Your questions, my answers (Part 2)


We’re still going here, with a fresh cup of coffee at my side….

Sam, WERE you dropped on your head as a small child? — longtimerangerfan

No, but I was hit headfirst into the boards in a morning scrimmage yesterday (the Mystery Linemate, aka former NHL All-Star Valeri Kamensky was nearby, but not the guilty party), rendering me at least a little woozy today.kamenskyavs.jpg So if you agree with everything I say, it’s because I have an insightful, acute hockey mind. If you disagree, it’s because for all I know, I may have a mild concussion and have been spewing nonsense since about 10 a.m. yesterday.

But hey, you gotta play hurt. So on we go…

Do you expect that the Rangers will continue to focus more on defense, not really worry about scoring a bunch of goals, and continue rather to play stingy defense? — Jeff L.

As far as entertainment value, I’m not sure yesterday’s Rangers-Devils clampdown fest is the type of game that’s going get the NHL on network prime time anytime soon (actually, I’m pretty sure that unless the NHL starts featuring dueling swimsuit models, or losing teams tossed into a pit of rats, network prime time isn’t in the cards at all).

But whether it’s good news or bad news, that’s the hockey the Rangers will need to play to have success this season.

And to be clear, as both coaches and players said yesterday, defensive hockey doesn’t mean passive hockey. And it doesn’t mean they can’t score goals.

The reason the Rangers were so miserable in back-to-back losses to Carolina and Toronto, is their forwards were caught deep in the offensive zone, weren’t coming back hard enough the other way, and as a result, their defensemen were backing off instead of standing up other teams. Throw in some mediocre goaltending, and it wasn’t a good week.

At their best, the Rangers have played a style where their forwards are committed to supporting the defense, which means that the defensemen can be aggressive enough to join the play on the rush, and pinch to keep pucks in the zone to sustain pressure. That’s how goals are scored at even strength these days, and as the Rangers have shown in spots — the back-to-back wins over the Islanders and Ottawa spring to mind — they can do it quite effectively.

Unfortunately, seeing how other teams have embraced this style as well (along with the the fact that the rink is too small, players are too big, and the goaltending too good), it does mean there will be the occasional 1-0 game like yesterday (which actually was more entertaining than the score would indicate). But it’s a system the Rangers have employed better than most. And it’s likely what they’ll rely on come springtime.

Of course, it also wouldn’t hurt to have a clue on the power play. But that’s another story…

Sam, what do you see as the future for the Malik/Strudwick/Mara circus? Who will be the last two left standing? — Mark

A lot of questions about Marek Malik’s place in the lineup and the potential he’ll be traded, to which I’ll respond: Are you people clueless? Do you not see a Norris Trophy candidate when you see one?

OK, sit down. I’m only kidding.

In all seriousness, longtime readers of the blog know I’ve been an occasional defender of big No. 8, for one because I think the vitriol directed at him has been over the top, but also because at least last year, he was better than people gave him credit for.

I still think Malik has some upside — conspiracy theories aside, there’s simply no other reason he’d be here — but to answer your question, his future in New York doesn’t look bright. Given Marc Staal’s blossoming this year, Malik has been jettisoned from the top pairing with Michal Rozsival; and although Tom Renney suggested otherwise last night, it doesn’t appear that the coach has the confidence to play Malik with anyone else.

So given that, and given Malik’s salary of $3 million, I would have to think the Rangers are open to moving him. I don’t know of anything concrete in the works, but I do know there was interest in him last season, so assuming his value hasn’t plummeted since, a trade isn’t inconceivable.

Whatever happens, I would think the Rangers would want someone here who could be a reliable sixth or seventh defensemen, whether it’s Thomas Pock (which is complicated for waiver reasons), Ivan Baranka or someone from another team. I’ll admit that Jason Strudwick has been better than I thought he’d be this year, but I’m not sure he’s an everyday player. And either way, the Rangers would surely want more depth should you no longer have Mr. Malik to kick around anymore.

We’re not done here. So stick around…

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  1. Can you discuss your thoughts on the future of Al Montoya. Is he our biggest trade chip as we make a run this spring? Is he insurance in case Hank gets hurt? Is he a top ten pick who we are leaving to toil in the minors?

  2. Doodie Machetto on

    Sam, is there any new info on Avery’s return?

    Sam, I asked you this question the last time you had a Q & A about a month ago. We were about 20 games into the season. I asked if the team is starting to panic at the lack of goals. You said that they were not, and were still of the mindset that they would come. We are now thirty games into the season. Players like Prucha, Callahan, and Straka seem like they won’t pot another goal for the rest of the season. Are they really not panicking yet?

  3. Just a stat for you guys(and gals).

    The Rangers have taken 935 shots on goal so far this year. That’s good for 3rd in the entire NHL. Maybe it’s not the amount of shots. Maybe it’s the shooters.

    Another stat, the Rangers have a 6.8% team shooting percentage. That’s dead last in the NHL.

  4. Sam wouldn´t you agree on the fact that the Rangers don´t score so many goals because they missing a guy like Thomas Holmstrom from the Wings. He is the guy postioned in front of the goalie blocking wiews and deflecting shots. When a goalie in the NHL see the shot, he usually makes thes save. Most of the goals were scored on rebounds or when a goalie don´t see the shot or it was deflected….

    Thomas is arguably the best in this category but do you see another one in the NHL who can help the Rangers…

  5. Sam,

    I don’t think it is a question, at all, about “having someone to kick around”. If you watch the games WITHOUT the sound, and watch Malik’s play, he is consistently clearing the puck in front of his own goalie. Not that I am an expert, but when I played, it was considered a “no no” (perhaps the New NHL wants such drama). He does not hit, does not block shots, and cannot pass or shoot the puck. I am not sure what upside he has, and given this ridiculous salary of 3 mill, I think the only way he is traded is if we make some team take him as part of another deal.

    NY fans are not stupid. They watch his play and they boo loudly. The shills at MSG have literally said, most insultingly, “I have no idea why the fans are booing Marek Malik”. All 15,000 are stupid?

    Also, I think it is worth noting that Mara has had some good games and has been throwing the body more. Strudwick? Is he a defenseman or a winger? This is plainly stupid…..we have some d men ready to step in. I don’t consider Mara the problem. Our defense was doing really well when Renney brought back Malik. Why? Why touch something working so well?

    Sam, it is not about bashing players, but looking at the team and seeing the potential for a Stanley Cup, but having a few pieces of the puzzle that are simply wrong for us. Our core is terrific. We are WAY younger than we used to be. Our Goalie is world class.

    But, every Cup team has DEPTH. No way do I want to trade youth for a quick run (even if this is Jagr’s last year). We DO have depth, if you look at Hartford and may not even NEED a trade.

    I am not a fan of Renney. He may be a very good man (that seems to be what so many say about him) but if he makes the decisions out there (and I am not sure he does), then he is not going to win us a cup.

    Even guys with great effort –Prucha always tries, Hollweg, Strudwick—could be replaced in Hartford RIGHT now and we would be a better team.

    Hossa is just God-awful. He has to go. It was grossly unfair that he had a terrible camp and Dawes had a great camp and…well, you know.

    Also, I wish Renney would NOT be so quick to punish Dubinsky or Callahan by taking away minutes for mistakes….they are young and HAVE to work through those things and NOT have their confidence kicked down. Dubi makes a pass in front of Lundqst and is pulled right out. Malik does it with impunity and Renney rewards him with CRITICAL ice time.

    I do appreciate your opinions on things, and enjoy the blog. I just take exception to the comment about having to have someone to kick around. Nothing personal about Marek Malik. He has more money than I will have in a life time, and I wish him well. I just wish him well for some other team.

    I would, howver, appreciate your thoughts on whether or not this team (in the locker-room, for instance) is divided into Jagr Camp and Shanny Camp. Some of the recent reports really seem like it is that way…. with Shanny taking some not-so-veiled shots at Jagr’s ice time; or Lundqvst going to Shanny to talk about Jagr’s lack of defense…things like that.

    anyway, thanks for listening.

    Seamus of the North Country (it was -6 below the other morning up here)

  6. Sam, any rumor of the Rangers being involved in catching some of the debris from Niedermayer’s return?

  7. Seamus re Malik – no matter how loud the booing has gotten for him it’s never been anywhere near 15,000 fans doing it -try maybe 3,000. who can still make a lot of noise. yes the fans need someone to vent so if and when Malik leaves – and he won’t be here next yr – they will find someone else to vent on usually a dman. so probably Rozy. the same fans who cheered wildly when he scored an ot winner vs Buffalo. pretty pathetic if you ask me.

    and I’m sure you’ve noticed Malik being a healthy scratch so you’re wrong about this statement “Malik does it with impunity and Renney rewards him with CRITICAL ice time”.

  8. Seamus, your passion is great to see, and I like that you identified that you may not be certain of something. However, I think I can shed some light for you with info we’ve recv’d in the past.

    I don’t think that there is a separation of players following who they think should be the capt. If you remember a few weeks back after a bad loss at MSG, shanny and jags stayed in the locker room till after midnight discussing the team and what needs to be done. I’m sure part of that conv. was the fact that Jags isn’t comfortable putting people in their place (ie: shanny telling hank to worry about commenting on his net-minding duties, and leave the offense to the offense). That evidence should at least provide some type of valid answer. (and I do think that the wrong guy is wearing the C).

    On the point of needing someone to ‘kick around’. We’ve always had someone, as every pro sports team does. Whether it’s anson carter, karl rachunek, or marek malik. If malik wasn’t here, it’d be someone else. So I’d have to say that we DO always have one.

    That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong. (D. Miller)

  9. Nice rebound game last night by the Rangers. It was a nice hard working gutty game. Everyone was throwing the body nobody was turning away from checks. You had all world goaltending. Lundqvisty after some struggles the last week or so was fantastic. I thought he was square to the pucks and handled his rebounds flawlessly. Even though the Rangers out played and out shot the Devs in the first I thought the Devils had the better chances. Lundqvist made a great save on Parise and a fantastic one Madden after both Tyutin and Girardi flubbed the puck. There was great hustle by Straka catching Martin on the backcheck then making two diving blocks. The top line was alot better last night. Jagr was really strong on the puck. The third line was great again. Callahan and Prucha forechecked like tazmanian devils. Prucha had an amazing chance only to be stoned by maybe the save of the year. Prucha is getting closer and closer to scoring. Let’s not forget in his rookie year and even last year he filled up the net in December. Hollweg had a terrific game throwing massive hits, agitating and drawing a penalty. I thought Gomez was the best player on the ice outsidde of the goalies. Gomez was buzzing around all night setting up great chances for himself and others. The pp was the only part of the Rangers game that was off as usual. They had 2 pp’s late in the third and did zip. Great play by all involved in the Shanny goal. Tyutin and Girardi were terrific as usual. Next two games are as winnable as it gets.

  10. Sam,
    Thanks for answering my question once again.
    Much obliged!

    Chris F,
    There won’t be much from Neidermayer’s return, as the Ducks only have to clear $800,000, and not 3+milion as was originally thought.

  11. Sam – clearly dawes is a 1st ballot hall of famer (at least from reading some comments on the blogs). why isn’t he up here running the pp. I know this has a “slightly sarcastic bent” but inquiring minds want to know.

  12. To add to the Neidermayer thought…

    It’s true that it’s under $900k that they have to shed. However, it’s rumored that they would like to move Schneider anyway. But with his $5mil pricetag(prorated of course at 30 games in), it makes it tough. Chicago is currently a possibility to be in the hunt.

  13. Seamus – excellent points.

    I am a season ticket holder and go to lots of games. I love the Ranger fans, we are without a doubt the most passionate fans there are. But like everyone knows – there always needs to be someone to pick on. In 2005-2006, it was Lundmark from opening night until his trade. Then it was Poti (yes – i agree, he was garbage the first half. But after the all-star break poti was fine and was our only defenseman who wasn’t afraid to shoot from the blue line.) Everyone loved Malik until Poti was gone and he was the new guy to pick on. Its just how it goes…it comes with playing in NY.

    Everyone bashes Malik and i can’t say im not one of them. Sure I’ve made the occasional “trade Malik for a ham sandwich” comment. And yes – i got into an argument with some moron in section 316 who was wearing a Malik jersey and tried to convince me he was our best defenseman because he led the team in plus-minus.

    I have no issue with Malik other than the fact that he doesn’t do his job. Yes he makes stupid mistakes. Do i expect a guy that big to score 20 goals per season? no. Do i expect him to lead the defensemen in points? no. What i DO expect him to do is use his size. Malik aggravates me because he is a HUGE player and never uses his size. He uses his stick to play defense which isn’t right. He never pinches in the corners or on the blue line, he doesn’t throw hits – he is useless. If you arent going to be an offensive defenseman becaues of your size, PLAY DEFENSE. Thats all there is to it.

  14. haha eklund now has us trading prucha, malik, montoya, and an ‘intriguing prospect’ to colorado for svatos and liles

    haha like that would happen

  15. Hold the prospect, and I’d do it.

    Sam – here’s another question.

    Are you the best Rangers beat writer?

  16. Sam – in line with Beer me’s question are you the best hockey player of the media following the Rangers – excluding Maloney.

  17. Liles and Svatos going to NY for Prucha, Montoya, Malik and a prospect thats the rumor going around

  18. Seamus O Riley on

    LI Joe wrote:
    LI Joe December 10th, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    and I’m sure you’ve noticed Malik being a healthy scratch so you’re wrong about this statement “Malik does it with impunity and Renney rewards him with CRITICAL ice time”.

    Joe, have you missed the amount of ice time Malik got last year and this year, up until his “injury”??

    Did you not notice that in 1 goal games, during the final minute, when the other team pulled their goalie that MALIK was ALWAYS out there??

    Just because he is FINALLY a healthy scratch now does not negate all the ice time given to him by the coach.

  19. Seamus O Riley on

    by the way…

    I don’t think anyone has called Dawes a Hall of Famer, but…

    Hossa has 1 goal since last February. I am not sure that qualifies as a Hall of Fame career, either.

    Perhaps with an *?

    I do understand the response about boo’ing someone, but I don’t get it when the MSG shills question why. Poti made a lot of money and did not hit much (in the beginning)

    The Garden is THE place to play. They get paid a LOT of money to play. If you don’t give 100% and produce, the Garden will let you know it If that is not for you, don’t take our money and go play in western canada.

  20. Seamus – you’re talking about last yr not this yr. And Malik was better last yr than this. The boos from the vocal minority have ruined whatever good the guy once had. His confidence is shot as is Renney’s confidence in him even before the injury.

    Since we’re talking about old news (ie Malik favorable treatment last yr) what about how Renney treated Immonen our flavor of the year last yr.

  21. Seamus – I hardly consider myself a shill. Do you think booing Malik in the middle of a heated playoff series was a good idea by the vocal minority – and believe me it was a minority no matter how loud they got. Most fans knew better as booing him at that time affects his teammates and other fans as well. And you can go to the bank that the Einsteins who love to boo will quickly find another target even someone they adored in the playoffs for an overtime goal – like Rozy.

    And Hossa is cerainly not the answer. But neither is Dawes. In fact if all were healthy as at the start of the season neither was in the lineup.

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