Getting defensive


What looked at first like a one-game experiment of Jason Strudwick being paired with Marc Staal at defense may actually extend into tomorrow night. Paul Mara and Thomas Pock were both the extra pair today in practice, and Tom Renney said that’s the way he was leaning for his lineup against the Islanders.


It’s an odd situation for Mara: He is currently the Rangers’ highest paid defensemen at $3 million a season but is now potentially relegated to the press box for the second straight game. What makes it even stranger is the fact that he left a conversation with Renney yesterday feeling like he had returned to the coach’s good graces.

“I did yesterday,” the defenseman said. “I’m definitely disapppointed. I’m always disappointed when I don’t play, but it’s a coach’s decision. Tom said he was doing the best that he sees for this team. I’ll just have to live with it.”

Mara said in their conversation Renney made no implication that there was anything lacking in his game, something Renney repeated to us today as well. The coach mentioned he likes Strudwick’s toughness and the “calming influence” he has on Staal. Maybe there is something to that, but there obviously is something about Mara right now that makes him less than a must in the lineup.

And you wonder if the Rangers have room on their roster for a guy that makes that much money and doesn’t even play.

Some other thoughts:

  • The lines were the same today, with Blair Betts centering the third line and Brandon Dubinsky between Colton Orr and Ryan Hollweg on the fourth. Don’t expect anyone to be called up from Hartford anytime soon. Renney said right now it’s not a priority.
  • Scott Gomez’s father Carlos was at the rink watching practice today. To fully fit the hockey parent mold, he should have approached Renney afterward and asked why his son wasn’t on the first line. Disappointingly, he did no such thing.
  • There is apparently no middle ground with the Rangers’ choice in music. If it’s not ear-splitting techno, it was today’s odd selection of “Easy” by Lionel Richie. No truth to the rumor the team is considering it as a warm-up song.
  • Jaromir Jagr’s exchange with Henrik Lundqvist after practice:

    “Hank, I scored like seven goals on you today.”

    “It wasn’t that many,” the goalie replied.

    “Maybe it was more,” the captain said.

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    1. Sam, any thoughts that a deal is in the works that includes Mara — thus the reason for sitting him again?

    2. I guess we all knew that there would be some combo switching (both offensively and defensively) for a while. I wonder how long it will take to figure it all out. Right now it seems a daunting task to say the least.

      I still believe that Gomez will end up on that first line (unless it’s Straka centering Jagr and Hossa lol) and that the rest of the lines will look different come March, especially the defensive pairings.


    4. What was practce like today with the Islanders rivalry looming? Do u think DiPietro would start with Hank? It’s not like he doesn’t have his hands full facing the Ice Girls again. I am actually more worried about the Devils meeting later in the month. Do we know if Janssen is back on ice yet??

    5. Robby Bonfire on

      Staal is so “calm” he looks tentative, out there. Maybe some fire-in-the-belly, translated into some timely hits on opposing forwards, would pick up his game. Certainly being paired with a player who skates about as well as a camel negotiates the Sahara is not helping.

    6. Orr to fight in next UFC on

      I don’t understand all these trade rumors when we are just almost 3 games into the season! People like to complain no matter what but I don’t know why everyone likes to play coach and feels that when there’s a change in pairings or if someone sits that there is a trade.

      We should all sit back and enjoy the Rangers play out the season. I doubt that anyone of us know why Mara is sitting except the fact that Strudwick has been here longer, knows the Rangers system and do what they expect of him.

      Strudwick is the next person that I trust to fight for the team 2nd to Orr. We don’t want Drury, Shanny or any of the top 2 lines to do the dirty work. If you watch the Isles play against the Caps last night, their game is not exactly nice! We need the toughness and grit. They’ve won 2 of 3 games so far but it’s still early in the season. If Staal is comfortable playing with Strudwick, wouldn’t that be an advantage for us? There are 2 points on the line here!

    7. For pete’s sake, I hope the rangers can exercise a month’s worth of patience with four new players taking key roles. Mara’s not a great D-man but has good offensive instincts which are lacking on this team. Jovo is too much money and I think he’s 31. Can’t we give it few weeks before going to plan B.

    8. The Jovo rumors are not going to stop. But remember folks, we have been hearing them since the summer. I am sure if we can get him we will get him. I am not even saying that I would be against it. The guy is a pretty solid d man and when he is healthy is definitely a top two guy. He can hit and score some goals. Who really knows what is going to happen but I am sure that Mara and Montoya would definitely be part of a package to get him. I just don’t know what other salary would be moved. We could put some in Hartford but that just doesn’t make much sense.

    9. I think Mara will get traded….There’s no other reason why he is being benched for no friggin reason.

      Im not saying its Jovo, but i am saying its someone. Hopefully Malik gets traded but obviously it will never happen. i like mara and i want to at least see him in a full season with NYR.

      This Strudwick BS is going to the next level. I like the guy, but this is ridiculous. I never expected to see him in the lineup. At least try Pock with Staal and see what happens, who knows, maybe they’ll have as much chemistry as Tyuts and Danny.

    10. The best thing to do is to trade Monty, he will never have a place in this organization, so we mine as well dump him. Like i said before, i dont want to dump Mara, thats even if there’s any dumping that will actually happen, which i think there will be. It sure as sh*t seems that way. But then again Hoss was benched for 2 games, and Pauly 1. Its weird, you’d think the staff would bench Staal and Dubi, but to our surprise they havent. Thats good, there not giving up on youth.

    11. Montoya could be a very good goalie in the NHL, but unless something happens to Hank, it is not going to be for the NYR. I think he has value now and some teams would definitely want him. I don’t dislike Mara either. It just seems that he is the scapegoat because of his contract in a way. They are not playing him probably because there is some kind of trade in the works that he is a part of and they don’t want him to get hurt. Would anyone be down with a trade of Hollweg, Mara, Montoya, and maybe Pock for Jovo and a roster player from the Yotes? In some instances I have a soft spot for Hollweg. I don’t want to see him traded and I don’t even have a problem with Mara either. I liked him sticking up for Gomez against the Panthers. It will be interesting to see what happens. Yes it is early in the season, but it is never too early for trades to happen.

    12. NASTY

      i got no problem with that trade. Were dumping Hollweg so thats a plus. Lol the Yotes have such a boring team, Jovo and Doan are there only known players. You’d think with Gretz coaching there would be some kind of phenominal kid there but no.


      Does anyone think next season, Cherepanov can make the team and steal that possible Shanny spot from Dawes??

    13. I really wish Pöck would play instead of Strudwick, but I think Strudwick is in there because Avery is out, otherwise it would be Pöck or Mara. The problem with Mara is that he doesn’t seem to utilize his offensive skills enough to justify putting his questionable defense out there. But Strudwick is just as questionable. As long as Staal and Strudwick aren’t on the ice with the fourth line, it should be ok.

    14. Nasty 1: No way on many different levels. First of all, Montoya will stay Rangers property at least until Lundqvist’s long-term contract is signed. No way, no how they trade him before the king is locked in for several years. Second, the only way I’d want Jovo on this club is if you could turn back the clock and somehow create a defensmen that’s nowhere near as injury prone and without a $6.5 million contract. Number three: Jeeze, you’re going to give up a PP specialist and top-two pairing defenseman, a young, high-energy checking forward, a young offensive defenseman and a future number-one goalie for an injury-prone over-paid over-rated defenseman who has worn out his welcome at two of the three stops he’s made in his NHL career and who is agressively working on the third? The only way I’d want him is if the Yotes took Mara and bought a good chunk of his salary. And frankly, I’d probably rather have Mara anyway. At least his contract is done next season, when Sauer, Sanguinetti and others are expected to be ready for NHL ice.

    15. Orr and Nasty – I would recommend that you read Dellapina’s blog where he shoots down the Jovo talk. Jovo’s contract has 4 yrs and huge money left. so it’s not about trading 3 pieces of junk + Montoya and thinking Phoenix will go for it. can’t trade our only other decent goalie other than Henrik and down the road maybe Lafleur at this pt in tme either. but the biggest issue is the cap the next several yrs. Can’t bring in a medium dman making that kind of money. we would lose several players in the $ 1.5 mm to $ 3 mm range the next couple of yrs starting with Prucha and Tyutin (he’ll be in that range next yr) followed by Callahan the following yr unless Jovo is parked in the minors by then. Jovo is no where need a top flight d man either. this is not fantasy hockey where you can make trades every day. the cap is a huge issue. and this stuff was discussed every which way during the summer.

    16. What a waste–putting Dubinsky on the 4th line. Callahan and Dubinsky know each other’s game and Dubinsky won’t be able to even slightly shine on the 4th line. Get rid of Strudwick—he can’t skate and he bumps into his team-mates. Mara has a really good hard shot and with the Eyeliners, Rangers need offensive power. Put Shanny on the 3rd line and move Prucha to the 2nd. Shanahan as an oldster can point out a few items to both Callahan and Dubinsky ( that also means less ice-time for Shanahan).

    17. We dodged a bullet with Peca (he’s injured), so why go after an even riskier player at 6 times the salary!?

    18. I don’t think it will be Jovo from Pheonix.
      Mark My words- It’ll be Derek Morris ($3.9M this year, $3.95M next), or Nick Boynton ($2.95M this year and next) for Mara.
      I’d prefer Ballard, but there is no way Maloney would deal that kid. He’s got a huge upside. Unless that is the Montoya angle.
      I’d deal Montoya for Ballard in a heartbeat.

    19. dancing with the "stars" on

      there is no guarantee that any goalie will stay healthy. see Danny Blackburn. you don’t trade away your second young goalie, like the Isles did with Luongo, like the Sharks did with Kiprusoff. big mistakes in both cases, as they got very little in return.

    20. From on Jovo:

      Is one of the most natural blueline talents in the NHL. Has size, toughness and strength. His overall ability makes him a difficult defender to play against. Has a knack for creating baseless trade rumors among bored sports writers.

      Tends to leave himself out of position, leading to odd-man rushes. Needs to make better overall decisions. Struggles with key match-ups. Sucks at his $7 million per year salary.

      Alright, there might have been some creative editorializing in there. The point is this: Jovo hasn’t skated a full season since 2001, and only skated 80 games or more twice.
      In otherwords: Jovo is a No-go. I’d rather see J-lo on D than this hobo.

    21. MOOKIE

      I would as well. Ballard is one of the only remaining players besides Kaspar and a few others who really uses the classic hip check. I would take him over Monty in a heartbeat as well.

      But i wouldnt mind which ever one of those 3.

    22. Sam….love your insight that you provide us every day. I also love the little things that you mention, including discussions between players and music played in the locker rooms! Thanks man!

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