Friday, October 2, 2009

“The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”

This is one of my favorite quotes and it comes from Mark Twain. I find this title to be very fitting, being that this is the first entry I have sat down to write since May 8. It sometimes becomes difficult to devote and/or find the time with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Especially during this past summer in which transition, long nights at the workplace and finding that special someone were all involved. I am sure taking a four-month hiatus from my blog was not exactly the best way to attract new followers. Whether you are a New York Rangers fan or you find great joy in seeing them criticized on a regular basis, I feel you will thoroughly enjoy and maybe even need this blog for your own personal amusement. However you choose to look at it, I am certain you will find some sort of entertainment value in reading this.

With that being said, we will dive right in and get down to business. Honestly, is there any other way when it comes to hockey? I think not.

What did this organization do? Well, the good news is that they did not sign Mats Sundin. They also didn’t sign Brian Gionta in order to try to elevate Scott Gomez’s game.
In fact, Montreal stole that plan after acquiring Gomez in early July for winger Chris Higgins and a couple of prospects.
Along with the signing of Higgins came a big contract for oft-injured unrestricted free agent Marian Gaborik and a bunch of role players to fill out the roster up front.
On defense, the only thing they seemed to add was more questions. Freshmen Matt Gilroy and Mike Del Zotto will start the season as the team’s third defensive pair behind last year’s inconsistent tandems made up of Redden, Rozsival, Staal and Girardi. Obviously, there are questions up and down the Blue Shirt’s roster and star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will have to be the backbone until some of the many questions surrounding this team are answered.

At the very least, we know they will be more entertaining to watch under head coach John Tortorella and his hard working fast-paced system. Torts has put this team through a grueling training camp as he promised to do at the end of post season play last year and the results should show seeing as how there was some questions surrounding the team’s overall conditioning last season under former head coach Tom Renney.

Therefore, with that said, I will wrap this up since we are about an hour or so away from the drop of the puck. I think it is going to be a different kind of season in many ways. Although, much like in the past few seasons this team will have to work for earn every inch of success that they achieve.
While there are questions and doubts, hard work and perseverance are, two things that every hockey team need to possess in order to be successful and have a chance at hockey’s greatest prize.
This team will have to work harder then their opponent, want it more, and leave it all out on the ice 82 times this season if it wants to have a chance at any type of success. It will not be an easy season by any means. I for one would not want it any other way.

So get your Rolaids ready kids! It is time for another season of hockey. Let’s go Rangers.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Say: Thank You Markus

So this past week an announcement was made that left wing and former Vancouver Canucks Captain Markus Naslund has decided to retire. Most analysts and beat writers agree that Naslund was inevitably going to be bought out by the NY Rangers this summer, as it's clear that his game has continued to diminish and that he surely would not survive the rigorous, 'go go go' system that will be put forth by John Tortorella at the start of training camp next season.

I will not deny that the extra four million dollars in cap space that will get freed up on a team that has just over $32 million invested into five players (who are worth about a combined sixteen million by the way) will be a big help. When General Manager and anti-Christ Glen Sather opens up the phone lines on July 1 trying to find the elite forward this team so sorely lacks, it may be a difference maker.

However, the part that bothers me is that there are a fair amount of fans that didn't feel that Naslund was much of a Ranger in his short stint here and are thrilled to be rid of him. So I'm going to set the record straight for a moment.

I say be grateful for Naslund's time here. Not only was he one of the classiest players in the NHL since he broke into the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1993-1994 season, but he gave this team every ounce that was left in the tank in what would be the final season of his career. He managed to stay healthy while doing it as well.

Rangers followers, allow me to ask this question: How many 30-plus-year-old free agent signees have you been able to say that about?

Look, it's no secret that Naslund hasn't been able to perform at the elite level that he played at prior to the lockout a few years ago, but in no way was he a disappointment. When the announcement was made that he signed with the Rangers it should have been obvious what they had obtained. Most should have figured that he’d be a twenty-to twenty-five goal scorer who could play a bunch of minutes and have a secondary role on the team, while maybe scoring the occasional clutch goal every now and again. And that's exactly what he turned out to be. The only difference was that the organization failed to bring in a first line winger for him to play that secondary role for.

Having played in all 82 games and registering 24 goals while occasionally coming up big in the clutch during the regular season, Naslund should not have been considered a flop- especially after putting up a pretty respectable postseason in which far too many of his teammates just weren’t good enough to get past the Washington Capitals.

Naslund delivered exactly what should have been expected of him by fans as well as the organization. Did he have a few bad games? I won’t deny that. Was he invisible just a little too often at important times of the year? Yes, he was. But should he have had the pressure of a first line winger on him at this stage of his career? No he shouldn’t have.

The bottom line is this: Naslund was a good leader and a stand-up player over his entire career, and continued to be once he became a Ranger. In my books he gets an "A" for effort. He should not be categorized with names like Theo Fleury and Valeri Kamensky. This was a guy who could have been an unsung hero on many of nights much as Marty Straka was during his tenure here while playing the role of Jaromir Jagr's right hand man. Unfortunately, there just wasn't a go to guy on this team for Naslund to be slotted behind on the depth chart and so it played out the way it did.

With that said, I just want to say thank you to Markus Naslund. Not because I thought he was overly impressive in his time here or because he exceeded expectations- just for bringing it the best he could at an advanced age, on a team that was far too under-skilled up front, and for doing it with class
As a result of that effort this die hard fan was proud to have been able to call him a NY Ranger for a year.I wish him luck with life post hockey. He'll be leaving behind a pretty impressive NHL career.

Naslund has always been a family man and it’s probably a safe assumption that he’ll enjoy having more time to spend with his wife Lotta and daughters Rebecca and Isabella. I'm sure they'll be happy to have him around as well. I know I was.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The aftermath of a historical breakdown

So what went wrong? Well allow me to answer that question by asking another: What went right exactly? Blowing a three games to one series lead against a potent Washington Capitals team was hardly shocking if you watched this Ranger team since their first game in Prague back in October. In fact, the series itself was like a synopsis of the entire season. A quick start with a little luck, a couple of wins they had no business recording thanks to goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and then a healthy dose of reality as they reached for something that just wasn’t there as the better team took them apart.

I can think of one victory all season long that left me feeling good about the 2008-09 New York Rangers. That was a 4-1 victory on October 13, 2008 against the Devils. Henrik Lundqvist out dueled Marty Brodeur and Brandon Dubinsky had a 3 point night while the team played a crisp, confident, complete game that made you say to yourself “maybe these guys can get it together.”

That win aside, there wasn’t another game out of the other eighty eight that you could honestly tell yourself you were totally satisfied with. Not as a player, a coach, or a fan.

This team was a disappointment. This group was the least likable one of the post lockout era and more alarmingly then that it was the most under skilled and least capable of competing for the Stanley Cup. This is the team that was constructed by both GM Glen Sather (still in the midst of his 800 year contract) and former coach Tom Renney.

They were supposed to be a fast, well conditioned, skating team that would play a defensive system and rely on their goalie to occasionally bail them out. And that’s what they were- all except for the fast, well conditioned, skating team part. Night after night the defensive lapses piled up and most times Lundqvist was there- even if there were moments where the king looked the most frustrated and unmotivated he’s ever looked in his career on Broadway.

But when all was said and done this was a defensively flawed team that was too small, too slow, and just didn’t have a way to provide offense. According to coach John Tortorella- conditioning was a problem as well.
"I worry that some of the guys are tired now, and we played one round," Tortorella told Larry Brooks of the NY Post. "That's unacceptable. That concerns me."

Make no mistake this will be a completely different team when they reassemble for training camp later this year. Tortorella wasn’t being subtle.
"I don't think we have [enough] totally within our team and I don't think we got it totally from the people within our team," Tortorella said. "This is definitely going to be addressed.
"I think we need to grind more and need more size. We need to be in better condition. I struggle with some of the effort from some guys, and that's going to be addressed."

"I have a pretty good idea what's here now. I have a pretty good idea of who I'd like to keep and who I'd like to change, but I'm not the [GM], it's not that easy because of the cap and contracts that we have, but does Glen Sather want to change this team? "Damn right he does."

Change is coming in New York kiddies. I know that's not exactly a bold statement since this organization never goes a full 12 months without roster turn over, but with Tortorella influence maybe things will be a little different this time around. Maybe Sather isn’t going to try to jump start center Scott Gomez who had just a miserable season and playoffs by brining in one time Devils buddy and line mate Brian Gionta (who would certainly fit right in when it comes to being small and under skilled). Maybe they actually show the door to Nikolai Zherdev who strikes most people as one of these Russian enigmas who will just never quite get it together for a long enough period of time to be elite and obtain some draft picks. Maybe Sather finds a way to move one of the obnoxious salaries that have the team’s cap splattered against the ceiling and acquire an elite free agent who can be the finisher and the power play specialist this team so desperately needs. Maybe next year’s team will have more answers then question marks up and down the roster.

They'll begin looking for answers now. Now that the lockers up in Greenburgh are empty and the Capitals are preparing for the semi finals after being in a 3-1 series hole just a week ago. And as usual, blue shirts fans will watch a team other then their own hoists the most prized possession in hockey come June. Then as July 1st approaches they’ll wait around to see what their team’s management will do with a roster surrounded by uncertainty. Questions will have to get answered sooner then later and decisions will have to be made. My first question of the offseason is a simple one: Will they be the right decisions this time?

Welcome to the first edition everyone!

Greetings all!- I just wanted to give a very brief and informal introduction so you all know a little bit about me and 'Beer and Chips'. My name is James G. I'm a 27 year old male. I was born and raised in New York and now reside in laid back Danbury, Connecticut. I'm a die hard New York Rangers fan. I've been following the team since 1990 and I can honestly tell those who say "Being a goalie is the toughest job in hockey" that they are incorrect in that statement. Being a Rangers fan is. This blog will not be one hundred percent Rangers so do not worry if you aren't a fan of my team. The purpose of 'Beer and Chips' is to have a unique blog for not just Rangers fans but all hockey fans who enjoy reading about the happenings around the NHL, and of course to tell it like it is when it comes to my beloved Blueshirts. So grab a beer, grab a seat, grab yourself! I don't really care! just sit back and enjoy my views and occassional sadistic, rage soaked tirades about the NHL! Thanks for reading! Stay tuned!