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2010-11 NHL season preview: New York Rangers

Sep 28, 2010, 4:00 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for lundqvistpads.jpgLast season: (38-33-11, 87 points, 4th in Atlantic Division, 9th in Eastern Conference) The Rangers fell a shootout win short of making the playoffs then watched as the Philadelphia Flyers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. Ouch. The team depended a lot on young players, Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist and that formula wasn’t strong enough to win them a cup.

Head coach: John Tortorella is the hot-headed type who’s a great fit for New York … at least from an entertaining press conference standpoint. The jury’s out on him as a coach, though, as that Lightning Stanley Cup victory is looking more and more like an anomaly as every year passes.

Key departures: D Wade Redden, F Olli Jokinen, F Aaron Voros, F Donald Brashear. Technically Redden isn’t out of the Rangers organization, but let’s face it, he won’t play with the big club again at that $6.5 million annual cap hit. If GM Glen Sather looked at Olli Jokinen as an expiring $5 million contract, then maybe Sather deserves a little more credit for being with it.

Key arrivals: F Alex Frolov, F Derek Boogaard, D Steve Eminger, F Todd White. Frolov isn’t the most consistent player, but the Rangers got him on a solid, one-year deal. He could pay dividends at his price while Boogaard is wildly overpaid at $1.6 million. No big improvements in the Big Apple, but that’s what happens when your salary cap is managed so poorly.

gaborikanddubinsky.jpgUnder pressure: The Rangers’ training staff is under pressure, because if Gaborik goes down with his typical array of injuries, New York’s offense is shot. Gaborik played an unusually high amount of games last year, but can he do it again?

Protecting the house: Lundqvist is a truly elite goalie. The Swedish netminder keeps the Rangers afloat despite the fact that they’re rarely strong in any other area. The team historically leans on him too much, though, so it’s great to know that they added a solid backup in Martin Biron. Maybe Lundqvist won’t suffer from his annual tough patch if he can have a little rest here and there.

Redden isn’t an enormous loss, but this defense is far from elite. Marc Staal is a nice player, but he might not be a great choice for a No. 1 guy. Really, the team is a collection of second and third pairing blueliners beyond Staal, with Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi and Mike del Zotto being the other prominent defensemen.

Top line we’d like to see: Frolov-Brandon Dubinsky-Gaborik. Boy, are the Rangers weak up the middle or what? Some might put Chris Drury on the top line, but Drury plays better against second or third pairings (something you love to hear about a guy who makes $7 million per year, naturally). Frolov and Gaborik might skate a lot with each other in reality, unless the team wants to spread its offense out.

Oh captain, my captain: Drury carries Bobby Holik’s torch as a character guy getting paid like a megastar in New York. He is above average to great in the “little things” categories like winning draws, killing penalties and blocking shots. That might not make him worth the money, but it earns him clout as a leader.

Thumbnail image for boogaardparros.jpgStreet fighting man: Boogaard is the ‘Boogey Man’ for good reason; he is huge and terrifying. Sure, his punching ability doesn’t warrant a $1.6 million salary, but he should beat a lot of people up in the suddenly staggering Atlantic Division.

Best-case scenario: Lundqvist wins his first Vezina Trophy because Biron lets him avoid the occasional back to back game. Gaborik stays healthy and helps Frolov enjoy a 30-goal rebirth. Sean Avery impedes the progress of other people rather than himself and his own squad. The team makes a nice run to the Eastern Conference finals as some of the favorites are upset by underdogs.

Worst-case scenario: Gaborik struggles with his usual injury troubles while Frolov drifts in and out of relevance. Avery alternates between self-destructing and getting injured. The Rangers defense cracks in front of a beleaguered duo of Lundqvist and Biron. The Rangers end up missing the playoffs but aren’t bad enough to earn a good draft pick, either.

Keeping it real: Lundqvist is strong enough to help the Rangers remain competitive, but the team around him is very weak. I think the most realistic outlook is a slightly peachier version of the worst-case scenario. Chances are they’ll end up just a touch better than the Islanders, with a fourth-place finish in the Atlantic and a 10th or 11th spot in the East.

Stanley Cup chances: On a scale of 1-5, with one being the worst and five being the best, having talent like Lundqvist and Gaborik bumps you up one point in my eyes, so let’s give the Rangers a 2. The splendid Swedish stopper will have to play out of his mind for the Rangers to be a serious contender, though.

  1. BDF - Sep 28, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    People really need to get over the “Gaborik is ALWAAAAAYS hurt” myth.
    He has played 9 full seasons. Only twice did he play under 65 games. His average games played the other 7 seasons? 73 games. He’s not nearly as fragile as people like to make him out to be.

  2. Eric (5-hole.com) - Sep 28, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    Brashear actually is out of the picture as he’s now part of the Thrashers organization.
    Dubinsky will probably star the season on wing instead of center.

  3. Cathy - Sep 28, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Brashear was traded to Atlanta, so I’d say he’s out of the picture.

  4. Mike - Sep 28, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Did somebody with no knowledge of hockey or The Rangers write this after 20 minutes of research? Well done.

  5. DUDE - Sep 28, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Biron not mentioned as a key arrival? Brashear “not totally out of the picture” after being traded and then bought out of his contract? Mentioning Drury and Dubinski as likely 1st line centers and completely ignoring the two players that have been filling the role all pre-season (Stepan and Christensen)? Top-notch reporting this is.

  6. Joe - Sep 28, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Could not agree more with the comments. What a joke this article is.

  7. Anonymous - Sep 28, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    what a terrible preview—no mention of the focus of the team—the young players.

  8. silly - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    what a poorly written article. Have you even looked at the rangers roster before writing this absurd article? For one, dubinsky is going to be the second line winger and a very talented derek stepan is battling for first line center with christensen who has displayed a ton of chemistry with Gaborik. They arent going to be top 5 offensive teams in the NHL, but, they do have a lot more depth at forward than last yr. dubinsky missed a reasonable amt of time with a broken wrist and still had over 20 goals, he is still very young. fedetenko will be a decent 3rd line winger and tim kennedy was a nice feisty pickup. frolov and gaborik will be a nice combo and they have a young defense with a nice amount of talent. Rangers have missed the playoffs (last yr in a SO) only once in the last few yrs, so lets not bury them just yet.

  9. James - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    What a complete joke of an article. Did you even research this team besides a quick Wikipedia page glance? This reads like a poorly written high school newspaper article. Top notch reporting, nice one.
    No mention of Stepon, McDonagh, Kennedy, Fedontenko, Del Z, MZA…

  10. Tim - Sep 29, 2010 at 2:17 AM

    This article is shameful. NBC Sports huh? This is the network that brings us hockey games, starting at the playoffs and ending with the Stanley Cup final?. Brashear…really? Might as well ask the readers to ponder what role Theo Fluery might play in the teams success. I wonder if that Jamie Lundmark kid might finally crack the line up. I read the whole article amazed at how little information it offered and to tally the percentage of that info that was just wrong. I’m surprised that this article’s publication date says 2010. Give me this job. I can cut and paste other columnists old articles for you as well as give you give you up to date thoughts on line ups that include current players that are actually competing for positions on this very interesting team in one of hockey’s biggest markets outside of Canada. Shameful NBC. Shameful

  11. Tim - Sep 29, 2010 at 2:20 AM

    This article is shameful. NBC Sports huh? This is the network that brings us hockey games, starting at the playoffs and ending with the Stanley Cup final?. Brashear…really? Might as well ask the readers to ponder what role Theo Fluery might play in the teams success. I wonder if that Jamie Lundmark kid might finally crack the line up. I read the whole article amazed at how little information it offered and to tally the percentage of that info that was just wrong. I’m surprised that this article’s publication date says 2010. Give me this job. I can cut and paste other columnists old articles for you as well as give you give you up to date thoughts on line ups that include current players that are actually competing for positions on this very interesting team in one of hockey’s biggest markets outside of Canada. Shameful NBC. Shameful

  12. Chris - Sep 29, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    Everyone pretty much said what I was ready to say. This article is not very accurate at all.

  13. James - Oct 6, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Couldn’t have said it better.. he makes is sound like he averages 40 games a year. Whoever wrote this didn’t watch one pre season game and is pretty clueless regarding the current state of affairs. Brandon Dubinski is playing wing by the way because they’re stong up the middle.

  14. StakeX - Oct 6, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    I agree with everyone else that this is a terrible article. Who ever wrote it doesn’t care all that much about facts I guess.
    With that said, I do agree the Rangers are going to have issues this year. Sather has painted the Rangers into a corner with far too much wasted cap space and not enough talent to show for it. They don’t have a number one center to play with Gaborik, they lack a clear top defensement, and are going to stuggle scoring again this year. Given all the fire power several other Eastern Conference teams have… its not going to be a great year for the Rangers.
    And while Gaborik isn’t hurt nearly as much as this article would have you believe… but if he should happen to go down, the Rangers will go down with him, and we can all blame Sather for that. You should never build a team thats so dependant on one guy like the Rangers are right now.

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