Monday, August 28, 2006

SummerWind

"All summer long we sang a song And then we strolled on golden sand Two friends and the summer wind."

While losing Tom Poti is a positive what does Aaron Ward bring to the Ranger D? Scouting reports rate him no better than a fifth or six defenseman. It certainly didn't bring any toughness. While there may be made a case for not shelling out huge bucks for Zdeno Charo why no offer for tough stay at home Brendan Witt? We will certainly see plenty of him as we face the Islanders eight times and be able to compare Witt vs Ward.

Matt Cullen is a big improvement over Steve Rucchin by why not Jason Arnott? I was in Tennessee the July 4th week and the Predators management was ecstatic over signing Arnott. They felt he was the final piece to their puzzle. He was overjoyed that he would be the first line center. Here is a guy that would protect Jagr and give the Rangers some much needed toughness.

Toughness is a word Ranger management seems to run from. It was given a serious blow with the illness to Jed Ortmeyer. A pulmonary embolism is a serious condition and most likely will sideline Ortmeyer for a good portion of the year if not the whole year. Besides his aggressive checking, Ortmeyer is a key penalty killer, led the forwards with 75 blocked shots which ranks him seventh in the league at his position. Considering the amount of ice time he gets a game (5-8 minutes) it is a remarkable stat. He will be missed.

Ryan Hollweg is all that is left of the fearsome HMO line. With Moore traded away and now in Pittsburgh, Hollweg is definitely the Rangers designated hitter among the forwards. In fact he may be the only hitter among the Rangers forwards. It is asking too much to expect Brendan Shanahan to be throwing his 37 year old body around.

The Rangers keep concentrating on speed, which is fine but you need grit and toughness to win in the NHL. The league caught on to that at the tail end of the season and it was prevalent in the playoffs. The Rangers found that out. Is there anyone on the roster among the forwards besides Hollweg? I don't see any. I may be wrong and I hope I am but this looks like a soft Ranger team that may not make it down the stretch.

"And guess who sighs his lullabies To all the nights that never end? My fickle friend, The summer wind."

Umm...the summer wind.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Leetch Still Unsigned

Brian LeetchInto the second month of the free agency, about a month away from training camp, Brian Leetch remains unsigned and quite possibly unwanted. There seems to be mixed emotions among Ranger fans that while we all love Brian and have great memories of him, we rather see the young guys play. But are we going to see the young defensemen play? Are we going to see 25 year old Thomas Pock in the lineup? Are we going to see 21 year old Ivan Baranka get a shot to make the team? How about 21 year old Bryce Lampman? Where does he stand in the mix?

The Ranger roster lists seven defensemen. Four of them, including new arrival Aaron Ward, are in their thirties with Kasparaitis and Ozolinsh the oldest at 34 years old each. Rozsival is 28 years old, Karel Rachunek is 27 years old and Fedor Tyutin is the baby of the group at 23 years old. This is hardly what I would call a youthful defense corps. Remember also that Kasparaitis and Malik both suffered major injuries with Kaspy having to undergo two major surgeries. This is the group that Thomas Pock and Martin Richter are trying to crack.

Thomas Pock led all AHL defensemen in scoring with 61 points. He was tied for fifth on the Wolfpack in scoring. In two different stints with the Rangers he has appeared in fourteen games and is 3-3-6 in those games. He adds a quickness and mobility that Marek Malik is lacking in. He is the best power play defensemen on the Rangers but he has to fight to make the seventh spot. Our defense collapsed at the end of the season and was practically non existent in the playoffs. Obviously Ozolinsh was not the answer. The Ranger defense is not an overly tough defense, hence the importance of getting and carrying the puck out of the defensive zone. A young talented puck carrying defensemen is what is needed on this unit. Or an old one.

Which brings us back to Leetch. Would you rather have Leetch or Rozsival on the point on the power play? Leetch or Malik to carry the puck out of the defensive zone? If playing Leetch cuts into the ice time of a Pock or Lampman or Baranka then the answer is no to Leetch. If it takes away from Rozsival and Malik then let's go for it and bring Leetchie back to his adoring fans. That's the Pundit's opinion, what is yours.

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