Our 30-minute session with Tom Renney this morning touched on everything from the prospects successful trip to Traverse City (they won the tournament); the glut of veteran defenseman in camp (yes, the coach said, but it beats the alternative); who might be the back-up goalie (it’s wide open…sort of); and whether the rival Devils will suffer from opening their season with nine straight games on the road (they will probably turn it into a positive).
Tomorrow we’re going to touch on global warming and break down the Emmy nominations.
Welcome to training camp, where the slate is clean, and pretty much every topic is fair game.
Renney was already in mid-season form, equal parts honest and circumspect. No, he wasn’t going to tell you his line combinations, but yes, he did have some in mind. Yes, he hopes the Rangers are still playing hockey in mid-June, but as long as it’s line with the team’s long-term mission. Like I said, everything is fair game at this time of year. Of course, almost everything is also pure speculation.
As far as what passes for news:
The Training Center is closed to players today as the staff gets ready for the start of camp tomorrow. Tomorrow is a full day of physicals and interviews, so players won’t hit the ice until Friday.
The team will have 51 players in camp this year, down from 58 last year — a reflection, Renney said, of now having a better sense of what they’re working with. “There was a gray area (last year) so we had to educate ourselves with what our organization looked like,” he said.
The only player who played his way onto the training camp roster out of Traverse City is 21-year-old defenseman Clay Barthel. Relax. That doesn’t mean the likes of Marc Staal and Bobby Sanguinetti aren’t coming as well. It just means they were already invited.
Everyone is healthy coming into camp, and that includes Martin Straka, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. As I reported yesterday, Straka was already on the ice for informat workouts. This also means Jaromir Jagr has had a full season to work out as opposed to playing himself into shape like last year.
Renney’s response to my question about the inordinate number of veteran defensemen in camp: “It’s a healthy situation to be in to have to draw from a group of people who have some NHL experience in the very least and in some cases lots. It could be worse off in having four returning players and wondering where the other three are coming from.”
Asked about the implications his roster decisions might have on the salary cap, though, Renney conceded it was a consideration.
Which brings up whether Marc Staal has a chance to make the team out of camp. Renney said the defenseman was “excellent” in Traverse City, and later said, “ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no reason to think he won’t be given a real good shot and some serious consideration.”
In my view, Staal and the overall defensive situation will be one of the biggest stories out of training camp.
When I asked Renney about the back-up goaltending situation, he said he had an idea in mind of how many games he wants Henrik Lundqvist to play, and beyond that, “We’ll give the (back-up) job to the person who fits best what we need.” I suppose that’s a fairly obvious answer. The larger question is whether it is Stephen Valiquette or Al Montoya who fits the Rangers needs. Stay tuned…
From the Rangers: Tickets for select games (and no, not the Jan. 24 Brian Leetch night), will go on-sale Saturday beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Ticketmaster via newyorkrangers.com, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone 212-307-7171, 201-507-8900,
631-888-9000, 845-454-3388, 609-520-8383 or Ticketmaster outlets.
Plenty more to discuss, but my fingers are tired and I dressed poorly for a press room that is directly adjacent to an ice rink. I’ll check in later.
Meanwhile, a quick advisory on tomorrow: Unfortunately the Rangers open camp on Rosh Hashana, and while hardly a perfect Jew, I will be taking the day off. The esteemed Rick Carpiniello will be covering in my place, and I’ll try to get him to feed me some updates to post.