Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Rangers.
The Rangers are the classic “tease” team. They offer one of the best goalies in the world, top-end offensive talent, and sound defensive work. They should be a Stanley Cup contender each year. “Should” being the operative word there.
Looking at how they’ve finished the last few years, it’s been a roller coaster. In the past four seasons they’ve missed the playoffs, been bounced out in the first and second rounds and made it to the Eastern finals two seasons ago. They’ve done everything but make the Stanley Cup Final and now they’ll look to do that with a coach who was there as recently as 2011 and knows a fair bit about the sting of unfulfilled expectations.
The Rangers are young and talented but their franchise goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, is itchy to win now.
The biggest news of the summer came when the Rangers fired John Tortorella and hired former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to replace him. The thought here is that Torts wore out the players with his tough ways and that Vigneault will help tap into the Rangers’ offensive potential a bit more.
As for player news, the Rangers kept it rather quiet. They acquired former Canadiens prospect Danny Kristo in exchange for their own prospect Christian Thomas in a trade. Free agency was equally low-key with signings like defenseman Aaron Johnson and forwards Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore. Moore’s story in particular is inspiring returning to hockey after the sudden passing of his wife.
Now if they can just get restricted free agent Derek Stepan taken care of and maybe start negotiating with their three potential unrestricted free agents next summer (Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi), GM Glen Sather can take a breather.
The Rangers’ core is strong (did we forget to mention Rick Nash?) and there’s no reason to think they won’t be a Stanley Cup threat again this season.
Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Alex Ovechkin got to play the part of fashion model for Team Russia as they unveiled their hockey jerseys for the Winter Olympics. There’s a lot of red going on. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)
Dustin Byfuglien is at Team USA’s camp and eager to earn a spot on the American blue line. (Winnipeg Free Press)
Patrick Kane is digging Team USA’s chances at gold in Sochi. (CSNChicago.com)
Phil Kessel says he’s a “different player now.” Does that mean he’s going to be an even more dynamic scorer? (Toronto Sun)
There’s another goalie out there eager to put his Vancouver drama to rest. At least Cory Schneider wound up in New Jersey where there hasn’t been much going on lately at all. (Fire & Ice)
Who’s the Brady Anderson of hockey? It’s always been Jonathan Cheechoo to me, but Down Goes Brown has a few other great candidates. (Grantland)
Jason Spezza isn’t sweating not being invited to Canada’s Olympic camp. Besides, getting snubbed in 2006 was way more egregious. (Senators Extra)
Speaking of Spezza, he’s ready to play with or without the Senators’ captaincy. (Ottawa Sun)
Rangers forward Derek Stepan believes he’ll get a new deal done before the season starts. (Ranger Rants)
Remember Alexander Radulov? He’s the former Nashville Predators forward who, along with Andrei Kostitsyn, made headlines in all the wrong ways after being busted staying out late partying while the Preds faced (and lost to) the Coyotes in the 2012 playoffs.
While he went back to Russia after that downer of an ending to his NHL season, he’s got something else to be bummed out about. Radulov was stripped of his captaincy of CSKA Moscow in the KHL. As R-Sport reports (via Dmitry Chesnokov), it was GM and former Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov who made the call.
“The last captain had problems with discipline,” said Fedorov, who did not mention Radulov by name. “Will it hurt the previous captain? He shouldn’t and cannot be hurt.”
Taking his spot as captain is former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alexei Morozov. Seeing that Radulov hasn’t really curtailed his fiery ways and ability to play nice with his teammates should help Predators fans feel even better that the team parted ways with him.
Last season the rest of the league and many fans got to know what Islanders fans have been getting used to the last few seasons.
The duo of John Tavares and Matt Moulson were one of the league’s top scoring duos last season and the company they kept is pretty lofty.
The pair of Islanders forwards combined for 91 points last season, including 43 goals. That point total put them in position with some of the best last season:
- Martin St. Louis – Steven Stamkos — 117
- Sidney Crosby – Chris Kunitz — 108
- Alex Ovechkin – Mike Ribeiro — 105
- Patrick Kane – Jonathan Toews — 103
- Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk — 97
- Eric Staal – Alexander Semin — 97
- Phil Kessel – Nazem Kadri — 96
- Jakub Voracek – Claude Giroux — 93
- Tavares-Moulson — 91
- Taylor Hall – Sam Gagner — 88
That’s pretty lofty company with the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, Toews, Datsyuk, and Giroux involved. After all, Tavares and Moulson aren’t household names quite yet, but maybe they ought to be.
Ever since joining the Islanders back in 2009-2010 as a free agent from Los Angeles, Moulson has scored 30 goals in every full season. His 15 goals last year put him on pace to do it again if not for the lockout. A multiple-time 30-goal scorer would have to be a superstar by now, right? Not so.
Tavares, meanwhile, has the No. 1 overall draft pick pedigree. The 2009 top choice has improved in each season and was a Hart Trophy finalist. At 22 years old, he’s poised to be the new captain of the team and will likely push for an Art Ross Trophy this season given his yearly improvements.
With these two leading the way, the Islanders’ future is indeed bright and with Moulson providing the veteran leadership as a 29-year-old, things are looking great for fans on the Island and in Brooklyn for years to come.
Thanks to insurance costs, both Team Canada and Team USA can’t participate on ice during their respective Olympic orientation camps. That’s not stopping Team Canada from trying to get some work in, however.
As Dan Rosen of NHL.com shares, coach Mike Babcock coached two groups through drills via ball hockey. They covered up the ice at MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park and treated it like a day on the rink. Sort of.
The point to breaking out the ball hockey game was to help illustrate what Babcock wants to do on the larger ice surface they’ll deal with in Sochi. With international rinks sized at 200×100 there are methods to be addressed.
If they wanted to make this truly authentic ball hockey, however, they’d occasionally drive a car through to keep it lively.
(Photo: Dan Rosen via Twitter)