Artem Anisimov is still in Russia because of issues getting his new work visa. Will post translation of interview later tonight/ tomorrow.
...someone needs to call their Congressman for AA.
By Tom W.
Pretty much everyone has taken a geography lesson at some point or another in their lives. I, personally, only know some cities by their proximity to an NHL team. With the movement of the Thrashers to Winnipeg and the (hopefully unfounded) fears of the Islanders’ relocation, Gary Bettman and the NHL have to realign the conferences and divisions to best suit the teams and the fans, and geography naturally plays a pivotal role in the reorganization. In this post, I will outline the plan that, in my opinion, best suits everybody’s needs.
When realigning conferences, the NHL has to consider travel to division opponents, foster existing rivalries and create new ones, and try to keep each division as even as possible. Being reasonable, this last goal is impossible because teams are in constant flux, and making the divisions balanced now will ensure that they will not be within five years. So, let us first consider travel arrangements. This year, because Winnipeg is so far from its division opponents, it will be taking extended road trips to shorten the total distance traveled by the team. On multiple occasions, they will be away from the MTS Centre for two weeks at a time. By contrast, aside from the first few weeks of the season while renovations are completed on Madison Square Garden, the Rangers will spend no more than 10 days away from Manhattan. There is only one trip of this length, and it includes an away game to Nassau Coliseum followed by three days of rest. Clearly, Winnipeg will be more drained by the end of the season. This illustrates the need to keep travel distance and time away from home ice as even as possible in the divisions.
Before delving into the logistics of which team belongs in each division, we should examine the structure of the conferences. There are two basic possibilities: one that divides the league into “East” and “West” and splits the division by region (see: hockey, soccer, basketball), and one that spreads each conference evenly across the country, then sorts by region (see: football, baseball). Given that ten of the league’s thirty teams are in or near four metropolitan areas near New York and Ontario (Rangers, Isles, Devils, Flyers, Pens, Sabres, Leafs, Sens, Canadiens, Bruins), it seems necessary for the NHL to shift to the model used by football and baseball: divide the league into National and American Conferences (or two other names) then divide each into three. This will allow the teams in each division to travel approximately the same amount, while maintaining an organization that promotes many of the sport’s deepest rivalries.
Keeping the logistics of travel in mind, the NHL’s job is to foster the rivalries that make this sport so exhilarating for its fans. When considering the rivalries, they fall into four basic groups:
- Proximity: When two teams are geographically close to each other, fans naturally grow to hate each other. If the enemy is in your backyard, it becomes even more important to shame them, and what better way to settle personal feuds than on the ice? Plus, proximity rivalries get cool names like the “Battle of New York”, the “Battle of Ontario”, and the “Freeway Faceoff”. (Aside: if the Isles do move, I hope they move to Seattle so hockey can have the “Battle of Juan de Fuca Strait”.)
- History: Original Six teams have always, and will always, dislike each other. From 1942 to 1967, rivalries became so engrained in the players and coaches that the teams still keep them alive today. Any matchup between the six teams in question carries extra weight among fans, players, and commentators.
- Recent success/controversy: Over the course of a few seasons, animosity can spring between two teams who battle for the top spot in a division or conference, or between two teams who see each other in the playoffs each year. These rivalries come and go, though some persist longer than others. The best example from the past season is the Penguins/Capitals rivalry. For every matchup, it is billed as the matchup of the two best players in hockey, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. It would be irresponsible of the NHL to consider these rivalries when realigning conferences, because it will invariably conflict with their other realignment goals.
- Division rivalries: Sometimes, hatred is born when two teams see each other repeatedly throughout the regular and post season. Since 1970, the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks have been in the same division, and have faced each other in 10 playoff series. The teams’ rivalry is fueled by animosity between the two cities themselves, and the annual rivalry in Major League Baseball between the Cubs and the Cardinals. As a result, any game between these two teams carries extra weight and often sees extra penalty minutes, even as the Blues have sank in the standings during recent seasons.
Proximity rivalries will persist even if the teams aren’t in the same division. Therefore, splitting the Leafs and the Sabres or the Lightning and the Panthers between divisions will not quell the contempt fans have for each other. The same logic applies to Original Six teams. Considering division rivalries will be most important for the realignment. For example, hockey is the only professional sport without a Boston/New York division rivalry. Football has Jets/Patriots, baseball has Yankees/Red Sox, and basketball has Knicks/Celtics. Pitting the Bruins against the Rangers six times each season will deepen that rift, making each game that much more impassioned. Similarly, Midwestern states often carry grudges against each other, with Minnesota and Illinois being no exception. Again, the rivalry runs across many sports, professional and collegiate. This is a rivalry the current conference alignment does not promote, with the Blackhawks in the Central Division and the Wild in the Northwest Division, but the new alignment would.
With these rules in mind, here is my plan for the new divisions:Leetch Conference:
- NY Rangers
- Boston Bruins
- Washington Capitals
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Nashville Predators
- Ottawa Senators
- Montreal Canadiens
- Buffalo Sabres
- Colorado Avalanche
- Edmonton Oilers
- Calgary Flames
- Winnipeg Jets
- Vancouver Canucks
- NY Islanders
- NJ Devils
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Florida Panthers
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Detroit Red Wings
- Chicago Blackhawks
- St. Louis Blues
- Minnesota Wild
- San Jose Sharks
- LA Kings
- Anaheim Ducks
- Phoenix Coyotes
- Dallas Stars
...btw, how classic is the Borat shirt? Nice work.
It can be viewed on MSG Plus. For the entire Summer Ice series schedule click here.
...this was one of the four games that Gaborik scored a goal in last season. LOL.
Johnson was 16-19-3 with a 2.72 gaa, .901 sv% and 3 shutouts.
...two years ago it seemed like Johnson was destined to become Hank's backup, now he'll be competing with Cam Talbot, Dov Grumet-Morris, Scott Stajcer and Jason Missiaen for a roster spot in Hartford.
...h/t to Bruce Berlet at The Howlings.
In other prospect news, Slava Fetisov (KHL's CSKA president) is upset with Mikhail Pashnin's signing with the Rangers. (via Beyond the Blueshirts)
With the salary cap at $64.3 million, the Rangers have $29.3 million dollars invested in five players.
Those players are Marian Gaborik ($7.5 million), Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875 million), Brad Richards ($6.7 million), Ryan Callahan ($4.275 million) and Brandon Dubinsky ($4.2 million). Numbers per Cap Geek.
...having so much money tied up in five players definitely makes a team depend on young players (Stepan, McD, Sauer) and reclamation projects (EC, Wolski, Feds). Which as we know the Rangers have plenty of both.
"The improved New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres should be moving up in the Eastern Conference standings, although it's difficult to project who is falling. The Washington Capitals? Penguins? Don't see it, but some do."
...adding Richards immediately makes the Rangers better, but as Allen says I don't see them in the Top 3 or 4. Maybe they'll be fighting for a 6th seed.
...what are your predictions on what spot the Rangers may finish the 2011-12 season?
...h/t to Carp over at the Rangers Report.
"The player we would kill to put Hagelin with is 2010 2nd round pick Christian Thomas as we see their skills complimenting each other despite the duo being on the smallish size. Hagelin is only 5'11 and Thomas 5'9 but make no mistake as both are NHL bound as the combination of speed as well as skill is going to make life miserable for other teams in the NHL.
The player who might be the lucky center at Traverse City could just be Andrew Yogan the 2010 3rd round pick. At 6'3, he has shown some good offensive skills in limited action with the Whale. The question on Yogan is will he remember that he has 2 linemates on the ice with him?"
...soooooooo pumped that this tournament will be on TV this year. Really looking forward to watching the Rangers future.
...as always great job by Rubenstein braking down the Rangers prospects. If you have the time definitely click the above link and give the entire article a read.
The Rangers 2011-2012 roster is all set. It looks like our team is all signed and ready to focus on the season ahead. Or is it?
The current roster, as it appears courtesy of our friends at CapGeek, includes 14 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies. Given this particular scenario the organization comes out $702,166 under the salary cap. This includes Tim Erixon among the team's defense – we'll see if he makes the team out of camp, he definitely has a good shot at it. However, that is with no Del Zotto. Do you agree that the team is more likely to go with 13 forwards and 7 defensemen? I believe Michael Del Zotto will get another chance and have a solid comeback year this year. The kid's only 21 years old, he's just getting started, and the organization believes he has a bright future in the NHL. But in order to take on DZ's $1,087,000 cap hit, someone else will have to go. Despite his hefty $3,800,000 contract, I think Wolski stays. It comes down to Zuccarello or Christensen.
Except for a few positions, the forward lines will change around all season long, as we all know. The left wing will likely move around the most as I believe we'll see Wolski, Fedotenko, Dubinsky, and Avery all skate on the first line with Richards and Gaborik at some point. Barring a surprise performance from a prospect in camp (such as Hagelin or Thomas making the team) I believe these are lines we will witness this season:
Wolski – Richards – Gaborik
Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan
Fedontenko – Stepan – Prust
Avery – Boyle – Rupp
+ an alternate forward
Richards, Gaborik, and Callahan are the only guys that will really stay put. Everybody else will move around. Rupp and Boyle will probably alternate between center and wing a little bit. Stepan and Anisimov will change lines depending on match-ups and how their game is going. Given these lines, it would come down to Zuccarello or Christensen as the alternate forward. So the question is, which guy do you move?
Christensen comes with a cap hit of $925,000, and Zuccarello commands a $1,750,000 entry-level contract and they are each moving into the final year of their respective contracts. Zuccarello will be a Restricted Free Agent next summer and Christensen will be Unrestricted. If the team wanted to go with their current 14 forwards and add Del Zotto, they'd be caught 384,834 over the cap ($64,684,834). Either of those forwards could be moved one way or another, and the club would be safely under the cap. Move Christensen and there's $540,166 remaining; move Zuccarello and there's $1,365,166 remaining. That's a significant difference, but while the numbers play their part in determining the outcome, other factors including what kind of game they bring to camp, where they are in their careers, and how they fit in with this year's squad will all be considered.
Christensen brings to the team an unquestionable abundance of skill including skating and hands, but he has sorely lacked consistency, has been unable to fill the top center position, and generally seems to lack confidence. He bounced from the Penguins to the Thrashers to the Ducks before we picked him up and he has never played a complete NHL season. This past season he played the most games he's played yet with 63. He was a +3, and put up 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points. Tortorella and the fans seemed frustrated with him last year while waiting for him to find his game and some consistency. I really thought he might come into his own last year with a fresh start and a chance to play with Gaborik. It never happened. Christensen will turn 28 this December.
Zuccarello did well his first year, with so many injuries sustained by the Rangers Zuccarello saw more ice time with the big club than he was expected to. He handled himself well, for the most part, and seemed to adjust to the smaller American rinks and the harder game quicker than expected. However, Tortorella expressed concerns about his diminutive stature and couldn't use him in all situations. In 42 games he was a +3 and put up 6 goals and 17 assists for 23 points. That's a .540 points per game average. Not bad. He'll be 24 years old before the start of next season.
Playing 21 fewer games Zuccarello had only 4 points less than Christensen. They were both the go to guys on the shootout, each scoring 5 shootout goals last season, Zuccarello on 9 chances, Christensen with 8.
Unless they make some other deal, I think the team goes with Christensen as the 13th forward. Let me explain. If Zuccarello made the big club he'd be sitting on the bench a lot. Sending him down to the Whale will give him a lot more ice-time and he'll be a key guy every night. That's great experience for a guy that still has a chance to make it in the NHL. Also, Zuccarello would again be called-upon should the Rangers need a fill-in due to injuries (and let's hope there are a lot fewer of those this year).
Going on 28 years of age, many wonder if Christensen will ever find the confidence and consistency to stay in the NHL. He displays flashes of brilliance and despite slumps his skill has been just enough to keep him around. However, he's a veteran of the bench! But that might be just what we need in an alternate forward. Taking the pressure off him to produce every night could alleviate some of his inconsistency and he could be a good utility player for us. He could put his skills to use to help the team in key situations and in games where Mike Rupp's physical presence may not be needed. Christensen could come in to make the Rangers a little more dangerous. Plus, keeping Christensen and moving Zuccarello leaves the team with $1,365,166 which is plenty flexibility during the season.
It's great to have all the free agents signed so everybody can focus on a healthy and successful season ahead. I think the roster will change very little from what it is today. Again, I believe the team will go with 13 forwards and 7 defensemen, which means a change to the current roster. I think Del Zotto gets another shot with the Rangers and Zuccarello will be back with the Whale.
I'm really liking the look of this team!
The 2011-2012 New York Rangers:
Wolski – Richards – Gaborik
Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan
Fedontenko – Stepan – Prust
Avery – Boyle – Rupp
Staal – Giradi
McDonagh – Sauer
Erixon – Del Zotto