What we know:
That it wasn’t nearly good enough last year. That, while defense must be played by all six players on the ice in order for it to be successful, each pair of defensemen must be better.
That John Tortorella doesn’t seem to like having an extra defenseman around.
With that last thing in mind, I still would argue that the Rangers will, or should, go into this season with seven — one nightly Prucha (or scratch, for those just joining us).
What we also know:
That Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto are locks to be among the six. That leaves three spots, or four if Tortorella carries seven.
That, barring a miraculous trade, Michal Rozsival will be on the team and among the starting six.
That, barring a stunning turnaround, Wade Redden will be the only veteran not returning.
What we (I) think:
That, despite being benched last year down the stretch, Tortorella likes Matt Gilroy — he did help recruit him as a free agent — and that with some added muscle, Gilroy could be one of the starting six.
That, unless he bombs in the preseason, Ryan McDonagh should make the team as a rookie. He’s certainly big enough and mature enough. The only question is how he adjusts to the NHL game straight out of college. I am guessing he will do fine and be on the team.
And if all of that:
Then you have Staal, Girardi, Del Zotto, Rozsival, Gilroy and McDonagh.
Which leaves room for one other, if they carry seven. Or maybe two others, if either Gilroy or McDonagh don’t make the opening-night roster.
(AMENDED:) And that one spot, or two, will be up for grab for newly acquired Steve Eminger and veterans Alex Semenov and tryout Garnet Exelby. And I have no idea if any of those will make it (though I suspect they like Semenov, or they wouldn’t have brought him back to camp after that stunt he pulled last year when he made the team and then bolted).
But that is one battle to watch as we head into the preseason starting tomorrow.
Seventeen days until the Opener.
17: Eddie Johnstone, Brandon Dubinsky, Greg Gilbert, Kevin Stevens.
17: Keith Hernandez (“I despise him”), Gene “Stick” Michael, Mickey Rivers, Plaxico Burress.