For laughs, I dug up “my blog entry from this day last year”:http://rangers.lohudblogs.com/2007/09/14/instant-karma/, when at first glance Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr looked like the second coming of Lennon and McCartney.
Here’s my favorite part:
“Both Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez tried to downplay it, but it was hard not to notice how comfortable the two appeared with one another on the ice. Officially, Gomez scored one goal in the 30-minute afternoon scrimmage, although another one trickled past Chris Holt that the referees never saw.
And even when not scoring, the line, with Marcel Hossa on the left wing, had possession of the puck for several long stretches in the offensive zone.”
A couple of reactions to this: One, who is this Marcel Hossa I was talking about? Is he still available? But mostly, it just shows that there’s only so much you can deduct from the first day of training camp. Because just as I was convinced Jagr and Gomez would last all season together, I was equally impressed by Gomez with Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund today.
Granted, given the benefit of hindsight, I will say this new line makes more sense since all three of these players rely on speed through the neutral zone while Jagr was content to slow the game down. But again, there are just too many variables to consider when figuring out why a line does or doesn’t work. And the first day of training camp isn’t the day to do it.
â€œChemistry is probably the hardest thing to explain in hockey,â€ Gomez said.
Regardless, it is apparent the Rangers have an exceptional talent to work with in Zherdev. There is some baggage there, as I’m sure you all know. But when I asked Tom Renney today what his friend Ken Hitchcock had to say about the player he had for a season-plus in Columbus, Renney said Hitchcock was complimentary.
â€œHe thought we were getting a real talented player,â€ Renney said. â€œHe felt he had a lot to offer up offensively. There are some quirks in his game that suggests mayber over-handling the puck and not distributing it as quickly as he should. But the one thing Ken said was that he really came a long way in his game of being more of a North American style player. He was really happy with his performance. He saw him going only north and up.â€
Now, I’m sure Hitchcock had his reservations about Zherdev, otherwise Columbus wouldn’t have traded him away. But there’s also the likelihood that the team feared losing him to Russia anyway at season’s end, and that New York’s offering of Fedor Tyutin was too good to pass up. The Rangers, meanwhile, have a coach with a softer touch in Renney, and they have a proven track record in making Eastern European players feel at home.
â€œWhatever those options are at the end of this year, we hope that weâ€™re the No. 1 team on that list of options,â€ Renney said. â€œAnd that will only happen if he feels heâ€™s had the opportunity to grow and assert himself.â€
Zherdev is already getting that opportunity alongside Gomez and Naslund to start this preseason. That’s the line that was together today, and it’s slated to be a line again Monday night at the Garden.
Beyond that, well, let’s just take this one day at a time.