Some Random Thoughts:
· The league needs to implement a “Justin Schultz rule.” Perhaps something like making a draft choice the property of the drafting team for seven years. Anaheim got regally screwed by a loophole where a college player can easily become an unrestricted free agent. Here’s how simple it was and still is unless they plug the hole. From Wikipedia: “During the last week of May, 2012, Schultz officially “de-registered” from the University of Wisconsin triggering a process that will likely make him an unrestricted free agent (UFA).According to league rules, from the time Anaheim was given notice of the de-registration from school, the Ducks have a 30-day exclusive window to try to sign him or trade him. If Anaheim does not sign or trade Schultz, he will be eligible to sign an Entry Level Contract with any of the NHL’s other 29 teams on July 1, 2012.”
· Is it a coincidence that stud Panthers prospect Nick Bjugstad wouldn’t/didn’t sign a contract with the Panthers this past week and opted to return to the U. of Minnesota for his junior year? Bjugstad who was born in Minneapolis and was Mr. Minnesota high school hockey may very well have said to himself, “Hey, I too can go the Shultz route: stay at home, sign with the Wild and join a team that now has Parise and Suter.” Can you imagine if Kreider had his mind made up to become a Bruin? Yikers!
· Now that the LeBron blueprint has migrated to the NHL (Jordan Staal joins his brother and Parise and Suter form an alliance) I wonder if Mark Staal will sign another Ranger contract rather than join his brothers in Carolina.
· It would be great if hockey joined the modern age. In the NBA virtually all games start with the players welcoming and hugging the opposition. In the NFL you often see a defender extend a helping hand to the guy he just tackled. The NHL, however, has this super macho code where basic gamenight humanity is seen as weakness.
· And oh those silly hockey nicknames: Pruster, Staalsy, Boyler . When I run into Gary Bettman, do I address him as Better or Bettsy?
· It seems the small man is a seriously endangered species these days in the NHL. Most teams have the same mantra: “Get bigger, faster, tougher.” The Rangers overall strategy reflects this. The four draftees all have above average size and speed. A smurf has to have exceptional skill and or feistiness in today’s NHL. MZA and JAM were too small for the Rangers. Christian Thomas and Ryan Bourque are going to have to show a lot more if they want to make the big jump. Fortunately the Rangers have several big young power forwards in the pipeline: Andrew Yogan, Steve Fogarty, Kyle Jean and J.T Miller. Marek Hrivek has good size as well.
· Seeing that 35 year old Shane Doan was apparently offered a 4 year $30M contract makes you think Brad Richards was a bargain. Who woulda thunk it?
· I like what the Rangers have done/haven’t done this off season. Not bidding up for Prust was a great move. I know he was a “heart and soul” guy but he wasn’t a very good hockey player. A beat up 28 year old, one wonders whether he’ll still have the same “it’s just pain” mentality now that he’s got his big contract. As far as his 20 fights (almost all losses or draws) go, check out these videos and you’ll see the Rangers have more than adequately replaced BP’s fighting contribution.
· Letting Mitchell go and signing Halpern is a definite plus. With Mitchell; a good skater with a good shot who was strong on the puck, the whole was much less than the sum of the parts. Seeing Mitchell on the power play on numerous occasions was downright dumbfounding. Halpern is a mentsh.
· Kris Newbury is an enigma. He should be the ideal fourth line center. He’s a proven scorer at the AHL level. He’s big, physical and drops the gloves. For some reason he just hasn’t produced at the NHL level. The gate’s open Big Fella.
· I hope J.T. Miller makes the team. He’s a tough SOB with above average skills. He’s already got an NHL body and it wouldn’t hurt to start him on the fourth line like other teams have done with young players. If he does well there, he can get more minutes. If he doesn’t do well, he can be sent to the Whale. Reporters said that at times he was the most dominant player at the recent camp and Gordie Clark has said that his only real fault is that he doesn’t shoot enough. I have a hunch that at some point we’ll see J.T. at MSG this season.
· Speaking of rookies wouldn’t it be great if interviewers asked them, “What is your height and weight” besides “Are you happy to be here?”
· I missed Mike Sauer a lot this past season. His gap integrity, his knowledge of angles, his ability to consistently win battles along the boards, his nifty outlet passes, his rare turnovers and his high hockey IQ make him the ideal stay at home defenseman. I hope he continues to progress and we see him on the ice soon.
Have a great day everybody.