Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin have been enjoying breakout seasons. They're both in the top four in team scoring, while also making a difference on the defensive end.
Another way they've had a positive role on this team is by attending every optional practice this season. Which John Tortorella addressed yesterday...
"I've used them as examples. Especially in this type of year where guys were thinking do I need rest or should I get extra ice without the camp. We certainly, after a few weeks, used those two guys as examples of being there all the time. Catch a lot of crap about it, because I've used them as examples. But they like playing. These are kids. I think kids should be playing. We overthink the tiredness sometimes and they just want to play."
Here's Hagelin on Stepan's success this season (via Newsday)...
"He's been really good in the last 20 or so games. I don't know if he's doing anything different. I guess he's used to the game again after not playing for almost half a year [because of the lockout]. He's such a smart player, he's coming into his own right now, making plays and looking stronger each game . . . Defensively, he wins a lot of battles so you can get out of your zone a lot easier, and when you get the puck, he usually finds those lanes where you can pass it to him."
...i absolute love hearing this. Not only are these two a great example for Miller, Kreider and any of the other prospects who have been or will be recalled, but I think it has a positive affect on the veterans as well. Enthusiasm is contagious. Hopefully a guy like Richards, who is obvously struggling, sees the success Step and Hags are having with the additional ice time and decides to join them.
...this also goes back to my theory that the Rangers (Torts & the players) were woefully unprepared as how to handle the lockout. Torts seemed to hold back in camp and the first few weeks, which I think we all see might not have been the best game plan. Hindsight is 20/20 but I would have liked Torts to have realized that the lack of ice wasn't working and gotten these guys in the rink more often whether that was through Callahan letting the team know that "optional" practices weren't necessarily optional or working them harder during regular practices.
Hags and Cally are the only two players who REGULARLY (Miller does too at times) go in hard to play the body and THEN find the puck. During the rare times when the rest of the team forechecks it is this weird ineffectual half stick check, half body check combo that just doesn't work. Knock them off the puck and then find the puck. Even if you don't get them off the puck in time you often force a bad pass. It happens countless times with those two. Take the body, take the puck when you can and simply throw it in front- and maybe, just MAYBE we could have someone on the team (again, other than Cally) force his way to the net and make some plays. It is really pretty simple and all dependent on toughness and work ethic. While your opposing linemates are working their butts off in their corner YOU work your butt of to get in position in front. If the entire line isn't committed to that work then you have what we have largely witnessed this year, which BTW is not enough for me to spend money (earned from hard work) and time (earned by hard work) watching. With his speed Kreider should be able to do that at LEAST as well as Cally and Hags - would be nice too to not have to depend on two of the smallest guys on the team to do that. Now move your a*ses and go to work Rangers and prove to us all that you think that the goals of the team are worth the hard work. NO ONE is going to complain if we see that effort.
"but I think it has a positive affect on the veterans as well."
Kevin, you still haven't learned by now? Stars come here for their payday and coast for the rest of their life. Richards was PooPoo last year, putting up worse numbers than Gomez put up in his first year, but everyone insisted he was "clutch" (the same excuse used to justify Drury). We need to wake up and permanently ban Sather from making free agent acquisitions.
@Zelrio Really? Richards has struggled this year, but I thought he was pretty good last year. No, that tying goal in the round 2, game 5 of the playoffs with 6.6 seconds left wasn't clutch at all. I'll take a few well-timed goals in the playoffs over a dozen regular season ones. Also, the Nash FA signing has gone pretty well for us so far, and I think Gaborik has been good overall. This season is so weird that I'm not sure that it's fair to judge players too harshly on this season.
I totally agree that the Rangers' FA history has far more minuses than pluses, but I don't think we should put Nash, Gaby & Richards in the minus column yet.
@queensbee Nash wasn't a free agent signing.
And if Richards is making $12 million a year, sorry, but a few "clutch" lucky goals that Callahan is better at providing simply is not going to cut it.
@Zelrio Right, Nash is a trade, my bad. I just tend to lump him in with the others due to the large contract size. But Richards' cap hit isn't $12M, it's $6.67M, so it's not really as bad as you're making it out to be.
can't say enough about how well this team has drafted over the past few years. A few blips aside. You get a sense that this is an organization knows what the hell its doing. Any short term distress over a couple of losses is nothing compared to the long term hope that I have for this team to compete for years.
Looks like Hank is in tonight. I know most disagreed with me yesterday, but it's the right move with two full days off before the Caps on Sunday, plus games in Ottawa and Montreal later next week of which one will be Biron's.
@jtf1218 Pretty surprised by that, but I think it shows that Torts realizes there are only 20 games left and every point is precious. Unless they open up some breathing room, I'd be surprised if Biron gets more than 2 or 3 more starts.
@jtf1218 definitely the right move. Biron played well against Washington last time, and Hank will get a full 4 games off before Philly. Damn we play Montreal on the road next week..... UGH that is going to be a long game
So in all honesty if we lose tonight, I give up on seeing this team be consistent this year... this is a must win game... Its a Florida team that is decimated by injuries. We don't have any room for error anymore. We have a very tough schedule, we have to beat every team we are supposed to beat especially at home
I feel like the optionals aren't really optional for the kids, unless they are injured or something. This being Hagelin's first full season, I think he has to be there. Miller should be there too. Stepan is in his third season with the club, and there's a lot being asked of him. I think he needs to be there to have the success he's having.
On the other hand, guys like Callahan and Girardi that lead by example and put their bodies on the line every night, they don't have to be there as much as so many of the others.
@AG_Blue I think Boyle should be there every time, until he learns how to skate...
@slapshot13j -- absolutely Boyle has to be there. There's a lot being asked of him too, and while coach rewards him for being game, he does come up short ... but look who I'm telling, the Brian Boyle fan club. Hahaha...
Step gets better as the game goes on. He was a monster on face-offs in the 3rd against the Devils, even though he struggled a bit in the 1st 2 periods. And Hagelin just makes everyone else on the ice look slow, and now he's adding a scoring touch. As a famous color announcer used to say...Oh Baby!
@TheNYRBlog Think we will be seeing an A on Step's jersey in the future? If he keeps it up I hope so.
They are only going to get better and I feel like whatever line they are on is always productive and fun to watch.
@TheNYRBlog it's paid dividends for them. They both started slow first 5-7 games now they are playing very well
It's so hard to say what Torts should or shouldn't have done early. Of you remember he was skating them hard through the first few but the leadership group came to him and said they were dead (which they looked at the time) so he started going heavy in film and, at the time, it worked and they started putting some wins together. My guess is he went with that plan a little too long and some guys got lazy.