Thursday, July 28, 2005

Free Agency-Key to the Future

The most expansive, extensive free agency in the history of the NHL is about to commence with ramifications for at least the next five years which will decide the fates of many a franchise for a long time in the foreseeable future. How will the Rangers handle it? Will they be bold enough and go after Forsberg and Khalibulin and bring Brian Leetch back? Khalibulin will be key. He is the best goalie in the game and what with the offenses opening up and a shootout in OT what better way to shore up the defences with the best goalie in the game. Forsberg is probably the number one power winger in the game. How exciting to bring him to NY. If he stays healthy he is about as dominating a winger there is. Then there is Brian Leetch. A wide open offense minded game needs the most offensive defensive in the game. No red line? Life was just made easier and greater for Leetch. So there you have it. The best goalie, the toughest winger and the best offensive defensman in the game add in Jagr and some fine young players and the Rangers can make some noise in 05-06. There is however a fly in the ointment. In fact its more than a fly its a swarm. Its called Ranger Management, both behind the bench and up in the Tower. The bench might be the biggest problem. Tom Renney does not inspire confidence, either as a coach or a motivator. Lets face it. The NHL is trying to open up the game and Tom Renney is a trapping coach. He has no record as a coach for inspiring teams. In fact he doesn't have a winning record. Then there is Sather. The Rangers have not made the playoffs under his tenure. At times he was no better than Neil Smith. In retrospect his bargain sale of players at the end of last season smelled like he knew what was coming with the salary cap. He can wipe the past clean with some great signings during this period. Right now he has the best player in the NHL with Jagr. Give him and The Rangers a strong supporting cast and maybe it will be fun to go to the Garden again.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Its Over! Who won? Not the fans!

The hockey lockout seems to have ended amid speculation as to which side gained or lost the most. Perhaps Wayne Gretzky said it best, "At the end of the day, everybody lost." First blush looks like a defeat for the union. They never wanted a salary cap, turned down a NHL proposed cap of $42 million and now seemed to have settled for a team cap of $39 million. Additionally, all players currently under contract will have their salaries rolled back 24%. If that is not enough no one player can account for more than 20% of a teams total payroll which basically means that no player can make no more than $7.8 million this season. Now you know why Lord Bettman is smiling. He brought the union to their knees. Why didn't the players union accept the deal in February that would have put the cap at $42 million? The players did come away with a better (for them) free agency system. Starting next summer players with 8 years will be unrestricted and in 2007 players with 7 years in the league will be unrestricted. But this one could be a hollow victory with the salary cap and team limits. The bidding will not be as widespread with teams and players knowing they can't exceed 20% of a payroll. There will be plenty of mercenaries but maybe not too many buyers. What this does to the fabric of the league is unknown and what's more doesn't seem to concern the owners or Lord Bettman. It's all about money, not hockey. So us purists will have to find another outlet. Also remember that there will be no national TV except for NBC's minimal late season telecasts. Couple all this with the proposed rule changes and hockey may not resemble the game that was born over 80 years ago. But that's another story line.

ICINGS: A sad note on the death of Ranger great Alex Shibicky, who played for the Rangers 1935-1946 losing three years in WWll serving in the Canadian armed forces. A very good winger who scored 110 goals and a total of 201 points was one of the leaders of the 1940 Stanley Cup Champions. He played on a line with the Colville brothers, Neil and Mac and the line was known as "The Bread Line" as in our bread and butter. He is credited with being the first player to use the slap shot in 1937. There are only three survivors left from that team. Clint Smith, Alfie Pike and Otto Dutch Hiller. Shibicky was 91. God bless and condolences to the family.

links:
Alex Dimitri Shibicky [legendsofhockey.net] photo
Matthew 'Mac' Colville [newyorkrangers.com]

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