Rangers Begin To Return As September Nears

With a little over two weeks until training camp officially begins, we should start seeing news related to the team very soon. It seems this year the guys decided to spend a little extra time at home before moving back to the NYC-area. I can’t really blame them since they’ve played until or into June the past four seasons. Hopefully the fifth has them “stuck” in New York until the end of June, due to some added appearances needed after the season with a special new friend. (Yes, I want a Stanley Cup parade already. Make it happen, Rangers.)

Anyway, not everyone remained home till the calendar changed as a couple of guys returned to town the past few days.

The first official Ranger we had in town (as I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others in town before him and we just hadn’t heard about them yet) was none other than the King himself, Henrik Lundqvist:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsNo surprise at all he’s back early as he loves New York almost as much as he loves Sweden. He also had his foundations’ fourth Youth Pro Camp this past weekend and he always makes sure to be around for those. Because of course he does.

Next, it was returning Ranger Raphael Diaz saying that he would be coming back soon:  

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I laughed when he held up a playoff towel after signing. Now he’s wearing a shirt from those playoffs? Guess someone didn’t want to leave and is glad to be back. I know I still have all my playoffs shirts and towels but I didn’t expect the players to keep them…especially those who went to another team only a couple of months after becoming a Ranger. Maybe he’ll be our good luck charm to bring us back to the Final?

And finally, newest Ranger and instagram extraordinaire Emerson Etem let fans know he was headed back just yesterday:

off to NY ✈️ #LGR #selfiesunday

A photo posted by Emerson Etem (@etemerson) on Aug 30, 2015 at 10:23am PDT

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Honestly, if you haven’t checked out Etem’s instagram account, definitely do so. He posts a ton of pictures and has a beautiful new puppy (seen in picture above) who apparently goes wherever he goes. I also want to be able to travel as much as he has this summer – it seems like he is in a new state with every picture he posts!

I wish I could say there is more news but it really has been a quiet month for the team. That said, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I would rather quiet over the mess some teams are being forced to deal with. But come September, that all will change. Season predictions (probably once again saying the Rangers took a step back which I completely disagree with), players saying how excited they are for the season to begin, training camps and before we know it actual hockey games. Speaking of actual games, the boys will take the ice at MSG in just 22 days!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Zuccarello, McDonagh Ready As Training Camp Nears

If you haven’t noticed, other than the random Jarret Stoll signing, it has been really quiet during the month of August. But with less than a month until training camp opens I expect there to start to be news trickling out, especially with guys starting informal skates back in New York.

While other teams have mentioned guys being in town, there really hasn’t been news on any Rangers returning. But social media tells me some might be around. First, Derick Brassard posted this earlier in the week:

Can’t wait to get back at it !!!!!

A photo posted by Derick Brassard (@brassardderick) on Aug 19, 2015 at 6:45pm PDT

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Unless that is an old picture and he is saying he is headed back soon, I’d say he’s been skating in Westchester. Which is a good sign considering he had wrist surgery earlier in the summer so I’m guessing he’s 100% from that. If he is skating in New York, he’s not alone as Chris Kreider posted about being at the Yankees game Thursday night. Curious who he was rooting for.

One guy we know isn’t here yet is Ryan McDonagh, as he recently told Dan Rosen of NHL.com that he planned to come back to New York on September 1st. Nothing unusual about that as the Minnesota boys are usually the last ones since they have plenty of places and people to skate with back home. (Here’s to hoping Derek Stepan actually attends training camp this year.)

He also discussed his recovery of his broken foot and said he pretty much feels like he is 100%. I’ll take “pretty much” in mid-August because by October that should actually be 100%. Per McDonagh,

“I’m back skating on the ice, doing leg strength stuff in the weight room, running and jumping. I’m really trying to put it all behind me now and gear up here for the start of training camp.

We’ve got a big Octagon agency skating camp going on right now with 60-something guys skating every day, and there is really no soreness anymore after skating. It’s been exciting. I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.”

I hate to see it took this long for him to feel like himself but glad to hear he is. My only request besides that he stays healthy is that he doesn’t prevent his teammates from being healthy either. (Yes, I understand both were accidents. They were just very serious accidents and I’d like to not make it a hat trick.)

Speaking of teammates McDonagh has hurt, according to Alain Vigneault, Mats Zuccarello is 100% and has been cleared to skate with contact.

“I’ve heard he’s 100 percent from our medical staff,” Vigneault said. “He’s been cleared to skate and have contact. He’s made a full recovery so we’re very pleased about that. He’s a big part of our team.”

A big part of the team? I think that’s an understatement at this point. While I’m thrilled he’s back and ready to go, I still can’t get over how serious his injury was (he needed a speech therapist to help him speak again). This is why I get so annoyed when players and teams mess with brain injuries. If Zuccarello was a family member of mine, I’m not sure I would want him back on the ice after that injury. Honestly, I feel the same way as a fan. But I also know once they are cleared, whether they should be or not, there is nothing that will stop them from going back out there so I just hope he isn’t hurting himself too much in the long term.

And with that, we know two major injuries from last years’ playoffs will be ready to go at the start of training camp. Now we just have to hope Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are 100% and that there are no other lingering issues we don’t know about at the moment. We should hear about those guys and the rest of the team soon as I imagine “official” unofficial skates start this week. (Official in the sense we will hear about the fact they are in town.)

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On a separate note, for those who may have missed it, Marty St. Louis wrote an article for the Players’ Tribune. (For those who aren’t familiar with the site, become familiar with it.) In it he wrote about his mom, his time in the league and how he knew it was time to retire. He acknowledged understanding those in Tampa were upset with him but that it was his time to move on and how fitting it was his last game was against the Lightning. But the part that got me the most was when he discussed game six versus the Penguins last year:

Three minutes into the game, I scored. It was a play that I would typically call a lucky bounce, but with that goal, it was something higher than luck. My teammates surrounded me and we were in a pile celebrating. I was kind of in shock, but they were all so happy for me. All I could think about was that I wanted to keep that puck. I knew I wanted to have something to remember that moment.

As soon as my teammates started skating back to the bench — and I have no idea how — the puck came to my skate and rested right there on the ice in front of me. In that moment, I knew my mom was there. She had helped me score that goal. I felt her with me, smiling down. I’ll never forget that. That puck will forever rest next to my mother’s ashes in a mausoleum in Laval.

I don’t think there was a single person in Madison Square Garden or watching from home who didn’t think there was something more in play when that puck hit the back of the net. But I never knew the part about the puck landing by his feet as he went back to the bench. That just confirmed it for me.

Honestly, no matter how you feel about St. Louis, you will tear up when reading the post (as I don’t know one person who hasn’t yet). That said, take five minutes and read it as it is absolutely worth your time.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Sign Jarret Stoll

Just when you think there won’t be any news for the next month, this happens:

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Well that came out of nowhere. Especially since even the regular beat writers kept telling fans the current roster is what we should expect the team to go to camp with. I guess they wanted to add one more possibility.

But Jarret Stoll?

Alright then. So what do we know about Stoll?

He’s a 33-year old center who most recently played for the Los Angeles Kings. (He’s also dating Erin Andrews and recently ran into some trouble earlier this summer but we’ll leave the off ice stuff out of this for the time being.) At 33, he is a veteran option for third line center. The Rangers tried that last summer as a backup in case Kevin Hayes wasn’t ready. It didn’t work and the rookie got the spot. This year it’s in case Oscar Lindberg isn’t ready to make the jump. I have a guess on how this will end but a little competition never hurt. Especially at $800k for one year.

From the Rangers release:

Stoll, 33, has skated in 792 career NHL games over parts of 12 seasons with Edmonton and Los Angeles, registering 140 goals and 239 assists for 379 points, along with a plus-three rating and 582 penalty minutes. Stoll has won 55.4% of faceoffs he has taken in his career (6,834-for-12,339), and he has posted a faceoff win percentage of 51.0% or higher in every season of his career. In addition, he is one of three NHL players (among qualifying skaters) who have posted a 51.0% faceoff win percentage or higher in every season since 2003-04, along with Joe Thornton and Pavel Datsyuk. Stoll led his team in faceoff win percentage in nine consecutive seasons (2005-06 – 2013-14) and has ranked either first or second on his team in faceoff win percentage in 10 seasons during his career. He has also reached the 40-point plateau in four different seasons and has notched at least 20 assists in six different seasons.

Well he’s automatically the best faceoff player on the team, assuming he makes the team. Which is a big if.

I hate to say it because I’ll admit I’m not a Kings fan but as a player, this isn’t a bad signing. Stoll also has something to prove so the Rangers are hoping he is able to do that for them this season. If not, this will be looked at the same way the Ryan Malone signing is now looked at – most people forget he was technically a Ranger at the start of last season.