Many were surprised that Pavel Valentenko did not survive the first round of cuts. The 23 year old defenseman, who came over from Montreal in the Scott Gomez deal, was one of the final players cut during last year’s training camp. This year, he did not even outlast fellow blueliners Stu Bickel, Brendan Bell, and Blake Parlett, all long shots to make the final roster. Regardless of whether he is claimed on waivers or not, his shot at ever making the Rangers seem to be slim to none. The one advantage he had over other defensive prospects was experience; the Rangers are in need of defensemen who are ready to go now, especially in light of the Staal concussion. Once he struggled in camp and was not ready to start the season on the big club, he lost his entire value. Is there any chance he makes the team next year, with Staal, Girardi, McDonagh, and Sauer all there, and higher-ceiling players like Del Zotto, Erixon, and McIlrath with another year of experience under their belts? Don’t count on it.
It really is a shame that Marc Staal is suffering concussion related symptoms. He won’t fly with the team to Europe, though he may come over at a later date. But in this case, the Rangers organization does not have the most to lose from this injury, Staal does. Head injuries are one of the few cases, if not the only one, that draws sympathy from the entire hockey community. Fans don’t commiserate over Marian Gaborik’s groin. A concussion is a whole different animal; it is not isolated pain or temporary physical disability, it permeates the entire consciousness of the victim. That is why we are seeing a crackdown on headshots. These injuries are the most serious of all, not to mention difficult to treat, and often very long lasting.
Speaking of the crackdown, whether you agree with the rule changes and suspensions being handed out or not, you have to love the transparency in the office of the VP of Player Safety. It is a complete turnaround from the era of Colin Campbell, whose inconsistency in player discipline led fans to liken his decision making process to a Wheel of Fortune. Fans want to know what is being done about these hot button issues, and why players are punished. You may agree or disagree, but it will likely be consistent, and it will likely be unbiased. After all, even if Brendan Shanahan has his enemies, he can’t exactly take revenge on them without being exposed when crafting the replay and explanation video. “That player safely targeted the body area, but I am still angry at him over that game in ‘03” I don’t see that happening. With this idea of explaining every suspension, Shanny is able to referee not just the player in question, but his own decision making process.
At some point, John Tortorella is going to have to pick a 12th forward to step on the ice every game. There are a bunch of options, from Sean Avery, to Carl Hagelin, to Dale Weise. Right now, it seems that the spot belongs to Mats Zuccarello, but that could change at any moment. Zuke, however, doesn’t seem to be the man for that job. The Rangers should really be looking for a player like Freddy Sjostrom. A 12th forward is typically an energy guy, who plays physical, plays fast, and can create some sort of offense. Come to think of it, that sounds like an exact description of Ryan Bourque.
Speaking of the 4th line, if Wolski hangs on to his top line spot with Richards and Gaborik, while the Pack Line of Anisimov-Dubinsky-Callahan stays together, where does that leave Derek Stepan? Assuming you also want to keep the most consistent line from 10-11 together (Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust), you end up putting arguably the most raw-talented forward to come through the Rangers system since the lockout on a line with Rupp and the 12th man. Even if that line were to assume a 3rd line role and minutes, are those linemates really the best way to develop Stepan? From a win-now perspective, Wolski may be the best fit on the top line. But in the long run, it would benefit the organization to bump the inconsistent Pole to the 3rd line and give top-6 minutes and talented linemates to the sophomore center.
The Rangers play 4 games this week, one in the USA vs. the Flyers, followed by 3 European teams in 4 days (really 4 in 5, if you also count the game next week on Monday). They should really get a jump on the rest of the league in getting into completive hockey mode, as their Euro opponents will certainly give them their best shot. The same thing seemed to happen the last time the club opened overseas; the Rangers started 7-0, though they eventually faded over the course of the season. The contention is that they were ahead of the rest of the league in warming up to the game, and eventually everybody else caught up. A quick start this year can’t hurt, and it may be the year they actually have the talent to sustain the success throughout the season.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
Get ahead of yourselves in the comment section below
MON SEP 26 PHILADELPHIA PHILADELPHIA, PA 7:00 PM (MSG)
THU SEP 29 HC SPARTA PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC 1:00 PM
FRI SEP 30 FROLUNDA GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN 1:00 PM (MSG)
SUN OCT 2 HC SLOVAN BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA 11:00 AM (MSG)
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