Reason for optimism


Hey, sorry I’m late again. Had an unexpected situation here at Blog HQ. Nothing major.


As I said yesterday, the three wins in four nights reinforced my belief that this team is better than last year, and should make the playoffs — no guarantee, obviously, with so many teams of equal ability in a conference with two very good teams and everybody else similar.

The Rangers’ made a few decent moves in the off-season, but no big splash, and you could even argue that one of them — the enforcer — was unnecessary. They got the backup goalie they needed. They got Alex Frolov, who works hard and is better in both ends of the rink than a lot of the other guys who were supposed to score the last few years; but he hasn’t yet produced. Then they added Ruslan Fedotenko, who was another of the type they already had, but maybe an upgrade on some, and certainly a good addition with Vinny Prospal out.

No, in order for this team to be better, the improvement, I thought, would have to come from within.

And so far it has.

Do I think the three-game euphoria is for real? No. They will be up and down and up and down. They’re not that good where they’re just going to go out and win 50 games and finish top four in the conference. At least, I don’t think they will.

But what I saw in camp and in the preseason was improvement:

1) We saw the addition by subtraction: Wade Redden, Olli Jokinen, Enver Lisin, Ales Kotalik, Chris Higgins, Donald Brashear (am I missing anybody?).

2) I saw what Derek Stepan brought immediately. I expect he will go through some struggles. But he’s as good as you could expect.

3) I saw how hard Michael Del Zotto worked over the summer to get bigger and stronger, and we already knew he might be something special, even if he hasn’t been stellar so far. Likewise, we are learning how much work guys like Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust, Matt Gilroy and Michal Rozsival put in, too. And we expected that this would be an important improvement year for Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Dan Girard; and wondered if it could be a bounce-back year for Sean Avery.

Well, pretty much across the board, we have seen those individual improvements. And we have also seen a bit of a transformation, at least outwardly, in coach John Tortorella, who is embracing this movement to get younger, and more importantly, to be a teacher and a nurturer and to have patience, to not put winning a single game ahead of the progress of his players.

Then, when the preseason games began, we started seeing that this team is capable of scoring goals, and not just counting on Marian Gaborik. More crucial, we started seeing a team that plays with some passion, doesn’t go into glide mode, pressures the puck, creates a forecheck, is more than willing to knock bodies around, and sacrifice their own in front of shots. And finally, a team that sticks up for one another, and there is no way to measure how much that means to a team, how bonding it is when one player has another’s back, and it goes right down the line. How an all-for-one attitude changes everything, and how badly that was missing last year.

Again, I’m not calling Mayor Bloomberg to reserve the Canyon of Heroes just yet. I think it will go down to the final week or so, just like it does every year, for a playoff berth.

I just like the direction. I really do. Even if they lose tomorrow or lose three in a row next week.

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  1. Great post, Carp!
    We all said we liked the direction they are going. And so far so good. But I don’t expect them to continue at the same pace. There is no way. They will struggle until Gaborik is back. For one, the type of game they are playing now requires a tremendous physical effort. They will eventually get tired. Even with such a young roster. They need more easy games, easy goals, some PP goals. They need Gaborik back. And I still believe they need a scoring first line center. And a crease clearer. Those two may get them deep in the playoffs even this year.

  2. UK, that’s a great read. I think Artie has a such to be one of the better under the radar stars for the Rangers. You could tell last year he has the hands and hockey IQ, he just needed to bulk a bit. His history also suggests that it does not take him long to master a higher level competition after a year’s experience.

  3. Carp – that is the most glowing endorsement of this team I have ever seen from you – agree wholeheartedly – overall better than last year if not cup contenders yet. I hope all this hard work sticks once Gabby is back, it would be easy to fall into depending on him too much again.

    Hi CR!!

  4. Thank you, Carp. From some other sources I gathered that it appears to be getting under control. But if this thing spreads, it will easily topple what was lost during the earthquake. $5 can buy enough oral rehydration salts and water to save a child.

  5. Could this be the start of what we’ve wanted all along: a younger team? It looks promising, but my fear is that the same thing that happened to the Mets this year will happen to the Rangers. The Mets were playing the best baseball they have in years earlier this season, and then once Beltan came back, their chemistry got screwed up and the Mets season went downhill from there. Now, once they bring back Gaborik, Drury, and Prospal (with more emphasis on the latter two), this young chemistry that has been growing and developing in the start of this season will suddenly be gone. Should we fear this?

  6. Buccigross on the 3 local teams:

    Well at least he doesn’t go out of his way to praise the recent edition of the Devils teams. He certainly skirts around the cap issue they have now and they will continue to have when they have to show Parise the money. Very good of him to mention how the well (as in water) has dried up for the Devils with regards to their drafting. I’ve probably said it before on here, but since they took Zajac in the 1st round of 2004, no Devils draftee has played more than 100 games in the NHL. Bergfors should crack that number this season, but I recently saw he was a healthy scratch in ATL.

    I think he hammers the Rangers a bit too much for what took place before the lockout and he is pretty off the mark about the Rangers not finishing low enough to pick Crosby. They had as good of a shot as the Pens (and a few other teams) but lost out on the lottery. Now I can’t defend the drafting the Rangers did in the first half of the 00’s. No first round picks for the Rangers from the 03/04/06/07 drafts are currently on the team or anywhere in the org. They have had more success in the middle rounds like Dubinsky/Callahan/Anisimov/Stepan and hopefully Grachev figures out his game over the course of this season. Staal and Del Zotto at least buck the trend of first round failures but swinging and missing on 5 first round picks really sets an organization back.

    Overall though there’s been a slow but steady building movement within the organization to retain and develop talent that is beginning to bear fruit. Bucci seems to overlook the fact that the powerhouse teams of today aren’t going to be the same in a couple of years due the salary cap. The Pens already are in a situation where they rely heavily on their top players and the rest of their surrounding cast are solid but not spectacular players. The Caps I think are building a better rounded team, but they will most likely lose Semin after this year and if they don’t manage to win this year, their window of opportunity will be inching tighter. If the Rangers are doing what I think they are, they’re growing a solid and deep team. Maybe not drafting a superstar, but rather 2-3 solid and capable lines and a couple of pairs of good D. My hope is they can time the maturation of the home grown ingredients while they still have a couple of superstars on the team.

  7. Love the optimism, filled with a little pessimism at the end. I understand where it derives from tho. The Rangers have been to good starts the past 2 years and faded going from November to December into January, and needed the remaining two months of the season to play their buts off to just try to slip in the playoffs. I am hoping that is not the case, but the beginning of the season will not provide those answers. Their play during the middle of the season will determine how much they will need to struggle to make the playoffs.

  8. Per Gross – Gabby improving, may skate next week and Campbell called Prust to apologize for the stick to the eye

    Per Zipay – Gabby out of sling, to miss at least 8 more games barring a setback

  9. Yergs,

    I respectfully disagree that Beltran was a prominent problem for the Mets this year. I agree that he didn’t help when he first returned, but the team already had a blackhole at 2B (either Castillo or a not ready for prime time Tejada who despite being better in the field was overmatched at the plate), one of the worst starting RF in all of baseball in Francoeur who never met a pitch he didn’t swing at, a disappointing Jason Bay even before his season ending concussion, the eventual regression of Rod Barajas/Henry Blanco and having Reyes and Pagan go down in the Puerto Rico series are also on the list of the reasons the Mets fell off.

    More so than any of those players, Beltran gets a pass for playing subpar ball because he was coming off major surgery, that was delayed in the first place because the Mets medical staff advised him that he could still play on a bone bruise in 2009 even as the season was rapidly slipping away from them. Not to mention he was putting up MVP caliber numbers in the half of the season he actually played as well as having 3 straight seasons of some of the best numbers any Met has ever produced.

  10. Fair enough CTBlueshirt, and I totally agree with you on many of those points. But as far as the Rangers go, I’m just worried that chemistry (esp. with lines) might be broken with the return of Prospal or Drury.

  11. Interesting that the Rangers are playing inspired hockey without their captain. For me, it’s hardly surprising – the man’s offensive ability is declining severely (meaning he doesn’t make a difference on the ice) and he’s not a rah-rah guy plus he’s drawing the 2nd biggest paycheck on the team. Who will he bump when he returns and how will that impact the overall team? I say slot him on the 4th line and up his minutes via PK duty. That’s really where his skillset is now anyways.

  12. What Buccigross totally missed is that they are already young, and most of the young players are their own draftees. Apparently being able to draft a Crosby or a Malkin or some other type of superstar is great, but can someone please look at their wingers?

  13. Hey CTBlueshirt – its the middle of the draft where you really make your butter. Just look at teams like the giants and the patriots in football. sure sometimes your 1st rounder is the greatest gift in the world but they can also bust. Those middle round guys plug wholes, play hard, and if selected right form a good core nucleus that can over the years turn you into a perennial contender.

    As for the pace the rangers are on, it is honestly not that relevant. What I like seeing is how everyone is stepping up w/o Gaborick. If they play like this when he returns and don’t FORCE everything THROUGH him, just let it DEVELOP TO him then he will still get most of his goals but everyone else will get waaay more and the rangers suddenly go from a team playing for a playoff spot in the last week of the season to a team I honestly believe playing for which top 3 spot in the last week of the season. Plus god forbid prospal comes back he fits perfect into that let it develop style & prolly has a better year (per game) than last

  14. Yergs,

    On the Rangers part I agree. And chemistry is a lot more important in hockey than baseball. Knowing where your fellow players are on the ice and being able to function as a fluid 5 man unit, like the Russian 5 for the Wings in 1997, poetry on ice.

    I just get a little peeved sometimes from The Beltran-hate from a sizable portion of the Mets fans (not you in particular). Ok, I get the guy’s not fiery in the dugout and looked at strike 3 in 2006 (on a Bugs Bunny-like curveball that nobody was hitting), but even in that series he clanked a 2 run bomb off Shea’s scoreboard in game 1 for the only 2 runs of the game. He tied the franchise record in HRs that year and was legitimate gold glove in CF (not Rafael Palmeiro playing mostly as DH and winning the 1B GG farce). Sadly those days are probably over, but he doesn’t deserve to get the hack job he’s gotten the past year. Jeff Francoeur might have been smiley and looked like he was busting his tail, but he still couldn’t find his way on base with a map and a compass most of the time.

  15. Agree to an extent Tim. You can get heart and soul players like Callahan (4th round) and the Red Wings have done very well with finding hidden gems.

    But swinging and missing on 5 picks/4 years worth of 1st round drafting on what are supposed to be at least top 6 forwards or top 4 defensemen still stings.

  16. Exactly ilb, he doesn’t mention any of the homegrown guys on the team.

    And the Rangers aren’t the only team that would like to have gotten a chance to draft superstars he mentioned, everybody would! I’ll channel a little bit of CR here, but Bucci is very much a New England homer and not so subtle anti-NY (not just in this particular article) too.

  17. They have an interesting situation with Anisimov and Stepan. That duo could be a formidable tandem for years to come. The only question is whether Stepan can be a true first line center.

  18. cw looking forward to 2012. . . . with tempered optimism. on

    The kinder, gentler Torts is not the result of counseling or mandates from above. Torts is happier because:

    1. He had surgery to repair a painful hip.

    2. He is icing a team that has more of his fingerprints on it. These guys like Del Zotto, Stepan, Sauer and guys thru trade like Fedotenko (obviously), Prust, are becoming “his” players. Even moving Dubi to wing, and making Cally an “A” are moves that are cementing these individuals into “his” team. Getting rid of Redden was another move to help his cause. Redden was a signing from the old (Pearn?) regime. He isn’t stupid either. He knows he is stuck with Rozi, and with Rozy’s fragile psyche, he is supporting him publicly. He also keeps his red headed stepchild (Avery) in check.

    Torts may be crazy, but he is crazy like a fox.

  19. mao_del_zedongo on

    ever the optimist may I also add how they held on to the lead late in these games…even with late goals against they played with fervor….learning to win in close games early on will have huge benefits late in the year.

  20. No reason to worry about potential “broken chemistry”. Somehow Rangers were very lucky last few years in terms of a low number of injuries; it can’t be the case all the time so they will simply need more bodies during this season. I would love to be mistaken, but by the time Gaborik and the other two come back, Rangers could be loosing someone else.

  21. Boogey needs more ice time! I’m not saying 12 min a game, but at least 6-7… the rest of the team has to make up for that time he’s not on and they WILL break down!

  22. I’m going to go back to an observation I made this recent summer during the Kovalchuk signings………

    Now keep in mind that Kovalchuk got their big goal this last game, but what shooter couldn’t, considering the ease with which it was laid out on the platter and all he had to do was swipe it in. He’s capable of that.

    But I repeat…if he is such an inspirational player, why wasn’t he more of a propellant for the Thrashers those years when they didn’t even make the playoffs?

    I still think that having about 4 or so 20 goal scorers on your team is more desirable than a genuinely over paid performer who will bring by himself 50-60 goals and
    ( praying that he doesn’t get disabled).

    Now what precisely has he done to date with Devs? Last season and this?
    Apparently he is supposed to strike fear into the hearts of opponents when he looms on the ice, and begins to skate. Tell that to Callahan. Tell that to Avery. Yes he is a potent force…but so is Crosby. So is Kessel. So is Cammallari. So is Zetterberg. Somewhere along the line there was a disconnect with reality concerning the big man on ice. His reputation preceded him, and during the shilly shallying about his massive contract, he assumed legendary proportions. But he is not a new Gordie Howe. Or Rocket Richard. Or Beowulf. He can be handled. But not if your team is gonna get the shivering fits every time he comes out on ice. This team has to give their kids a chance to fail, or fall short, or make some mistakes. By gar they’ve certainly let their vets have ample opportunities to do so, and never batted an eye about it. Personally I’d like to know that Sauer is gonna be out on the ice taking a regular shift, until he proves unequivocally that he cannot handle the job…so far he has done so…and admirably.

  23. Kovalchuk is never going to live up to that deal in its entirety or even as long as his Devils tenure. Unless they win a couple of Cups in his first few years he’ll definitely have the underachiever collar hung around him.

    I think ATL should have probably made the playoffs a couple of more times than they did, mostly before Ovechkin and co. landed in Washington and started to make their divisional games into glorified practicies. Still, I don’t think any of those Thrash teams would have done much other than win an occasional round.

    It’s funny that he’s become the face of the Devils franchise, and possibly for all the wrong reasons and he hasn’t even been there a full season.

  24. Devils problems are deeper than Kovalchuk alone. He was signed to start a new trend in Devils history- a high flying, high scoring team. This, however was not the right time to do it. The goaltender is older and he isn’t going to save them, not as much as he used to. And as good goaltender as he is, he is more accustomed to low scoring/low shots type of defensive system. Their defense has no typical shutdown guy, nor a pure puck mover. Volchenkov alone isn’t it, and Tallinder has shown so far that he isn’t going to replace Paul Martin. Their core of offense is getting old and less mobile. I can bet you that Lou knew it all along. He had no desire to sign Kovalchuk long term. He is too smart for that. The owner wanted to squeeze another cup out of Brodeur. Again, I do think that the franchise in deep trouble.

  25. Crystal Water Triple on

    I am hopeful Prospal is done. GM’s in all sports just hate to move on from decrepit, downside veterans. Like it’s a shame they even have to have a farm system with prospects under 25. Can this pukin’ GM just move on from his mental fixation and emotional attachment to overpriced, banged-up old guys? Maybe when Prospal returns we can just dump Stepan. Die God Dammit Sather, just pukin’ die!

  26. No conspiracy here, but CTB is absolutely correct. Buccigross is a die hard scummy bostonian and despises NY.

    Btw, on that note, I have been much a happier person in recent months. My secret: I dont ever go to ESPN anymore to hear their anti-NY bias, and in the last 2 weeks, I no longer listen to game broadcasts. I watch games on mute so I dont have to hear the anti-NY bias.

    Maybe a couple times a game, Ill turn it off mute to hear what’s going on, like during challenges in Monday Night Football last night or when I think we have a game locked up (so i can hear the devastation of the commentators).

  27. hey Carp
    (and everyone else)

    finally have the chance to look at the board

    thinking about your comment in regards to Tortorella…
    hope that his mellower streak continues
    maybe one part of it does have to do with his hip being fixed
    maybe the other part has to do with being a bit happier
    with having younger players and being able to deal with their
    mistakes more so than
    having to deal with veterans’ mistakes when they should know better.

  28. True Fans Bleed RW&B on

    You are missing one move, to the IR, CHRIS DRURY!
    More addition by subtraction.

  29. Carp,
    great post.
    I see a team also starting to play into the system. You can see the team working as a unit, something we didn’t see much of last season.

  30. WoooHooooo! I cant wait to see Lebron and co. hopefully make a statement at the Poopy BankSouth Garden in Boston. Basketball season begins! And the Knicks are going to be a promising young team to watch out for – may even make the playoffs. And if Carmelo comes in-season, we may be a legitimate contender to come out of the East!

  31. LindaCalPrustBoylahan on

    Hey guys..

    Great post Carpy, and bravo to youse guys for some great comments.

    We’re having some *VERY* interesting weather down here today, severe thunderstorms, a few tornados in the area…. it was 87 degrees today, it’s about 60 right now… crazy shibicky!

  32. A kinder and gentler Tortorella means I will no longer stay up late to watch his post-loss interviews. He’ll be as boring as Tom Renney.

  33. LindaCalPrustBoylahan on

    JB…don’t do that! You can progressively watch the veins in his neck become more prominent *IF* they start losing/playing poorly. That could be stand alone fun lol

  34. The Knicks are usually not a “promising young team.” They usually are a horrible team, and the last 2 years were throwaway years. This year, they have a nice complement of players; in the Leastern Conference, we could definitely make it to the playoffs.

  35. LindaCalPrustBoylahan on

    damn, that did not come out right lol…mind was working quicker than my fingers i suppose..

  36. Good evening all! Carp, thanks for keeping my high going! Oh, indeed, as soon as we lose one game the board will go nuts about how much so and so stinks :) But I for one am feeling pretty good. Let’s see, we’re a whole 7 games in … yeah, I’m not throwing in the towel yet….

    TR, holy hell! does a throat have room for 100 stitches!!!!

    Campbell: Brandon, I’m sorry about your eye.
    Prust: Gee, Col, thanks, that’s great. I’d wink at you but I can’t cause my eye is an effing mess you assen!!!

  37. Mama – You’re treating me mean today! :cries: Ya know, the Knicks are that team owned by the worthless owner of the Rangers, Jimmy Dolan.

  38. Sorry, CR :) Knicks comment t’wasn’t personal! And last I checked, they kind of do what Potvin does, no?

  39. OK kittens, I’m still a bit shellacked from Sunday :) so while you’re all taking a break, I bid you adieu for this evening. See ya tomorrow all. Ta!

  40. LindaCalPrustBoylahan on

    Sorry JB, i don’t. Right now I have the History Channel on and, shockingly…NO HITLER!!! they are doing a history of halloween thingie lol.

  41. JBytes, I watch the Event. The pilot was horrible and I was going to quit on it, but I stuck it out, and it’s turned out to be excellent. What are your thoughts?

  42. Yeah, I would have to agree re: Prospal and Drury, neither are needed at the moment, but I’ll take Prospal back over Drury.

    If things continue like they have, and this teams’ effort continues to be what it has been lately, Drury might need to be asked if he wants to go to Boston or back to Buffalo and waive his no trade.

    I would also like to see Dale Weiss up with the team as well as Kennedy. I could do without Steve Emminger getting any more ice time and would rather see Sauer and Gilroy rotating. Let Emminger play when the injury bug hits.

    When this team has Kreider, Grachev and McIlyrath in the fold then we will be ready to compete at the next level.

  43. just happened to look over a few posts
    and noticed ilb’s mention of cw’s comments
    checked ’em out and
    sorry cw, did not see that earlier.
    i plead not guilty to plagiarism
    just both of us in agreement.

  44. sorry CR9
    but after lebron quite on cleveland couldn’t win a championship
    after being anointed King
    and then made a mess of his departure
    i don’t care if he ever wins again
    and that includes any games against boston.

  45. Carp, great post and not just because I agree with you wholeheartedly but rather because I believe your perceptions come at a poignant time.

    This team is fairly young not only in terms of experience but also as a ‘team’. They’re just beginning to build confidence as individual players and as a team. They’re gradually developing a sense of identity and leaders in the locker room are becoming more evident (e.g. Callahan stepping forward within the last week or so). As this team gets better during the season, and it certainly looks like they could (albeit slowly with some hiccups along the way), opposing teams will raise their level of battle against them and present more of a challenge. How will they handle the highs and lows of the season?

    With a number of imminent prospects weeks or months away from being ready to contribute on a short (or possibly long?) term basis might we see Sauer, Stepan or others rested periodically for short periods to help them avoid becoming mentally and/or physically drained? Some batteries are recharged while some Hartford players are rewarded with an opportunity to demonstrate their progress.

  46. Olga Folkyerself on

    Lovely sentiment Carp. But the one move that will give the Rangers any meaningful improvement was not done.


  47. Really, it’s not Sather’s fault that Sather’s still in charge. It’s Jimmy Dolan’s. Jimmy Dolan is perhaps the worst owner in sports. He couldn’t give a crap if the teams win. He used to have a long time feud with Mr. Steinbrenner. He could have learned about a million things from Mr. Steinbrenner. Urgency, commitment to fans, how to run a business, how to win, class, integrity, character. I cant believe that asshat has cost New Yorkers the opportunity to see Giants games, and if the Yankees were in the World Series, the Yankees. There’s something truly wrong with Jimmy Dolan.


  48. Olga Folkyerself on

    No, but it’s Sather’s fault we have had such a crappy last 10 years. Dolan does not run the team. Sather does. Sather is supposed to know what he’s doing. Sather made all the awful trades, signings, draft picks, coaching personnel.

    Dolan is a stupid owner.
    Sather is criminally responsible.

  49. I dont disagree on Sather. But the only reason why Sather still has a job and is still able to perpetrate crimes such as 4 years for Booooogaaaaaard is Jimmy “Billy Madison” Dolan

  50. I still cant believe anybody would sign a skill-less buffoon like Boooogaaaard for 4 years at $1.5 mil a year. It’s astounding to me! LOL!

  51. Hugh Jess Folkyerself on

    Sather is why I now root for the Black Hawks first, Rangers second. And it will be that way until Sather is gone. I haven’t spent a dime on the Rangers as long as Sather has been GM.

  52. I hate Lebron James!

    If I had to be stuck on an island with him or Crobsy, I’d rather be stuck with Crosby than with him. I’d have a better chance of leaving that island with those massive lips of his. I’m sure they wont pop like Tom Hanks’ lifeboat in “Cast Away”.

  53. CR 9

    Let’s put it in a different perspective.

    A gun.

    You may own a firearm. You are not a “gun nut”, just someone who wants a bit of protection. You don’t go around advertising it, nor lugging it around with you, nor deep down hope against hope that you never have to use it.

    Let me suggest to you one fact of life that I became aware of many years ago.

    ……if you ever have NEED of a gun — there is nothing in this world that you are ever going to need more.

    I spent 30 years as an insurance investigator, and I always wore a concealed. Nothing dramatic, and probably I should have had a more potent protector than that little .380 Mauser HSC. But it was small and light and I soon became accustomed to it. It was a double action automatic holding a 7 round magazine. I never had to draw it…….something that I have always thanked the good Lord for. You see I made a pact with myself. I would never draw it to threaten. Nor to show off. I vowed
    that it would never be drawn except to save my life. That was to be my ultimate response only. I often had to proceed into dangerous neighborhoods, where even the police would not go without backup. I had to go alone.

    Think of Boog as our, ” ultimate response.” You may not need him, but if you do…you will need him decisively.

  54. Crystal Water Triple on

    Why do I get the feeling that Boo Boo is Huge Jessiman, revisited? Because he is. Go Sather!

  55. Interesting perspective, indeed, Fran…

    Got to go to work, later ‘heads! I hate shaving, btw…

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