Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part I

This year really is different. The past four years I have done this, it has been mid to late June and I have been in denial that I am doing it after another lost season. This year? Early May and I’ve been sitting watching hockey every night since the Rangers were eliminated. I really can’t explain it.

Anyway, for those who aren’t familiar with how I do my year end reviews, I write a small paragraph on each player and then say if I would “keep or dump” them. Last year I got every player correct except one…and I still defend my decision to “keep” Talbot even though I knew it wasn’t realistic. This year I’m going to do things slightly differently as I have no idea who should stay or go nor who I would keep or move if I were running the team. So instead I am going to give the odds that each player is back. Yes it is completely a cop out on picking what changes should be made to the team this year. At least I admit it.

First up, as usual, goaltenders and defense!

Lundqvist-benchHenrik Lundqvist (G, 35-21-7-4, 2.48 GAA, .920 SV%) – There’s no way to sugar coat it – that goals against average is ugly. But it’s fitting considering the mess the Rangers were this year. I’m not going to sit here and discuss Lundqvists’ season. We all know it wasn’t his best. Am I giving up on him? Absolutely not. But here’s the thing, what are the Rangers plans this summer? If they are blowing up the team like some expect does Lundqvist want out? I’ve always said the only reason he will ever leave is if he asks to be moved. Is this the year that happens? I’m skeptical but it’s a lot more of a possibility than it ever has been in the past … 95% to return

Antti Raanta (G, 11-6-2-1, 2.24 GAA, .919 SV%) – I admit this one might have been different if written two weeks ago but not by much. I have been a fan of Raanta since he broke into the NHL with the Blackhawks and he was exactly what I expected to get when the Rangers traded for him last June. While he will need to play more next season, he is still the perfect veteran backup. Yes he had a little hitch in February that made many worry the Rangers would need to find a goaltender at the trade deadline, but he bounced back and will only get better the more he works with Benoit Allaire. And now that he’s signed a new contract, it’s pretty safe to say he’s staying … 99% to return (This should probably be 100% but crazier things have happened)

Last year I ended this post by saying “There will come a time the back end will be the difficult part to figure out on this team but it won’t be any time soon.” Apparently it was sooner than I expected…

Ryan McDonagh (D, 73 games played, 9-25-34, +26) – Remember when everyone thought McDonagh would be a perennial Norris trophy candidate? I’m not saying he had a bad year but his name and the word “Norris” were never in the same sentence this season. (And saying he was the Rangers best defenseman this year wasn’t exactly a compliment.) I happened to watch McDonagh closely this year since many believed his defense partners had been dragging him down in the past. What did I notice? A player who once again was trying to do too much and who in many cases was the one out of position because of it. McDonagh is a phenomenal defenseman but I’m still not convinced he can carry the weight of the C. The guy before him who he’s been compared to couldn’t. That said, he isn’t losing it anytime soon. As for his spot on the team, I don’t expect him gone until March 2019 so we’ll put him at … 95% to return

Dan Girardi (D, 74 games played, 2-15-17, +18) – Oh Dan. This one hurts. Sigh, here it goes. I look at that number of games played and think it’s a mistake. I think about all the missed coverage and hot potato passes and wonder where my favorite defenseman went. While I try to keep personal feelings out of my writing, it’s no secret I’m a fan of Girardi’s. I just don’t know who was wearing his jersey this year. I refuse to believe he went from a guy who many believed deserved the extension he got to the one who looked like he fell off a cliff this year. That change doesn’t happen overnight. But he clearly took a step back and mix that with injury issues from the start (I will fight to the death that he was behind from day one) and you have the season we witnessed. No one is more angry about it than Girardi himself. Maybe I’m delusional (or extremely hopeful) but I think he can bounce back from it. Will he be the player who earned a write in vote for the All Star game a few years ago? No way. But he isn’t this bad and I think the Rangers know that which is why I think they give him another chance. Again, maybe it’s my heart over my head speaking but I expect him in Rangers blue in October … 85% to return

Staal-Klein-Ramsey-toastMarc Staal (D, 77 games played, 2-13-15, +2) – Sigh again. I don’t know where to start with this one. The good news was Staal had a relatively healthy year in comparison to earlier in his career. The bad news? Basically everything else. After the season ended, I saw someone mention that Staal was brought down by Boyle most of the year. I never really thought about it that way but it is true that pairing never really worked. But while I would love to blame it on that, that’s not really being honest about the year Staal had. I don’t know what it was but all year something just seemed off. So what do the Rangers do? I do think his contract is slightly more movable but not because he is the better of the two longest tenured defensemen. More because if the Rangers could get Carolina or wherever Eric signs to want two Staals instead of one, I think Marc would be willing to go. But it won’t be easy which is why I still think it’s unlikely … 75% to return

Kevin Klein (D, 69 games played, 9-17-26, +16) – Last year I predicted that Klein would be traded at this past trade deadline. It’s not that I wanted him gone, I just didn’t expect him to stay. With how much the rest of the defense struggled, Klein quietly stayed behind the scenes. I really don’t know what to say about him. He isn’t the top pairing defenseman many fans want him to be but he’s a solid 4/5 on any team. Will he be here in September? His low cap hit would be a reason to keep him. It would also make him easy trade bait. This one really could go either way … 50% to return

Keith Yandle (D, 82 games played, 5-42-47, -4) – Let me start by saying plus/minus is a useless stat they should probably get rid of. That said, we can all agree Girardi and Staal were horrible this year and yet both ended up with a plus next to their name at the end of the season while Yandle was somehow a minus-4. I honestly have no idea how that is even possible. I continually say Yandle is lost in the defensive zone but that takes talent. Anyway, so Yandle. It’s no secret I’m not he’s biggest fan but he played much better this year than I expected him to. Do I expect him back? This one is complicated. Personally, I don’t and haven’t since the day he signed. (I’m on record saying I expect him to go to Arizona or Boston.) But a recent premonition is tilting me the other way. I can’t explain it but let’s just say I have started to accept the fact I may not have seen Yandle play his last game as a Ranger. How will it be done? Not sure. But I think the Rangers are trying to do it … 65% to return (it’s a lot higher than I would’ve put it at the start of the month)

Dan Boyle (D, 74 games played, 10-14-24, even) – Every signing is a gamble. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, you hope the contract is only a year or two. In this case it was. I have nothing against Boyle. He tried. It just didn’t work. It’s a shame he was a healthy scratch in what was probably his last NHL game but it was fitting considering how his time with the Rangers went. I wish him well in the future and really do wish this had worked better … 0% to return

McIlrath-YandleDylan McIlrath (D, 34 games played, 2-2-4, +7) – I said it all year but will say it again – when the six other defensemen on this list played to their capabilities, McIlrath was clearly number seven. Yes, most of them didn’t this year. But Vigneault kept hoping they would. I had no problem with the year McIlrath had. Would it have been nice to get him a few more games? Absolutely. Did I expect it at the start of the season? Not at all. This year was a stepping stone for him, a chance to learn before getting thrown into the fire. Next season he will be a regular. Will that be with the Rangers? I’m hoping so and honestly would be surprised if he wasn’t but nothing is guaranteed right now. I’m still thinking he’s back … 85% to return


I know everyone is saying the changes need to start on defense but you need replacements for these guys and it’s not as easy as if we were playing a video game. The six definitely will look different. (For one, Brady Skjei will be included.) We’ll just have to wait and see how different. Next up, I attempt to guess which forwards will be returning.


(All photos: Melissa Andus)


Change Is Coming As Rangers Breakup For Summer

Yesterday, the 2015-16 Rangers met up for the final time as they packed up their things and headed to their longest summer break in five years. While recently break up day quotes have been nothing more than players saying they will be better next year, this years’ final day had a different vibe. This year, things were a lot more questionable than definite.

Let’s start with the biggest news. Unless you had absolutely no internet access yesterday, you heard about the blow up from Dan Boyle directed at New York Post writers Larry Brooks and Brett Cyrgalis. While Cyrgalis wasn’t in attendance, Brooks was and things got a little heated. Of course there was video which you can see here. For those who don’t want to watch, the transcript can be found here.

I’m not going to rehash the entire thing as everyone has seen and heard it. Was Boyle out of line? Maybe that situation wasn’t the best place to completely lose his cool. But I’ve always been taught to treat others with the same respect you would want to be treated with. There is no question Boyle has received very little respect from many in the NY media so if he felt like returning the favor on his last day speaking to them, fine by me. Especially when one of the writers in question felt the need to respond and then apologize after he was called out by fans everywhere for his original response.

Somewhere, John Tortorella read about what happened and smiled.


Moving on, the next player to speak was Dan Girardi who confirmed what anyone who had any common sense had already figured out – he missed three games during the playoffs due to injury. What was that injury? A concussion stemming from the hit he received from Brian Boyle.

To me, it was clear as day that was the injury and I was actually shocked to see him back for game 1. After seeing how that game went, it was no surprise when Girardi admitted he didn’t feel right as the game went on and that the symptoms returned after the game. I’m still not sure how he was able to come back for game 5 but he did say he felt fine during and after the game so hopefully the concussion issues are behind him. But you never know with head injuries. (I’ll save that rant for another time.)

Girardi also confirmed what many had suspected – that the crack in his knee never fully healed.

“If I could go back, I’d probably try and take more time off, but a lot of you guys know I’m not that guy who’s just not going to play. Missing whatever I did — six games — was already a lot for me.”

I plan to hold him to that quote next year when he inevitably tries to play through another injury received early in the season. Speaking of next year, Girardi told reporters he was confident this year was a one-time thing and that he can and will be much better next season. When asked if he thought that would be with the Rangers, his response was “Well, I think so.”

And that seemed to be the trend in the quotes I saw coming out of the room. Everyone saying “I think so”. Reading between the lines, you could tell the players aren’t sure what to think but are aware changes are coming.

For instance, when Henrik Lundqvist was asked if the team could contend again next year, he replied “I think so”. Lundqvist has been the most vocal saying while he knows change is coming, the organization shouldn’t “overreact”.


If there is anyone who will take the way the season ended the hardest, it is Lundqvist. And if there is as much change as everyone is assuming, he might be the only one untouchable (assuming he doesn’t ask for a trade himself).

Returning to injuries for a moment, Lundqvist said that there was no lingering issues from his eye injury, although he almost wished there was so he could blame his performance on that. All due respect, I would prefer to accept he played bad then be worried about his eyesight. Rangers fans already have to deal with that with another player.

Captain Ryan McDonagh finally admitted what his “mysterious upper body injury” was – he broke his right pointer finger. I actually thought it was a lot worse than that but I guess that explains why he was able to come back as quickly as he did. He won’t need surgery but the finger does need a few more weeks to completely heal.

Actually, for the first time in years, no one needs surgery unless there will be random injuries coming about in the following weeks.

Also for the first time in years? Rangers players are eligible to play at the World Championships and three will be going – Brady Skjei will be representing the Americans, Derick Brassard is joining Team Canada and Mats Zuccarello is expected to join Norway’s team. (As of this writing, I don’t believe that is official but it sounds like he is going.)

Everyone else is headed home. Will they back next year? Individually they want to think so. But since Vigneault said even the coaching staff isn’t guaranteed to be the same, I think the players know that this year, no one is safe.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers End California Roadtrip With Dud

It’s very rare you see a losing goalie who got pulled in the third period be a star of a game. But then again most goalies in this league aren’t Henrik Lundqvist. One day he will lose it and murder one of his teammates. And there won’t be a single person who will bat an eye before defending him for doing it.

I’m just going to get right to it if for some reason you want to re-live this game.

So what did we learn in the first period? If you put your hand over the puck in the defensive zone, it will be ignored by the referee standing right next to the play but called by the referee further away from the infraction. But if you crosscheck a player in the head or send him face first into the boards, neither referee sees anything. I guess after watching the Rangers power kill on the play that was actually called, I should be glad the referees ignored the other two infractions. Also fortunate that both Dominic Moore and Dan Girardi, respectively, appeared to be okay.

As for the second, we learned the Rangers need to learn how to count.

Just six minutes in, an awful line change led to too many men on the ice against one of the best power plays in the league. It ended as you would expect. The surprising part was it took the Sharks almost the full two minutes to get the goal.

That goal would really wake the Sharks up and the barrage would start, as the home team had 21 shots on net in the middle frame. Since we know the Rangers can’t count, by my math that’s more than a shot per minute. Someone might want to tell them that isn’t good. Of course it won’t be the MSG crew who apparently had their brains fried by the California sun. Not only did Sam and Joe think that number of shots was generously high (it wasn’t) but they also kept repeating how well the Rangers were playing. Henrik Lundqvist was playing phenomenally. The rest of the Rangers? Not even close. I guess the two “numbers” combined equals playing well? Only in Rangertown math.

But somehow with how badly the Rangers were being outplayed, they managed to get out of the period tied when Derick Brassard found a streaking Dan Boyle for the backhand tap in with two and half minutes remaining in the period. It was actually quite the goal:


Of course that was the last happy moment for the team as we learned in the third period the Rangers still know how to give away a game.

Just 19 seconds into the third, Marc Staal put the puck over the glass. Somehow, the Rangers killed that. They must have thought that would guarantee them the win because over the next seven minutes, the Sharks made it 4-1 and Henrik Lundqvist finally got put out of the misery of having to play behind the lackluster effort his team brought today.

I guess we should’ve seen it coming. Not because it was the last game of the road trip or the third game in technically three and a half days. But because it was an afternoon game. The game started at 1pm local time. The Rangers never play well in afternoon games.

Anyway, a road trip that couldn’t have started better turns into one that couldn’t have ended worse. I will never complain about this years’ Rangers taking three out of six points. But they needed more. They needed at least four. Especially with the teams behind them holding games in hand and continuing to win.

The Rangers return home with only ten games remaining before they really count. I want to believe this team will turn it on once the playoffs begin. I’m not giving up but it’s getting harder and harder to think that is realistic.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Lose Cool + Game To Start Road Trip

There are plenty of times throughout a season where at the end of a game you take the tape and throw it out. To me, tonight will be one of those nights. And it isn’t because the Rangers played a horrible game. In fact, the Rangers played two really good periods. It’s because the Rangers lost their cool in the third period which led to them losing the game. That isn’t this Rangers team. So rather than be annoyed or concerned, I’m throwing out the tape.

My first thought after the first thirty seconds was that this was going to be a long night as the Canucks completely dominated the first shift of the game. I’m not sure if the Rangers got better match ups after that first shift but the remainder of the period was all Rangers as the boys did everything (including taking a penalty with two minutes to go) but score. Unfortunately just because they dominated doesn’t mean it was an entertaining period.

Shockingly, it didn’t come back to bite them. The second period wasn’t nearly as well played by the visitors but the outcome was the same as neither team found the back of the net through forty minutes. (The Rangers did tip one in long after the buzzer which obviously didn’t count.)

Since you came here for a recap, I’ll try and talk a little more about the second period. The Rangers had three power kills in the middle frame. The first, Keith Yandle literally handed away halfway through the kill by turning the puck over in the neutral zone which led to J.T. Miller saving a goal and Oscar Lindberg being forced to take a penalty. The Rangers proceeded to have no shots on their second or third opportunities. As I said, power kills.

But the real kills came in the third when the Rangers surprisingly lost their cool. It started a minute and a half into the period when Dominic Moore took a stupid hooking penalty. (Was it a light penalty? Yes, but it was one that is called every time.) With 35 seconds remaining, Jarret Stoll did what he’s done best this season – take a penalty while killing a penalty.

Now there will be a lot said about this penalty but from what I saw, I believe it was the right call. Stoll was called for delay of game. The MSG broadcast believed the referee thought he put his hand over the puck. He didn’t so if that is what they called, then maybe it shouldn’t have been a penalty. But I don’t think that’s what they called. The puck got stuck under Stoll and he basically stopped moving and did whatever he could to keep it under him and get the whistle. As Rule 63.2 states:

A minor penalty shall be imposed on any player, including the goalkeeper, who holds, freezes or plays the puck with his stick, skates or body in such a manner as to deliberately cause a stoppage of play.

Is it called all the time? Well, I don’t remember the last time I saw a player do it that blatantly but no, it isn’t. Was he delaying the game in the way that rule states? Yes and the referees called him on it. Even if the call is never made, it’s hard to argue when it’s the right call.

It took the Canucks 20 seconds to get the first goal of the game. Vigenault’s response? To clap his hands and congratulate the referees on giving the home team the goal. As with Cameron the other night, Vigneault was handed a bench minor for his reaction. I’m going to be honest, he deserved it. Whether I agreed with the call or not, he had to know any reaction like that would get another penalty.

So the Rangers remained on a 5-on-3 with now a minute and a half to kill. Forty seconds into it, Ryan McDonagh was called for hi-sticking Burrows. It was more of a crosscheck to the head than a high stick but fortunately he only got two minutes. His penalty couldn’t even start at that point since there was still a minute remaining in Stoll’s penalty. As I said, I don’t remember the last time I saw the Rangers completely lose their cool like that.

Burrows would help the Rangers out by taking an interference penalty a minute later and somehow the only damage would be the one goal, which looked like it would be the game winner. (It just had that feel to it.)

But because the period hadn’t been crazy enough, four minutes later the Rangers were given a penalty shot when the referee determined that Tanev put his hand over the puck in the crease. MSG broadcast didn’t have any views that showed that happening. Neither did the Canucks broadcast (shown in video below). I’m just glad these referees weren’t on the ice in game four of the Final two years ago.

The Rangers were allowed to pick anyone on the ice to take the shot and they went with Dan Boyle who did this:


I didn’t even know what to think at that point. But that feeling didn’t last long as only thirty seconds later, Daniel Sedin regained the lead for the Canucks.

The Rangers would be given another power kill three minutes later when Burrows knocked the net off the mooring but at that point, the boys were scrambling and we all know that never goes well.

It’s disappointing because they did play two good road periods to start the game. I don’t know what happened in the third period but they need to let this one go. That wasn’t the team or coach I’ve watched for the past few years. Hopefully they can all take a few deep breaths or whatever they need to do and just move on. Because the Oilers and Flames aren’t going to be easy games.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Bend, Don’t Break In Eighth Straight Win

They say that playoff series breed contempt. I was finally starting to get over my hatred of the Senators from the first round of 2012 playoffs. I guess they didn’t want that as they reverted back to that team today.

Every year, the Rangers have one “kid” who appears to be on a very short leash. One mistake and they are usually out of the lineup. This year that role appears to belong to Emerson Etem, which is why it was no surprise when he was taken out of the lineup so that Dominic Moore could go back in. I still believe that Etem will have that role more in the long run but we’ll see what happens. Today, Moore got another chance. His only saving grace for tomorrow might be the fact his linemates weren’t much better than him.

Things started well for the Rangers. Just 1:53 into the game, they drew a penalty. Forty seconds later, Chris Kreider tipped in a Kevin Hayes shot to give the visitors the lead.

I’m not sure if the Rangers thought it would be easy after that or remembered it was an afternoon game (something they never play well in) but the remainder of the first period wasn’t pretty. For some reason, the Rangers couldn’t complete a pass and just generally looked sloppy. (To be fair, I’m not sure the Senators looked much better.) Luckily, it only burned them once.

Three minutes after the Rangers goal, Jesper Fast had a bad shift which started with a turnover at the blue line and ended with him taking a penalty in front of the net. Halfway through that kill, the Rangers broke out and decided it was a good idea to send three men deep. So when a pass from Derek Stepan went behind Ryan McDonagh, who then blew a tire trying to get it, it was basically a foregone conclusion the game would be tied. There’s only so much Henrik Lundqvist and Dan Girardi could do on a 4-on-1. I fully understand the Rangers game plan is to push offense on the penalty kill. But when you are playing against a team who can skate, why are you sending three guys deep? Maybe it’s me, but that doesn’t sound like a good game plan. I guess the Rangers agreed since they didn’t do it again the rest of the game.

The remainder of the period was a mess as both teams trade chances and missed wide open opportunities. Basically it looked like the first period of an afternoon game.

I had every intention of saying the second period happened and not writing anything else. Then with four minutes to go, the Senators became the Senators I remember from the 2012 playoffs. Zack Smith decided to bring his elbow into the jaw of Derek Stepan near the Rangers bench. The referees missed that (which happened every time they threw one of those hits during that playoff series). Chris Kreider did not miss the hit and immediately challenged Smith. The result? Kreider with 17 minutes in penalties (fighting + instigator) and Stepan to the locker room for concussion protocol. Oh and the Senators lost Smith for seven minutes since they called a 2-minute interference penalty on the hit. Fourth line player vs. two second line players? I’d say the Sens won that one. At least Stepan passed so was back for the third period.

The third period was what I expected to be writing about the second period – it happened. No penalties, no goals and to overtime we went.

Overtime was…I still hate 3-on-3. Today both teams had chances but after the first two runs back and forth, neither team really had anything left. Guys were gassed, barely skating and appeared to be almost praying a puck would enter the net so it could end. But yes, this is what’s best for the league. Erik Karlsson has previously said he’s not a fan of the format. (Can I add that I love the fact one of the faces of the league is asking for games to end in ties?) Tonight, Henrik Lundqvist joined that sentiment saying “it’s weird hockey”. Lundqvist will never directly say something against the league but his comments about today’s overtime implied he isn’t pleased with current setup.

To me, it’s not hockey. Okay, it’s more hockey than the shootout is but it’s just as much of a gimmick in my opinion. And to anyone who says it’s exciting, I have a different word with an “e” to use – excruciating. It is not easy to watch extremely competent players look like they belong in the minor leagues.

Anyway, overtime didn’t solve anything and we headed to a shootout. Bobby Ryan scored on the first shot and Rick Nash missed the second. I figured it didn’t look good at that point. Instead, Mats Zuccarello and Dan Boyle (yes, Dan Boyle) scored on the Rangers next two chances and Lundqvist stopped the two Senators shots giving the Rangers their eighth straight victory. If last years’ team was the “find a way Rangers” then this years’ team “just wins”. They don’t care what you throw at them, they will still have two points at the end of the night. I’m still waiting for the crash. Hopefully it doesn’t come until next September.


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Roster Predictions For 2015-16 Rangers

It’s the dog days of summer meaning that finding hockey news is as easy as finding an arena with ice in July. So what do fans and writers do during this time? Speculate and start rumors. It makes me long for the heart-stopping days of the playoffs.

I’m going to be honest – I don’t claim to know everything. If I did, I would work for the team or at least somewhere within the league or actually covering the team. But by following the team AS A FAN, I’ve figured a few things out.

For instance, I usually assume a forward coming off his entry level contract with no arbitration rights, won’t be signed until September. Apparently that’s changed now, or at least for this summer. As for a player with arbitration rights? He’ll be signed the morning of his hearing. (They couldn’t have changed this one too?)

With stuff like that in mind, a few things I expect for the start of the season. Again, I have no connections. I have no way of knowing what will happen. These are just my guesses from what I’ve seen and heard (which admittedly is what the team wants fans to see and hear).

* Barring some unforeseen circumstances (i.e. a major injury on defense in training camp), Brady Skjei will start in Hartford. I get all the anticipation for him and from the sounds of it, he will be a big part of the team sooner rather than later. But with all six defenseman returning from last year plus the addition of Raphael Diaz, there is no need to rush him. And if they need anyone else? Chris Summers is still around and there’s always Dylan McIlrath. Do I think Skjei will spend the entire year in Hartford? No, I honestly don’t. But he’ll start there just as the guy everyone has been comparing him to did. And that guy has done just fine.

* Kevin Klein will be on the Rangers opening night roster. Will he be on the roster after the All-Star break? Again barring an injury back there, I say no. Might not make the start of 2016 either but would be surprised if he will be with the team in New Jersey on February 2nd. He will be in Chicago on October 7th though…and not because the Blackhawks traded for him.

* Know who else will be on the opening night roster? Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. I understand one makes a lot of money and the other is about to. But teams in win-now mode don’t trade their leading goal scorer or the player who lead their team in points over the past three combined years. And the Rangers are still in win-now mode. In fact they will continually be in win-now mode until some guy named Henrik Lundqvist retires. And those two players are a big part in helping them get to where they want to be.

* One more roster prediction – both Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle will be on the Rangers roster when the playoffs begin. And yes, the Rangers will be in the playoffs. Ignore the negativity that surrounds the team every year at this time. (Last summer they were going to barely make the playoffs, if they even made them at all, after all the players who left. That’s exactly what the President’s Trophy signifies, barely making the playoffs.)

* In regards to predictions of where the Rangers will land come April, I won’t begin to guess that. I never have in the past and I won’t again. I am perfectly okay with everyone predicting they will either be fighting for a playoff spot or miss entirely. They tend to play better when they are looked as an underdog. That said, I’m not sure how anyone can consider a team who has been in the conference final or further three out of the past four seasons an underdog. Only the Kings and Blackhawks can say that, and no one ever considers them one.

And with that, we go back to relaxing and preparing for another long season as it will be here before we know it. Less than two months until training camp begins!


(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Player Reviews: Keep Or Dump, Part I

While I’m still in denial that there is hockey going on while the Rangers are no longer in New York, it’s time for my favorite posts of the year – where I decide which Rangers I want to keep and which I want to dump!

Full disclosure for those who haven’t seen these in the past – this is my version of a season recap. I have no desire to write 500+ words about every player and most people have less of a desire to read that. So just a quick paragraph with the players regular season stats and my opinion on if they should stay or go.

This year is pretty straightforward as we all pretty much know who is staying and who might be on their way out the door. But I did throw some curveballs in there. Last year I went perfect on goalies and defensemen (not that it was difficult, nor do I regret saying to dump Anton Stralman) and 11 for 13 on the forwards. (No one thought Derek Dorsett was leaving and I guessed wrong on Benoit Pouliot.) I feel pretty confident in my guesses this year so here we go. Up first, goalies and defensemen!

Henrik Staal-LundqvistLundqvist (G, 30-13-3-5, 2.25 GAA, .922 SV%) – The game winning goal he let in during game 7 of the ECF was horrible so the Rangers should look to move him as quickly as possible. Yes, I’m kidding. (Well the goal was horrible but anyone who blames him for the loss…just no.) Hank is Hank. He wants to win in the worst way possible and deserves to win more than any other player in the league. (Yes I’m biased but how many guys can you put above him?) The only reason he will ever leave is if he asks to be moved. That isn’t happening just yet… KEEP

Cam Talbot (G, 21-9-4-5, 2.21 GAA, .926 SV%) – While there are a couple of guys with question marks, Talbot is the most interesting. The Rangers signed him to a one year extension during this season (which turned out to be one of their best moves of the year) and my guess is they absolutely want to keep him. But he would be a great trade chip to get them something else they need. That said, he would need to be replaced. I’m not sure who will be better at or below his cap hit of $1.45 million. There will be some who will say he wants to be a starter. He does. But if he wanted to do that next year, he wouldn’t have re-signed. Do I think he will be on this list a year from now? Not really. But stranger things have happened. That said, if it were up to me… KEEP (I get he’s a good trade chip but Lundqvist needs a reliable backup. He has one in Talbot.)

Ryan McDonagh (D, 71 games played, 8-25-33, +23) – I was on him all year and in the playoffs for his play but can I really say something bad about a guy who played on a broken foot? Honestly, the only reason I feel he had a bad season was because I expect more from him (and he tried to do too much after being given the C). I expected him to be a Norris contender and he wasn’t even close. That said, he’s the captain (something I’m surprisingly okay with even though I was against it a year ago) and easily the teams’ best defenseman so this part is only a formality… KEEP

GirardiDan Girardi (D, 82 games played, 4-16-20, +12) – I learned this year that fans actually like and appreciate the ironman. Glad to know I’m not the only one. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. He’s far from perfect and I fully blame him when he messes up. But maybe it was me, I actually feel like I didn’t yell at him as much this year as I have in the past. Maybe I was too busy yelling at his defense partner. Anyway, he and his ridiculous non-human body isn’t going anywhere so… KEEP

Marc Staal (D, 80 games played, 5-15-20, +18) – Can you believe it was only a few months ago when we were wondering if he would re-sign or not? I never questioned it but the question was there. That extension kicks in next season so we know he isn’t going anywhere either. As for the season, he stayed (relatively) healthy for the second year in a row! (We’ll ignore the injury right before the playoffs.) Who would’ve thought that would be possible? Hopefully this trend keeps up since we’ll be watching him for six more years… KEEP

Now is where the fun comes in…

Dan Boyle (D, 65 games played, 9-11-20, +18) – Oh Dan Boyle. I could write a book on my thoughts on him and his season. I honestly might dedicate an entire post to him but for now I’ll keep this short. He was injured in the first game of the year and never recovered. I know he came back and played but I am telling you, his wrist never recovered. He’s a proud athlete and will never admit that but I know for fact it’s true. Does that excuse his season? No. I remember him saying earlier in the year he had trouble adjusting to Vigneault’s system. I think he looked better in the playoffs so maybe he finally got it and surprises us next year. His cap hit sucks but it’s one more year and has some sort of no-trade attached to it so while everyone wants him gone, I will be shocked if he’s not on the opening night roster… KEEP (only because I know he isn’t going anywhere plus I don’t hate him as much as everyone else does.)

KleinKevin Klein (D, 65 games played, 9-17-26, +24) – I really don’t know what to say or think about Klein. He was having an incredible season before breaking his arm and like Boyle, never recovered. But here’s the thing – anyone who expects what he did this season to happen again next season is kidding themselves. And that’s nothing against Klein. He had a phenomenal season. But in six full seasons before this one, he didn’t come close to having that type of season. Sorry, I find it hard to believe he all of a sudden changed when he turned 30. So what do the Rangers do? Sell high while they can? It’s an option but I’m not sure what is out there to replace him or if the Rangers think they have someone in the organization ready to come up. My guess is he stays but doesn’t make it to this list next year… KEEP (and trade at or before deadline)

Keith Yandle (D, as a Ranger: 21 games played, 2-9-11, +6) – The moment this trade was made, I asked how long it would take Rangers fans to turn on Yandle. I watched him in Phoenix and the guy is great offensively. He actually might make a pretty good forward. He doesn’t know what defense is and the thought of watching him coming out with the puck from behind Lundqvist gave me nightmares before he even put on a jersey. Luckily Lundqvist realized his game quickly and was prepared most times. Love him or hate him, the Rangers didn’t give up as much as they did for half a season. And since the Coyotes are paying half his cap hit, he’s a cheap option for third pair so… KEEP

Matt Hunwick (D, 55 games played, 2-9-11, +17) – Remember when the Rangers signed six random guys last summer (three forwards, three defenseman) and we all asked why? Well they hoped one of them would work out. And one of them did, Hunwick. To me, Hunwick is the perfect seventh defenseman. He can play when needed as I never had a worry when Klein went down late in the season. But does he want to be a seventh defenseman or is there a team that can guarantee him top six? It’s an interesting situation. If I’m the Rangers, he stays. But he may not want to so… KEEP if I’m the Rangers, DUMP if he wants top six role. (Yes it’s a cop-out but I have no idea what he expects for next year.)


There will come a time the back end will be the difficult part to figure out on this team but it won’t be any time soon. Next up is the forwards. I’ll give you a hint – I don’t think the Rangers should trade their 2014-15 leading scorer. As for the rest? You’ll have to read to find out!


(All photos: Melissa Andus)