Monday, August 31, 2009

Rumor: Drury for Heatley

From a story in the Ottawa Sun - a couple of pieces of earth shaking news about the Rangers and Dany Heatley.

First of all - We are Heatley's first choice. Not that it matters - but it's nice to hear. Dany's biggest problem is his lack of motivation - and if he actually wants to play hockey here - under Tortorella - we take that as a very good sign.

Second - the Senators offered Heatley to your New York Rangers during or just before the NHL draft. What did they want in return from Sather and company? Marc Stahl and (unsigned RFA) Brandon Dubinsky. And Glen mulled it over and said no. I don't know about you - but I would have thought long and hard about that one - especially with the negotiations for Brandon dragging out the way they have.

And the third blockbuster piece of news - the Senators are now asking for Chris Drury straight up for Heatley.

Well, now. We love Drury over here at Blueshirt Brothers. But - as bad as we feel saying this - we do think he's being overpaid by The Rangers. Heatley earns $7.5 million - so it's almost an even swap salary-wise. But man-oh-man can Heatley fill that net better then Chris will ever be able to.

You would lose a lot in the way of heart and character giving up Drury. But you'd pick up a lot of goals.

Imagine Heatley and Gaborik on a line together. It might not be Malkin and Crosby - but it could give us a legitimate chance to rock and roll with the big boys.

Of course - we're looking for more qualified centers now and losing Drury sends us in the opposite direction on that one. If we did get Gabby and Dany on a line together - who exactly would be feeding these guys the puck?

So - It's a tough one that Glen and Torts are chewing on right now. Think hard, men. You need to get this one right.
[Update - One of our readers correctly pointed out that Drury has a no trade provision in his contract. Quite right and I should have realized that myself. So without his permission Drury can't be traded for anyone. The Ottawa Sun story said The Rangers didn't want to part with Drury - but the truth may be that it is the other way around - Drury doesn't want to part with the Rangers. Thanks for the heads up - and keep those comments coming]

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mike Richter - a Ranger Great - but better than Hank?

We've seen some items this week comparing Mike Richter to Henrik Lundqvist - starting with a blog entry over at by Patrick Hoffman. Very interesting topic, Patrick.

Let me weigh in by saying that, for starters, these are both exceptional goalies - they are both good enough to win a Stanley Cup with - and they are both better than that Marty guy over the river on the Newark team.

Mike will always have a special place in our Ranger hearts because he rose to the occasion. He was magnificent in battle and won us a Stanley Cup back in 1994.

Henrik on the other hand - well, we here at Blueshirt Brothers feel he has a chance to be one of the best goalies ever. He too has been magnificent in battle and has at time carried the team on his back at times.

Both players have had to work with poor supporting casts at times. Mike had 5 years of non playoff teams. Henrik has had the Tom Renney shooting gallery strategy with him as the target.

I think Mike gets a little extra boost right now because - years later - our strongest Richter memory is him winning the cup. And our last memory of Hank is the crushing, somewhat soft, goal that snuck by him in game seven in DC.

Here are the career stats for both - again from Patrick Hoffman:

For Richter:

Regular Season-
2.89 goals against average-
.904 save percentage

2.68 goals against average-
.909 save percentage

For Lundqvist:

Regular Season-
2.31 goals against average-
.917 save percentage

2.66 goals against average-
.907 save percentage

In the regular season - Lundqvist has been better. To me - save percentage is the key stat. A goalie faces shots and what percentage he saves tells the story of how good he is. For every 100 shots in the regular season - Mike let in 1.3 more goals.

The playoff stats favor Mike - but by the thinnest of margins.

And in the end there's this. Lundqvist was considered one of the leagues top 3 goalies in three of his four NHL seasons. Mike can't match that. And Hank may be the most overworked Ranger goalie in a long time - he lead the NHL in games played last year. No wonder he gave out at the end.

So I'd have to say - right now - Hank has had the better career and the higher potential. But I'm also expecting his game to bounce back from last year's decline. Tortorella's system will help Hank immensely by (1) keeping the puck away from him, and (2) providing him a lot more rest days.

Of course, if Hank's game continues to erode... but let's not even go there.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm Back - and Three Weeks To Go

Your fearless reporter Dave Pucks is back from sunny Cape May with Pucks Junior and the whole Pucks family - having taken our boogie boards and successfully ridden many waves in a great vacation. We managed to find some good weather wedged between two hurricanes (Bill and Danny) and made the most of it. Even Mrs. Pucks had a good time.

I wasn't able to post for a week - so had several loaded up in the can which spooled out over the last week. And from our "hits" this week it seems like you guys like it better when I'm not around.

For me though - I missed you all and I'm glad to be back in the blogging saddle again.

There's not all that much Ranger news out there - I picked a good week to bug out. But I can see from the counter at the bottom of this blog that the first Ranger Pre-Season hockey game versus the Boss-town Bruins will be just three short weeks from this very day.

Now pre-season hockey is a bit of a step down from the Stanley cup finals - or from regular season hockey - or pre-season football - or (better not go here). But it is Ranger Hockey - and it will feature a whole bunch of new Rangers out there.

So it is a new beginning. A new chance for the Rangers lines to click - a chance fro Gaborik or have or avoid an injury - a new chance for Lundqvist to shake off the rust and regain his all star form. A chance for Drury to become the superstar we pay him to be. A chance to wipe away our last Ranger memory - that depressing 3 game losing streak in the playoffs.

Three weeks. Three weeks and our New York Rangers take the ice.

I don't know about you guys - But I can't wait.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ranger Dark Side/Bright Side Part IV

With NFL football's preseason well underway - can the NHL be far behind? And in honor of football's return - we're going to play a little Monday Morning Quarterback (even though today is not Monday).

In other words - we're going to do our 4th installment of some Ranger second-guessing - and look at the worries - the concerns - in short: the dark side of our Ranger thoughts with the season less than four weeks away. But because it's still summer and we believe in optimism in our life and our sports-rooting (and our blogs) we're going to balance all that negativity with a little positive energy. So here we go once again with - Ranger Dark Side-Bright Side:

Dark Side: General Manager Glen Sather and Coach John Tortorella have cleaned out almost half of last year's team. That is no way to build consistency.

Bright Side: Last year's team was not one you wanted to preserve. We couldn't score, we didn't pressure the puck, and we didn't defend all that well. Not exactly a winning combination - and exactly the kind of consistency you don't want. Sometime you need to throw stuff out and start over - and this is one of those times

Dark Side: The Olympics this year are going to make it harder on the Rangers. The compressed schedule makes it tough on the players in Tortorella's up-tempo game. More games in less nights will exhaust our players

Bright Side: Our opponents are also playing a compressed schedule. So that means they will also have more games in less days and will also be tired - and so our pressure-the-puck style will be more effective against them - if we don't collapse while running it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Torts Reforms - How to re-make the Rangers Part III - Stamina

Moving along with our continuing series on the changes that John Tortorella will be making in your New York Rangers as compared to the start of last year under Tom Renney, we are up to our third installment.

John has not been shy about pointing out this next item. Recently interviewed he said the following:

"Conditioning, ... I think is a weakness of our club. As I’ve said, and I make no bones about it, I don’t think we’re a stiff team mentally. I think we have to be a little bit tougher in that area, in mental parts and preparation.”

This is very different from one year ago. Renney was more of a player's coach. Torts is more of an in-your-face push-your-players kind of guy. We saw it in action in the Rookie camp earlier this summer. Several players mentioned how hard they had been worked and how sore they felt when it was all over.

John's change is a fundamental one. He isn't expecting his players to get in shape in training camp. He expects them to show up in shape. He's already sent more than one letter to each Ranger to let them know that reporting to camp in good physical condition is expected from each and every player.

And once he gets the players into camp - he expects to take their fitness and conditioning to another level.

The result of all this is stamina - the ability to keep outworking your opponent when the going gets tough. Because talent only takes you so far in the NHL - you need staying power. And from physical strength comes mental resilience. You need that to compete at the top of the NHL.

And this year - Torts will make sure we've got it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rangers Get Vinnie?

I wasn't going to say anything - but thinking something and not saying anything about it is not really how we roll around here. So here goes:

There are been all these stories bouncing around the web (or what George Bush calls "the internets") about the Ranger's acquisition of a certain Mr. Prospal. But many of the articles and posts - heck - most of them - are for some incomprehensible reason, calling him "Vinnie".

Vinnie? I mean, really?

How ugly-American can you get? The man is from the Czech Republic and his name is (queue the Insurance Duck) Vaclav.

Vaclav is a fine name - nothing wrong with it. And there's nothing wrong with the name Vinnie. But Vaclav and Vinnie are different names. See, having the same first letter doesn't make them the same - becuase the names have all these other letters in them.
And having Americans calling Vaclav by a more USA sounding name is kind of 1950s lame, isn't it?

It's like when your grandma calls the superintendent Louis (LOO-iss) because she can't remember how to say Luiz (loo-EEES)

Think of it in reverse. Let's say the Czech republic decides they want a team in NFL Europe. And then let's say they go out and get Vinny Testaverde as their QB. And then Vinnie starts getting interviewed and reporters are calling him Vaclav Testeverde - you know - because Vinnie sounds a little weird in Czech and Vaclav begins with the very same letter! I mean, if you're Vinnie you have to be thinking "what is this Vaclav crap - my father named me Vincent?"

Anyway - in 2009 its just not cool to assume everyone else has to change their names to seem less foreign to US citizens. So, please, say it with me people - Vaclav. Vaclav. And if you forget - just think of the Duck. Because Vaclav is "AFFLAC" backwards.

Sort of.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ranger Dark Side/Bright Side - Part III

Recently we played a little game we came up with called Ranger Dark Side - Bright Side. And with just the Rangers-Bruins preseason game less than 4 weeks away - check out the counter way at the bottom of this page to see the hours and minutes - we thought we should do another installment.

The idea is to explore some of those deep seated, pit-of-the-stomach fears (or complaints) you have about the upcoming Ranger team. But then - in the spirit of staying positive we'll also look at why we think those issues may not be so bad after all.

Dark Side - Letting Zherdev walk and getting nothing in return was a huge blunder. Nik is a young proven 50 point player on the upside of his career and losing him takes away a lot of the positive effect of getting Gaborik

Bright Side - evidence was showing that Nik was not going to be a 50 point player under Tortorella. As the kind of player who can take a night off and disappear for shifts or games at a time - he sets a bad example for the rest of the team and hurt team spirit. At the arbitrator's $3.9 million he is no bargain. We think the Rangers can spend that money better elsewhere. And admitting Nik was a mistake and moving on is a very positive sign from Sather.

Dark Side - hiring Donald Brashear - a classless thug and bully - after what he did to Blair Betts is a bad ethical move for the Rangers and sends a terrible message.

Bright Side - Like it or not - physical intimidation is a part of hockey. And as long as that is true you can either defend your players or leave them out there unprotected, swivel-headed, and on edge. The Rangers are looking to protect their stars this year - and that's a good thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tort's Reforms - how to re-make the Rangers - part 2 - Accountability

In beer they talk about Drinkability. In hockey it's Accountability. In both cases (Editor - stop with the beer puns) it is a word that we hear all the time without knowing exactly what it means.

I'll leave the beer terminology to Nugman, who is too busy downing lager and watching his beloved New York Yankees to get his butt over to his own website site - and I'll focus on the NHL word.

Accountability, in hockey terms means that a player's performance on the ice - his hustle - his work ethic - his results - are the determining factor in his ice time. It means that a player who plays poorly, who doesn't go the extra ice-mile, sits and watches his more determined teammates.

Because if instead of accountability you do the opposite and award ice time to players based on (1) the size of their contract, (2) their popularity, or (3) achievements in season's past - you send a very bad message to your players. You are telling them how they play doesn't matter to you.

Think of it this way. If your boss told you that your performance this year would have no effect on your compensation - wouldn't you find it easier to slack off some days and not give it your full effort? Especially when you co-workers were doing the same?

That unfortunate downward spiral is exactly what happened to your New York Rangers during those horrific seven no-playoffs years.

Here's what Tortorella says about accountability:

"Every player will be held accountable. I believe so strongly in the team concept. Players will get time through merit and they will need to understand what 'merit' is right away."

It sounds like a man with a plan. And it sounds like a coach who knows what accountability is.

Now if only someone could explain drinkability to me. Excuse me while I do some independent research on that one - all in the name of science of course.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ranger Dark Side/Bright Side - Part II

Hi folks. Your faithful reporter Dave Pucks has taken Pucks Junior, Mrs. Pucks, and the whole Pucks clan down to Cape May New Jersey for a few days of rest and relaxation. But unlike some other Blogs - we care about our readers enough to keep the daily Ranger posts going come "hell or high tide". So there will be no interruption in the daily updates emanating from your friends here at Blueshirt Brothers.

Today we are doing our second installment of Ranger Dark Side (somebody queue that song from the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack). The idea is to introduce some of our deep seated fears about the upcoming Rangers season - the Dark Side - and then try our best to dispel those bad feelings with some counter-arguments (the Bright Side). (Here was our first go round if you want to take a peek)

It's all very new age-y but its Ranger Hockey at the same time. Okay - here we go:

The Dark Side: The Rangers, by essentially swapping Gomez for Gaborik on the salary cap - have gone from a team with a center who had no one to pass it to - to a team with someone to pass to but no Center to do it

The Bright Side: This is much better than last year's predicament. Because Gaborik will get the puck sometimes - no matter who centers for him - and so he will get some shots of and will score some goals. And the Rangers can put something out there at Center - we have some talented guys on the roster who can adapt or grow into that role.

The Dark Side: Lundqvist appears to be getting worse each year

The Bright Side: Hank has been worn down by ex-coach Tom Renny's style, the Rangers defensive troubles, and simple over-use. John Tortorella will coach differently, keep the puck out of Hank's vicinity, rest him more, and will give him more leads to work with. All of that will take some pressure of the Swede and will result in a bounce back year.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"I'm an offensive guy"

It's been a while since anybody has heard anything, but - what do you know - the "H" word has poked up again.

Dany Heatley the disgruntled high-scoring forward for Ottawa - a player the Rangers had been pursuing a trade for - spoke to the press on Thursday. First and foremost, he made one thing perfectly clear:

"I did not make this trade request public, nor did my representatives. It's very unfortunate that it did become public," Heatley said, "...that's not what I wanted."

Interesting. If Heatley didn't leak the trade request - who did - Ottawa GM Bryan Murray? And why would they do that when they're trying to get full value for him in a trade?
Or was it one of the GMs he was talking to? Why would any of them do that? Well, honestly, that makes more sense - it lowers his trade value.

The Senators actually worked out a trade with Edmonton - but Heatley exercised his contractual rights and - to use the precise legal term - put the kibosh on that deal. That's when the Rangers and the Sharks stepped forward. Reportedly San Jose got farther than we did - but not far enough to land Dany.

Why, exactly is Heatley so unhappy with his remaining 5 year $31 million contract? Dany explained: "I think over the last two years, and more recently over the past year, I feel that my role has diminished; especially this past season, it diminished a lot more. It's something I've been thinking about for a long time. A diminished role -- that's the biggest thing. I'm a player that can play in a lot of different situations. I'm an offensive guy, but I take pride in all aspects of the game and I don't feel I was given that role on the team."

Heatley was actually had 2nd most average ice time of any Senator last year - so we're not exactly sure what he means by "diminished role", but clearly it makes sense to him and he feels strongly about it.

On Monday, Heatley heads to Calgary - not to work out a trade with the Flames, but rather , to start Olympic Camp for Team Canada.

I don't know if the Rangers have the cap space to land him anymore - but it sure is interesting to think about. It's getting a little uncomfortable for Dany, who has a good chance now of returning to Ottawa and playing in front of Senator fans who know he doesn't want to be there. It won't be easy - but Dany started this puck rolling by asking for the trade. And if you can't take the Heat(ley) get out of the.... well, you know.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Olympic Team USA - Red, White - and how about some more Blue?

With the Winter Olympics scheduled to split our NHL season into two parts this coming year - it has our attention.

Unlike the Miracle On Ice days, Team USA can field professional players for the NHL. Your New York Rangers, of course, have more than their share of US born players. It would be a shame if none of our American players got to go for the USA Gold - but it could happen.

The Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is also Team USA's GM and will be picking the squad. In a recent interview at USA Today, Burke spoke about player selection:

"We can't just take the 23 best players. We have to take players who can perform specific tasks at a high level, even if that's a blue-collar task."

Team USA Coach Ron Wilson got a little more specific:

"we will need a (physical) style to wade through that minefield."

What he means is that the USA team will need to have a physical presence - to be aggressive - in order to compete. They want big players who can hit and score. The fact that this time they will be playing on the smaller NHL sized rinks will give an advantage to that style of play. In the past Olympics the games were played on larger European rinks - so the the slow tough players are less of a factor because there is more room for the faster guys to skate around them.

Burke also mentioned that role players will be part of his team. And he mentioned Ranger Chris Drury as one possibility. What he likes about Drury is that he can play a variety of roles - a role player to grind down the opposition or an addition to the scoring lines.

The other Ranger with a chance to make the club is Ryan Callahan. Former Ranger Scot Gomez is a possibility also. But none of these guys are a lock.

So we'll root for a few of our New York Rangers to make Team USA. Otherwise - we won;t know who to root for - especially when the Swedish team has King Henrik in goal.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New York News

Here's a blast from blue lines' past.

The Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League (AHL) made a little announcement today. They signed a veteran Left Winger to a 1 year contract. That Left Winger's name (get ready for this):

Mike York.

That's right, Mike York. The same Mike York who played for your New York Rangers for 2 years 2000-01 and 2001-02. In that second season he notched 18 goals and 39 assists for 57 points (more than any Ranger managed to do last year - by the way).

York was part of the "FLY" line in New York, teamed with Eric Lindros and the recently mentioned Theo Fleury. And Mike was also famous for the way he left the Rangers - he was traded for (get ready to boo) Tom Poti, who was much maligned here (and rightly so). He then bounced like a loose puck from the Oilers to the Islanders to the Flyers to the Coyotes and eventually he slid right on out of the NHL.

That all seems like ancient history now - but Mike is somehow only 31 years old - born in January of 1978 - and he will continue his career this year as a Rochester American.

Maybe - if Fleury can't make the NHL this year - he can find a slot up in Rochester and re-unite with his former linemate. It's nice to think about anyway.

Good luck Mike - we remember you and wish you well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Betts Deserves Better

This is ridiculous. In fact, to quote Dr. Evil, this is ri-God-Damn-diculous.

Last year the Rangers had the best Penalty Kill stats in the NHL. It was the one thing we excelled at. And the first unit on the ice when we were shorthanded always included the hardworking forward Blair Betts.

Betts is the classic special teams hero. He quietly made sure that the Rangers could get though countless man-down situations without giving up a goal. He was a perfect team player - nothing flashy - just get the job done - keep the opponents off the scoreboard and keep us in the hockey games - one shorthanded shift at a time. That was a huge part of any success we managed to have last year.

And it was no coincidence that when Betts' season was ended by a vicious cheap-shot by Donald Brashear (and don't get me started here) that the Capitals began hitting on their power play and the momentum in the playoff series shifted away from us for good.

And in a salary cap driven league, Betts is on the cheap side, costing only $615K last year. That's less than 1/10th of Wade Redden's salary (and again - don't get me started on that either).

So someone please tell me: Why hasn't someone grabbed this bargain-priced, team-first, hard-working, penalty-killing dynamo? Because honestly - I don't get it.

The Calgary Sun news agency caught up with Blair yesterday - the 29 year old forward has been skating at a camp in Edmonton to keep his skating edge. And so finally, after weeks of silence, we have few quotes:

"Things have been pretty quiet for about a month now," Blair told a reporter yesterday. "I'm not sure what's going to happen. We'll just have to continue to wait for a couple of weeks and see... Right now, there are a lot of teams that are pretty close to the salary cap and are dealing with some tough numbers right now. It's a tough time for a lot of people right now, but what can you do? You just have to be patient."

Patient? Well, unfortunately Blair has no choice. I can only imagine how confusing and hurtful this must feel to him. He gets head-hunted by the Capitals in the playoffs - injured in the line of duty - and instead of the Rangers standing behind him - they release him and sign the guy that hurt him to double his salary.

And I really don't understand. I'm used to the Rangers making bad personnel decisions - but where is every other hockey club? Somebody get on the phone and get yourself a bargain - a forward who will significantly lower your goals-against. Because stopping a score is just as good as scoring one yourself.

And because Betts deserves better.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Didn't we used to have a guy named Dubinsky?

The recent acquisition of free agent forward "Vaclav!" Prospal - who can play Center if called on - has set all of us here at Blueshirt Brothers to wondering what, exactly, this means for our one remaining RFA - one Mr. Brandon Dubinsky.

We are hearing that talks between Dubinsky's agent and the Ranger's front office have pretty much broken down. The two sides are far apart on a multi year deal for the young hard-working centerman. So - with Brandon a Restricted Free Agent - where does this leave us? There are a few ways this can play out:

Other teams can sign Dub to an Offer Sheet. But if that happens the Rangers can match that offer and keep Dubinsky for the season.

If no offer sheets come - Brandon has little choice besides playing for the Qualifying Offer the Rangers made at the start of the off-season.
If either of those things happen - Dubs will be a Ranger for this season - but then becomes a UFA when the season ends. Of course - the Rangers can sign him at any time up to and after that - but right now - with our RFA rights - this is our best leverage in signing him.

Of course - if we wait - we'll all have another season to look at and analyze what Brandon's value is. Waiting may not be the smartest option for Sather - but with a qualifying offer under $700 K - it certainly is the cheapest.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Welcome aboard Captain! This is one Mess in the front office that we actually like

Glen "Slats" Sather has seen a mess or two (or twenty) in his days as the GM of the New York Rangers.

He's had a mess with the salary cap. He's had a mess with the hiring of the thug Don Brashear. He's had a mess with the ridiculously over-priced salaries of Redden and Rozsival and ... (Don't get me started). He's had a mess with the handling of Nik Zherdev. He's had a mess with the dismantling of the league leading penalty kill team of Betts and Sjostrom (and why was that done?).

But finally - Slats has finally put a new mess in the front office that we can approve of. That's because the Rangers have named Mark "Mess" Messier as Special Assistant to Glen Sather.
The move brings our Stanley Cup winning champion - our former Captain - back to the Ranger family. And for those of us who remember 1994 - Mess was the leader - the catalyst - the man who changed the team chemistry to a winner - the captain who led us into battle - the superstar who made the pledge and single-handedly made it come true. And he is the leader who brought home the Stanley Cup.

So Messier will always have a special place in our Ranger hearts.

Is this a perfect front office strategic move? Well, let's just leave the pros and cons to another day. For today - we're just feeling happy over here at BlueShirt Brothers.

The Captain is back on board.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Vaclav! Why do I hear that annoying Insurance Duck saying that name in my head? It's because the Rangers have shattered the sleepy-hockey days of August with a signing announcement:

Glen "Slats" Sather has located an aging veteran on the downside of his career and so, naturally, he has quickly moved to add him to the Ranger squad.

Vaclav Prospal - the 34 year old Czech Left Winger (who reportedly can play some Center if needed) was quite a player back in his day. He's had 80, 79, and 72 points in his top three years (any of which would have easily topped the Rangers' scoring last year). But in from 2007-08 to 2008-09 his career fell off a cliff - as he dropped from 71 to 45 points and watched his plus-minus fall from even to -20. Whenever a player in his 30s shows signs he's falling apart - it's as if a red light goes off on Sather's desk and he suddenly has to have him.

So your New York Rangers have signed him for $1.1 million, and I can already hear some of the faithful screaming their heads off about it. The move also shows Coach John Tortorella's increasing influence in the Ranger front office - Prospal is a former Tampa Bay Lightning player who was once coached by Torts himself.

The move - like a lot of Ranger moves - is a gamble - but that's what you need to do when you're Salary Cap challenged as we are.

But - honestly - I like this gamble and I'll take these odds . If Prospal - with some new surroundings - a coach he used to play well for - and a guy like Marian Gaborik to draw the defense away from him - can return to even his 2007-2008 level of play, he will be well worth the money and should be a leading scorer for the Blueshirts.

The deal also sheds some light on the ongoing Brandon Dubinsky negotiations. Clearly - Brandon and the Rangers are unable to reach a multi-year contract deal. But even if they don't - Dubinsky can always play for his qualifying offer - unless he gets an offer sheet from someone else for more. But Prospal has played some Center - so - that gives the Rangers some needed insurance at that position.

Insurance? Somebody queue the duck again...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Authentic Rozsival Jersey - with Rozsival in it - just $5 (million)

Do you have any interest in acquiring a Michal Rozsival Jersey? The only catch is that it comes with Michal Rozsival himself wearing it. If so - and if you have $5 million to spend - you can expect Ranger GM Glen Sather to give you a call over the weekend.

Word on the street is that your New York Rangers are looking for anyone - anywhere - to take on Michal Rozsival and his $5 million dollar contract. Like Gomez - Rosy is a guy who Glen Sather just flat out over-paid, trying in vain to create a superstar out of thin air just by paying him superstar money. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. In a a salary cap league - overpaying is a double whammy - you get a bad player and syphon off funds that could pay a better one.

So the Rangers are nominally looking for a "trade" -but really they would give the defenseman away for a pack of smokes to anyone who would pay his (insert your expletive here) salary.

We are hearing that the Dallas Stars have been getting the Glen Sather sales pitch - and that Brad Richards would be the theoretical guy coming back here for Rosey - but that so far no one is Texas is buying any of this.

Good luck Glen. We appreciate the effort. And it takes a man to admit his mistakes and try to trade them away - instead of stubbornly sticking with them in a misguided effort to prove some kind of point.
And again to all of you - if you or your neighbors want a high priced defenseman - maybe as a lawn ornament or handyman - please give MSG a call...

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Are They - Nuts? Caps Pick Theodore

A Washington Post Story this morning quotes Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau as picking Jose "Three-or-more" Theodore - not Semyon Varlamov - as the Capitals number one goalie. Here's the full quote from Boudreau:

"Right now José is the number one guy and the other two young men [here he means Varlamov and another young goalie - Michal Neuvirth] have got to come in and play the way they did last year and try to push him out,"

"José won games for us last year, and like the year before when Cristobal Huet got hot down the stretch, Varly came in and did a great job where we just couldn't take him out."

"But that was 13 games. It doesn't make up for 12 years of experience. I've seen an awful lot of goalies come in at a young age and go into a slump for a year or two. I think José has earned and deserves the right [to be] the number one guy."

To me - this is crazy. Every Ranger fan knows that Varlamov was the difference in that series. And I'm sure if we had faced Theodore for all seven games we would have found a way to win at least one more. Its a bad decision and it's bad for a few reasons:

1 - A goalie controversy is like a quarterback controversy. It divides the team. It makes the players second guess every goal, every rebound, and every game. When you get scored on - you want your players thinking about how to come back and win - you don;t want them thinking that they wish they had a different goalie.

2 - The message you've already sent to Theodore is that if he messes up he's yanked. So his confidence and loyalty are already damaged. So this year he plays with one eye on the puck and the other looking at the bench to see if the coach is about to bench him again.

3 - And now you're telling the young Varlamov the same thing - that you benched him for his play against the Penguins in the playoffs. The goalie position is about confidence. Semyon rode a wave of it against the Rangers and then lost it in the big barrage thrown at him by the (eventual) world champion Penguins. Tossing him back on the bench now further erodes his confidence. He's very young and very talented - the more you play him - the better he will get.

Hey - I've got an even better idea for Boudreau. Why not put Theo and Varly in goal at the same time? Then they can both try to make saves and the hotter goalie will always be on the ice. And with Ovechkin - do you really need four other skaters?

Seriously - Boudreau humiliated Theodore by pulling him for a rookie after one playoff game. But it payed off brilliantly for the Caps and for Varlamov - who came up huge. But picking Theo now is like benching Varly - who is under 21 and has a chance to be a great one. By playing it this way, Coach Boudreau risks losing both players.

And from a Ranger standpoint - that's just fine with me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

(Training) Camp Color Wars!

Do you remember "color war" at summer camp? You and your camp buddies face off against a rival camp - or rival bunk - or something like that - in a contest of some sort of athletic competition. And when it was all over you'd celebrate or commiserate over a paper cup filled with bug-juice or whatever brightly colored beverage it was they served up at camp what-cha-ma-call-it.

Well, Ranger Draft Picks also go to camp. But for them it is the Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. And instead of color wars - they face off against each other by country in playoff-style series.

And up in the Lake Placid Olympic Center - it is Team USA versus Team Russia. And - do you believe in miracles? - the USA is up 2 games to nothing in the series. And we won big - by scores of 8-1 and 6-1.

And what does this have to do with your New York Rangers? Plenty - because a couple of our draft picks are playing for the USA.

Chris Kreider - our first rounder just out of high school - a fast skating forward has played in both games - was held scoreless both nights - but has not looked overmatched in playing with the older kids.

Ryan Bourque - our third rounder - fared much better - notching two goals and an assist. And our friends at Prospect Park report that he has been ferocious on the forecheck (Mr. Tortorella - please take note). The Rangers look very smart so far for nabbing this guy in round three.

Derek Stepan has also come to the party with a big four assists in the two games.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Gone Rangers: Theo Fleury

This episode of The Gone Rangers - a recurring series about former Ranger players - talks about Theo Flurrey.

Before there was Sean Avery - a volatile, somewhat unstable hard working fan favorite with a link to fashion - there was... Theo Fleury.

Fleury - a small but stocky and feisty right winger amassed more than 1,000 points in his NHL career. He was a Ranger for just 3 seasons - his best being 2000-2001 where he had 30 goals and 44 assists (for 74 points). Earlier for the Calgary Flames he twice had 100 point seasons. He was the smallest player in the NHL for several seasons. He was famous as a young man for starting a hockey fight in the 1987 World Junior Championships that resulted in both Canada and Russia being ejected from that tournament.

Theo's story was compelling and ultimately heartbreaking. He was an exciting player to watch - he gave all he had for the Ranger Blue - and had true moments of brilliance as a hockey player - but in the end he fell victim to his own inner demons. After fighting his drug and alcohol addictions and failing - multiple times - the league had no choice but to ban Fleury for violating the league's drug policy.

Theo is reportedly clean and sober now and started his own clothing line. He's been off of drugs and alcohol for several years now- and his hockey story would likely have ended there.

But these hockey players - they play the game from early childhood and it's hard to just walk away from it - especially when his NHL career ended with a ban and against Theo's will.

Lately, Fleury has been playing in a senior league - and dominating. So much so, in fact, that he's thinking about another try at the NHL.

Is this crazy?

Well, he's 41. There are very few players who can produce at the NHL level at that age. Especially when the player has had substance abuse issues and has been out of hockey for years.
Plus there's the NHL ban to overcome.

But despite the long odds - Fleury wants another try. And he's hired a personal trainer to get him back in hockey shape.

So - the real question is - should the Rangers invite him to camp?

My vote is - why the puck not? If the man can't skate with the big boys anymore - it will become obvious pretty quickly. In that case it was just a nice gesture from a classy organization trying to help a man who is getting his life back together.

But if Theo still has something in the tank - he could be a nice extra player for a team looking to stay under the cap. And it's a great feel-good story.

So come on Slats. Come on Torts. Give the guy a look. It costs nothing and it could actually save you money if he sticks. And it's just the right thing to do.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Looking to save Millions - Rangers look at Bouillon

Your New York Rangers are looking to save a little cap space so that when Gaborik takes the ice, they can send a Center and a few other players out there with him.

That means they are bottom feeding - ladelling through the vast gumbo of NHL unsigned (and largely unwanted) players, looking for some tasty bargains. And from this soup the Rangers are looking at Bouillon - at least according to rumor.

That is, Francis Bouillon, the UFA from the Montreal Canadians. In other words - we're thinking of raiding a marginal player from a team that actually finished worse than us last year.

All kidding aside, Bullion has a reputation as a tough and determined defenseman. And he's 5'8" and 200 pounds. Now, your pal Dave Pucks is also 5' 8", but I tip the Blueshirt Brothers Medical Plan scales at 156 pounds - and no one ever calls me skinny (certainly not Mrs. Pucks!).
In hockey, unlike almost every other sport - shortness in a defenseman is not an automatic liability. That's because the puck generally stays down on the ice surface. There are no jump balls in the NHL.
So if a 6' 3" 190 pound winger is on a collision course with a 5' 8" 200 pounder - guess what happens? The lower center of gravity wins.
Francis (maybe we can call him "Soupy"?) Bullion is 33 years old and contributed 5 goals and 4 assist to last year's Montreal juggernaut. None of this is good news - but it's his defense the Blueshirts are interested in.
Anyway - so far it's just a rumor about interest - not a signed contract - so hold off on ordering those Bouillon jerseys for now.
The only questions remaining questions are:
-Will the acquisition of the short aging "Soupy" put our defense in hot water?
-Do the Rangers have one of those you-must-be-this-tall-to be-on-this-ride signs in their locker room?, and
-How in the world will the Canadians replace those 5 lost goals?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tales from the Dark Side

With NFL football's preseason underway - can the NHL be far behind? And in honor of football's return - we're going to play a little Monday Morning Quarterback

In other words - we're going to do some Ranger second-guessing - and look at the worries - the concerns - in short:, the dark side of our Ranger thoughts with the season just six weeks away. But because it's still summer and we believe in optimism in our life and our sports-rooting (and our blogs) we're going to balance all that negativity with a little positive energy. So here we go with - Ranger Dark Side-Bright Side:

The Dark Side: The Rangers, by essentially swapping Gomez for Gaborik on the salary cap - have gone from a team with a center who had no one to pass it to - to a team with someone to pass to but no Center to do it

The Bright side: This is much better than last year's predicament. Because Gaborik will get the puck sometimes - no matter who centers for him - and so he will get some shots of and will score some goals. And the Rangers can put something out there at Center - we have some talented guys on the roster who can adapt or grow into that role.

The Dark Side: Lundqvist appears to be getting worse each year

The Bright Side: Hank has been worn down by ex-coach Tom Renny's style, the Rangers defensive troubles, and simple over-use. John Tortorella will coach differently, keep the puck out of Hank's vicinity, rest him more, and will give him more leads to work with. All of that will take some pressure of the Swede and will result in a big bounce back year for our best player.


There - having faced a little darkness but still finding my way back to the light - I feel better now. And I hope some of you do also.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

When we last heard from Dubinsky...

The weather is warm and the Hockey news is cold. The Rangers aren't saying much and many of our favorite sources are off the grid - relaxing on the beach or at poolside - thinking of the ice in their beverages instead of the rink.

So our thought drift back to the last time we heard from our lone remaining Restricted Free Agent - Brandon Dubinsky.

It was breakup day and the Rangers were dejectedly cleaning out their lockers after a 3-1 series lead crashed and burned against the Washington Capitals. Brandon was gracious enough to speak to the media.

He said:

“We’ve just got to find a way to put it together a little better, and I think with Torts coming in next year and having a full year with us, I think it’s going to be good for us and it’s going to be something we look forward to.”

That makes sense to us. Last year Tortorella came in to a situation where he didn't pick the team, he didn't train the team, and he had little time to make changes. Next year it seems like he's got all three: a say in player selection - he'll set the training schedule - and he's got a whole season to work with.

Dubinsky had more to say:

“We definitely had our spurts where we could have used a little more energy (due to conditioning) but I don’t think there’s going to be a lack of that next year. That’s going to be a main focal point."

He's got that right also. Tortorella was disappointed and a little surprised at how exhausted the Rangers looked at crunch time. Tort's teams tend to be in shape and they win by outworking the other guys. He's already contacted every player on the roster about getting in shape - from his rookie camp we know he still believes in working his players hard. He's the kind of coach that players don't like playing for during camp - but appreciate as they get in shape - the season wears on and they don't wear out.

So Brandon gets it. So why haven't the Rangers gotten him?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

We Finally Say The "H" Word

You know, we're a little superstitious here at BlueShirt Brothers.

And so - we didn't talk about the rumours - and there was one guy we didn't mention by name before - for fear of jinxing it.

Well, we can't take it anymore - so we're going to break radio silence (Internet silence?) and say his name:

Dany Heatley.

There. We said it. It feels good. Liberating in a way.

We want Heatley. We want Heatley skating on Marian Gaborik's line.

Heatley can score - when motivated he is a constant threat out there. He's had 50 goals twice in his career. His goals-per-shots-on-goal is an absurdly good 16% lifetime. Put him on the ice with Gaborik and they will give the other teams fits. It let's us skate with the big dogs. It let's us face the Cup Champion Penguins with Malkin and Crosby without falling back and cowering.We need someone like Heatley. But - can we get him? Can we fit him in the cap? Can we get him and fit him in the cap and get enough players under the cap to play competitive hockey?

Good question. And here in August as our minds are thinking about the weekend, Slats and Torts are working on that right now.

At least I hope they are.

[Editor's note - in our first version of this article - Dave Pucks - in an apparent drunken haze - mistakenly tabbed Heatley as a center - apologies all around for the error and thanks to one of our readers for pointing this out]

Friday, August 7, 2009

And then there was one

Free agents. They come in 2 flavors: restricted and unrestricted. Your outgoing Unrestricted free agents are never really yours anyway. They belong to the universe - the NHL, other teams, the KHL, anywhere they can find a place to hang their skates and sticks.

But the Restricted Free Agents - your NY Rangers have rights to these guys. At least some rights. So, as we approach the season (and check out that counter at the very bottom of this page - counting off to the Rangers - Bruins preseason game) those RFA start falling. One by one.

It wasn't all that long ago that we had a bunch: Korpi, Cally, Nikky Z, Higgy, and Dubi. But today that list has thinned
Korpi's gone - traded away

Higgy's (Higgins) has signed

Cally's signed - before his arbitration hearing

Nikky Z's gone - as noted in great detail everywhere

Our UFAs, Mara, Morris and more - are long gone

So - looking at the roster there's just one open item. One free agent left to figure out.
And that one guy is Brandon Dubinsky.

Last year he made $633,000. He's a 23 year old centerman from Alaska with 2 years of NHL experience on the upswing of his career. He has worked hard and well for the Ranger Blue. He had 13 goals and 41 points last year. In the playoffs he gave us 4 points and was +1.

He wants to be here. He's not all that expensive - though he will need a decent raise.

So what's the problem?

Your Ranger brain trust - Sather, Torotrella, and other hockey minds - are still thinking. They still want a first line Center - and Torts has actually said exactly that - an odd admission for a club still trying to wheel and deal.
So with the salary cap and the possibility of a trade for another center - the Rangers are taking their time with Dubinsky. Because with a star Center on Gaborik's line - we could rock and roll with anybody.
But in the meantime - The Rangers wait. Dubinsky waits.
And we wait. The puck drops in 43 days.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Our Least-Hated NJ Devil Re-ups

Not exactly a surprise, but the one time great and more recently former Ranger Brendan Shanahan, who liked his stay here and did his best a few years back to advance the Blueshirts in the playoffs - has decided to re-sign with that hockey team that plays in Newark and declares itself in the name of Satan (that is, the NJ Devils).

Shanny is a sure fire Hall of Famer - but his best days (and even his second best days) are well back in the rear view mirror these days.
Anyway - he's no longer a great fit here. John Tortorella is installing a system of going all out - attacking - forechecking every time for every player on every single stint on the ice. Brendan knows this - and picturing what a typical turn on the ice would be like as a Ranger - has concluded "I am too old for that shift"
Not that there's much indication the Rangers were even asking. The official announcement will happen soon.

I can't say I wish you well Shanny - because of who you play for. But we do think of you fondly - and we liked your time in Ranger Blue. I guess the best way to put it is this: You are the Official Blueshirt Brother least despised Devil - and we mean that sincerely.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tort's Reforms - how to re-make the Rangers as Champions - part 1 - "Intense Forechecking System"

Coaches... well, they coach. But how they coach - the decisions they make - and how those decisions play out - separate the good coaches from the bad ones.

Even though It seems like Tom Renny has been gone forever, John Tortorella only coached 21 regular season Ranger games before entering the playoffs here. There's only so much a coach can do in the last quarter of the season.

But this year, his first full season at the Ranger helm is another story. And Tortorella is planning on making a lot of changes this time around. Those changes - John's coaching philosophy - will form (or re-form) the Ranger team that we will live and die with next season.

In a recent interview with Stan (ban the slapshot) Fishler, Tortorella gave a few clues about how he will remake the Rangers in his own image.
First of all: Attack."We're going to play with tempo; an attack-type style. Defense starts when you don't have the puck. We'll have an intense forechecking system" This is a key element in Tortorella's master plan. Last year under Renny the Rangers were endlessly on defense - always defending - almost like they were constantly short-handed. Next year's model will try play defense by playing offense. Because when the puck in on your opponent's zone - it's much harder for them to score on you.

And the forecheck. Instead of playing back on their skate-heels, your New York Rangers will come aggressively into their opponent's zone - challenging for the puck.

It's a lot like a full court press in basketball. It's an exhausting style to play - but it can exhaust and demoralize your opponents as well. But to make it work, you need young, well conditioned players. And Torts has already contacted his players to get ready for a physically challenging training camp.

So, win or lose, it should be interesting - because Tortorella's Rangers will come after you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Finally Over - Zherdev an ex-Ranger

After too much hashing and rehashing, too much analysis and too much attention - the Nik Zherdev situation has reached it's conclusion.

Your New York Rangers announced today - 48 hours after the Arbitration Ruling - which came 48 hours after the Arbitration Hearing - that they are no longer interested in Nik at the Arbitrator's price of $3.9 million (for one year).

This, finally, moves the enigmatic Russian winger off the Ranger Roster and from RFA to UFA status. Now, like a UFO, this UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent) can mysteriously appear anywhere he likes and can sign with any team for any price.

Why didn't the Ranger cut him loose weeks (or months) ago? They we hoping that they could trade him. It's true that Nik has some value - he can be - when motivated - brilliant. He's a easy 20+ goal scorer with a chance to be quite a bit more.

But - what would another team pay the Rangers for Nick's services when the Blueshirts were due to lose all rights to him in 2 days? Why not wait and take your chances negotiating directly with Nik? Apparently no other team was willing to trade anything the Ranger wanted to sign Nik at $3.9, so everyone waited the Rangers out and - with no remaining options - the Rangers have set the young man free.

So - goodbye Nik. You were a leading scorer here and, if things had broken differently, you could have been a star here. We'll never know exactly how much of Nik's disappearing act was all his own doing - and how much was foisted on him by the treatment and linemates supplied by Slats and Torts. That being said - how he performs elsewhere over the rest of his career will tell us a lot about how the New York Rangers handled this young talented player.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shoot or get off the Puck - Zherdev lingers on

Like an elderly friend on life support - Nik Zherdev exceeded expectations by still being a Ranger this morning.

Nik got a positive result from his Friday arbitration hearing - he was awarded a raise from the $3.25 qualifying offer the Rangers made (and almost didn't make). If he remains a Ranger he will be paid $3.9 million - less than he was seeking and more than the Rangers want to pay.

But that's a sizable "If". Most reports we're getting indicate that Glen Sather and coach Tortorella have no intention of paying the Russian at that level - especially after his no-show in the playoffs last year (zero points in 80+ minutes versus the Caps).

On the other hand - the Rangers have already used about half of their own 48 hour decision period.

So why the delay? The Rangers had weeks to think about this - and decided to go through the process of the hearing.

It must be that - even if they don't want Nik next year - Glen realizes that the rights to a 20+ goal scorer are worth something - to someone. So the Rangers may be thinking - or feeling out interest in - a sign and trade.

But with the 48 hour clock ticking the time is coming for the Rangers to "shoot or get off the puck". The delay isn't hurting Zherdev - if they cut him loose he will quickly become one of the top UFAs left on the market.

So for all our friends (Anonymous for one) who like Nik Z. - his Ranger life is lingering a few hours longer. And who knows - he may yet end up a Blueshirt for the coming year. For Nik Z fans - Keep hope alive!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Good Night Nik

Well, as Yogi Berra once said - it's ain't over til it's over - but the Ranger career of Nik Zherdev may have moved another notch closer to it's end.
On Friday morning, while you were at work - Nik and his agent and the New York Rangers were pleading their respective cases in front of an arbitrator. The arbitrator had 48 hours to make his choice - and of course that came due this Sunday morning - when Nugman and many other Blueshirt Brother's readers are busy experiencing their weekly hangovers.

It's just a rumor now - but we're hearing that that Nik was awarded a raise from $3.25 to $3.9 million. This now puts the puck in the Rangers' possession. The Rangers can now do one of the following:

  • Sign Nik for $3.9

  • Release him

  • Sign and look for a trade. In fact - the Rangers may have been working the trade angle for days.

Conventional wisdom (at least the wisdom at the drunken conventions Dave Pucks attends) is that the Rangers have no intention of keeping Zherdev at $3.9 million for the season. So we're expecting to hear something soon.

A few weeks ago I wondered if the Rangers would keep Antropov or Zherdev (both enigmatic Russians named Nik). Nik A. is gone, and Nik Z may not be far behind him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Zherdev's time growing short

We've been wondering what will happen to Nik Zherdev for quite some time now. The Rangers and the Restricted Free Agent have gone through several steps this off season:
  • The Rangers - after strongly considering cutting him loose for nothing - opted to make a qualifying offer to Nik.

  • Nik rejected the offer and asked for binding arbitration.

  • No deal was reached leading up to the July 31st arbitration date. During the same period the Rangers sought after and signed Ryan Callahan before his arbitration hearing date came up.

  • The arbitration hearing was this morning - both sides presented their sides of the story - and now we wait for a decision.

The Arbitrator can take up to 3 days. Which means we should know something soon. Unlike baseball and football, the arbitrator can choose a dollar figure between the Rangers and Zherdev's offer. When that's done the puck is in the Ranger's corner - they can accept or reject the arbitrator's decision - even if he picks the figure the Rangers proposed in the first place. If that happens Nik Zherdev is an unrestricted free agent and is gone. Arbitration can get very nasty with the Rangers forced to denigrate their own player to make their case.

Common sense tells us that Zherdev did poorly under Tortorella. He was benched by John for not hustling back on defense after his own giveaway. And down the stretch and in the playoff Nik disappeared off the face of the earth - contributing zero points in seven playoff games.

It's pretty clear to us that the Rangers no longer want him. So why go through the arbitration process? Good question. As near as we can figure - the Rangers may still hope to sign and trade the enigmatic Russian, who despite everything, led the Blueshirts in points last year.

So - for now - we wait. But in our hearts we think Nik's time in NY is growing shorter by the hour.