Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Road To The Cup-The Defense

The Ranger's depth chart for defensemen list ten players. In order of their rating they are Malik, Rozsival, Kasparaitis, Tyutin, Aaron Ward, Karel Rachunek, Marc Staal, Thomas Pock, Martin Richter and Michael Sauer. To me Thomas Pock and Tyutin are underrated and Malik and Rozsival are over rated. And, even though I know it bothers some people, this is basically a soft defense, lacking in group toughness.

The big issues on this defense are: Can Kaspy stay healthy all year? Will Fedor Tyutin take the next step and become an all star type defenseman? Can one of the young guys, Pock, Richter or Staal crack the top six? What can we expect from Rachunek in his first full NHL season?

Kasparaitis missed fifteen games last year due to shoulder and knee problems. He had two surgeries and pronounces himself fit for the season. Teamed with Tyutin they form the most rugged twosome on defense. Tyutin is only 23 years old and came up with some decent offensive numbers (6-19-25) in his first full season. He also showed promise playing the point on the power play. With a full season under his belt and with a healthy Kasparaitis as his partner look for Tyutin to shine this year.

Pock, Richter and Staal will be battling for the number seven spot on the defense. The Pundit believes that Pock should be somewhere in the top six on this defense. He led all AHL defensemen in scoring with 61 points and is an excellent point man on the power play. The few games he played last year were all quality games and he never seemed lost. It is hard to imagine that he will not make this squad. Worst case he will push Rachunek to make him a better player. Rachunek, 27 years old, was acquired from Ottawa for Greg Devries during Glen Sathers great 2004 purge. He has played the last two years in Russia.

Martin Richter is 29 years old and spent the last three years playing in a Czech league. He has been touted for years as a can't miss prospect but one has to wonder about a 29 year can't miss prospect who hasn't played in the NHL. He doesn't bring much offense but he is a Czech and we all know that counts for a lot on this team. Marc Staal is the big D jewel for the Rangers. He has pedigree in his favor and brings offense with his game scoring 49 points in 57 games with Sudbury. It could prove interesting with these three youngsters. However, I doubt Renney will make any drastic changes to his defense, despite the fact that it is a soft defense.

Rozsival, Malik and Ward are all steady players with great plus/minuses. Rozsival had a great breakout year. Hopefully it wasn't a fluke and we will see more of the same. His biggest moment was in the 'Mark Messier game' when he took control in OT with a couple of great dekes to feed Jagr with the game winner. Malik is Malik. What more can you say. Slow, deliberate and smart and he will forever be remembered for scoring the greatest goal in the history of the circus, I mean hockey. Aaron Ward brings three Stanley Cups rings to the Rangers, two with the Red Wings and one with the Hurricanes. He is steady, consistent and reliable. Plus he is a winner and that always counts in sports.

So here is the defense. Almost a duplicate of last years with a couple of new additions that have improved this years defense over last years. The good news about this defense is that there are young players waiting in the wings to move up and improve the defense. The bad news is that there isn't much toughness. Although not listed, another excellent top prospect is Ivan Baranka. Baranka is a 21 year old bruiser and would be about a year away from the Rangers so he will spend another year in Hartford. But he is one to watch. Remember the name, Ivan Baranka.

Brian Leetch remains unsigned. Amazing. Is he angling to get back to the Rangers? Isn't it odd that no team has expressed an interest in Brian? Reminds me of the Colgate football team back in 1938. They went undefeated, untied and unscored upon in 9 games and were not invited to a bowl game. So the line went, Colgate. Undefeated, untied, unscored and uninvited. Maybe its time Sather invited Leetch for a talk. What do you think?

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  • Anonymous said...

    Yeah I agree we can use a little toughness on our defense I wish Malik can be Pronger or Chara but thid never going to happen. Neither Roszival nor Malik can clear the crease - that is how they gave up 3 goals at 5:4 NYR vs Buffalo game. Also Roszival gives up puck too easy. I have never seen Rackunek play. Is he any good, what kind defensman is he?

  • mike said...

    anonymous-Haven't seen Rachunek play either but my sources who have say he is an excellent skater who as a rookie with Ottawa was a plus 17 which was the second best rookie +/-. He is only 27 years old and at 6'2" and 212 lbs brings some heft and skill.

  • Anonymous said...


    Love your analysis, but your history is a little lacking. It was Coach Andy Kerr's 1933 Colgate football team that was "unbeaten, untied, undefeated and univited" to the Rose Bowl!

  • mike said...

    anonymous-I should have checked with my technical guy. He informs me that it was the 1932 Red Raiders who were uninvited to the 1933 Rose Bowl. You were closer than me. Thanks for the correction.

  • Anonymous said...

    I wish to hell that he would - how many times does Leetch have to prove that #2 tries harder?

  • mike said...

    anonymous-Not until the defense completely collapses.