The coming of July 1st signifies the height of the summer; beaches, barbeques, and relaxation, but during the last decade, the Glen Sather era has been an anxious day when Rangers fans hold their breath as they’ve become accustomed to the GM-For-Life overpaying mediocre unrestricted free agents with sometimes outrageous contract lengths and stipulations such as no movement clauses.
This summer seemed to be a change of pace as the Rangers made modest acquisitions by signing their in- house free agents and an affordable backup goalie in Martin Biron, but the 4 year deal at $1.625 million per for enforcer Derek Boogaard had professional publications like Sports Illustrated and ESPN.com laughing at Sather while fan forums including HFBoards.com and even here at Rangers Report are up in arms. The deal may be hefty, but having an enforcer with Boogaard’s resume will benefit the Rangers tremendously if he is used correctly.
Whether the Rangers have been in the Atlantic Division, Patrick Division, or as far back as simply the East and West, teams in the Northeast have always employed toughness and more often than not, it was at the Rangers expense when an enforcer was absent. The ‘70s saw the Rangers dealing with the likes of the Big Bad Bruins and Broad Street Bullies, in the ‘80s it was an Islanders team with Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, and Dave Langevin as well as a very tough Capitals defense anchored by Scott Stevens, Rod Langway, and later Kevin Hatcher and Al Iafrate by the early 90s. Having to presently deal with names like Clarkson, Konopka, Carcillo, and even cheap shot artists like Cooke (not to mention Chara and Lucic four times a year), having an enforcer isn’t as much an option as it is a necessity. Even if he only sees 4-6 shifts a game, teams will think twice about taking liberties with Gaborik or running Lundqvist (that means you Jason Blake) if the 6’8’’ “Boogey Man” is creeping around.
Boogaard can be an invaluable momentum changer for both the regular season and especially playoffs. How many times during mid-December to late February have the Rangers sleepwalked through the first forty minutes of a game? A Boogaard hit or fight can change that. There have been several infamous moments in Rangers playoff history where a fight has single-handedly changed a game or series. Rangers fans should be familiar with Dave Schultz pummeling Dale Rolfe in 1974, and have better memories of Nick Fotiu chasing around the Flyers in their 1979 playoff meeting. How important was it when the 1981 team beat up the smaller Kings and gooned their way to the semifinals, or when George McPhee took on Rick Tochett in 1986 for that Cinderella run? Boogaard instantly gives the Rangers credible toughness and something an opposing coach will have to think about when making a lineup card.
There is no arguing that Sather overpaid for Boogaard. But that is the nature of free agency. The Rangers are a big market team who overspent by a few hundred thousand, yet essentially have unlimited financial resources. Fans should worry a lot more about secondary scoring and whether or not underachievers wasting valuable cap room like Redden, Avery, and even Boyle end up in Hartford than taking out their frustrations on the new, needed enforcer. Boogaard is still only 28 and in the prime of his career and will allow players like Callahan, Dubinsky, and even Girardi to concentrate more on their jobs than fisticuffs. With carrying his salary and Brashear’s, the cap strapped Rangers will be forced during injuries or slumps to play their promising, younger options, rather than looking outside the organization. One year from now Brashear, Eminger, and even Rissmiller will all be off the cap, the salary discussion won’t even be one, and some great team chemistry may have developed amongst that talented and hopefully thriving crop of youngsters.
The only danger of this signing lies in the broken promise from both Sather and head coach John Tortorella that more youth will be played. There’s no reason to play Boogaard every game. He is an asset that should be used only when needed and when teams lacking toughness or a true enforcer skate onto the Madison Square Garden ice, the purpose should be to develop younger players with greater potential whether they are Dale Weise, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, or perhaps Evgeny Grachev or Derek Stepan.
So Rangers fans, enjoy the rest of your summer, cross your fingers that Sather finally did July justice, and get ready for a lot of Boooooooo chants as Madison Square Garden this fall…just hopefully for the right reason.
Hi boys and girls, it’s Carp, off the fairways (um, roughs, out-of-bounds, lateral hazards, etc.) for a few minutes.
Haven’t been in touch too much with what’s going on here, but I know Mama has her eyes peeled.
Anyway, here’s the guest blogging schedule through the middle of the coming week. I’ll put up the end of the week sked over the weekend.
Saturday, July 24: Joekuh.
Sunday, July 25: Cynar.
Monday, July 26: Paul.
Tuesday, July 27: Josh Thomson, age 26.
Wednesday, July 28: CR9.
See youse all later.