’t either. But like Step, I’ll have to accept it in the next 18 or so days because there is no way he’s getting anything else and there is no reason for him to miss camp over this. (For those who think he might, stop worrying. Step said he wants to be here and I believe him. In that case, he knows he can’t miss camp.)
  • Sather’s explanation for why Brad Richards had the year he did? “Richards spent the summer negotiating new CBA and that hurt his training. He was behind the first day of camp, but he’ll bounce back.” Makes complete sense to me and I agree on the last part.
  • He also said the players didn’t come to him regarding Tortorella which is the opposite of what Torts said in this interview that was released yesterday. (Honestly if you haven’t read it, go read it. Fantastic interview by Torts which I’m only not recapping here because like the team, I need to move on from talking about him.) We will never know what really led to his firing so I’m done trying to speculate. The hope is it works out for both Torts and the Rangers, specifically more the Rangers.
  • Apparently there is a lot of interest in Brian Boyle but the Rangers aren’t looking to trade him at the moment. Not surprised there is interest nor am I surprised he isn’t on the trade block. I still doubt he is here by the time Olympic break hits but I guess things could change depending on how he and the team plays.

He also discussed the salary cap, style Vigneault will play as well as a quick update on Staal. Kevin Delury over at The New York Rangers Blog made a great point that Sather needs to do interviews more often. I couldn’t agree more. (S/T to him for the link to the interview which you can hear in its entirety here. He started talking about the Rangers at 6-minute mark.)

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Speaking of Sather, per John Shannon at Sportsnet, he is going to help out the town where he lives during the off-season as the Rangers will be holding part of their camp in Banff, Alberta where the floods took place earlier this summer. They will also hold a charity golf event on September 19th which will raise funds to help flood victims in Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis, Morley and the rest of Bow Valley affected by floods. I was wondering why the team was heading to Western Canada for the preseason when they weren’t starting the season there but now it makes complete sense. Great job by the organization on this.

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Another charity event being held by someone in the organization? Brad Richards will be holding his inaugural golf tournament at the Scarsdale Golf Club in Westchester County on August 26th to benefit his foundation. Tickets to take part aren’t cheap but if you’re interested, more info can be found here. There is also an online auction with some pretty awesome things included (tickets to the Stadium Series games, signed memorabilia from McDonagh, Richards and Dubinsky along with loads of other non-Rangers related events). If you have some money to shell out for a good cause, definitely take a look here.

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Speaking of McDonagh, he has been training out in Minnesota and was on the ice with other Octagon clients (his management team) on Tuesday and apparently doing well:

I saw that and asked if there would be online video. Ask and you shall receive:

http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/iframe?aspect_ratio=16×9&auto_next=0&auto_start=0&page_count=4&pf_id=8302&pl_id=16468&rel=3&show_title=0&tags=default&va_id=4237040&volume=8&windows=1

Nothing too fancy but still nice to see him on the ice. And if he’s doing that in the middle of August, I’m thinking we will love what he does from October to June.

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Couple more notes.

Henrik Lundqvist took part in a “celebrity” table tennis “tournament” in Madison Square Park held by Delta on Wednesday that I was lucky enough to attend as I work right near the park. I placed the words celebrity and tournament in quotes as it was local sports celebrities (Lundqvist, Brett Gardner of the Yankees, Iman Shumpert of the Knicks, Mrs. Met and tennis star Serena Williams) and it was just a round robin that took less than an hour. It was still a lot of fun. I got some pictures of Henrik that you can see here and Blueshirts United got plenty of coverage you can find here and here.

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Finally some news from an ex-Ranger as local fans will not be seeing Brian Leetch during pre- and post-games anymore as he is leaving the studio for a job behind the scenes in the Department of Player Safety. Per the press release, Leetch will be the Manager of Player Safety, a position recently vacated by Rob Blake who is now with the LA Kings organization. It’s not an easy job and I’m sure Leetch will end up with some criticism from it but watching him last season, I could tell this was something that was important to him as I felt he opened up most when discussing head shots or other injuries that led to Shanahan and his crew getting involved. I know fans will miss him in the studio but I wish him the best of luck with this.

And with that I leave you with this little tidbit – less than 20 days until training camp begins! 🙂

(Photo at top taken by Melissa Andus.)

The Boys Are Back In Town! Rangers Slowly Return To NYC

One way to know the season is getting closer is when players start returning to the city they play in. Apparently it’s almost hockey season as many Rangers have found their way back to town the past couple of days.

First it was Michael Del Zotto who tweeted this last Thursday:

Looks good DZ!

Then the Rangers told us Rick Nash and Derek Dorsett were in town on Friday when they tweeted the following regarding them at a Garden of Dreams event:

And here’s the accompanying picture:

Nash-Dorsett-NYR-instagram

Love the serious faces on the kids.

Saturday night Henrik Lundqvist told fans he was packing to fly back to a place he missed. Sunday afternoon came this:

You have to miss New York to be happy to be going into the Lincoln Tunnel. Even on a Sunday afternoon, I’m sure he was sitting in traffic.

I expect to see more and more of these as the week goes on as there are only 23 days until training camp. Welcome home boys!

(Photo above: Lisa Gansky/flickr. Check out her site by clicking link on right side bar!)

Do Rangers Fans Have Something Else To Thanks Columbus For?

The recent history between the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets is known by everyone. They haven’t played a single game against each other in over a year (the above picture was the game winning goal the last time they played each other) but the off ice connection (due to two huge trades that I don’t think we need to rehash again) has led to everyone, and we mean everyone, placing the words Rangers, Blue Jackets and rivalry in the same sentence.

As Rangers fans, we thank the Blue Jackets for Nash, Brassard, Moore and Dorsett (I’m sure we will on the last one when he finally plays). But do we have something else to thank them for?

The Blue Jackets official twitter account is one of the best in the NHL. (The best is either them or the LA Kings, depending on your preference.) They show personality + engage the fans = a win-win situation for everyone. Slowly other teams have joined by occasionally making a remark that has their fanbase take notice. Teams such as the Oilers, Red Wings, Canadiens, even the Devils have made comments completely out of character for an official team account. And while all of this is going on Rangers fans have been begging for their team to join.

Well beg no more as over the past week, I have seen more personality from the Rangers than I have since their twitter feed started…and it’s all directed to one team.

The first one was last week and involved the Blue Jackets and the Oilers:

tweet-nyr-cbj-eo-1

tweet-nyr-cbj-eo-2

Then the Oilers decided to bow out and we got these three conversations over the past couple of days:

tweet-nyr-cbj-1

For those who don’t know the Lumbus story, it started with the LA Kings trying to shorten Columbus and has just stuck. (There’s more to it but that’s the gist.)

tweet-nyr-cbj-2

That one might be my favorite just because in two tweets they were sarcastic and cocky. You can’t get more New York than that. Although this one may be a close second:

tweet-nyr-cbj-3

I don’t know about everyone else, but seeing the Rangers show personality rather than being a boring official account makes this fan very happy. I’ve met Jim Cerny on a number of occasions and he definitely has this personality. That said, I’m pretty sure they finally got someone else to run the main account while allowing Jim to run his along with the million other things he does for the team. If so, smart move by the team as all it takes is a couple of friendly tweets to keep fans entertained…and apparently start a rivalry without ever stepping on the ice.

(Photo at top: Matthew D. Britt/flickr)

 

This Is A Post About Derek Stepan

Hey Step, you want to sign already? No? Oh, okay then…

Everyone has been writing about Derek Stepan and since he’s one of my favorite players (I have his jersey, which he signed) I figured I should too. I also realized everyone was asking the same questions about Stepan, just in different places. So here is a handy list (complete with my commentary) of everything people are talking about in regards to the teams’ leader scorer last season. Pay attention as there will be a quiz at the end.

When is Derek Stepan going to sign?

Wait…you mean he isn’t signed for next season yet? Look, I promise you I want him signed more than anyone reading this post right now. And he will sign. On September 10th. Maybe September 9th if we’re really lucky.

That is how Glen Sather works. Look when Brandon Dubinsky signed his second contract. Or Marc Staal. Or Michael Del Zotto. What did those three have in common? None of them had arbitration rights after their entry level contracts ended meaning they had no leverage and there was no deadline to sign them by which is exactly where Stepan sits right now. Sather loves these situations. I have no idea if he low balls these players all summer or doesn’t even bother talking to them because he knows they are stuck. No one is offer sheeting a Rangers player. No one. So he can do whatever he wants and he does. It is what it is and by now the players know it. The fans should too. Step will be signed. Just be patient (and stopping asking Jim Cerny or whoever else you follow) when it’s going to happen. They know the same thing we do.

I know you said no one will but what if Derek Stepan receives an offer sheet?

This one I really don’t have to go over now because everyone has realized it isn’t happening but just in case one or two of you out there still aren’t sure:

IT. ISN’T. HAPPENING.

If it was going to happen, it would’ve happened a month ago. Yes, I will admit there was a part of me that was worried some team (cough, Philly) would be crazy enough to try it but realistically it was never going to happen. Fortunately no one did so Step isn’t going anywhere.

Is the NHLPA influencing Derek Stepan in regards to his negotiations?

I saw this question over the weekend and no disrespect to those who asked but literally slammed my head into a wall. (It hurt.) Yes, the NHLPA is a part of the negotiations. They are a part of every players’ negotiations. And they know how every team works which is why they know the same thing I do – the best offer will come on September 10th so he just has to wait for it. Honestly if the NHLPA wasn’t a part of the negotiations, I would want to know why we have a NHLPA in the first place? (And don’t say so there is another side in every lockout.) This is their job. I know we need things to write about in August but this shouldn’t even be a question.

How come Derek Stepan hasn’t really been tweeting this summer?

Okay no one has asked that but I think we should cause I am curious. Some guys tweet in the offseason and others disappear. Step seems to have mostly disappeared. I’m going to guess this has something to do with his contract negotiations but I would like some proof he’s still alive and it’s just the Rangers being the Rangers as to why he isn’t signed.

So what did we learn today?

Answer: Derek Stepan will be a Ranger when training camp begins so we should stop asking when and why he isn’t signed.

Very good. Class dismissed.

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Which New York Rangers Would Be In A MLB All-Star Lineup?

Yesterday the Rangers, Devils and Islanders officially announced their participation in the Stadium Series that will see the teams play at Yankee Stadium in January. The press conference was a formality and didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It also wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the one in Philly as no one guaranteed victory like Sather did back then.

Afterwards, the Rangers representatives Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi (because of course those two did this together) sat down with Jim Cerny for a hilarious video that was posted on Blueshirts United. We don’t see enough of the interaction between the teams’ original BFFs but this video proved they haven’t lost their touch as the jabs were flying between the longtime friends.

At 4:24 of the video, Cerny asks Callahan who would be in the Rangers MLB all-star lineup. While his answers made sense, I started thinking about it and not sure if I would agree with his decisions so made my own team.

Editors Note: I am not a baseball fan. I’ve tried to get into it, really I have, but I just can’t. So I went to good ole Wikipedia for background info on some of the positions to help with my decisions. (Yes I know first baseman plays first base, but what type of person makes a good first baseman?)

Let’s start at the mound. While Boyle is probably an excellent choice, Stepan is already a pitcher so I think it goes without say he should be there. For those who don’t believe me, I already went through this last year but he plays for the Washington Nationals. (I don’t care what anyone says, that’s Derek Stepan not Jordan Zimmerman.)

Since the positions have numbers, we’ll go in order and head to catcher next. Callahan placed Lundqvist there, which was another good choice but I’m placing Henrik elsewhere so I actually think Cally would be perfect behind the plate. The catcher is someone who has to know everything going on all the time while giving out plays to the pitcher. They also need to be athletic enough to make plays, most times not easy ones, when necessary. While yes, Lundqvist fits this perfectly so does our captain so I’m placing Callahan as catcher.

As for first base, Wikipedia told me “the first baseman is ideally a tall player with good flexibility and quick reflexes”. Since that doesn’t describe Girardi at all (well I guess he’s tall), I’m going to say he was messing with everyone when he said he was a “power hitting first baseman”. Honestly it was the first I’ve heard any mention of him playing baseball and being that Callahan knew nothing as well, I think it was Danny being Danny. Plus he grew up in Canada. There’s no way he played baseball. It’s hockey year-round up there.

So who do I think should play first? My first instinct was Rick Nash but the more I thought about it, I think this would be a perfect position for Lundqvist or Biron. Think about it – a tall player (both are over six feet) with good flexibility and quick reflexes. I think that perfect describes a hockey goaltender. So I’m saying either of our goalies should be on first.

Next up, we have the second basemen who “often possesses quick hands and feet, needs the ability to get rid of the ball quickly, and must be able to make the pivot on a double play”. To me that says someone who is very athletic in which case I guess I can agree with Ryan when he put McDonagh there. I was leaning towards putting McDonagh at shortstop but second does work for him so let’s leave him there.

Onto third base where we are looking for a player who “needs good hand-eye coordination and [has] quick reactions”. Cally skipped this one on his list and I can see why. I’m thinking whichever goalie isn’t at first base should be on third. I believe third base is harder to play than first (although could be wrong on that) so I’m going to say Lundqvist here and Biron on first.

As for shortstop, the position Callahan says you need to be the most athletic to play, we need someone who is in terrific shape and can move in any direction necessary. No offense Cally, but you’re made of glass so placing you here would be a horrible decision to me. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Brad Richards would make a good shortstop.

I know what you’re thinking but stay with me for a second. Shortstops need to be able to throw, run and cover multiple areas at the same time depending on the play. They basically need to be able to do a little bit of everything without anyone really noticing they are there. Yes I know what kind of season he had last year and that he very well might be on the downturn of his career, but isn’t that what we thought we were getting when the Rangers signed Richards? What if I place 2004 Brad Richards on shortstop? Then I think you all would agree with me so let’s assume that version of him is who will show up.

Now we move to the outfield. A couple things I learned in my research. Apparently the corner fielders (left and right) are usually slower than the center fielder, which actually makes sense to me since the center fielder has to cover more ground. They are also typically power hitters while center fielders are “usually fast base-runners and good defensive players”.

Keeping all that in mind, I would place Girardi in left field (assuming he is indeed a power hitter which I believe slightly more than the fact he is capable of playing first base) and Boyle in right field. My reason for this – left field is said to be slower than right while right fielders have to have the longest reach when throwing. Figure Boyle has a larger wing span and while he isn’t the most mobile, he can get up and down the ice faster than Danny can. As for center field, I’m thinking Kreider because of his speed.

I’m not going to touch Girardi’s home run derby lineup because I have no idea who would be good at that other than I’m pretty sure Zuccarello wouldn’t be.

So here’s how my all Rangers MLB all-star lineup would look:

NYR MLB lineup

What does everyone think? Feel free to tell me if you agree or have other ideas by commenting below.