Today we have a special guest, and a long-time friend of mine, Mr. Sam Rosen, entering his 27th season as the Rangers’ play-by-play man for MSG Network.
Before we get to our Q&A, I just wanted to say that there are three days remaining until the Opener in Buffalo Saturday.
3: George Herman Ruth.
3: Pete Gogolak. Jan Stenerud. John Starks.
Q: Do you think this year’s Rangers team is better than last year’s team?
Sam Rosen: I do think the Rangers team is better because they’ve added some skilled players who have a chance to make an impact. One is Alex Frolov, who has been a good forward, he’s a highly skilled player, scored over 30 goals twice in his career and if he plays most of the season with Marian Gaborik, has the chance to put some pretty good numbers up. With a one-year contact, the motivation is there for him to play well, and playing with a guy like Gaborik, he has to know that he can put up some good numbers. Ruslan Fedotenko, veteran player, two-time Stanley Cup champion comes in as a guy that can play in the corners and in front of the net, passes the puck well and if he’s motivated by his one-year contract, which he should be, he should make an immediate impact. I think we’ll see the Rangers get a little more from their third and fourth lines this year, players like Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle. And you bring in a player like Stepan, a very highly skilled player, who so far hasn’t been overwhelmed by the NHL game, it’s another player that can add to the team. Then you look for growth in players like Michael Del Zotto and Artem Anisimov, and the Rangers have an overall talent level that’s been raised. If they can put it together and be consistent, they have a chance to be, not only a good team, but a good playoff team.
Q: Best offseason moves by the Rangers?
SR: I think two moves have to be looked at. One is Frolov because it adds offense to the team and if he can produce the way they hope and the way he has in the past that can really take a lot of the pressure off Marian Gaborik. Gaborik was a one-man offense late last season, all teams keyed on him, and the Rangers just didn’t have enough to take the pressure off. The other move is Martin Biron, bringing in an established and experienced NHL goaltender to back up Henrik Lundqvist. The plan is to take some of the workload of the regular season off of Henrik and Marty Biron is the type of goaltender that is capable of doing that. The coaches are confident in him; they didn’t have confidence in any of the backup goaltenders last year, so when it came down to a game they had to have, whether it was back-to-back nights or whatever the situation, it was always Lundqvist. I think this year they stick to a plan, as long as Biron gives them the level of play they expect, where Lundqvist doesn’t have to play 70 games, or even 65 or less.
Q: Has any player surprised you during camp?
SR: I have to say Derek Stepan. Looking at the Rangers coming into training camp, you have concerns about the center position. They have a number of centers, they brought in Todd White, Erik Christensen was brought in last year, Anisimov, Drury, Prosal can play center, but certainly there’s a need for a high level, highly skilled top centerman. Derek Stepan may not be ready to assume that role, but he certainly possesses the skill and the poise to play at the NHL level. If he can carry into the regular season what he showed in the preseason, the Rangers may have a big plus. He’s a young player who is very bright, his hockey IQ is very high, he’s very unselfish, knows what he has to do, and I think he learned something in every game if not every shift. I’ve been very impressed.
Q: Predictions for the season?
SR: There is too much parity to predict who will win the Cup. The Atlantic will be won by the Penguins. They should be ready to come back and compete for the Cup again. They have a couple of the best players in the game and if Jordan Staal comes back healthy, they should have their full compliment. But you start with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, that’s a pretty good team. The Penguins are the most dangerous team in the East. I think the Rangers will make the playoffs, provided they stay consistent and have good luck with injuries, but I think they have the opportunity to be a pretty good team. I think the Devils are a playoff team. And I think the Islanders, because of the injuries, and they’re still young team, will struggle to make the playoffs. The West has a lot of talented teams. Parity is the trademark of the NHL right now. You could name five or six teams right now that are capable of getting to the Stanley Cup finals. I think that’s up in the air. And I will never make a prediction now on who will win the Stanley Cup because so much can happen in an 82 game season.
Q: What was it like working with John Davidson all those years?
SR: I was extremely lucky to work with JD for 20 years. I think he’s the best there ever was in the business. He made the Rangers broadcast better each and every time we were on. I always thought I was a hard worker until I watched him prepare for a game; he pushed me forward in my career. I still talk to him on a regular basis and we catch up when he’s back in New York. Our wives are very close and we watched each others’ kids grow up…we are very close.
Q: Do you have a favorite obscure player, i.e. a Mikko Leinonen type?
SR: Mike Hartman, because of his Jewish heritage.
Q: Do you prefer doing hockey play-by-play over football (or boxing)? Why or why not?
SR: I love them all and it wouldn’t be fair to any of the sports to choose one over the other because each poses a different level of excitement. Hockey is so free-wheeling, changing on the fly…the frenetic pace is so great. Football is so physical and so strategic. And boxing…I have the utmost respect for two men who can climb the steps and step into the ring knowing that the object is to take out the other guy and stop him with a punch. That is a tough, tough sport and I have tremendous admiration for boxers. Watching two highly skilled boxers compete is an amazing sporting event. I couldn’t choose one over the other because they all have the excitement that is so wonderful about sports.
Q: Do you have a funniest interview, or a person who always made you laugh during interviews?
SR: Phil Esposito can always make me laugh, there’s no doubt about that. Phil Esposito, whether I was his broadcast partner, or as an executive in the league, always makes me laugh. Even now, interviewing him, he always comes up with some kind of crazy story.