Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Darius Kasparaitis Waived

This will be a bitter cup of coffee for the Ranger Pundit when he returns from Italy. His guy Kasper has been put onto the waiver wire.

The good news? Well, he'll be glad he missed that 5-0 embarrassmant to the Flyers at the Garden. The team building exercises and shoot'm up paintball games at West Point might have helped the Blueshirts get ready for the pre-season opener against the Devils. A youth movement is also apparently underway? However, the young and old hockey trigger fingers were not working at all versus Philadelphia.

Will Mike like the new jerseys? Kaspar did, and that was a bad omen.

Only Darius Kasparaitis, newly chiseled after shedding 20 pounds over the summer, seemed impressed.

"I look sexy," he said.

Anyway, he will probably want to say his own good-bye to Kaspar. So, for the record, here are some of the stories regarding Kaspar's departure:

John Dellapina at The Daily News
... yesterday, the heart-and-soul defenseman got the news he was dreading a little earlier than he was anticipating. Rangers coach Tom Renney informed Kasparaitis that the club had placed him on waivers and - at least for the time being - did not consider him part of the plan for 2007-08.

"I was upset, but at the same time, I knew this could happen," Kasparaitis told the Daily News. "I'm still very anxious and I hope somebody will pick me up. If not, I'll go down to the minors and continue to try to prove that I'm still an NHL player.

"I knew that it was probably a long shot to make the Rangers because of the success they had last year without me. And I know my salary is an issue for the team. But at the same time, I felt like maybe it could happen. But it's not a blow."

It is, however, most likely the end of Kasparaitis' quest to play in the NHL this season...
Sam Weinman at Rangers Report:

I asked Renney if he still thought Kasparaitis could play at the NHL level, and the coach said he believed he could. Bear in mind it’s in the Rangers’ best interest to have another team pick him up off waivers, so it wouldn’t make sense for the coach to elaborate on all of Kasparaitis’ deficiencies. But the answer merits passing on.

“I think he’s a terrific competitor,” Renney said. “He has leadership qualities. I believe in a simplified game with the right partner, he could definitely play. But I believe strongly that we have more depth than we’ve had in a long time and that cost Kaspar an opportunity here.”

Of course, whether that’s enough for a team to take on a nearly $3 million cap hit is another story. If Kasparaitis clears waivers, he’ll head back to Hartford and will again play for the Wolf Pack.

Sam Weinman at The Journal-News:

After shedding 20 pounds during the offseason to work himself back into shape, the veteran defenseman's sluggish start to the preseason landed him on waivers yesterday. Teams around the NHL have until noon today to claim the 34-year-old Kasparaitis. Should he go unclaimed, the Rangers will reassign him to Hartford of the AHL, where he spent part of last season.

"We're trying to help him," Rangers coach Tom Renney said before last night's fight-marred 5-4 overtime loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. "I don't see Kaspar playing hockey for us, and we'll do everything we can to help him play somewhere else. And if not, he'll go to Hartford, and in the kind of condition he's in, and the mental approach he's taken, you never know."

While Kasparaitis' condition was drastically improved from last year, when he reported to camp out of shape following offseason surgery, he struggled through training camp and in Friday's preseason opener...

Steve Zipay at Newsday:
Blue notes -- For veteran defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, the new NHL is not only for the fleet afloot, it's a numbers game. And yesterday, his number came up. Kasparaitis was waived, almost certainly ending his five-year Rangers career. "It was completely a hockey decision," Renney said. "In my mind, we're deeper than we ever have been - and as attrition takes its toll, Kaspar showed in certain areas that he's diminished."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

So Long For A While

RangerPundit embarks for Italy
That was the theme song for the old radio and TV show, Your Hit Parade. It closed the show, "So long for a while, that's all the songs for a while; so long to your hit parade and the tunes that you picked to be played. So long." The show sang the top ten hits for the week as compiled in the nation's jukeboxes. I liked the song because there was no finality to it. It wasn't like "So long, its been good to know you." That's the song they played when our troop ship was leaving San Fran Bay for the Far East. It wasn't pleasant watching young, grown men cry.

What's this musical quiz all about, you may be thinking? On Friday, Maryann and I will be embarking on a 17 day trip, plane and cruise ship, that starts in Rome, ends up in Venice and makes stops in France, Corsica, Malta, Italy, Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. We will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in Sorrento, Italy with the possibility of hooking up with some cousins. It should be loads of fun as we both return to our roots and catch up on some old world history.

My grandparents on my mother's side are from Basilicata, near Naples. My grandparents on my father's side, plus my father, are from Vasto, Abbruzzia. My wife's grandparents on both sides are from Naples, as is her father, so you can see why celebrating our anniversary in Sorrento is going to be special. Sorrento is right near Naples.

Hockey? No sweat. JB will keep you abrest of any developments in Rangerland. Who knows, we may pick up that big moose D Man we so desperately need and want. I doubt it but you never know. We will return on October 1st in time for the opener on the 4th. In the meantime, arrivedici.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Defenders

Who is this man?
There was a TV show by that name in the 60's, a father/son team who took on hopeless and helpless cases. The Ranger defense is not hopeless or helpless but it is not a Stanley Cup type defense. I know that, most Ranger fans know that, most hockey writers know that. There are possibly only two people who believe in this defense and we all know who they are.

The roster includes eight defensemen but it is more noteworthy of who it does not include. It does not include Darius Kasparaitis, the only legitimate hard checker on the team. Right now, Kaspy's salary, around $3 mil, practically eliminates him from the mix. What also seems to eliminate him is the hard hits that he dishes out. This flies in the face of the Ranger coaching staff who have decided that puck control, puck movement and poke checks are more effective. We all see how good that is when we have opposing skaters cluttered around Lundqvist with no fear of being hit or even touched. Kaspy is working himself into shape and will be ready this training camp. It will be interesting to hear the reason he doesn't make the team. If our drain trust don't want him, they should trade him, and get a big moose who can dish out some punishment.

The list also does not include twenty year old Marc Staal, the sober member of the Staal family. There is nothing left for Staal to accomplish in the Juniors or in Hartford either. Isn't it about time that we give the hockey world another young Staal? In four seasons and 236 games with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL Staal has racked up 123 points netting 23 goals. More important, in the 2006/07 playoffs in 21 games Staal was 5-15-20 which shows that he steps it up in important games. While not the hitter of a Kaspy type, Marc plays a tough defense and is very strong on the puck. It is time for the Rangers to promote another young defenseman.

One more gem who should be eyed closely in camp is 22 year old Ivan Baranka. Baranka is over 6' tall and weighs 205 pounds and is an aggressive defender and loves to take the body. While Paul Mara was a big improvement over Aaron Ward he is quite slow and vulnerable against speedy forwards. We know very little about Hutchinson and we know quite a bit about Marek Malik, king of the plus/minus stat. I know what you all are thinking. Aren't these positions won by the training camp performance? Do you seriously think that Sather/Renney are going to make Malik fight to win a job?

How about a defense core of Rozsival-Tyutin; Kaspy-Staal; Gerardi-Pock-Baranka (you pick two). I love the speed and youth this group brings. Do you? This setup frees Malik and Mara for trades. I rather we trade either one or both than windup trading a Baranka or Pock, two young players with bright futures. For once the Rangers have a surplus on defense, lets make it payoff with a trade for a big moose, either up front or on the blue line. Renney may have to make a tough decision this training camp.

ICINGS: Bonus points if you can identify the actor pictured above and name one movie he was in, without help. Answer here.

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