Maybe it’s the heat


In my long distinguished career on the Rangers beat — now at three weeks and counting — today might go down as the oddest. I knew something was awry when Cindy Adams, the longtime New York Post gossip columnist, meandered into the MSG Training Center, and sat down to watch practice. Just a hunch here, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t there to see if the Rangers are employing a new breakout.

Anyway, among the other twists:

— Yes, loyal readers, get used to Jagr, Shanahan, and Nylander as your opening night first line. The trio practiced again today, and Tom Renney said they’re almost certain to stay that way against the Capitals. A brilliant strategic move? A grievous error? I suppose we’ll see.

When I asked Renney if there is a risk in breaking up the highly successful unit of Jagr, Martin Straka, and Nylander from a season ago, the coach said perhaps, but a team gets nowhere by always playing it safe. Then again, he also allowed that line could be back together if all else fails.

— Still no official word on Jagr assuming the captaincy, although the coach did say that someone will be wearing the “C” tomorrow night. Now, we’re all assuming that Jagr will be that guy, but both the player and the coach were coy when asked about it, even allowing that tomorrow could bring a surprise. As one of my fellow writers said, this might just be “Rangers theatrics,” but it at least left the door slightly open.

— So much for the Rangers keeping Stephen Valiquette as their third goalie to start the year. The goalie was put on waivers, and after clearing, was sent to Hartford this morning. Who takes his place as the team’s 23rd man? How about…. no one? The team has decided to carry 22 players to start the year, mostly because anyone they would bring up wouldn’t play anyway.

— In a related story, the 23rd guy is actually maligned defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, who will begin the season on injured reserve, but who practiced with the team today (alongside Thomas Pock — not exactly a vote of confidence for Pock). As Renney said, Ozolinsh could be activated once he’s back into playing shape, which could be sooner rather than later.

I know, I know, a lot to discuss. I’m just glad Cindy Adams was there to chronicle it all.

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  1. Anthony (Abev) on

    I dunno about the first line JSN. Kinda would like to spread out the scoring. But maybe this ends up spreading out the other teams defense.

    Cindy is there for Henrik or Kaspar?

    Valiquette being sent down blows a hole in my Weekes theory. I dont know whats up now.

  2. Considering Renney has changed line combos mid game last year, I’m sure he won’t hesitate to do it again if need be.
    I, myself was hoping to see Cullen & Shanny together and get the East West game going..

  3. I would be curious to know what Renney’s thought process is around putting Shanahan on the Jagr line. Was he worried that Jagr wouldn’t be able to produce as much as last year?

    On the face of it, it seems putting Shanahan on the same line as Jagr, weakens your overall potential for offense by concentrating it on one line and allowing the opposition more opportunity to shut it down. It also seems to go against his statement early about looking to spread the offense (particularly with respect to thoughts about moving Prucha down to the 3rd line).

    I’m also curious about his allusion to this being a daring move…I would class this as being conservative (albeit outside the mainstream thoughts)…putting Dawes or another less proven player with Shanahan or Jagr would be more of a risk/reward type move IMO.

  4. Anyone think it is possible that Shanahan will wear the ‘C’? Jagr seems reluctant to assume the role of Captain.

  5. Let me jump in here while I’m busy transcribing my notes from today. One way that Renney has rationalized this move is that it may, as you suggested Toby, take some pressure off Jagr. If you put both of those players on the same line, the opposing team might be that much more frazzled in the defensive zone and now can’t focus all its energy on No. 68.

    Go a step further and my guess is it could potentially open up more opportunities for the other three lines. For instance, if teams now feel compelled to match lines, they now risk putting a weaker unit against the Rangers’ second or third lines.

    I know, it’s a big leap, and I’m not completely sold on it, either. But here’s the other thing to consider: it’s a long freakin’ season. Anything that doesn’t work now is not going to completely kill them down the road.

  6. Renney are playing Shanahan with Jagr to free up Straka for the 2nd line, so that Cullen can play on the 3rd line.

    A 3rd line with Dawes-Cullen-Ward would be really good, they have potential to be among the best 3rd lines in the leauge. Its allot better then Dawes-Immonen-Ward, or Dawes-Betts-Ward.

    Teams like Buffalo and Carolina proved last season how valuble it can be to have 3 lines that can carry the play.

    The big question IMO aren’t how the 1st line will do, or how the 3rd line will do. I am more worried about Straka centering the 2nd line. I’ve seen Martin play allot of center in International tournaments, and he have done that well, but the game in the NHL is diffrent, there is less room for him here to shine with his skating at center ice, and his (lack of) size becomes more of a factor in the NHL then in a WCH.

    Though I kind of like the outlook of a Prucha-Straka-Hall line, and I hope they will do well in the NHL, because this team have so much more potential with Cullen on the 3rd line behind a working 1st line, and a working 2nd line.

  7. Renney continues to out-think himself.

    C’mon Tom, stick to what works, Straka is as good a center as Dale Purrinton.

  8. Thanks Sam, I thought that might be part of the reasoning, although it still seems a little contrived given that Jagr had 54 goals last year with Nylander and Straka/Rucinsky on the line for the most part.

    I also understand the “it’s a long season” response, but I think you’re always going to draw a lot of questions when you decide on something that seems unconventional. Time will tell who is right, but given your (and others) reports on the experiment so far, it does seem as if the Rangers are trying to force it to work, rather than observing what works and going with that.

    I should have asked this before, but I was interested to hear what Jagr and Shanahan think of the experiment too.

  9. Good question. I suppose Shanahan’s response has been positive since it’s obviously a great situation for him — provided the line doesn’t flounder. Jagr, meanwhile, has been more measured. He said it’s up to the coaches, and they know what they’re doing, etc.. But it also sounded like he didn’t see why there was a need to fix what wasn’t broken.

  10. Appreciate the insight again Sam. Your blog posts (and articles for the Journal News) have certainly been a great addition to those of us who follow the Rangers closely, especially in this age of reduced coverage.

  11. Jagr and Shanahan will be playing together in the team’s top power play unit, so maybe this experiment has a little to do with building some chemistry between the two as quickly as possible.

  12. Hey Sam- So why was Cindy Adams in Westchester covering the Rangers? Doesn’t she have more significant stories that she has to cover?

  13. The more worrisome news is that they are leaving a spot open for that joke of a defensive pylon, Bozo-lynch.

    He better get traded soon or let the boos (and booze?) began to flow.

  14. Renney at it again. Putting Shanahan with JJ is a mistake, they as much admitted it in their recent quotes.

    Immonen is a better 2-way center than Straka, and the Immonen/Straka/Hall line looked good in preseason. But, no we have to keep Hossa the Lesser around so Immonen goes down.

    Renney will make the same mistake as last season – concentrate his scoring on one line and play them 25+ minutes a game until they have nothing left down the stretch.

  15. Patience! You’ve seen two meaningless pre-season games with these lines, for which the first line had maybe one or two opportunities to practice together, max. Maybe it’s worth waiting to see how Renney’s plan works before crucifying him? His argument is that it allows him to use Cullen on the third line, which makes the third line more dangerous scoring-wise, and balances the scoring out beyond just the first and second lines. While I personally don’t agree with having Shanny and Jagr on the same line, I see his point and am willing to wait and see how it works before condemning last year’s runner-up for the Jack Adam’s trophy as a know-nothing.

    As for Ozolinsh… who exactly do you think we’ll find to give us something for him and take on his $2.75 salary? Besides, just because a spot is being left on the roster for him now doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll ever play another game in a Rangers sweater. If the rumors that he’ll be waived and sent to Hartford as a salary dump are true, he’ll need to be re-activated and put on the big club’s roster first before he can be re-assigned. Of course, it could be that they plan on playing him. Like him or not, he does offer the offense we desperately need from the blueline and he really isn’t as bad defensively as his last half dozen games last season suggest (seriously.) So maybe he will get another shot. If he does, the most pathetic part will be the assholes in the stands booing a guy on their own team — as they did with Poti and Weekes last year…

  16. get a clue. Bozo was benched in the 3rd period of games in the late 90’s by the Colorado Avs when they had a lead because he was so piss-poor defensively. and that was almost a DECADE AGO!

    He sucks defensively, and even Renney had to admit that by benching his ass in the last game.

    the Bozo fan club can come out of the phone booth, put down the Koolaid, and get real.

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