And off we go…

59

So here goes our first installment of the Blog’s Official Q-and-A. Let the record show that we are willing to consider a name change for the right price. With that in mind, I should mention that I began the morning with a two bowls of Special K and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. And I’m currently using a Mac laptop (hint, hint….).

But I digress. Again, since I can’t get to all your questions, I ask that you keep plugging away for next time.

So without further ado, Max, strike up the band….

Q: Sam, what is Renney thinking by sitting Mara? In my opinion, Strudwick has done nothing to prove he belongs on the ice. Having a $3 million defenseman in the press box does not seem like a wise investment, certainly for someone with a great shot for the power play. What are your thoughts on this? — Mark

A: OK, so a lot of questions about Paul Mara since that seems to be the issue du jour. Why is he sitting? Is he about to be traded? What’s his political affiliation (All right, no one asked that)? To hear Tom Renney tell it, Mara’s absence from the lineup tonight is not a reflection on him as it is a reflection on Marc Staal, who should be afforded the opportunity to get his feet wet at the NHL level; and Jason Strudwick, who offers the type of grit the Rangers need against the Islanders, and who is maybe a more natural mentor for Staal (Renney today mentioned that he thinks Strudwick will one day be a coach).

Which is great, except I think we can all agree that $3 million is a lot of money to pay for a guy who can’t even crack the lineup. We still don’t know whether this is only a short-term deal, but yes, it’sreasonable to think that the Rangers would be willing to unload Mara’s salary on someone else. I’m of the belief that the best way to move a guy is to showcase him, but it’s worth noting that the Rangers benched Aaron Ward (the guy they traded for Mara) right before they dealt him last winter.

Don’t mistake: I don’t know of anything in the works. But you’d have to think in a salary cap world, the Rangers find Mara expendable. Of course, whether other teams are willing to take him is a whole other matter….

Q: Sam, two questions:I know you always wear a brown belt with brown shoes, but what about black shoes? Always a black belt? Second, everyone always talks about veterans and how important they are to a hockey club, but all we ever get to actually see or hear are Rangers PR snippets. Can you give us either one specific instance of a veteran leading the club, or alternatively, just some general overview of how it usually works? — Doodie Machetto

A: Doodie, I wear a black belt when in fact I own a black belt, which for a long time I didn’t. Back then it was black shoes, brown belt, and hope the lighting was right so no one would notice. Or just make sure they all had plenty to drink.

As for the whole “veteran influence” thing, I agree it often can be overplayed, and if none of those guys could play a lick, it wouldn’t count for anything. But I did see plenty of the examples you’re seeking from Brendan Shanahan last season, be it in trying to pump up Darius Kasparaitis when he was struggling to get in the lineup, or pulling Dan Girardi aside when he was anxious about his first NHL game.

Actually the best example came in what was ultimately a failed effort, after the Rangers’ devastating Game 5 loss in Buffalo. In what was a very subdued dressing room, when most of the team already looked defeated, Shanahan came out and immediately talked about the opportunity the Rangers had in Game 6. Then the following day at practice, when most veterans would normally take the day off, he made sure he was out on the ice and upbeat. Again, it didn’t work out because the Rangers lost Game 6, but it did set a necessary tone.

Q: Sam, I don’t quite undertand why Hossa has started the season riding the bench. I felt like last year, besides the injury, he FINALLY became what so many teams were waiting for him to become — a scorer who is tough on the puck and in the corners. Not a 50 goal scorer but perhaps a 25-30 goal scorer given an injury-free season… So why does it seem that he is back in the “We don’t know what Marcel can doâ€? category? Any insight? — Tony

A: Tony, there is no more mysterious Ranger. What’s funny is that after Hossa began to show signs of life last year, I declared him one of Tom Renney’s great successes as coach. When everyone else was wondering what he was doing in the lineup — or even in an NHL uniform — Renney stuck by him, and the investment paid off when Hossa began playing like he did.

But now he’s back to his old enigmatic self, and I’ll chalk it up to two possible reasons: One is he still may not be 100 percent — be it mentally or physically — after his injury. But the other possibility is that Hossa is a lot like Nigel Dawes in the sense that if he isn’t going to play on a top line, he’s not as effective. You wonder why that is when Hossa is actually a pretty good defensive player, (and maybe the Rangers best player in re-gaining the puck in the offensive zone after they lose possession). But just like in the playoffs last year, when Hossa returned and was invisible on the fourth line, he languished this preseason. Is it confidence? Is it not having the same caliber linemates to feed off of? Maybe it’s a combination of the two. But what I will say is Hossa now has a golden chance to regain the form that he displayed last year. And I expect him to.

Q: Hey Sam, what’s the general consensus regarding Montoya? Is he just a trade chip to get a player for a playoff run this year? Is there a chance he’ll still be here next year? Thanks, Phil

A: Phil, I suggest you look at it as if there are two Al Montoyas. There is Al Montoya the prospect, and yes, there is Al Montoya the very intriguing trade chip. The Rangers right now don’t have a better one, which is a reflection of a No. 1 draft pick who by all accounts had a strong training camp; but also a reflection of the fact that he may well be expendable as long as Henrik Lundqvist is in front of him.

I can’t tell you what exactly the Rangers have in store for him, but as with Mara, it’s reasonable to think they’d at least be willing to entertain offers. My educated guess is if they they do anything it will be later in the season, not only because that’s when the market will be better defined, but also because it will give the Rangers time to lock into Lundqvist long term. Remember after Jan. 1, the team can sign Lundqvist to a deal that won’t affect this season’s salary cap.

Since you can count on them doing something with Lundqvist after the first of the year, they’ll probably wait until then to make a decision (if any) on Montoya. Who knows what teams might offer in return for him? As for Montoya the prospect, the Rangers have him in Hartford in part because of his salary, but also because it will give him a chance to play regularly.

Q: Sam, a rumor regarding the relationship between Jags & Gomez has been floating around one of the Rangers forums which apparently originated from someone on the Rangers staff. This guy has stated that essentially Jagr wants no part of playing with Gomez, and that this is a primary factor in Renney’s decision to not have the two paired together on the top line. — Jeff L.

A: It’s true, Jeff, Jagr and Gomez can’t stand each other. In fact it’s gotten so bad that they have actually needed a stand-in for Jagr whenever the two have to be seen together. OF COURSE, I’M KIDDING. No, I don’t think there’s anything to that. In fact, the two spent time in the skate this morning working on drills together, and then going over plays Renney had diagrammed on the grease board for them.

All that being said, I think it’s safe to say that, like with Brendan Shanahan last season, Jagr has struggled to adjust to Gomez, which is why Gomez is now playing with Shanahan and Chris Drury is with Jagr. In one sense, it’s not much of a surprise. Gomez likes to carry the puck, and so does Jagr, so it makes sense to have Gomez play with a winger like Shanahan who simply wants to set up in the slot and fire. But I don’t think Jagr and Gomez are through, and if Jagr can learn to adjust to where Gomez is going, he could have the very sort of chemisty he enjoyed the previous two seasons with Michael Nylander.

Q: I’d like to second the question about the Rangers power play and whether or not they have been deigning to work on it actively. And do you think it’s odd that the team needs Struds’ “sandpaperâ€? when they are also dressing Orr and Hollweg? Seems redundant (although obviously there is also Strudwick’s incredible, Lidstrom-like “calming effectâ€? on Staal). I don’t remember Tie Domi or Joey Kocur needing so much back-up. — Chris F.

A: Are the Rangers actively working on their power play? Yes. Are they attempting to overhaul it after two games? No.

I think as with everything regarding this team right now, there is a sense that the chemistry will take time because of the caliber of the additions they made. There will be tweaks as the season goes on, and without Sean Avery and Paul Mara tonight there will almost certainly be some new faces on at least the second power play unit. But my sense is the Rangers don’t want to stray from the framework they already have in place, and are just striving to find a groove.

As for Strudwick, I think it’s an excellent point. Do you need three enforcers in the lineup? And more importantly, do any of them really serve as a deterrent? My sense is no. I think Orr and Hollweg, and to a lesser extent Strudwick, make the rest of the Rangers feel good about themselves knowing that there are always reinforcements waiting. But I doubt it really makes a tangible impact on the other team, whether it’s one such player, two, or 15.

OK folks, if you’ve made it to the bottom of this, then you are officially ready for a nap. I’m sorry I didn’t get to everyone’s questions, but as you can see, I can be a tad long-winded. The good news is we will do this again. The bad news is you may all be sick of me before then.

Until later…

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59 Comments

  1. Good stuff! Are you using a MacBook, Powerbook, or iBook, Sam? iBook G4 here, along with iMac G4 on the desk. I think good name for this piece could be “Rangers Responses.” A lame one could be “Sam Answer-man.”

  2. I noticed last game that Gomez and Jagr have been playing together on the same power play unit. I guess on the power play, Jagr usually likes to stand on the offensive blue line when the puck goes down, so Gomez could bring it up if he wants in that situation. I do find it strange that they would alternate centers though, and want Straka off the point of any power play unit; let Pöck be inserted there.

  3. Sam,

    Great job as usual! INice idea responsding to the readers’ questions. Keep the updates coming.

    – Tom

  4. Lol…sorry for the Meatload referance in the last post..

    Anyway…Does anyone know if Bootland is playing, or are they gonna dress that enforcer that was having an amusing convo with Orr while they were grabbing each others Jerseys??

    They should just play Strudwick at foward and Pock on D or switch them around…At least make Strudsy the 7th man, and Pock the 4th liner. Then switch Hollweg and Orr every few nights. Also that adds more D to that 4th line since obviously Pock is a d man. Eh just a thought.

  5. I know its dumb to think about Eklunds rumors. But lets say they were true rumors….Do you think NYR would try and get Ilya Bryskalov or what ever his name is….That would be cool…

    Anyway

    Also dumb to bring up, but isnt it amazing that thou who shall not be named hasnt been around….What a damn good week.

  6. Orr – Have you been reading my mind? haha, I was hoping they’d try something like that in preseason, but it’s unlikely to happen since they did not. I would not be surprised to see Strudwick start at forward if Orr or Hollweg gets injured, though. If anyone else is injured, it will be Dawes.

  7. Sam, we’ll never get tired of you…The fans who frequent the site do it for a reason, we can’t get enough Ranger news and insights…great job!

  8. someone should tell this broad singing the national anthem that it isnt game 7 of the stanley cup finals

  9. GuitarWizard1225 on

    Sweet… 15 more minutes of playing like they’d rather be watching from their couch rather than playing on the ice…

    Except for Callahan.

  10. does jagr miss nylander or did he get old really fast cause hes non existant out there he would have burried that drury rebound last year

  11. Does anyone else always find themselves yelling “SHOOT!” when Rozsival touches the puck?

  12. It looks like everyone is looking for the perfect pass for the easy open net tip in, instead of getting the puck to the net. I would be fine with that if it worked. Unfortunately it doesn’t.

  13. The third line’s kicking some ass in the Isles. Too bad Callahan had to dive instead of putting the puck in the net.

  14. I haven’t. Ha. I’m a rugby player who loves hockey. Anyway, what’s called was called, and that’s how it rolls. And now Shanahan takes a penalty, and it hardly was a penalty. Damnit, now they score. Sigh.

  15. For the Record what the hell did Shanny do
    I did see a slash by Sutton, thats 2 crap calls this period

  16. I am watching the game on Versus.
    No one stuck up for Shanny and they didn’t replay it.

    Either the refs have it out for him for some reason, or it was a dumb penalty-

  17. Sutton was chopping his stick at Shanny’s hands, leading blind as a bat Rooney to call holding the stick, leading to a faceoff in the Rangers’ zone, leading to the Islanders goal. The refs need to get their heads on straight or at least try to pull them out of their asses. Hank’s gotta shake this one off and stay strong for 2 more periods.

  18. Hey guys. I follow this website religiously and feel kind of bad doing this as I don’t post much, but I blog on the Rangers over at battleofny.blogspot.com. We are lacking in the readers department, and so I was hoping to recruit some people to visit, read and comment back to me. My name is Lenny and I do the Rangers blogging.

    Again, sorry for the plug on myself. Keep up the excellent work Sam, I enjoy reading everyday.

  19. Blue im watching the game on versus as well and they did show replays the only reason the penalty was dumb was because Rooney made it up

  20. Man, Jags almost set up Gomer with one of my favorite goals to score in NHL08. I think there was an angel on DP’s shoulder for that one.

    Btw, it’s always nice to hear “Potvin Sucks!” in Uniondale.

  21. i blame this site going down for the rangers losing.

    i kid i kid obviously its because of the lack of desire from a guy like jagr and bs penalty calls.

  22. Ted aka Anonymous on

    IMO: You can’t have a claming effect on Staal when you suck. When on a 3 on 3 and there is a faceoff to the left of your goalie, if you are too stupid and slow to realize which guy is yours you stink. Struds and Malik sit. Pock and Mara should play they can’t do much worse.

  23. Ted aka Anonymous on

    IMO: You can’t have a claming effect on Staal when you suck. When on a 3 on 3 and there is a faceoff to the left of your goalie if you are too stupid and slow to realize which guy is yours you stink. Struds and Malik sit. Pock and Mara should play they can’t do much worse.

  24. I really miss cullen on the third line. I just wish we could have fit him under the cap. Dubinsky doesn’t seem quite ready and Betts belongs on the fourth line…so we are left with somewhat of a hole, vacated by cullen. Secondly gomez so far looks like a poor mans nylander. The only advantage he has over nylander is his puck carrying ability. Once in the zone however, gomez looks paralyzed. He seems to be afraid of holding the puck in the offensive zone(so much so that he forces passes and never allows himself a chance to shoot.) What is the point of gaining the zone if you don’t do anything afterwards. At least nylander showed some poise and patience. He consistently made good plays off of his supreme confidence and puck handling skills and fit perfectly with jagr.
    Thirdly, i like hossa on the first line and i always have. Playing here brings out his full potential and demonstrates that he really does have a lot to contribute to this team. Also this frees straka up to play on the 2nd line where he fits nicely and where he adds to the overall depth of the lineup. As for Shanahan…playing with the likes of straka and gomez(should he prove to be the playmaker we are expecting him to be) he has no excuse for not producing. He is on this team for one reason alone…to score. At this point in his career he doesn’t bring much else to the on ice table. He can shoot. He needs to get open and score.

  25. You people are way overreacting. The team looks infinitely better than they did at this time last year. There have been about 2 breakdowns in the defensive zone over 3 games, and those both came against Ottawa and cost us. Staal has looked terrific defensively, positionally and carrying the puck; Tyutin and Girardi look more and more like a true first pair defensive tandem every game. The offense is at least applying lots of pressure and getting chances, they’re just not quite there yet. Gomez is 8 years younger than Nylander and nobody’s yet really seen the benefit of his wheels and vision (maybe he should be playing with Cally and Prucha, seriously). Lundqvist is also looking MUCH better than at this time last year.

    Anyone who thinks an offense with Jagr, Drury, Gomez, Shanny, Prucha, Callahan and Straka is going to sputter all year is clueless. The biggest concers about this team were about the defense which has generally looked very solid all year. It make take a few more weeks but this team is going to do great things.

    I do wish Renney would quit pushing Blair Betts. The guy is a great fourth line center and PKer. Prucha and Callahan need to be centered by someone with real offensive instincts which I thought Dubi showed during the preseason. I’d say that and inserting Mara back in over Strudwick would be the major personnel moves at this point.

  26. True Fans Bleed RW&B on

    Thank goodness we have Gomez. Wow, I still can’t believe how awful he is and that most of you wanted him here. Horrible.

  27. Agree that it is far to early to be concerned but we need training camp to end soon. Every team (except Ottawa) has made significant personnel changes. Maybe the coaching staff needs to simplify things for now and get some bodies heading to the net. Should have had some big bodies in front of DP last night. The ice was bad and trying to feed shanny and JJ for one timers was bad judgement. Get the damn puck to the net. Also, from a scouting perspective, the rangers are getting to be very predictable, particularly on break out passes to JJ. Finally, I have never been one to bash Malik but his game is getting tedious. To paraphrase Renney, i’m sure he’s the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry, but please not on the ice during a crucial face-off in our end w/ 4 ticks left.

  28. I never Liked Gomez with the Devils and I still feel like he was VERY lucky to be on those championship teams. The wide open net was a shot that Nylander would have buried.

    Maybe Friday night will be good motivation for Gomez and Drury since Nylander makes his Garden debut as a Capital.

    I hope they wake up soon.

  29. Doodie Machetto on

    Guys, it’s the 3rd game of the season. Relax. Last year, we were much worse, much later into the season.

    Let’s look at the positive: Defensively, we’ve been very, very good. Our PK has been excellent, with the exception of 5 on 3s. Hank is in top form. And the defense only figures to get better as the season progresses as Staal loses his training wheels.

    Offensively, while it may not be clicking right now, just look at all of that firepower. It’s just a matter of finding the right combinations and giving them a chance to work. We’ll get there.

    I see the biggest problem being our 3rd line center. Dubinsky had a great camp, but has thus far ooked like a boy among men. I think he will get better, but I am sure that won’t happen with him saddled with Horrweg as linemates. Personally, I think a lot of our problems would be solved by moving either Shanahan or Avery (once he’s healthy) aybe even both.

    The other big problem has been our discipline. Way too many penalties. That is purely on Renney’s shoulders.

  30. True Fans Bleed RW&B on

    The problem is that Jagr’s not producing, BUT, did look better with Hossa last night. And, Renney’s not trusting the third line enough. Late in the game it looked like he was going lines:
    1 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 1 -3
    Callahan has looked better than Straka, Avery, Shanahan, and that guy wearing 19. So, keep playing him. Prucha’s got a nose for the net too. Play them all equally. See if Jersey has a return policy on Gomez. I like Malik, but last night he was awful. And yea, lets get this show on the road.

  31. Coach Tomfoolery continues to put Rozsival and Straka on the points on the pp and is shocked the pp doesn’t shoot enough. Renney also has moved hands of stone Betts up to the third line while whisking the promising Dubinsky down to the 4th line(giving him about three minutes of icetime). Prucha and Callahan are almost neutralized having to play with Betts(who’s a solid pker and face-off man but has no offensive capabilities)Tyutin imo should be getting more playing time and also get to be on the #1 pp unit. I don’t get Renney’s love affair with Jason Strudwick either. I read that Dave Scathard has been brought in on a try out contract. I bet he’ll be signed to an Nhl contract soon and Dubinsky will be shipped to Hartford. Nice game by Malik last night huh?

  32. This team needs to stop playing people because of their intangibles and start worrying about tangibles. Whether it’s Struds’ calming effect (think he’ll be a coach? okay, hire him as one) or Hollweg’s heart (hearts don’t score goals, hands do – and he ain’t got those), it doesn’t matter; those things should be a bonus on top of TALENT.

    As always, the PP needs to start being treated as a special occasion and not a momentary and accidental advantage. Get a plan, Perry.

    Malik (and others) must be sat when he screws things up, like that 3 second to go space out. Also, did anyone else notice that on the ensuing face off the rangers lost it and then completely stopped moving, allowing the Islanders to rifle off a half-ice shot at Hank? Obviously it was low percentage but how about not letting them get off that shot, as a display of tenacity (or shame).

    People can say it’s way too early to panic — and it is — but the “we were way worse at this stage last year” means nothing. We may be way worse than this…this year. We’re not guaranteed to get better every year, and there is no harm in the Rangers caring enough to pick up their game, individually or collectively, in the face of such a mediocre start. The Islanders got new players, too. And yet they managed to win last night despite “growing pains.”

    Sorry. That was a painful loss to watch.

    Sam, thanks for the answers. Now if only your IT guys were as dedicated or competent as you.

  33. Folks –

    You’re probably noticing we’re having problems wiith the blog, hence the lack of new posts. I’m hoping it’s only fleeting. Stay tuned.
    Sam

  34. Drop the Puck! on

    Chris F. – Yeah, you’re wrong. in a rush so I don’t have time to list the entire roster, but take a look at the STANLEY CUP CHAMPS roster from last year and tell me they have all this ‘talent’ it take to win. It takes a TEAM to win the Cup. Nothing is won with talent alone. Now go look at that roster and shake your head and say ‘how did they win the cup’.

  35. Drop the Puck! on

    Chris F. – Yeah, you’re wrong. in a rush so I don’t have time to list the entire roster, but take a look at the STANLEY CUP CHAMPS roster from last year and tell me they have all this ‘talent’ it takes to win. It takes a TEAM to win the Cup. Nothing is won with talent alone. Now go look at that roster and shake your head and say ‘how did they win the cup’?

  36. Doodie Machetto on

    Thanks for answering my questions Sam! Here’s a potential name for the Q & A: Chime-in with Weinman.

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