Marian Gaborik

Recently deceased Rangers’ forward Derek Boogard (above).

The local papers brought more to light regarding this tragic incident today.  Larry Brooks of the New York Post was the first from our local media to report that Boogard had been involved in the league and player’s association recovery program.  Brooks did not break that story nationally, as it was first reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, but he did mention that Boogard had returned to the team in April and then sought permission from Rangers’ President Glen Sather to leave the team in order to further pursue recovery.  Rangers Daily News beat reporter Jesse Spector also reported this, as well as the family’s decision to donate Boogard’s remains to the important scientific research on CTE being done by Boston University.  More from Spector:

It also was a day of very sad and uncomfortable questions, both about the reactions of the people close to Boogaard and the situation that now will unfold in the aftermath of his death. Perhaps the most awkward query of the day was the last one, as I just learned that, as you might expect, the remaining three years on Boogaard’s contract do not count against the salary cap. It turns out that under the CBA, death is the same as retirement from a salary cap standpoint – according to the NHLPA, had Boogaard been over 35 years old when he signed his contract, the rest of the contract would have remained in effect against the cap.

The major developments of the day were that a source said Boogaard was involved in the NHLPA/NHL Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program, which could have been for any number of off-ice issues, and that, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune first reported, Boogaard’s family has agreed to donate his brain to scientific research with the Boston University program that has made so many recent breakthroughs with posthumous examinations of NHL enforcer Bob Probert and dozens of NFL players.

Whatever substance issues Boogard struggled with, we are confident that proper scientific testing will reveal were linked to the fatal disease CTE, and that Boogard will be the youngest hockey player diagnosed.  Yesterday, we called for the league to do more to protect the players.  Today, we will ask the New York Rangers to also do something, considering this tragedy and the missed diagnosis of a concussion on Rangers star Marian Gaborik by team doctors this winter.

Crack (,

Norwegian star Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (above).

With Rangers’ super sniper Marian Gaborik ailing from a sore groin, the club has recalled diminutive international star, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, who will make his big league debut in a few minutes in Ranger blue on Garden ice.

Zuccarello will wear # 36 tonight in his NHL debut, and is expected to see time in offensive situations at right wing, which is especially depleted since heart and soul, true grit right winger Ryan Callahan broke his hand in Pittsburgh.  MZA, who made his North American debut this year for the Rangers AHL Connecticut affiliate, was dogged by erronious rumors that after a slow start, he was looking to high tail it back to Europe.  But Zuccarello, who claims this was never the case, has adapted very well to the North American game since, and is only a few goals off the pace of the AHL league leader.

Zuccarello will have a nice opportunity to make the team for a stretch here, even though he is only 5’6 and not the fleetest of foot.  But he is a super creative offensive player, and we should see the brilliance if he is strong enough to go get the puck.  On a big team like the Rangers, Zuccarello may have a good opportunity hiding among the trees.  But they are going to have a little bit of trouble without Gabby and Cally.

With one of them out, we’d view it as an opportunity to really get a read on a youngster like Zuccarello.  With both out, we’re a little worried about the offense.


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Artem Anisimov (blue) pays the price to make a play against the hated New Jersey Devils (above).

Rangers’ coach John Tortorella recently announced that captain Chris Drury would return to the lineup tonight in Pittsburgh.  On its own, the declaration did nothing to stir our confidence.  Drury is a hard working guy, a stand up guy, but let’s be frank–he hasn’t lived up to his $35M contract and the last really clutch goal he scored was against, not for, the Rangers.  It was the way Torts said it that was such music to my ears, the song of angels to long time fans of the team.  The coach said Drury will play but that “no kids are coming out.”  Tortorella went on to say that it would be veterans who lose ice time and that a veteran would be a healthy a scratch, and that it was too bad for them.  “He’s the captain,” Tortorella would say.  “Everybody’s gotta sacrafice.”

On Sunday night the New York Rangers played perhaps their best game against a quality opponent in years, shutting out the Capitals 7-0.  It was the most lopsided shutout victory the team has had since 1970 (and my wife deleted it off the tivo before I saw the 4 goal 2nd period–an “important” American Idol will be deleted in retaliation).  The Rangers have a quality team because of the kids they’ve developed and refused to trade.  And a lot of them are kids no more.  Anisimov, the 6’4, 220 lbs. center iceman, may have slumped a bit as all players do, but he’s a leading scorer and a cog on the team’s best line, which flat out beats opposing units up physically on the wall and with its relentless cycle.  The line is so good that it allowed the Rangers to withstand almost a month without world class forward Marian Gaborik, and so good that on most nights since returning, Gabby has been a compliment and not that absolute focal point he’s been on every team he has played on in his life, including the Slovak national team that’s chock full of talent up front.

Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi who had us pulling our hair out as recently as all of last year, have grown into cornerstones of the team, and now even look polished offensively.  Imposing rookie defenseman Michael Sauer won the Rangers a game last week in Ottawa with a well placed point shot in the clutch.  Team USA stalwart Ryan Callahan, perennially our extra effort award winner, does everything for this team but drive the Zambonie, and is loathe to miss a shift despite being a league leader in both hits and blocked shots.  We feel that Drury is keeping the captain’s C warm for him.

Derek Stepan has been a rookie sensation and now, playing consistently with Gaborik, expect him to flourish even more.  The core of youth has played so well that it can carry a guy like Michael Del Zotto, a sophomore defenseman who looks lost out there and who’s struggling very badly.  Then there’s team scoring leader and maybe the manliest man of the bunch, emerging star power forward Brandon Dubinsky, recently seen screaming at and giving the look of death to the Ottawa bench, last seen, kicking Alexander Ovechkin’s ass all over the ice on Sunday.  You think Dubinsky will be fired up tonight to face his best girlfriend Cindy Crosby, who cheaply and classlessly gave Ryan Callahanthe slew foot in the 2 team’s last meeting?

Whatever happens tonight, New York is bringing the right mix of size, speed, talent, toughness, and meanness to the party, even in the absence of behemoth enforcer Derek Boogard, who is still out with a shoulder problem.  The Rangers are seeking to win their second straight in Pittsburgh and to get a win over a Penguin team that last night had a 12 game win streak snapped by the Flyers.


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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.


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Newest Ranger, center Todd White (above).

Yesterday the New York Rangers acquired a much needed center iceman when they sent forwards Donald Brashear and Patrick Rissmiller to Atlanta for 5’10” veteran center Todd White.

Let’s look at White’s career stats:

Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM PPG PPA SHG SHA Shots Shot %
1997-98 Chicago Blackhawks 7 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 33.3
1998-99 Chicago Blackhawks 35 5 8 13 -1 20 2 2 0 0 43 11.6
1999-00 Chicago Blackhawks 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0
1999-00 Philadelphia Flyers 3 1 0 1 -1 0 0 0 0 0 4 25.0
1999-00 Total 4 1 0 1 -1 0 0 0 0 0 4 25.0
2000-01 Ottawa Senators 16 4 1 5 5 4 0 1 0 0 12 33.3
2001-02 Ottawa Senators 81 20 30 50 12 24 4 7 0 0 147 13.6
2002-03 Ottawa Senators 80 25 35 60 19 28 8 15 1 0 144 17.4
2003-04 Ottawa Senators 53 9 20 29 12 22 1 6 1 0 98 9.2
2005-06 Minnesota Wild 61 19 21 40 -1 18 5 10 0 1 109 17.4
2006-07 Minnesota Wild 77 13 31 44 8 24 6 8 1 1 162 8.0
2007-08 Atlanta Thrashers 74 14 23 37 -12 36 6 5 1 0 111 12.6
2008-09 Atlanta Thrashers 82 22 51 73 -9 24 12 22 1 0 150 14.7
2009-10 Atlanta Thrashers 65 7 19 26 -11 24 2 8 0 0 92 7.6
Totals: 635 140 239 379 21 226 46 84 5 2 1075 13.0

White, who was plagued by injuries last year, had a career year for Atlanta in 2008-2009, when he recorded 73 points.  Prior to that, White played for the Wild, where he got a chance to play a good deal with Rangers star forward Marian Gaborik, who the Rangers have had trouble matching with a centerman.  For that reason, some think that White could turn into a major addition to the club.

Mostly, White wants to prove that last season was an aberration. White suffered through two knee dislocations and then tore his labrum late in the season as he compiled seven goals and 19 assists in 65 games. White said his knees are not an issue and he was cleared to skate about three weeks ago. However, he has not yet been cleared for contact, though he believes he will be good for contact drills by the time the Rangers open training camp on Sept. 17.

“(The rehab) is going well,” White said by telephone. “I saw the doctors three weeks ago and I was cleared to start skating. I’ve skated a couple of times, passing and shooting. I had the shoulder surgery as soon as the season was done, that’s part of not being allowed to take contact. (The start of training camp), that’s my goal, that was the plan all along in Atlanta, to be ready.  I’ve been progressing really well. It’s just a matter of getting my strength, my range of motion is back.”

The Rangers have been actively trying to improve their offense, signing enigmatic Russian left wing Alexander Frolov last week.

White will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, when the Rangers are expected to have approximately $ 19 M in cap room.

–Crack (,