To borrow one of Tom Renney’s pet phrases, the Rangers are “down to the short strokes” of their preseason, and as “I noted in my story today”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070927/SPORTS01/709270371/1046/RSS0905, it’s not a moment too soon. For all the benefits of having a surplus of promising prospects in camp — meaning, it sure beats having no promising prospects — the downside is it muddies the process of preparing for the season ahead.
Hard as it is to believe, though, the Rangers are further along in their preparation process than they were a year ago, when they had more players in camp, and two important players — Jaromir Jagr and Michal Rozsival — could hardly participate because of injury. Yes, the Rangers have been steamrolled twice in three games, and no, it’s not just a reflection of their lineup but also some systematic breakdowns. But as opposed to last year, when they cruised through the exhibition schedule, this year the Rangers won’t be headed into the opener with a false sense of security.
In other words, better to be dealing with it now.
Meanwhile, some remaining questions:
Should you be panicking about a lack of chemistry between Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez?Granted, panicking is a strong word regardless, but I don’t think you should be worried, or perturbed, or agitated, or anxious, or…well, you get my drift. For one, the two haven’t even been together two weeks. And secondly, they’re both too good to not eventually find a rhythm, even if it takes three months. But even if the Jagr-Gomez is a complete disaster, it’s not like their lacking for other options. Which means, sad as I am to report this, you shouldn’t expect another mid-season signing of Jason Krog.
Should Marc Staal be on the NHL roster? Yes. As I said before, on merit alone, it’s not even a question. But even if you’re concerned about sending Thomas Pock down to Hartford and losing him through waivers, the early pattern is teams aren’t making many claims. Granted, that can change when a player like Pock is recalled and another team can stick the Rangers with half the cap hit, but given the early promise Staal has shown, it’s a risk well worth taking. Besides, there’s also the chance the Rangers begin the year with eight defensemen. That would likely come at the expense of a forward like Nigel Dawes, which brings up the question…
Has Nigel Dawes been a disappointment? Given the starpower of the players he’s played with, you’d like to think Dawes would have pumped in a few goals. Outside of that, though, he’s looked good, and the only reason he might not make this team is he is offering something the Rangers don’t seem to need. Between Jagr, Shanahan, Callahan, Prucha, Avery, and even Hossa, the Rangers already have ample firepower at wing. And most of those players at this point are better at the other end of the rink as well. It’s a numbers game to start, and should anyone falter early, he is the natural firstcall-up. But right now, I see him starting the year in Hartford.
Why do I think Jason Strudwick is a given on this roster? Three reasons: versatility, chemistry, and economics. Strudwick can play forward and defense, he is universally respected in the dressing room (not to mention that he’s another quasi-enforcer) and given the team’s salary cap constraints, he makes a mere $500,000 and provides the Rangers the option of carrying 22 players as opposed to 23. Which brings up another point…
Valiquette or Montoya? Other writers have disagreed with me on this, but I’m for seeing Al Montoya start the year in New York. The argument against is compelling, that Montoya should be playing 70 games in Hartford as opposed to 15 in New York. But with Henrik Lundqvist not going anywhere, that’s an argument you can easily make next year, and the year after that, and so on and so on. At some point, Montoya needs to play in the NHL. And since he’s probably one of the Rangers best trading chips at this point, you need to showcase what he can do (which, for the record, is be a No. 1 goalie on a lot of other teams). Yes, Montoya’s salary is a concern. He’d make a shade under $1 million if he played in the NHL, with bonuses that could kick that number up to $1.8 million (although the last part could be deferred). But that’s where some of the roster moves above could be useful.
Lot of other questions, and thankfully, we still have a week to answer them. But for now, a quick programming note: I have a golf assignment today which means I won’t likely be updating until later. If that changes and Josh can potentially jump in, I’ll let you know.