James O'Brien

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: (l-r) Assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson and head coach Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers leave the ice following a 2-1 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 24, 2015 in New York City.  The Rangers defeated the Penguins 2-1 to win the series and move on to the next round of the playoffs. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s New York Rangers day at PHT


When it comes to viewing the New York Rangers, it all comes down to expectations.

For a team that isn’t that far removed from some deep playoff runs, being little more than first-round fodder was a bitter pill to swallow. That’s what happened in 2015-16; they finished third in the Metropolitan Division and were dismissed from the postseason after five games.

On the other hand, they managed 101 standings points and lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

They’ve also only missed the playoffs once since 2005-06 and won at least one round in all but two of those postseason runs.

Henrik Lundqvist‘s expectations parallel his team’s outlook. On one hand, he’s expensive and seemingly on a mild decline. To counter, that decline simply means slipping from all-world to merely very good, and it isn’t crazy to imagine a few more glory runs.

In other words, the good outweighs the bad … but will that be good enough?

Off-season recap

The Rangers’ off-season didn’t get off to a great start.

After a humbling playoff series vs. Pittsburgh, New York had to let Keith Yandle go for peanuts. More than a few Rangers fans are upset that the team is still paying big bucks for Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. Dan Boyle retired, while new additions Nick Holden and Adam Clendening aren’t likely to be more than bit players (if New York is lucky).

It’s not all gloom and doom, though.

The Rangers made nice bargain additions in Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe, while the bold Mika ZibanejadDerick Brassard trade could be a very nice win. The deals for Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes seem like fantastic values to boot.

Can a solid set of mostly prime-aged forwards combine with a legendary goalie to overcome a shabby-looking defense? We’ll dive deep into this team’s strengths and weaknesses on this fine Tuesday.

Next to Greatness: Oilers set to name Keith Gretzky as assistant GM

OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 21: Keith Gretzky of the Phoenix Coyotes photographed during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place on June 21, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers are reportedly going to name Wayne Gretzky’s younger brother Keith as assistant GM, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Keith Gretzky began his scouting career in 2001. Most recently, he served as the Boston Bruins’ director of amateur scouting, where he undoubtedly made an impression on current Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli.

He also served as the Arizona Coyotes’ director of amateur scouting, with some overlap alongside his famous brother.

The move is by no means official – McKenzie believes it will be announced in the “near future” – yet plenty of people are already making jokes, often about nepotism.

Oilers blogger Lowetide speculates that a Keith Gretzky hiring could begin a domino effect as Chiarelli swaps out pieces of the old guard for “his guys.”

If the Gretzky hiring occurs, we can assume someone is moving out from the inner circle, the brain trust. I am not going to guess—if you have been following the Oilers for any length of time you know where the smart money is being laid.

On one hand, Gretzky deserves an opportunity to stand on his own merit, outside of Gretzky’s shadow and without the baggage associated with Edmonton’s long run of incompetence.

On the other, it’s difficult to totally deny feelings that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” in Edmonton.

Chiarelli’s hiring someone he’s familiar with while analytics-minded hire from days past Tyler Dellow wasn’t kept on board:

The Taylor HallAdam Larsson trade is the blaring headline of a bold off-season for the Oilers. For better or worse, Chiarelli is clearly putting his stamp on this team.

It remains to be seen if he can turn it into a great one.

Blues reportedly hand Kristo a two-way deal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Danny Kristo #29 of the New York Rangers heads for the net as Michael Del Zotto #15 of the Philadelphia Flyers defends on September 30, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Rangers 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues retained some depth on Monday, handing Danny Kristo a one-year, two-way contract, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

Kristo hasn’t seen any NHL action at this point in his career, most recently playing for the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.

They’ve only missed the playoffs once in the last decade and won at least one round in all but two of those postseason runs.

Kristo was a second-rounder (56th overall by Montreal in 2008). If he’s going to make it to the NHL, one would assume it would happen soon at 26.

Here’s how the deal breaks down:

P.K. Subban basically roasted the Montreal Canadiens tonight

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21:  P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens speaks with the media during a press availability on June 21, 2016 at the Encore Ballroom in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2016 NHL Award Ceremony will by held on June 22 at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Call it “The Revenge of P.K.” or maybe “The Return of the Triple-Low Five.”

P.K. Subban is hosting an All-Star Comedy Gala to benefit the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation for Just Laughs. He’s also having a lot of fun at the expense of his former team, or at least the Canadiens’ management group.

Video will be added if a clip of his antics becomes available, yet onlookers have done a great job of capturing some of Subban’s best one-liners.

Hey, at least when someone gets roasted, he or she is sitting a big recliner, trying to laugh things off.

One can almost imagine Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien cringing as Subban dropped bomb after bomb:

Ouch, he even took a shot at his former owner’s lager:

To be fair, Subban isn’t the only one slamming the Canadiens for the trade.

Again, he reminded the hockey world that this is a big win for creative celebrations:

Again, though … it IS for a good cause. Don’t forget that as you laugh at the Habs’ expense.

He wasn’t all negative, either:

Stand-up seems like a natural fit for Subban’s personality. Really, it makes you wonder if he might earn a certain hosting gig in the future:

Sounds like motivation won’t be an issue for Sam Gagner in Columbus

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 25:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal at 18:45 of the first period against the Minnesota Wild at the Wells Fargo Center on February 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s a little naive to believe that every player gets an equal opportunity in every situation.

A coach has to determine who goes on the ice when, and which players end up being healthy scratches. Sometimes that means guys get lost in the shuffle, especially when their salaries don’t jive with the salary cap.

You could make an argument that Sam Gagner didn’t truly get a fair shake with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it would seem like he’ll be given a true shot after signing a cheap, one-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

One-year terms almost always stand as “prove-it” deals, and that’s especially true for Gagner, whose cap hit dropped by more than $4 million.

At 26, he’s presented with a fork in the road. He could either flourish and be a fixture in the NHL – possibly sticking with the Blue Jackets – or he might flounder and risk heading down the dreaded “journeyman” path.

If nothing else, he’s saying all the right things about being determined to rebound, as this interview from the Blue Jackets’ website illustrates:

CBJ.com: Is there something to be said for a new player coming in here who’s in a situation much like the team itself – being hungry and looking to bounce back?

Gagner: Absolutely. Without a doubt. From a personal standpoint, I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been. I’m motivated to have success, and coming to Columbus where everyone feels like last year was an underachieving year, I think it’s going to bode well. We’re a determined group and we’re looking forward to proving a lot of people wrong. It’s an exciting challenge for all of us.

Yes, there are guys who get stuck in these patterns, like Lee Stempniak (who is probably just relieved not to be on another PTO).

On the other hand, Gagner only needs to look at former Flyers teammate Michael Del Zotto to see that seizing an opportunity can bring about a nice payday and plenty of security.

If that doesn’t create some fire in his belly, then what else will?

For more, including his optimism about Columbus’ chances in 2016-17, check out the interview.