Something was different this winter. Very different. The Rangers did not trade youth for a player past their prime (Souray). The Rangers did not give a long-term, over-priced contract to a free agent (Gomez, Holik, Brashear, Drury, Redden). The Rangers admitted a mistake (Redden - nice guy, but you do not want your $6.5 million defenseman to compete for the Lady Byng). It makes you think that either Glen Sather does not have total control any more or he has wised up and is reading blogs.
The predictions of 14th and out of the playoffs appear to be way off the mark. We actually have a better hockey club than last year. If you compare our 2009 opening roster to the roster we will have, you can actually see this was done with a plan. Just compare 2009 to 2010.
NEW YORK RANGERS 2009 OPENING ROSTER (BOLD ARE GONE):
Goal (2): Henrik Lundqvist, Steve Valiquette, G
Defense (6): Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal, Wade Redden, D
Forward (13): Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, Donald Brashear, Christopher Higgins, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin, Aaron Voros
Goal (2): Martin Biron, Henrik Lundqvist
Defense (9): Michael Del Zotto, Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michal Rozsival, Mike Sauer, Marc Staal, Pavel Valentenko
Forward (16): Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Derek Boogaard, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Frolov, Marian Gaborik, Tim Kennedy, Vinny Prospal, Brandon Prust, Derek Stepan, Todd White
Goal (1): Henrik Lundqvist
Defense (5): Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal
Forward (8): Artem Anisimov, Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik, Vinny Prospal
Only 14 players remain from the start of last year. With 9 new quality players to be added, this is not the same team.
- We improved in goal by adding a legitimate second goalie. (last year we only rested the Prince nine times - and won only three of those nine)
- We remain the same on defense - Redden was okay, just overpriced
- We improved on offense by getting rid of five of our worst offensive players (Brashear 36games 0g 1a -9; Higgens 55gm 6g 8a -9; Kotalik 45gm 8g 14a -18, Lisin 57gm 6g 8a -1, Voros 41gm 3g 4a -2) Total 234 games 23 goals 35 assists -39
- We improve by being both younger and more experienced. Callahan, Dubby, Stahl, Del Zotto, Gilroy all should be better with age.
We add three wins by improving in goal. Frolov, Stepan, a full year of Prust, and two more to be decided will add 20 goals and four more wins.
Last year: 38-33-11 87 - 9th
This year: 45-26-11 101 - 4th
This team is not able to match up against the best in the league. We need both a legitimate first line center and a second line true scoring threat to go against the best. But, we finally have a hockey team!
POST SCRIPT: The loss of Vinny for the season is likely, and significant. We lose his 20 goals, 38 assists and 20 minutes a game of ice time. We also lose a first line center. Assuming there is no big trade coming, we should replace 50-75% of his output, but that means adding only 10-12 goals, not 20, and one or two more wins, not four. So the revised pre-season projection:
This year 42-31-9 93 - 7th