Marc Staal

Prized Rangers’ prospect and junior Team USA captain Derek Stepan (above).

“His (Stepan’s) passing is all really top-end — under sticks and between skates to hit the right man that’s open all the time,” said Clark. “Everybody is watching the game, but Derek sees way more than all of us that are watching. Before he even gets the puck, he’s got a guy that he’s going to.”

Gordie Clark, author of the above quote and Director of Player Personnel for theNew York Rangers, obviously thinks very highly of Derek Stepan.  And so do we.  Clark has almost singlehandedly revamped the Rangers’ organization in a novel way for the Blueshirts–through the draft.  To be perfectly honest, we weren’t big on Stepan’s selection in 2008 when Clark grabbed the Minnesota native at # 51 overall.  A goofy looking kid still, Stepan was made to look all the more goofy back at the draft with low grade videos of the kid tap dancing, of all things.  I took a look, cringed, and thought, not NHL material.

Though NHL material is exactly what he is.  Stepan, out of Shattuck St. Mary’s–like Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise, went on to star in his 2 year stint at the University of Wisconsin, and last year, led junior Team USA to a gold as captain.  He will wear # 21 when the Rangers open their season tonight in Buffalo, and will center blue chip instigator Sean Avery and a big, hungry RW in Ruslan Fedotenko–more new blood for the Rangers and a Stanley Cup champion.

Fedotenko may be big, but if he were dropped to the 4th line, he’d be relatively small on the right of 6’7 Brian Boyle and 6’8 Derek Boogard.  Boogard is more new blood for this team, and comes in with a reputation as one of the most fierce enforcers in the game.  But he can’t play hockey right?  His zero regular season goals might suggest that to some, but Boogard is here to fight and to play.  When asked about his career long stay on the snide Boogard said he was looking to score in Buffalo Saturday night.  We like his attitude and absolutely love his fists.  And then there’s Brandon Prust, albeit a middle weight, but one who led the league in fighting majors.

A fighting team doesn’t necessarily win, but a winning team usually fights, figuratively and literally.  The biggest move the Rangers made to stamp out complacency on the team, by far, was by waiving D Wade Redden, the $ 39 M man who showed zero fight when he was in NY, who took the money and ran.  In his place this year will be big young defenseman Michael Sauer, who Rangers fans have been waiting for, and who most importantly, earned his way and wants to be here. 

This year?  It seems they all want to be here, and some might be extra motivated by being in contract years, like Callahan and Dubinsky–two of the league’s finer young American forwards.  Callahan grabbed a silver in Vancouver last winter, and we think that Dubinsky will be featured in a prominent role on the 2014 Olympic team.  As for this year, the Rangers are expecting big things from both, and from their young centerman, Artem Anisimov, the 6’4, 205 lbs. 22 year old, coming off an impressive rookie campaign. 

His countryman, Alexander Frolov, brought in to play with the Rangers’ most talented in-his-prime sniper/game changer, RW Marian Gaborik, perhaps ever.  Frolov, on a one year deal should flourish in New York, and needs to in order to secure a lucrative new contract.  Erik Christensen, a waiver claim from last season who played hard, and showed nice offensive skills, will be between the 2 Rangers big time wings. 

Coaching you ask?  Dumb-de-dumb-dumb.  We’ll say it.  We hate Tortorella.  For this team.  Did we love him in Tampa?  How could you not?  Winning the Stanley Cup from down 3 games to two, and needing a win on the road in Calgary to get back home for game 7, Tortorella gave his Bolts a stirring  speech during the pivotal intermission.  He told his troops that all the pressure was on them, that “the mayor of fucking Canada was in their locker room right now”–referring to the Canadian P.M.

Unfortunately for us, we think Torts might still believe Canada is governed by a mayor.  And we’ve come to see Tortorella in his time here as an ugly caricature–a screaming lunatic and a tyrant who, worse than that, does not hold all Rangers miscreants equally accountable.  This needs to be a kinder, gentler Tortorella, especially with our youth, and the coach must divorce himself of his awful habit of tethering guys to the bench. 

As for Henrik Lundqvist, we’ve saved the best for last.  The Swedish gold medal goalie who loves house music.  Is that king or god?  Neither, ’til he delivers the cup.  But he gets extra points for going to Pacha.  But Henrik?  Tiesto?  You can do better than trance, my man, but I’d even be willing to suffer Tiesto for a 2nd Stanley Cup in my lifetime.


Crack (,

Marc Staal (above).

The New York Rangers made the most significant move of their off-season recently, announcing that a long rumored deal with the club’s top defenseman, Marc Staal, had been agreed to by both sides.  The 23 year-old defenseman who anchored the unit last year, averaging 23 minutes of ice per game, will receive $ 19.875 M over 5 years, under the terms of the existing collective bargaining agreement.

The deal should be viewed as a win for the Rangers, not only because they were able to get cost certainty with regard to one of their best young players, but also because the deal takes Staal one year past his earliest eligibility to become an unrestricted free agent.  The Rangers effectively bought Staal out of one year of free agency–a major coup in today’s NHL landscape, at a very affordable cap charge of approximately $ 3.9 M per year.

Rangers’ fans griped at the NHL draft when President and General Manager Glen Sather termed the negotiating gap between Staal and the team as a “chasm.”  Especially after last year’s acrimonious holdout between Brandon Dubinsky and the Rangers which caused the young forward to miss 8 days of training camp. 

Here are Staal’s career stats:

 Recent Career
 Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM Hits BkS PPG PPA SHG SHA GW SOG Pct  
 2007-08 NYR 80 2 8 10 2 42 N/A N/A 0 0 0 1 0 78 .026  
 2008-09 NYR 82 3 12 15 -7 64 N/A N/A 0 1 0 1 1 96 .031  
 2009-10 NYR 82 8 19 27 11 44 178 97 0 0 0 0 2 78 .103  
 Career Totals (Full) 244 13 39 52 6 150 178 97 0 1 0 2 3 252 .052

Staal, who at times has been disappointing, for the most part has impressed.  It must be kept in mind that he is a young player who broke into the NHL at the age of 19.  Usually the Rangers display a talent for ruining their young guys, but Staal, who has strong NHL bloodlines (brothers Eric and Jordan have already won Stanley Cups), is probably the most sound first round pick the Rangers have made since Sather left Edmonton to preside over the Rangers.  Though the selection of Staal was bittersweet for the Rangers, who lost valuable draft positioning and a spot in the NHL’s lottery because of a lockout which cost them a crack at megastars Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.  Despite New York being one of the worst teams in the league prior to the lockout, since the lockout was so protracted, the draft was not conducted in reverse order of record, as it should have been, and instead, the draft order was selected randomly.  The Rangers were awarded the 15th pick overall, and then traded up 3 spots to select the 6’4 defenseman.

Staal has only missed two games in his NHL career, and has participated in every game over the last two seasons.  The signing puts the Rangers about $ 4 M over the NHL’s salary cap, but the Rangers are expected to clear $ 6.5 M in cap space when the players report to camp.  At that time, total bust Wade Redden is eligible to be waived–a move greatly anticapted by Rangers’ fans everywhere who are completely disgusted with the veteran Redden’s disinterested play, as well as the 6 yr/$ 39 M contract Redden signed in July of 2008.

The Rangers finished one point out of the playoffs last year, and watched the 8th seed Philadelphia Flyers advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

–Crack (,