The New York Rangers 2016-2017 Preview: Where I Have Been, Thoughts on the Off-Season, What To Look For, Being Realistic About the Club in Year 90, Can Lundqvist Get His Cup, My Approach To Covering Hank This Year & Tons of Opinions About NYR

My favorite memory of the 2016-2017 NHL off-season – meeting the greatest goalie in NYR history KING Mike Richter.

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Miss me?

I haven’t written a blog in three months. I have gotten emails and tweets asking if this blog is still alive. I had to think about that question myself. Is it worth it? If you know me from my wrestling days, I had to give up my wrestling business and website due to burnout and real life. While this is just a simple blog with one fan’s opinion, it is a bitch to pump these things out. What started out as fun can become a chore real quick. It’s easier to fire off a few tweets and call it day. To write a well constructed blog, well that takes time and energy, which sometimes I do not have.

As I told you during the season last year, my real-life schedule is pretty busy with work and all. Last season, I was working 12-15 hour days, would go to a game right after work (I was working on 30th St, & 1st Ave, about a 20 minute walk to MSG), have a few beers at the game and be up at 4AM to do it again. Squeezing in blogs was tough! Being on the LIRR for two hours a day was even worse, with or without Gregg Turkin (Look him up) keeping me safe by saying something.

This blog is now three years old, but for the first time since the lockout, I’m not confident at all about the Rangers making the playoffs this season. You can read my prediction blog on the whole league, by checking out the main page of BlueCollarBlueShirts.com

I know I tend to get negative a lot on these pages, especially on the topic of Henrik Lundqvist, but I’ve been right the whole time.  You simply can’t win a cup with a top 5 paid goaltender in the NHL. Again, I blame the NHLPA for a lot of this. Put it this way, the NHL just held a silly World Cup of Hockey, that made money on ticket sales and an ESPN TV deal. Where is that money? It didn’t go to the teams that risked the health of their players, that’s for sure.

I’ve written about this before, so you can check the archives on the right hand of the site, but I can’t stand the money aspect in sport. I get it. However, the NHL has the lowest salary cap in sports, yet is the most physical sport of them all. I must also mention that the NFL doesn’t guarantee contracts, and that is a travesty for a multi-billion dollar business.

Give props to the MLB and NBA player unions. Those motherfuckers get PAID no matter what. You have that cock-sucker Gary Bettman bragging in interviews all over the place about how successful the NHL is, how much money they are making by being the first league to enter/monetize the streaming market, disgusting ticket prices, etc, yet teams are handcuffed by a cap.

If you know me in real life or just as the guy who hates Lundqvist’s contract on social media, would I even be harping on this subject if the cap was rescinded or increased fairly? No.

Let’s get this out there for new readers and old readers alike because I don’t want to keep harping on this all season. I really want to like Lundqvist. For a long time, I did. However, you can’t tell me “I want to win at all costs”, then hold the team up for money, get the coach fired and tease FA in the salary cap era. He’s regressing, just like any star athlete. He’s peaked. It happens. Aging sucks.

I get responses from people who live in their mother’s basement – “Oh well what about Girardi? Nash? Staal?” Let me drop some facts on you. Lundqvist already has been paid. He got the big money deal when he was in his prime. He has endorsements. He makes money in other interests because he plays in NY. Do you see Girardi, Nash or Staal opening up restaurants? Doing modeling? Getting endorsements? Having their own clothing line at MSG? Of course not. Lundqvist is older than these guys and got another huge deal, while those guys got their first ever big money/life changing deals. Furthermore, Lundqvist will always have a job with the club if he wants it. The other 3? I’m not so sure.

Bottom line, Hank has been paid. He will continue to be paid. If he said it was about the money, I’d respect him more. However, he’s put this team in cap hell. He set the precedent on what this team will pay. Of course Girardi and Staal followed suit.

I know people will continue to challenge me and really, I want to be done with this topic because I’ve argued this topic to death – but the Rangers best chance of winning a cup was to retain Cam Talbot after the 2014-2015 season and try to move Hank.  Does that mean Talbot is better than Hank? Maybe he is right now, maybe he’s not. What he was, was a better option for the team. A guy making $8M less, who can win games, is more attractive than Hank’s deal, when you factor age and wear/tear.

Put it this way. In Hank’s NYR career, the best season the NYR ever had, when they won the President’s Trophy, is when Hank was out for nearly 3 months and Talbot started. Hank’s WAR (Win Above Replacement) was shot to shit.

I know many of you guys love Hank. Some of you never seen Richter play. Save me the “The Rangers would never get this far without Hank” bullshit. This is a team that got rid of Messier, Leetch and Graves; legends for the Rangers. Hank can go too, this is a business. My theory has always remained the same – you can’t win with a top 5 paid goalie, because you need to spend your cap money on offense. This isn’t the NFL. Defense doesn’t win championships.

Some “haters” of mine, will say I ignore Nash, Girardi or Staal. I guess they only harp on the Hank shit. The fact is, Hank says all these crazy things and throws all these crazy hissy fits. The same hissy fits that Ranger fans call Sidney Crosby a bitch when he does it. The only difference is, Crosby has won 2 Cups.

Here’s another fact, in Alain Vigneault’s press conference last week, he said he will limit Hank’s starts this season. So the Rangers are paying this guy the most in the league to sit on the bench. The Rangers have the wrong philosophy as a whole. You can’t build from the goalie out. You need to build from the first line down to win Cups in this new cap era league. The evidence is right in front of you.

What’s scary, is that Hank in his last two playoff series has been lit up like a Christmas tree, giving up 5 goals a game left and right. He was benched more times last year than any other time in his career. He has been giving up 4-5 goals in the World Cup of Hockey. He’s no longer elite. Other goalies have surpassed him. No one fears him anymore.

Bottom line – Lundqvist can not be thought of as being the guy to carry this team to a Cup. I mean even in his best year, the 2012 lockout shortened season, a goalie who was paid 30th in the league at his position, Jonathan Quick, had a better post season than Hank has ever had. Quick also carried his team to a Cup, then won another one. What more do Ranger fans need to see?

I get that Hank deserves a Cup in his career. He’s not Bourque desperate level yet, but if he wants to win one, it might have to be after his bloated contract runs out and he signs on to be a back-up somewhere. With offensive juggernauts in his division, the Rangers in cap hell, I just don’t see how he can do it.

I really think the people that argue me on this topic have never seen one of their favorite players regress. It’s an age thing. For me it was Don Mattingly. I’m not gonna lie, at 13 years old,  I wasn’t a fan of Tino Martinez replacing him, but it had to happen and it all worked out nicely. I also think some of these kids don’t understand the business aspect of it. I just know from conversations, people who are older are ready to  cut bait and try something new, while the young kids hold on to a hero. I get it.

While I do root against Hank at times (Olympics, WCH), I want the Rangers to win a Cup. I just don’t think his contract helps the team. I’ll eat crow and wear a KING 30 hat at a parade. Just get me the parade in my adult life before my liver kicks.

Hank is so dynamic for this team that I’m often left defending my opinions about him. I hope that’s the last for it for now. You all know my spiel already. Let’s talk some Ranger hockey.

Image result for derick brassard mika

I kinda understand the trade, but I don’t agree with it.

The last time I checked in, I talked about the Yandle deal. To be honest, this whole Rangers off-season has made me sick, which is another reason I haven’t written anything in a while. I just don’t want to be negative and angry!

Here’s my bottom line before continuing: either you rebuild completely or you don’t at all. If you rebuild half-assed, you’re just one of these people chasing a contractor to finish your home repairs.

You can check the archives, as it backs me up, but I have a great track record when it comes to talking about trades in real-life time. I hated the Duke deal. Hated the Hags deal. Hated the Boyle for Stralman idea. Hated giving up draft picks in the MSL deal. Hated the Talbot move.

As far as Brassard for Mika Zibanjad, I get it. The Rangers want to get similar production out of their second line center for cheaper. That’s been my whole argument about trying to get rid of Lundqvist.

However, the Rangers have now traded their best offensive defenseman of last season, as well as their best scorer. Does this make them better than last year? I don’t think so.

I just don’t see how people like Lundqvist or even Vigneault say “the window isn’t closed”, while the Rangers rebuild some areas and ignore others.

The Rangers have kept the four worst contracts on the team – Lundqvist, Nash, Staal and Girardi, while trying to build for the future in other areas. How is this team winning a cup this way? This 90th year should be special, and not special at a golf course outing at the end of April, when the season is over.

How the Devils stole Hall from Edmonton is beyond me. Where was Gorton? How the Coyotes dealt for another dead contract (Pronger being the first, Datsyuk deal being the second) is beyond me. Are you telling me the Rangers couldn’t dangle Nash, Staal or Girardi in these deals?

I think it’s must-see viewing that Ranger fans watch Alain Vigneault’s press conference from last week. It’s available on both BlueShirtsUnited.com and the Rangers facebook page. There is a lot to take out of it. He doesn’t sound confident. He’s blaming hoping that Girardi and Staal can rebound. He’s excited about the rookies, and really, that’s all the Rangers really have going for them this off-season and that’s Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich.

At least the Wolfpack should be good this year.

The Rangers enter training cap with a shit-load (Is that the appropriate adjective?) of forwards and not much defensively. Your top 6 defensemen, by default look to be McDonagh, Girardi, Staal, Klein, Skjei and McIlrath. Perhaps Clendening gets some time too. The Rangers biggest problem last year was their blue line, so to get better, they traded their best defenseman in Keith Yandle and did nothing else. All they are doing is hoping Girardi and Staal can be better.

From a glass half full point of view, I think Girardi can be better after the long break. He’s been battling through so many injuries. Staal on the other hand, I don’t think much. His contract SUCKS. He’s a defensemen’s defenseman and does nothing offensively. You can’t be like that any more in today’s NHL. On the bright side, Dan Boyle is gone, but every time I hear Boyle’s name, I miss Stralman. Letting Yandle go is gonna bite the Rangers in the ass just like it did when they dealt Stralman like thieves in the night.

While on the subject, let’s look at the comings and goings of the team:

(Note thanks to Brett Crygalis who made this list)

See Ya:

C Derick Brassard (trade, Senators) – Rangers deal their best scorer. Stupid.
D Keith Yandle (free agent, Panthers) – another shitheaded move by the Rangers.
C Eric Staal (free agent, Wild) – should’ve never dealt for him in the first place.
F Viktor Stalberg (free agent, Hurricanes) – a good fourth line skater. I think the Rangers could’ve used him.
C Dominic Moore (free agent, Bruins) – like John Cena says, “Your Time Is Up”. Thank you for the Game 6 goal in the 2014 ECF.
D Dan Boyle (retired) – Larry Brooks is happy. So is the rest of RANGERSTOWN.

No Chance at a Cup in 2017:

C Mika Zibanejad (trade, Senators) – hopefully he can replace Brassard, or rebuilding at Brassard’s expense will be proven to be ridiculous.
F Jimmy Vesey (free agent, Harvard) – two thumbs and an erection up!
F Pavel Buchnevich (third round, 2013) – two thumbs and a red rocket up!
F Brandon Pirri (free agent, Ducks) – who gives a fuck?
F Michael Grabner (free agent, Maple Leafs) – a poor man’s Hagelin, because that worked out so well with Emerson Etem. HOW ABOUT KEEPING HAGELIN YOU ASSHOLES!
F Nathan Gerbe (free agent, Hurricanes) – we already have a lovable midget in Zuccarello. I’d be shocked if Gerbe makes the team.
F Josh Jooris (free agent, Flames) – perhaps a fourth liner, but you’re not gonna get Brian Boyle or Benoit Pouliout production out of him.
D Nick Holden (free agent, Avalanche) – the guy signed to replace Yandle. LMAO!
D Adam Clendening (free agent, Oilers) – a solid hand, but if he’s playing that means McIlrath isn’t.

I’m not even going to attempt to break down the lines of this team. Preseason will handle that. Again, are you rebuilding, or are you leaving your house without a roof? I think Buchenvich and Vesey have to be on the main club. I don’t care who gets burnt and sent to the Wolfpack as a result. Give these guys NHL ice minutes now. I’m gonna do another blog on Buchnevich and Vesey, so I’m not gonna go in-depth here. Bottom line though – these kids need to start, even if that means Vigneault favorite Tanner Glass has to play on $1 hotdog and $2 beer night in Hartford.

Fun fact: I’m going to $1 hotdog and $2 beer night in Hartford on 11/4! More on my future New England trip in another blog.

Credit: Newsday.com

Jimmy Vesey

I’m going to do a separate blog on Vesey & Buchnevich here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com, but let me say right now – these are the two players I will watch the most during preseason. I know I’m a sick fuck and attend preseason games, but this is where you can really see what you have. I may be exaggerating here, maybe not, but to me, the Rangers playoff chances rely on their young guns, with no one having more firepower than the best player in college hockey and the Russian. They must be on the team come opening day against the Islanders, make no bones about it.

Image credit: Northjersey.com

He may sell jerseys, but can he win a Cup?

One of the reasons I waited so long to write a Rangers preview blog was because I wasn’t sure if the team was done making moves. As I started this blog on 9/25 (trying to get a bunch of blogs all done at once to make up for lost time, treat this as a Netflix binge from a lunatic diehard Ranger blogger) Nash was still a Ranger and it looked like the team was done making trades.

During the off-season, Nash’s name was brandied about in trade scenarios and supposedly was ok with being moved. However, at an obscene $7.8M a year, the Rangers couldn’t find any biters. From what was reported, the Rangers couldn’t even get 20 cents to the dollar for Nash. With the Rangers in cap hell, it made no sense to trade him and eat some of his salary either, like the way the Coyotes did when they traded Yandle here.

So Nash will remain a Ranger, or at least, so it seems.

Here’s what bothers me, besides everything else everyone bitches about when it comes to Nash. It’s what he said on Friday, 9/23:

“For me, as I get to the tail end of my career, especially after the year I had last year, I have to show I belong on this team. I can’t speak for other guys, but I truly feel that way. You look at the numbers and you have so many forwards, you know there’s going to be big moves that are going to be made. For me, I want to be a Ranger, I want to be in New York, so that’s all I’m worried about.”

Nash enters his fifth season in NY and it’s been a bumpy ride. I’ve defended Nash a lot here on this blog. He came back from concussions, an injury we still don’t know 100% about. Lawsuits are going on about this subject every day. He has been hurt a lot. However, when he’s healthy, he can still be a great player. Will he be a great player this season? Can anyone truly answer that with authority?

What bothers me is that Nash doesn’t really sound confident. He doesn’t sound like a leader. Keep in mind, he was a leader in Columbus, yet during his entire tenure in NY, has only been an alternate captain when someone was hurt. He doesn’t seem like a guy willing to put the team on his back. He doesn’t seem remorseful for bad seasons. He doesn’t seem like he’s ready. He’s fighting to make the team. Listen for $7.8M, you better not only be ready to play, but play like a fucking superstar. You sure are being paid that way. $7.8M and you’re hoping to just make the team? That’s not acceptable. Just like his NYR playoff career. It’s bullshit.

Listen, I’m rooting for Nash and every Ranger to do well, but you can’t make this kind of money and tell me you’re worried about making the team. I’m not feeling confident about Nash. I want to hear Nash say that he’s 100% healthy and ready to make up for lost time. He needs to be the ultimate Hulk Hogan babyface for this team, not the fucking Brooklyn Brawler.

Head Coach Alain Vigneault

I have read and heard many Ranger fans say to get rid of AV. I’m opposed to that. I like AV. He’s been very successful in New York. He’s only won a President’s Trophy, taken the team to a Cup, taken the team to an ECF (with Zucc out) and has one of the best winning records out of NHL coaches in the last 5 years. What he doesn’t have is a Stanley Cup, but neither does Lundqvist, but that doesn’t stop the majority of NYR twitter from blowing Hank!

This is going to be AV’s toughest season as HC of NYR. His lines will constantly change. He will have to make a decision about the rookies. He’s going to chew the fuck out of his gum watching his defense. He will have to tow the company line about banking around Hank, even if Hank is giving up 5 goals a game left and right. He will have to have make a bunch of cuts to get this team right. He may even have to send his BFF Tanner Glass down to Hartford.

The only thing AV has going for him this season is that NYR fans are used to losing. Four cups in 90 years. A fanbase that ignores that making your goalie the highest paid player is a mistake. A fanbase so dumb that they think Mike Keenan was the greatest coach ever, despite not realizing Keenan was only here a year and hated by his team. It was Messier who made that 1994 team. A management so ignorant that they they ignore the accomplishments of Frank Boucher and pretend that only Gilbert wore #7.

A lot of things are going to have to go right for the Rangers to be successful this season. The rookies need to be outstanding, which is unreasonable pressure to put on them. Zibanjed better pan out. People forget that Brassard was also the best faceoff man the Rangers had last year. The defense really needs to have the best years of their career. The goalie better not break down in the playoffs.

It sounds like I’m giving AV the benefit of the doubt here, and admittedly, I am. If the Rangers win, it will be because he pressed the right buttons. If the Rangers suck, well the general manger position has been abysmal for 16+ years. Let’s be honest and this is a fact. I’m even going to capitalize this to make a point:

THE RANGERS BIGGEST WEAKNESS LAST SEASON WAS THEIR DEFENSE. IN TURN, THE RANGERS DID NOTHING TO BETTER THEIR DEFENSE. THEY TRADED THEIR BEST DEFENSEMAN FOR A PICK THAT WILL 99% NOT PAN OUT.

I mean for a team that had such a horrible defense, the Rangers replied by signing a million forwards that you would sell for a grand total of 100 coins on NHL 17’s Hockey Ultimate Team mode.

You can bet that any time Dan Girardi or Marc Staal do anything wrong, RANGERSTOWN is going to go bonkers. If Girardi and Staal have seasons like last year, there may not be enough gum in the world to chew for AV.

Too many things need to go right for the Rangers to be taken seriously this season. Realistically, I don’t see how they make the playoffs, even if I’m going to go out on a limb and predict them to take the 8th seed. I think it will be another first round exit and they will be over-achieving if they get that.

I may have been buzzed in this picture with 23.

In closing, I’m wondering if the Rangers best pick up/move of the off-season was bringing in Jeff Beukeboom as the new assistant coach/defense coach. Beuke replaces Ulf Samuelsson, who got a head coaching gig in Charlotte. I thought Ulf was good here. He was also the guy that meticulously watched for off side plays.

I can remember about 3-4 times last season the Rangers won a replay because of him. If you didn’t notice or didn’t read about it, basically, Samuelsson would stand right in front of the blue line. This way he had a 100% direct view of the puck crossing the blue line. Again, my memory is a little hazy, but I think it was against the Flyers that the Flyers scored, but the goal was taken back after video review showed a Flyer off side. I wonder if Beuekeboom will be in charge of that department as well.

McIlrath and Skjei have said Beukeboom helped them with their game. Who better to learn from? Not to hammer the Girardi and Staal stuff, but what can Beukeboom do to help these two guys, who are pretty much set in the way they play?

McDonagh and Klein’s offensive games have improved with each and every season. The Rangers are going to need some scoring from their defense, especially with 93 gone.  I’m interested in how Beuekeboom deploys his defense. Are they cheating? Are they staying back? Aggressive? Conservative? I guess we’ll see in the preseason.

Even if the season sucks, I did get all this for free. Thanks NHL store for bringing in my favorite goalie ever, King Michael the XXXVth!

As I make my return to running this blog, I’m posting a bunch of new blogs for your bingeing enjoyment. Keep checking BlueCollarBlueShirts.com for a bunch of new material. It’s perfect literature for while you’re on the bowl!

It’s hard to be positive about this team this season, but still win or lose, I leave you with…

“LET’S GO RANGERS”

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the twitter box

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