Some questions in the form of a preview:
Are the Rangers better or worse at forward?
Added: Marian Gaborik, Christopher Higgins, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin, Vinny Prospal, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Donald Brashear.
Subtracted: Scott Gomez, Nik Antropov, Markus Naslund, Nik Zherdev, Blair Betts, Colton Orr, Fred Sjostrom, Lauri Korpikoski.
IMO: They’re better … as long as Gaborik plays. Two of the last three seasons have been wrecked by injuries, but when he has played he has scored big-time. The hip surgery was the same one A-Rod had, by the same doctor, and believed to have alleviated the groin problems. Gaborik returned late last season, so he’s had more time to recover than A-Rod had. I think he’s got a good chance to be clear of those injuries. He has played a bunch of nearly-full seasons as well during his career.
I think you guys will eventually love Higgins, who had big upside, as do holdovers Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. I think the Kotalik signing was a really good one, although maybe three years and $9 million was a tad too high, and so was the addition of Prospal. Tortorella will use his skill players to kill penalties, so I don’t think the losses there will hurt badly.
Better or worse on defense?
Added: Matt Gilroy and Mike Del Zotto; contract pending, Alex Semenov.
Subtracted: Paul Mara and Derek Morris.
IMO: They’re better IF Del Zotto sticks beyond the nine-game limit, after which the Rangers must return him to juniors or keep him the rest of the season. Their top four haven’t changed, and two of those — Michal Rozsival and Dan Girardi — had difficult preseasons. Wade Redden should get better and Marc Staal’s star keeps rising (although he needs to add some offense if he’s really going to be a top-level defenseman). I doubt Semenov is better than either Mara or Morris, but he is bigger and relatively tough.
Better or worse in goal?
IMO: You have to assume Henrik Lundqvist will be as good as ever. He might have to play fewer games because of the condensed schedule and his Olympic participation. That means Steve Valiquette will have to be better than he was last year. Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson might be a viable option if Valiquette is not.
Better or worse on special teams?
IMO: They have to be better on the power play because it’s impossible to be worse. Gaborik, Prospal and Gilroy are automatic upgrades. So will be Kotalik, and if he stays, Del Zotto. The penalty kill may not be quite as good, but it won’t be bad. Look for more aggressive kills with skilled forwards taking chances and scoring short-handed goals.
Better or worse overall?
IMO: John Tortorella is as important as Gaborik and Lundqvist. He names his new alternate captains today. He has put in a puck-pressure system that will be fun to watch, could possibly blow up in their faces some nights, and might get the most out of the skaters they have. I look for Chris Drury and Wade Redden, who will combine to earn $16 million in actual salary this season, to rebound — Drury more than Redden. I think Dubinsky will have a breakout year. But Tortorella has to deliver on his promise of accountability, of no excuses, of “just get things done.” We’ll see.
What do you guys think?