|Holding down the fort
Going into this column, I know this article will not be popular with the vast majority of Ranger fans, but hear me out. No one can deny or argue the greatness of Henrik Lundqvist. He’s been the heart and the soul of this team for so long. However, look at the facts. The NHL salary cap for the 2014-2015 season is $69 Million Dollars. We can debate if that is a low number or not, and I would tend to agree with the people who think the cap should be higher. Due to this low cap number, franchises lose key players for bigger paydays elsewhere. It is a shame. Teams are punished for being successful, as in some cases, the teams can not keep homegrown talent because of the cap.
Lundqvist recently signed a 7 year deal, that averages out to $8.5 million a year, which breaks down to 8.1% of team payroll. He is the highest paid goalie in the NHL, with Pekka Rinne, of the Nashville Predators getting $7 Million Dollars, or $1.5 million less than Hank. Has Hank been worth that deal in the past? Sure. But are we paying a guy for past contributions or for the future? Is Hank going to be worth $8.5 million a year when he’s 38 years old?
Check out these NHL stats, thus far, in the first year of Hank’s deal:
– Hank comes in at 20th in the league, in Goals Against Average (GAA) at 2.57. Keep in mind there are only 30 teams in the league.
– Hank ranks tied for 25th in the league in the Saves Percentage department, with a .912 SVPCT.
– Hank leads the league in overtime/shoot-out losses with 5. Even if he won two of those games, those points would put the Rangers in a playoff position. (It’s way too early to talk playoffs, but just making a point. It’s always better to be leading than to be catching up.)
– Despite leading the league in home games played, Hank has blown a lead in every single game he’s started this season except for two. He’s also blown every shootout lead he’s had as well.
And this is the highest paid goalie in the league???
|It wasn’t long ago when Richter replaced Beezer…
At 23 years old, and making a paltry $575,000 a year, is Rangers back-up goalie Cam Talbot. Talbot had a magical season last year and had the best season as a back-up goalie in Ranger’s history since Mike Richter. Talbot went 12-6-1 last year, with three shutouts and an impressive 1.64 GAA. This year, Talbot has only started two games and has started off sluggish. One must wonder if he had more time and a regular flow, if he could post impressive numbers.
It is an on-going joke with my friends and on social media about my “love affair” with Cam Talbot. In all honesty, I’m not saying to cut bait on Hank at all, but I am saying that Talbot should get more time to see what the Rangers truly have with him. It wasn’t that long ago that the Rangers allowed a young Mike Richter to get time for John Vanbiesbrouck, and we all know how that turned out.
Hank will always be a New York Rangers legend, like a Rod Gilbert or Eddie Giacomin. I’m not trying to disparage his play in any way. Present stats aside, he is still one of the top goalies in the NHL. However, at $8.5 million a year, I do not think he’s worth that price for this season and I can’t see how he will be worth that price in the future. He blew leads left and right in the Stanley Cup last year and was bested by a better goalie, in Jonathan Quick, who at 28 years old, has won two Stanley Cups and is making $7 million dollars this season. If you want to be the highest paid goalie in the NHL, you need to play like one. This season alone, Hank has been on the losing end of disgusting blowouts, such as the Islanders game and has lost every shoot-out game he’s participated in this season.
|Perhaps less time modeling, more time practicing against the breakaway
Away from hockey, Hank is extremely successful and has the movie star life. He’s been in the top 100 of “People” magazine’s most beautiful people in the world. He’s been voted best dressed by Page 6 magazine. He has restaurants. He has a clothing line. He’s played lead guitar for a rock band. He’s hard not to like, as he also does a lot of charity work, and not all of it is publicized. But at 32 years old, is his best behind him?
I just want to stress I do consider Lundqvist one of the top 5 goalies in the NHL today. He’s a Rangers legend. I am not arguing or disputing that. I just think his contract is ridiculous and it hurts the Rangers hockey club as time moves on. We’ve seen signs of regression already. For every shot he’s stoned, he’s also blown a lead. For every breakaway goal he’s stopped, he’s also given up in a shoot-out. Very early, and let me say again, very early, into this NHL season, Hank has been extremely inconsistent.
Ranger distractors/haters will whine that Hank is overrated as a player and I am not saying that at all. Some may bring up his controversy with the size of his goaltender equipment, an argument started by perhaps the best goaltender of all time & long-time Ranger rival, Martin Brodeur. An inch or two of padding does not make the difference in Henrik’s play. He will go down as one of the best goalies in NHL history.
|The Eli Manning Body Language
Henrik Lundqvist’s words and feelings have been the most important of any Ranger player in the last several years. Lundqvist once complained that his teammates weren’t blocking enough shots for him. When then-coach John Tortorella stressed shot-blocking, Hank wasn’t facing as many shots as he used to and rode his impressive stat line to a Vezina trophy.
The problem about shot-blocking was that the Rangers players were so beat up, that come playoff time, they were shot from all the injuries. It is not easy to dive in front of a puck wizzing at you at 90-100 MPH. Pundits, fans and NHL personnel all wondered if the Rangers were so beat-up from all the shot blocking, that it cost them the Eastern Conference Championship in 2012, in 6 games, to the NJ Devils.
The Rangers would make the playoffs the following year, only to be bounced out by the impressive Boston Bruins. Lundqvist made it known at that time, without indirectly saying it, that if Torts was re-hired, Lundqvist would test free agency. It didn’t take long, as four days after being eliminated from the playoffs, on 5/29/2013, the Rangers fired Torts. Lundqvist had already made it known that Torts had worn thin on him. A player-friendly coach, Alain Vigneault was then hired.
Lundqvist has power in the organization. It is well known, as Rangers owner James Dolan has said repeatedly, that he loved John Tortorella and didn’t want to fire him. However, Dolan listened to GM Glen Sather and allowed Sather to relieve Torts of his duties. It was player vs coach and similar to an NBA deal, the player won.
While Torts may have also wore out his welcome with Ranger fans (At the time Ranger fans were hoping for Mark Messier or Lindy Ruff as next coach), Torts did encourage shot blocking, meaning less shots for opposing teams. I often wondered if Hank has blocked too many shots with his head (as he’s notoriously known for doing) that he did a 180 on Torts. Hank, being classy, has never spoken out negatively or in detail about his relationship with Torts.
|Lundqvist during shootouts this season
Last year, the Rangers went on a remarkable run, perhaps over-achieving, with a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Everything went right. Injuries to the goalies of Philadelphia and Montreal helped the Rangers. Montreal eliminating the difficult rival, the Boston Bruins, made the path easier, as the Rangers have not matched up well against the team from Beantown in recent years. Pittsburgh totally collapsing made matters even better. One can not deny the play of Henrik Lundqvist during these three Eastern Conference series, but it was a total team effort, however, it is Henrik Lundqvist taking the lion’s share of the purse.
The 2013-2014 season will be a magical and fondly remembered season for Ranger fans. I usually attend 20 games a year, but in these last few years, I’ve been fortunate to attend 35-40 games a year. I love the Rangers. I know going into this column, this opinion won’t be popular and people will question my fanhood, but you can trust me when I say, I bleed Rangers blue. Anyone who knows me will tell you that.
The reason the 2013-2014 season was so great was because everything worked out. Phenomenal play by both goaltenders. The MSL trade and MSL’s play in the playoffs rejuvenated the club. Brad Richards, the old-time veteran, stepping up. Ryan McDonagh, playing like a warrior, that it earned him the “C” on his sweater. However, with great success, in the sports world, leads to tough business decisions.
The Rangers lost many key players of their Stanley Cup team. Dorsett, a fourth liner, was traded. Tanner Glass would replace him, but it was another case of the Rangers getting older. Carcillo and his fiery play took his talents to Chicago, where he joined Brad Richards, who had to go because of salary issues. Benoit Pouliot, who has been on more teams than I can remember got a huge offer from Edmonton. Brian Boyle, the Rangers bad ass center took a nice deal from Tampa. However, the greatest loss in my eyes, #6, defensemen Anton Stralman.
|It’s nice when you are getting paid nearly 10% of team payroll
Fellow Lundqvist countrymen, Anton Stralman, was a huge boost for the Rangers defense last year. While Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are more well known, Stralman played like a beast all year, especially during the playoffs. However, the Rangers couldn’t keep him because of salary cap rules and regulations. If Henrik was to take a paycut, perhaps the Rangers could’ve kept the most grittiest defenseman they had.
Therein lays my problem. I hope I make it clear that I respect and root for Henrik Lundqvist. I’m a Ranger fan. I want them to do win at any means. I enjoy chanting “HEN-RY!” at MSG. Lundqvist has created many great moments for us Ranger fans. My only gripe and concern is he not worth his contract. Sure, he’s been worth it at the past, but at 32, and only getting older, I can not see or justify the amount of money he’s being paid, at the expense of other pieces that can help this team.
Lundqvist has said in the past that, “Give me 2 goals and I got this” and “I want to win a championship in NY.” At 32, Hank has many deals through his hockey celebrity fame. He is set for life. How come he couldn’t take pay cut like other famous athletes? He was right there last year. The Cup was for the taking. The Rangers should’ve won the cup. Blown leads and a better goaltender gave the Cup to the LA Kings last year. Perhaps the Kings were even more experienced. If you are Hank, and you’ve done everything – made the money, got the records, got the hot wife, got a million business deals, couldn’t you take a paycut to keep key parts of your Eastern Conference Championship team? It just comes off hypocritical to me when you say “All I want to do is win”, but then demand a huge contract which lessens the chances of getting that help.
The Rangers defense has been hit by the injury bug all year and has lost more games played than any other team in the league. Injuries to Dan Boyle, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein have hurt the team. Replacement Kotska has cost them games. McIlrath is a goon, that takes penalties at wrong times. John Moore has a repuation and will be suspended over any questionable hit. They miss a player like Anton Stralman. They don’t have the money to make a deal for a Johnny Boychuk, who has been a huge reason for the Islanders success this season. There’s no way in life Hank can spend all the money he has. However, he only has a short hockey life left to win a Cup. What’s more important, a few million he can’t spend, or the most prestigious championship in all of sports, the Stanley Cup?
The Rangers don’t have one shootout win this season, and that falls on Henrik’s shoulders. He has given up more soft goals this year than any other time in his career. He is still a Top 5 goalie, but has routinely been bested by inferior netminders on a consistent basis. The Rangers are losing games where they score 2 or more goals.
I understand this season is very young, and I’m not a priest and going to jump all over this, but it’s very hard not to question Hank’s huge deal. Perhaps I’m very spoiled. After all, I’m a Yankee & a Giant fan, and I’ve lived through much success with those franchises. The Rangers have the least amount of Stanley Cup wins than any other original 6 team. We can blame World War 2 for costing us two cups, but is that what Ranger fans want to do? Of course not. Winning a cup is the most important thing for Ranger fans. We get shit from Devil fans. We get shit from Islander fans. We get shit from Boston, LA and Chicago fans. All we want is the Cup. I don’t think Henrik Lundqvist’s contract helps us to that goal.
So the next time you see me question Henrik Lundqvist, realize that I am only questioning his fat cat contract and not what he’s meant to the organization. Until he wins a cup, he will never be as fondly remembered as Mike Richter, nor be the best goalie in Rangers history. I am hoping and wishing for the day where I will be writing the column, “HENRIK LUNDQVIST: THE GREATEST RANGER OF ALL TIME?” Until then, I wonder if Cam Talbot’s deal and key free agents would better off serve the team in the future. Please, I beg of you, Henrik, prove me wrong. Until then, when people say he’s a “King without a Crown”, I have no defense, just like Hank on a shootout this year!
|The one thing no goalie wants to see
– The shootout is a highly debated topic for NHL fans. As of late, it has been highly debated by Ranger fans, due to Henrik Lundqvist losing every shootout he’s participated in this season. The shootout is not for purist. We all know the complaints. Would you end a baseball game with a home run derby? An NBA game with a slam dunk contest? An NFL game with a field goal contest?
The shootout was designed to draw casuals to the NHL game. The NHL game does not need to draw casuals. You like it or you don’t. The AHL is currently experimenting with a 3 vs 3 OT. I would rather see that than the shootout. Points have been inflated from the teams of yesteryear with the shootout. Points are being handed out left and right. I don’t know if going back to the tie is the way to go. I would like to see the 3 vs 3, as it is more exciting to me.
Either way, the shootout has to go. I haven’t heard one player, GM or coach embrace it. Save it for the All-Star Game. A skills competition is no way to settle a brutal 65 minute affair. If it was up to me, on the fly, I would do 5 minutes of 4 vs 4, then 5 minutes of 3 vs 3. If no one scores, both teams get one point and we call it a day. I don’t care if anyone has a better or different idea, but the shootout needs to become a thing of the past. Just like the Islander fishstick jerseys, it was nice to try, but it failed. Let’s admit it and move on.
– Anthony Duclair needs to be on the ice. I understand the Rangers want to try out new faces and lines. I get that AV sees everyone everyday and I’m just a fan. I just don’t want a Torts/Kreider thing where we hurt a player’s confidence and ability to grow, like in the case of JT Miller. The Rangers have a really bright future if Duclair and Hayes work out. Even brighter if Haggerty develops well for the Wolfpack. Give Duclair the chance to be a Top 9 forward in this league.
– Saturday night’s game, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, was the best regular game I’ve seen all season. Just a battle and it felt like a playoff game. For hockey, I hope these two meet in the playoffs again this year.
– FUCK YOU SIDNEY CROSBY. I don’t get why the NHL lets him get away with so much shit. It’s not like the ratings for Penguins games are doing Denver Bronco numbers. He is a crybaby bitch. How is someone allowed to scream at refs all game long, get private time to talk to refs and then slam his stick against the glass and get no punishment/penalty for it? The rules should apply for everyone equally. People wanted to be LIKE MIKE. People wanted to RE2PECT. Everyone loved Gretzky, no matter who you rooted for. Crosby is hated by virtually every non-Penguins fan in the league. He’s not a character that embarks a love/hate thing by fans like a Lebron. It’s not like Pittsburgh is a major market like NY, Chicago or LA. I don’t get why he gets away with anything he wants. It is disgusting.
– Evgeni’s Malkin’s hit on Girardi was 100% clean, but we all know if someone hit Crosby like that, they would be doing Todd Bertuzzi time.
– Marc-Andre Fleury’s game has stepped up big time since the Islanders playoff series of two years ago.
– I don’t know if I’m a spoiled brat because I attend so many NHL games live, but something needs to be done about TV presentation. I’ve said many times on this site, that the NHL game is the best pro sport to see live. It just isn’t as great on TV as it is live. The NFL is made for TV. Ditto the NBA and MLB. The NHL game is made for live fans. You often miss plays develop, action away from the puck and a myriad of other things. I don’t know how you change it, as a screen is only so big and you can’t clog it up. Maybe pulling the camera back so you get a wider view of the ice and just zooming in on shots would help? One day, one producer will figure it out and change the game.
– Marty St. Louis, who doesn’t even have a full year in a blueshirt, is my current favorite NY Ranger. It is a true treat to watch him play. The guy makes the smoothest and sweetest passes I’ve ever seen. MSL tallied another goal on Saturday and has been a huge boost for Rick Nash’s Ranger career.
– Matt Hunwick continues to play an impressive game. It is going to be tough to send him down when everyone is healthy.
– While the MSL/Callahan trade was the biggest trade for the Rangers last season, based on name value, was there a better deal than Kevin Klein for Michael Del Zotto? Klein has been a solid hand for the Rangers.
– Monday night is going to be a fun game, win or lose. I look forward to welcoming back Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman. It will be just as emotional for Marty St. Louis as well. It’s a big two points, as the Rangers have been settling for one point at a time recently. I look forward to this battle.
Thank you for reading this column, here on DOINow.com. Feel free to debate me on social media. If you got time, check out the archive section. I am not doing for this money, I’m doing this as a fan who just loves sports and enjoys writing.
Let’s Go Rangers
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