After Being Sent Down, What’s Next For Chris Kreider?

While most fans had opinions about the roster cuts made by the Rangers yesterday, none invoked more reaction than the fact that Chris Kreider was (rightfully) sent to the Hartford Wolf Pack. Immediately many fans starting calling him a bust or even worse, saying Vigneault was a bad coach who wouldn’t last in New York. I’m not even going to touch the second part other than to say can we please let the man coach a regular season game before we run him out of town?

As for calling Kreider a bust, I’m not ready to do that and here’s why:

According to NHL rules, he is still considered a rookie this season.

Yes you read that correctly. J.T. Miller will not be eligible for the Calder but Kreider is. Why is that? Because he’s played LESS THAN 25 REGULAR SEASON GAMES.

Have things gone smoothly for Kreider since he first joined the Rangers? No, they haven’t. I actually remember writing that I thought it was a bad move to sign him during the playoffs of the 2011-12 season. He went and had a great playoffs to prove me wrong. I still thought he would start the next season in the AHL. Due to the lockout he did…and he got injured.

I have no idea how much his injury affected his play or if he had a mentality that he felt he shouldn’t be there, but Kreider struggled from October to January. Then, for some unknown reason, Tortorella called him up. Then sent him back down. Then called him up. Then sent him back down. What do you expect from a kid who is bounced around like that? Yes hockey players need to be able to handle that but in the end, he’s still a kid. In case anyone forgot, he’s only 22 years old.

So let’s call last year what it was – a bad first pro season. (Although the year before counted against his entry level deal, I don’t count the month and a half he spent with the team as a “pro season”.) He won’t be the first hockey player to have that nor will he be the last. The question is how does he react this year. I don’t think he’s done anything to not deserve a chance to prove he can still be what fans expect and want him to be. If Vigneault is willing to give him a chance, so can we. In fact, his words (as relayed by Andrew Gross of the Record) regarding Kreider after practice caught me a little off guard:

“I thought Chris had a good camp but at the end of the day when we made the assessments who should stay here in what role we came to the conclusion that he’s a real young player and he needs to play. As much as I believe he’s real close and he probably could play at our level right now, he needs to play big minutes and good minutes and I felt with our group right now I wasn’t going to be able to give him those minutes.”

Vigneault thought Kreider had a good camp? Maybe he should be fired…

All kidding aside, the big thing fans should take from that quote is the fact he wants him to play big minutes. It’s the same reason Conor Allen had no prayer of being the 7th defenseman even though he absolutely earned that spot. These kids need to play and right now, there is no spot for them to get big (or any) minutes. Unless he has a horrible start in Hartford, I would be absolutely shocked if Kreider isn’t the first call-up when needed. In fact, as soon as moves are made to free cap space, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers intentionally opened a spot for him so they could call him up.

So let’s stop calling him a bust. Yes it’s disappointing that he couldn’t make the team out of camp but that doesn’t mean his career is over. He’s going to be a NHL player and probably a very good one. If we are having this conversation next season, then I will worry. Until then, let the kid go where he will have a chance to play. He’ll be back. And when he is, I won’t be surprised if he takes the league by storm again the same as he did during the playoffs two seasons ago.

 

(Photo: Chris Rutsch/flickr)

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Cuts, Waivers, LTIR, Oh My! Rangers Roster Is Set For Opening Night

In the end, it became a numbers game. There was only so many available spots and only so much money able to be spent. I think that last part has a lot to do with the moves made today. Before practice, the Rangers announced their final roster will be:

 

That means the following guys just missed being able to make a trip back west in a couple of days:

Forwards: Marek Hrivik, Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, Brandon Mashinter and Darroll Powe

Defense: Conor Allen and Stu Bickel

My thoughts:

~ With these moves, if my math is correct, Hagelin will have to go on LTIR meaning he will miss the first 10 games (which includes the home opener). That’s probably about the time he needs so I’m not surprised. Callahan will go on regular IR because he will be ready before the home opener. (Knowing Cally, he’s not missing it whether he’s ready or not.)

~ Powe was a cap casualty. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s picked up by another team as his cap isn’t that high, it’s just high enough that we had no space for him. I really thought he would get the spot over Asham but I guess Vigneault disagreed. I am curious what the deciding factor in that decision was. (Asham able to fight?)

~ Kreider didn’t earn the spot. I know a lot of people will scream he’s a bust but they shouldn’t. He’s a kid who is still considered a rookie by NHL standards. Last season was horrible for him between the lockout and the back and forth. He needs more time and that’s fine by me. Assuming he uses this time correctly, he’ll be back on Broadway before the new year.

~ Lindberg and Hrivik, while they were good they weren’t great so it’s better for them to get top line minutes so they can consistently be great. They will quickly dominate in the AHL, the Rangers will make moves and they will be back before we know it. As for Fast, I thought he would be on the list too but I guess he did something the coaching staff liked. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up back in Hartford at some point during the season (maybe as soon as November when the team is healthy again).

~ In his limited preseason time, Miller earned his spot. If he stays is another question but for now, he belongs there.

~ I really don’t think Mashinter ever had an actual chance of making the team but his play against LA probably sealed the deal for him. He’s a bubble player who will bounce back and forth (or be traded mid-season).

~ On defense, the math was simple. I know Vigneault wanted 8 defensemen but that just wasn’t possible. While Allen probably had the best overall camp, he’s a rookie who needs to play not sit in a pressbox. Mix that with a cap hit that was larger than the two he was competing against combined and he was destined to start the season in Hartford. Being that the organization expected him in Greenville, I’d say he had a very good camp. That brought it down to Falk or Bickel.

~ Fans either love or hate Bickel. I want to root for him but I see him for what he is – a bubble NHL player. He had moments in this preseason that I expected him to be cut as soon as the game ended. Then he nights like the game against LA where I thought he played the best game he’s played in quite some time. Unfortunately for him, the Rangers saw more of the first one and decided to send him down. I can’t really argue with the decision as it’s who the Rangers wanted to have site in a press box every night so I’ll just wish him luck in Hartford.

~ As for Falk, part of his salary would still count against the cap if he was sent down so that may have been why he got to stay. Personally, I have no opinion on him one way or another. I guess as a defenseman it’s good to go under the radar in games.

Of the guys sent down, Powe, Mashinter and Bickel need to clear waivers. My guess is at least two of them will, I’m just not sure on Powe.

And so the Rangers roster is set. Now let’s hope they play a whole lot better than they did against the Canucks Thursday night. Four more days till the season begins!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Glad To See Preseason End; Who Did Enough To Stay?

Earlier this evening, the Hartford Wolf Pack got their butts kicked by the Springfield Falcons (7-0 was final score). The reason for that might have been because more than half their roster was in Vegas tonight to play the Los Angeles Kings.

I decided to count how many players playing tonight were actual locks to making the opening night roster. Obviously the goalies are since they are the only two left. On defense, Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman and John Moore should be in the lineup next Thursday. Up front – Benoit Pouliot. Oh and I guess Rick Nash and Brad Richards are staying, even though they’ve done nothing this preseason to deserve the first line minutes they will probably get. The rest of the roster is no guarantee. Add that to the fact I knew almost every name they mentioned for the home team and I wasn’t expecting a lot out of tonight.

That said, I didn’t think the Rangers would be losing just 15 seconds in. I’m not going to sit here and recap the first period other than to say the Kings scored three goals, two on the only two power play chances they had in the period, and the Rangers managed one. At least they got one (a beautiful deflection by J.T. Miller of a Anton Stralman shot).

As for the second period, the Kings added a goal to take a 4-1 lead. Oh, you want positives for the Rangers? Halfway through the period some kid wearing #20 made his first appearance of the preseason. I actually recognized Chris Kreider as he flew down the ice and got a shot on net. Unfortunately Quick was ready and made the save.

The other positive? The boys killed a penalty, two of them actually as Mashinter was given a double minor for being an idiot. (Bickel got hit with a good clean hit and he went after the guy. Somehow he got four minutes and the other guy got none. One of the minors was a deserved roughing penalty. I have no idea what the second minor was for.) Of course the goal was scored about a minute after they killed the two penalties so it wasn’t entirely positive.

Oh and Lundqvist finally showed up in the last seconds as he made a beautiful save on a Kings breakaway right before the buzzer. I think that gave him some confidence as he came out for the third and finally looked like the goalie I know and love. That was really all that happened in the third period as the Rangers lost another one, this time 4-1.

Next up, we get cuts as the Rangers have to get to 23 players and under the $64.3 million cap by Monday afternoon. Up front, I’m not sure if all the veterans are staying. There’s been no mention of Boyle so I guess he’s a lock, even though he hasn’t done much to earn that seat either in my opinion. Pyatt didn’t play tonight so I’m guessing that makes him a lock as well. As for Asham and Powe, they’ve done enough to earn it. The question is can we afford (literally) to keep them.

In regards to the kids, it appears Miller, Lindberg, Hrivik, Fast and Kreider are fighting for the two spots vacated by Callahan and Hagelin. (Maybe Mashinter is included on that list as well; not really sure where he stands.) I think Miller has done enough to get a spot. As for the rest, I think this quote from Vigneault says it all:

“We have a lot of players that are close, but haven’t really shown to me that they can play at this level on a consistent basis,” stated Vigneault following the game Thursday. “There’s still a couple young guys that will get a chance (Friday), but they’re definitely going to have to do better.”

Honestly, none of them have continually stood out for me. They have a good shift here or there and then clearly look like they need more time. It will be interesting to see who the Rangers choose. If it works cap-wise, they may send them all down and stick with the veterans.

As for the defense, before the game Vigneault said the following in regards to the 7th defensive spot (I guess due to cap issues, he’s accepted he is only getting one spare D):

“I think (seventh defenseman) is one of the questions tonight’s game will answer—(Justin) Falk has been good, Stu (Bickel) has been good. Young Conor Allen brings a real good dimension as a puck-moving defenseman.”

After the game, I would actually give the spot to Bickel (and I didn’t expect to be saying that before the game). Falk has made some mistakes but otherwise hasn’t stood out to me. While that could be good for a defenseman, I’m not sure it is in this case. And Allen, who I’ve liked all preseason, really looked like a rookie tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him again in New York during the season but he may need more time. Basically if the Rangers were looking for a reason to send him down (which they may have been to make sure they weren’t rushing him), he gave them one tonight.

And then there was Bickel. Yes he took a dumb penalty in the first period but the rest of the game, he looked like a solid defenseman. Do I think he should unseat one of the top six and play on a regular basis? No, I’m not delusional enough to think we will see this on a regular basis. But I think he did enough to be the spare in case needed.

We won’t find out the decisions till Sunday as the boys are headed back east on the red eye and therefore tomorrow is an off day for the players. Unfortunately, I don’t think the coaches will be able to take the day off as they have some pretty big decisions to make and I would be surprised if they’ve made them already.

 

(Photo above: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Shutout In First Game Against Torts

I’m not sure what I was expecting out of tonight’s game. I had a feeling it wouldn’t look like a preseason game and not because it is close to the end of preseason. Both teams were stepping on the ice to play for their current coach against the guy they played for last year. Emotions were bound to run high so anything was possible. Five minutes in, it looked like the Rangers wanted to represent Vigneault more than Canucks did for Tortorella. They were commanding play in the offensive zone and after six and a half minutes, leading in shot 7-2. That was the last good point for the road team.

At 6:46, Marc Staal thought it was a good idea to try and stop Santorelli by reaching with his stick and tripping him. It wasn’t. Especially since even though the Canucks power play is now coached by the guys who ran what I called a “power kill”, the players still remember what a competent coach did out there. And they went and did it as it took less than a minute to take the lead. Lundqvist tried to say it was goalie interference, and looking at the replay it might have been, but the goal stood.

Of course that woke the Canucks up a bit but the Rangers still managed to control play for the next seven minutes. Then they got pinned in their zone and Lundqvist let in a softy to double the deficit. I’ll admit I got annoyed but might as well let him get the softies out of the way now.

The Rangers more or less dominated the remainder of the period, especially in shots, but still couldn’t get one past Luongo. Then again, unless he has a hole in the middle of his chest that they knew about and I didn’t, the 17-8 edge in shots didn’t mean much too me.

A little over a minute into the second, the shots were 17-11 and the Canucks had a 3-0 lead. It was 5-0 by the end of the second. That’s really all I have to say about the second period. Oh and by the end of it, the great defense pair of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were a combined MINUS TEN. (Technically minus six cause two were power play goals but they were on for all five goals.) Not good.

Lundqvist was put out of his misery for the third but unfortunately the rest of us weren’t as they couldn’t bench the entire team. (I really wonder what would happen if a team refused to come out for the final period and just forfeited the game. It’s the same loss as if they played the entire game, right?) If you’re looking for a bright spot, Biron got a shutout in the twenty minutes he played.

Honestly the best news of the night, other than when they announced Ryan Callahan was cleared for contact, was when the final buzzer sounded. It just wasn’t a good night for the Rangers. The best part? We get to do it again tomorrow as the Rangers are on a plane headed to Vegas to play the Kings tomorrow night. I’m pretty sure no matter what happens in that game, they can’t look worse than they did tonight.

Derek Stepan Finally Signs Contract

After making cuts yesterday, the Rangers will actually being adding a player to the roster today as Derek Stepan finally came to his senses signed the bridge deal we all knew he was getting.

So basically what we all knew he was getting a month ago. I honestly have no idea what took so long but I’m glad he’s back before the season starts. Now let’s hope he’s in shape and can learn the new system quickly since he won’t be playing in any preseason games. I also hope there isn’t too much damage between him and the organization.

Either way, only one thing left to say about this – WELCOME BACK DEREK STEPAN!

**********

On a separate note, four of the guys sent down yesterday needed to clear waivers first and were therefore put on today:

Honestly, some of those guys might get claimed but the Rangers had no choice but to take the chance and send them down. I believe if they are claimed, the team who claims them must keep them in the NHL so hopefully that will deter teams (specifically in Talbot’s case). We’ll see what happens.

Take Out The Scissors! Rangers Send Nine To Hartford

After last nights’ game, Vigneault mentioned he was changing course and planning to make cuts today. All day, fans speculated who would be cut. For the most part, the names were obvious as the Rangers sent nine players back east a couple days earlier than the rest of their teammates:

Forwards: Micheal Haley, Michael Kantor, Danny Kristo and Andrew Yogan

Defensemen: Tommy Hughes, Aaron Johnson, Dylan McIlrath and Danny Syvret

Goalie: Cam Talbot

Kantor, Yogan, McIlrath and Syvret are no surprise since they played in neither game this week. I’m actually surprised they made it on the plane out west in the first place. Hughes and Johnson didn’t really do anything to help their cause last night so no surprise there either. I said Haley had one good shift last night but otherwise was unnoticeable and wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Guess it was bad.

That leaves us with Kristo and Talbot. It was no secret Talbot was going to be sent down, I just figured they would keep him out west just to be safe with two games left to play. MSG also repeatedly said last night that Biron and Talbot would be splitting the net in Vegas on Friday. Guess not.

As for Kristo, I’m a little surprised. He definitely wasn’t as noticeable last night but I really felt he was going to make the team out of camp. Guess one of my predictions was wrong. It makes sense though – Kristo has no professional experience. Let him get his feet wet in Hartford. I would be shocked if we don’t see him back in New York this season. And when he comes back, he’ll probably be there to stay.

That leaves the following 30 guys still in camp:

Forwards: Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouilot, Mats Zuccarello, Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett, Marek Hrivik, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, Carl Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, Dominic Moore, Arron Asham, Darroll Powe, Brandon Mashinter, Taylor Pyatt

Defensemen: Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman, John Moore, Stu Bickel, Conor Allen, Justin Falk

Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist, Marty Biron

I know the biggest battle is at forward but the three defensemen battling for the 7th and possibly 8th slots is intriguing to me. Does undrafted rookie Conor Allen continue his solid play and actually make the team? I said last night he deserves to. I still believe that (and not because I said there would be a surprise coming out of this years camp in my prediction post).

 

(Photo: Blueshirts United screenshot)

Rangers Leave Alberta With Two Preseason Losses

I started to write a full recap of tonights loss to the Oilers but then realized I was getting too annoyed at a preseason game which included only half of the regular roster. So instead, I’m going to take a different approach and write about individual performances.

The Good

Marc Staal once again looked like he was in regular season form – scoring a goal, leading the team in shots with five and constantly being noticeable for his good defensive plays. I said it last night but I’ll say it again – I may have been wrong about him as you would never know what he went through just six short months ago from what I’ve seen the past two games.

Mark it down – Conor Allen is going to be this years’ surprise. A month ago no one knew his name. After tonight, unless cap reasons prevent it, he will be one of the eight defensemen on the final roster (AV has said he likes to keep 8 D). Honestly, I think he’s #7 at this point so I would be shocked if he was sent down.

Playing his first preseason game, J.T. Miller was definitely playing with a purpose…and that purpose was to make up the ground he lost and keep his name on the list of guys heading to Phoenix next week. He definitely didn’t hurt his cause, scoring a beautiful goal and making sure he was noticed whenever the Rangers were in the offensive zone. Also made a great pass in the defensive zone during the second period to spring Staal for a great scoring chance. If he keeps it up, he may have an in on others fighting for a spot due to fact he’s played actual regular season games.

The Average

I can’t blame Marty Biron for most of the goals he let in – first three were deflections and the fourth bounced off his arm. (I got nothing on the fifth, that was a bad one.) He made some great saves but five goals against, no matter what the reason, isn’t a good number.

Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh played minutes as if the game was in January. For the most part they were solid. Plus they teamed up for a nice power play goal when the game was basically over. But both had moments that make me think rookies were out on the ice at that moment. My reaction when they turned around and I saw #5 or #27 wasn’t a good one.

I am placing Micheal Haley on this list because of the great penalty killing shift he had in the first period. Thing is that was the only time I noticed him. Not sure if that is good or bad for Haley.

The Not Good

I don’t want to rag on him as I don’t think he had a real shot of making the team out of camp, but the only time I noticed Tommy Hughes was when he was making a mistake. That’s fine – Hartford needs defensemen and he will do fine down there.

Right now, Derrick Brassard may be our number one center. During his first preseason game, he looked great. Tonight, not so much. (His linemates of Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot weren’t much better.) I’m not going to guess why (injured? sick?) but he looked off tonight. I’m not worried though as I’m sure he will bounce back.

The Ugly

Last night when Chris Kreider was taken off the first line, I said he might not have been the problem. AV gave him another chance by placing him with different players tonight to see if chemistry was the issue. It wasn’t as other than a few shifts late in the third, I felt he looked worse tonight that he did last night. I’m sure most of the fan base is calling him a bust and giving up on him. Call me naive (or delusional) but I’m not ready to do that. I am, however, ready to send him back to Hartford to start the season. He just doesn’t look ready. That doesn’t mean he won’t be. He just isn’t now.

 

As for everyone else, I didn’t really notice them which could be a good or bad thing. The good side is the kids vying for forward spots, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg and Marek Hrivik, didn’t make obvious mistakes. But they didn’t stand out either. The vets trying to keep their spots, Arron Asham and Derek Dorsett, were in the same boat. It will be interesting to see how AV analyzes this game. We may know once we see the roster for Thursday night (or if there are cuts before that).

Speaking of Thursday, next up the Rangers head to Vancouver for their second to last preseason game. That game won’t mean anything for either team other than continual evaluation of respective rosters. No connection between the organizations or anything.

 

(Photo above: Melissa Andus)