Embarrassment of riches?


Please note the deep sarcasm above when describing the Rangers group of defensemen. The team is carrying eight right now, and outside of one or two, I’m not sure any of them have distinguished themselves as anything more than occasionally — emphasis on occassionally — competent.

With the team set to play one more game Wednesday before heading out West for a four-game trip, it’s apparent Tom Renney isn’t sure what to do with his defense. After shuffling his combinations for the win against Toronto on Sunday, the coach had new pairings again today in practice.

They were:

Kasparaitis-A. Ward

Whether those stay together for the Florida game remains to be seen. The coach said he still hasn’t reviewed enough tape to make an informed decision about what he’s going to do, and when I asked him if he had a time table, he said no.

What are his options? He could continue to carry eight and shuffle players in and out of the lineup. He could send a relatively young player like Thomas Pock back to Hartford. Or the team could do something drastic with one of its floundering veterans, and perhaps open up some cap space.

For those of you keeping score at home, here are plus/minus numbers for the Rangers’ eight defense:

Aaron Ward +3
Fedor Tyutin +2
Michal Rozsival +2
Marek Malik +2
Darius Kasparaitis -1
Sandis Ozolinsh -1
Thomas Pock -2
Karel Rachunek -7

Granted, it’s a subjective stat, succeptible to a number of variables, but I think most observers would agree it’s fairly accurate when it comes to the last player on that list.

Bear in mind I was a forward growing up and am still one today, so I don’t understand defensemen as well as I should. But I think I know enough to say something’s not right.

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  1. sam- i hope they do not send down Pock because he would have to go through waivers. since he only counts for 600k against the cap, he would certainly be snatched up.

  2. Pöck would have to clear waivers, I believe. He would get picked up in a NY minute if they tried to send him down.

    Sam, if you ever got the chance to talk to Maloney, I would be curious what he would say about their expectations regarding Ozo in the offseason. Did they think he was coming back, and did they intend on having him play. If so, WHY sign Rachnek to a 1.5 million dollar deal, Rozsival to a 2-year 2.1 million dollar deal, Ward to a 2 year, 5.5 million dollar deal, as well as having Kaspar and Malik for another couple of years??

    That would have meant they had Kaspar, Ward, Malik, Rozsival, Tyutin, Rachunek and Ozo already under contract.

    So I ask, WHERE exactly did a guy like Pöck, Staal, Baranka, or any other D-man under the age of 24, have a chance to make this club?

    Baffling. On top of that, they sought out Chara, and possibly talked to Leetch’s agent about his availability?? What was the “plan”? Or, as usual, did they not have one?

  3. Gotta disagree Sam. Rachunek’s -7 is no more indicative of his performance this year than Roszival’s +35 was of his play last year. While he’s made a few brutal decisions, Rachunek’s been no worse than the majority of the defensemen and has made some defensive plays guys like Malik can only dream of. Plus he has the excuse of still trying to re-adjust to the North American game and smaller ice surface. What are Roszival, Malik and Tyutin’s excuses?

    That said, I have to admit that those defense pairings strike fear into my heart. Kaspar – Ward? Sure they can both hit, but neither is fast enough to cover when the other takes himself out of position to do so. Ozo – Rachunek? Ozo may have played a great game on Saturday, but two offensive-minded defensemen with a penchant for pinching playing together? Was nothing learned from the Poti – Ozo pairing last year?

    All I can say is thank god it’s only Monday and they’re not playing until Wednesday. It gives me hope that these pairings are only an experiment…

  4. Seems to me there’s some sort of a trade looming. With eight blueliners in New York, another eight in Hartford and the big team’s defense looking like a sieve, something’s got to give. I would think Rachunek, Pock and Roszival are the most likely candidates for a move, as they’re all under 30. Any scuttlebut about trades out there?

  5. We know the NYR have let up lots of goal. We know that the coaching staff can produce a high quality defensive corp. Since the capable staff has not prevented what would seem to be a capable blueline group, what can we find that is amiss. The blueliners could be laking, the system could be lacking, or the combination of the blueliners and the system could be lacking. I think this is a case of cooperative growing pains. This is not an excuse, and as professionals their jobs should be on the line to toe said line or else. I am perfectly willing to assume that the D isn’t inept, stupid, risk-taking, or any other description that might articulate our frustration with goals against. Please remember, whatever emotional stock we place in the Rangers is miniscule compared to the stakes they place on their performace. Renney has said that the staff has the power to assign ice time, and will use that power. The players have the power to control their own destinies, through their performance, and they are professionals. If they do their jobs, the goals against go down. If they can’t become proficient at their jobs, then they wont have a job, just like us all.

  6. I have to think that either Malik, Rosival or Kaspar is being moved sometime soon. That being said, I would like to see them go in that order. I would like these pairings.

    kaspar – tuts
    ward – ozo
    rosival – rachunek

    now the question is, who is in the market for a D man with a 2+ million dollar contract?

  7. At $2.99 million, I can’t see anyone taking Kaspar. He’s 34, coming of double surgeries, and has been a shadow of himself in the games he has played thus far. Hopefully he gets back into the groove soon, but right now he’s barely in our top 6. No one’s going to pay $3 mil for a third pair defenseman.

    Of Malik and Roszival, I think Roszival is the more marketable… but he’s also the one I’d rather hang on to of those two if given a choice.

    I would agree that it looks like someone in the current top 8 is going to get dealt. I think it’s been part of the plan all along. That’s why Baranka and Giradi stayed around as long as they did during pre-season. The Rangers brass wanted to get a better read on what depth was available when the inevitable injury bug bites.

  8. It seems that everyone thinks a deal is brewing. The question is, what are the Rangers looking for in return?

  9. Sam, as always, great blog, thank you for bringing us all together like this.

    Before I continue with my post, I’d like to caveat that it is still relatively EARLY! in the season, and the team as a whole has not hit full stride. Some may have excuses, others may not, but I feel its important to balance what a player is doing for us now against what we should expect for them in the postseason.
    Ok, here is my quick opinion of each D-man.

    Roszival has not played his best, and is far from the player we saw last year. With that side, I still believe he can be a good asset, and with Malik’s recent play, he hasn’t had much help from his partner. Plus he has 4 points (1-3) and is useful on the PP.

    Malik, despite some success last season, was never a 1st line d-man in my book. He looked horrible vs the Preds. Although I’d like to see how he rebounds from a horrible game and a benching (or two), I do not have high hopes for his career.

    Kasperitis was a dynamo last year, and he has intagible qualities that many other defensemen do not. I expect bigger and better things from this man as the season moves on, and don’t feel he’s been all that bad at the start, especially when you consider that he’s only played in a few games so far.

    Ward, proved his worth with Carolina, and will be a big time help if we can make a run for the cup. He’s blocked shots, he’s banged bodies, he has a goal, and, like Kasper, brings some intangible qualities on and off the ice with his personality.

    Ozolinsh, TOO SOON TO TELL! but his 1st game back was better than most, if not all, of his games with the Rangers last season.

    Rachunek, I don’t care if he has made a good play here and there, he needs to make good plays day in and day out, and with a -7 he’s not showing consistency. I’d bench him.

    Pock, giving the kid more playing time could be a good thing, but I don’t feel he is going to be the answer to our defensive prayers. He’s shown good skill both offensively and defensively, but again, the consistency isn’t there.

    Tyutin, although I haven’t been happy with him in the past I haven’t made up my mind on him yet. He’s been weak at times, but he is also a +2 with 4 points (1-3). Stats aren’t everything.

    So, if I had to drop 2, i’d be Malik and Rachunek.

    They aren’t desperate for cap room, and if they don’t become a playoff contender, there is no need to make any drastic moves that are going to hurt their future.

    Anyway, many of you seem to have more insight than I ever will, but thats my 1.5 cents.


  10. Guys —

    We posed the question to Renney today about the glut of defensemen and he said he’s sorting through it right now (and by him, I’m assuming that means Sather and Maloney as well). I can’t imagine staying pat is an option, especially with some of the salaries involved.

    As for what the Rangers might be looking for, obviously a top-six defenseman, or better yet, a top-four defenseman, is one. I don’t know what that would take, but it’s certainly something the team needs.

    And if you really want to be cynical, you might say the Rangers want to get Ozolinsh back in the lineup purely to show that he can play, and thus he’s more marketable in a trade.


  11. Sam, think you ake a great point.. Also agree with Laurie (although NHLPA has Kaspar earning $3268000)…Send Darius down. He will most likely not be picked up, and more likely be ashamed at being demoted, and work his tail off… Regardless of his personal/divorce issues…

  12. Sam- I don’t doubt that they are looking for a D. Though wheter they will find one, its another story. My guess is that there are allot of teams out there with the same agenda.

    I also think thats the reason for why Rachunek aren’t benched, and I doubt he will be in the near future. Cause Karel have potential, Malik don’t, Kaspar don’t, Pöck? I can’t see him lasting a full year at this point. I don’t know whats the plan with Pöck is, he have to play something like 60 games or he will become a UFA. Thats something you should ask Renney about. We can’t send him down. Maybe we are keepin him around to play him when we have injurys.

    Anyway Rachunek have the tools to be decent, he just must put it all together. Out on the market, what would it cost to get a decent D?

    We don’t need another flawed D, in order for anyone to be successful here they must be complete. And thoose guys don’t come cheap. I am pretty sure it would take a 1st round pick to get a UFA-to-be in the Aaron Ward mold. Thats pretty expensive.

    I kind of likes Renney’s new pairings. Rachunek and Ozo wouldn’t play all that much. I am sure Rozi-Tyutin will be used a ton with the top 2 lines, and Kaspar-Ward allot with the bottom 2 lines. The biggest problem is, who of Rozi and Tyutin will play the left side? I am betting on Fedor, and he had some trouble there in the past, so that could be a obstecle.

    I think we should try to dump Malik right away, if it can be done, just to save the $. Then if this team can sort it out, with the current personell, come march, go looking for a top 4 D and a 2nd line center.

    More players will be on the market, and we will have a better picture of whats worth spending.

    If we can’t hack it with what we have right now, we aren’t a D and a center away from contending anyway. Then its better to bring up guys like Pöck, Baranka and Immonen/Dubinsky, and try to build something for next year. We aren’t in a position where we can build something for the future, and afford wasting assets on trying to make us a top 6 team in the east, instead of a top 8-10 team.

  13. Rick —
    The issue with Kasparaitis is not work ethic. He wants to play well, but he’s banged up to the point where he can’t move like he once did. Maybe he’ll show improvement over time, but right now that’s the impression I get.

  14. I think a package would be in order if they were going to get a ‘top four’ D-man…. And good thing we have more than enough offenseman to give away too if they ever wanted to get immonen in the picture again…. not to mension ortmeyer in the not too distant future

  15. What I’d like to know is that since the Rangers have a logjam of similar “offensive finesse” defensemen, why do they refuse to give any but Rozsival any significant PP time on the first unit.
    What better way than to showcase the abilities of Rachunek, Pock, and Ozolinsh than to actually show they can work a powerplay? Putting Ozo on the PK isn’t exactly going to get a GM to say “Yeah, I need that guy!”
    I just wonder what a Martin Straka brings to the point at the powerplay that those guys don’t. At least THEY have a shot that might beat a goaltender. If I had a dollar for every time i’ve seen Straka wind up and hit the goalie in the logo again, I’d have $5. And that’s all 5 shots he’s taken this season from the point.

  16. I’m a bit perplexed as to why everyone seems to be coming down on Rachunek so hard as the whole team is struggling in the defensive aspect of the game.
    This guy is still relatively young and seems to be adapting game by game to the new rules, ice, etc. Some of the other D seem to be doing the exact opposite and do not have the excuse of being outside the league for a few years.
    He skates, passes and shoots well. I haven’t seen him shy away from the physical stuff, either. Tremendous upside once the wrinkles are ironed out.
    I say an invaluable member of the defense corp if they get their act together.

  17. Guys what team is going to trade a top 4 defenseman for Malik or any of are Dman. If we are going to get a better defenseman by trading one that means one of are specs or picks will be going along with it. It sure as hell better not be Dawes!

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