“2013 New York Rangers Report Card” by Mark Romeo
Hard to believe it’s been only five months since we were collectively wishing to see less of Gary Bettman and more of Sam Rosen, but it has been. Tough to call this Rangers season much of anything other than a disappointment, but I ask you: on April 1 at 16-15-3, would you have thought this team would make the playoffs, much less advance to the second round?
And if someone told you that Slats was going to trade away the team’s best sniper and bring back two underachieving, former first-round picks and a guy with a broken collarbone, from that hockey hotbed known as Columbus … Plus he trades away picks for a guy who had yet to score a goal all year and was best known around the league for using his stick from the bench to break up an odd man rush in one of the most bizarre plays in hockey history. All of this happens in 48 hours and it transforms the Rangers into a dangerous playoff team. You would have asked “what are you smoking?“
Having said all that, it was still not good enough.
So as I get set to watch my Mets waste away another summer, here goes nothing:
Arron Asham, C: Not a horrible signing. Not Mike Rupp, not Donald Brashear. But like those other two free agent signings, there was not a lot of health or ice time.
Stu Bickel, D: He just did not have enough to offer in order to stay in the lineup.
Martin Biron, A: Provides everything you ask for in a back up goalie.
Brian Boyle, C+: He built hopes and probably got labeled incorrectly a few years back with his surprise scoring. I don’t like getting into calling guys first-line, second-line or whatever, but we know this: He is not a number one center. He has value on the penalty kill and in the circle. Responsible defensively, good along the boards and he played tougher this year. So you can see why the coach likes him. Just don’t look to him for offense in this system. You need a few guys like this on every team, you just don’t want too many of them.
Derick Brassard, B+: A cautious B+. Not many of us knew much about the guy. We saw his skill front and center since he arrived. He ran warm and hot, but never cold. A lot of upside, plus he showed a little toughness that we weren’t expecting.
Ryan Callahan, A+: Full of heart, leadership, relentless effort, courage and determination. The guy leads by example and shows toughness, skill and accountability along the way. One of the top captains in the league, ask anyone. Even when he does have the rare off-night, he has one or two special moments that lets everyone know he never quits.
Ryane Clowe, B-: Sort of incomplete, but there was a lot to like in the little time he played (and the little time he played healthy). His age and health scare me a little. He is wanted back, but at what price? It will be an interesting off-season for him and Rangers management.
Michael Del Zotto, C+: For all his ups and downs, this kid has 32 playoff games under his belt and he is only 22. That can only help him going forward. True we did see some boneheaded, glaring mistakes at the worst times, but he did play tougher this year. Needs to produce more offensively
Steve Eminger, B: Played way more minutes than most of us expected. A depth player, who ideally is not in the Rangers top 6, filled in rather well.
Dan Girardi, B+: Many of the superlatives used for Callahan can be used here, but he did take a step slightly backwards from last year, which I had an A+. He was one of the most reliable defensive defenseman in the league last year and was a deserving All-Star. We all like this guy and we all wonder “maybe he was banged up”. It just seemed like there defensive lapses and bad decisions that were not there last year. Expect a rock solid 2013-14 from him.
Carl Hagelin, B-: Kind of a sideways year for Hagelin where many of us expected growth, including his agent. Previously on some lists as an untouchable, is he still? I am still high on him and his skill, work ethic and surprising toughness. Despite being slight in size, the guy is not afraid of the dirty areas of the ice. A lot to like here, it will be interesting to see how much and how many years the Rangers offer him.
Micheal Haley, C: We may see more of him next year, given the fact that Asham has one year left on his contract and hasn’t been healthy much over the last 3 years. He is depth and insurance if Dorsett gets injured. Fearless and I think he surprised some people with a few flashes of skill.
Chris Kreider, C: While some people fight over whether it was the coach stifling the player or the player just struggling, the bottom line is Kreider had way more bad shifts than good ones this year. To use the coach and the lack of playing time as an excuse is well, just that: an excuse. Maybe Torts’ replacement can convince him the playoffs start in October next year. He has more potential upside than any other player in the organization.
Henrik Lundqvist; A+: The cornerstone. If Callahan is the heart of the team, he is the face of franchise. No. 1 priority for the team in the coming 13 months is to sign this guy. The fear of him walking to a team that can actually score goals (would Pittsburgh lose a game if he was there?) should be enough for Slats. Sign the guy.
Ryan McDonagh; A: Untouchable. He will get a good portion of the money freed up by the Richards buy-out. Not flawless, but pretty darn close. Mistakes and bad decisions by him are few and far between. Do not let him get to RFA, he is highly coveted around the league, and only 23. Someone might try to Sakic him.
J.T. Miller; C+: Showed some smarts, skill and toughness, a nice mix for a 19 year old playing at the highest level in the world. Sprinkle in some typical rookie mistakes in judgment and you have some valuable on the job training, even for a shortened season. I fully expect him to be in the lineup, come October.
John Moore; B-: Performed better than most of us expected in the wake of a trade that was, well, traumatic for some. His mostly solid play (and at times showed a little offense and toughness) softened the loss of Staal a little and just in time. Could you imagine Rangers playing the Washington series with Hamrlik or Gilroy?
Rick Nash; B-: Talk about polarizing. That being the case, I will toss out opinion and conjecture and go right the numbers. His 0.95 PPG was his highest total since 2008-09, third highest of his career and the Rangers’ highest PPG since Jagr in 2006-07. His 14 third-period goals were second in the league this year. All of that aside, many of us are wondering why he turned into Jan Erixon in the post season.
Darroll Powe; D: No one expected much out of Powe and that is what we got. He can kill penalties, but he turned out to be no more durable than Rupp. Assuming full team health, where does he get playing time or even dress?
Taylor Pyatt; D: Underwhelming. At times good, at times better than good, but for long stretches of the season he looked a step slow and soft for his size. I think many of us expected more from him. Like Powe and Asham, signed through the end of next season, but will he make it that far?
Brad Richards; F: This is tough, because Richards is one of the most respected players in the league on and off the ice. I think we all know this respect is what kept him in the lineup way longer than he should have. Ron McLean and others north of the border pontificated that Richards deserved better than to be scratched in the playoffs. What they didn’t realize was that he already received way better treatment than just about any other player in the league. Torts’ admiration and fondness for the man won out over his hockey sense for way too long. Unfortunately Richards’ best moments of this season came off the ice with the NHLPA and with his selfless hurricane relief efforts. Bye buy Brad, best wishes.
Marc Staal, A: So darn good when he is in the lineup, we can only hope he is back as close to 100 percent as possible in the fall. After missing only 7 games in his first four season combined, he missed 63 in the past two seasons. No other way to spin it: the Rangers need this guy back next year, all year.
Derek Stepan, A+: The Rangers most valuable skater this season, hands down. Not only led the team in scoring, but just about any wingers Torts threw his way performed better. Big payday coming for this kid: the rest of that Richards money and then some.
Anton Stralman, B: Quietly has turned into a real find (or stroke of luck) for Slats. Ate up valuable minutes and does a lot right out there. I wish he would get more confidence in his shot, because it’s not bad.
Mats Zuccarello, B+: MZA 2.0 was a better version than last year’s. That is not to say he was bad last year, but this year’s model was a little grittier and at times fearless in amongst the tall trees. He seemed more confident and assertive offensively this year and more than just a trick shot artist brought in for the skills competition that Carp loves so much. Re-sign him.