Well I can not believe we are 41 games into the season already and Rangers are a middle of the road team in a mediocre conference. They are closer to 10th place (2 points) then they are First place (10 points). I expected a lot more for being in the mix of the playoff race was not a successful first half. Here is a report card on the players that had an impact on the first half:
Scott Gomez: A.
He has become the best Ranger this year. He can pass, he can win draws and he is responsible in his own zone. This guy can flat out play and adds a little fun to the Rangers locker room. He is a great player who we will love to watch over the next 6 plus years.
Henrik Lundqvist: A
His grade would be an A plus if we were only one month in. The stats do not lie and Henrik has tailed off a lot over his last few starts. I mean last night’s pre-game showed his last 6 games 2 wins and a .850 win%, and I actually thought, okay maybe Valiquette will do fine. Usually I hear Vali is playing and I am ready for a tough win (3-2, 4-3, or a real bad loss 6-2). Henrik is still the key to this team and maybe Vali playing more will get him rest and get him to the A plus level.
Brendan Shannahan A
If you go down the checklist before the season, Shanny has brought everything he was asked this season. Leadership- this is his team, Jagr has the C but all look to Shanny, Scoring- tough start but once Gomez got him going he has started scoring again, PK- even a better PKer then I thought. I guess Jed Ortmeyer was not needed this year. Shanny is a # 1 PKer. Intangablies- from willingness to fight for a teammate, play hard in front when needed and just doing anything asked, Shanny has stepped up this year.
Micheal Rozival: B+
10 goals do not lie, if Rozie would just shoot more I think he would be the PP QB we are looking for. He just has that where is Jagr syndrome, as in every time he gets the puck he is thinking where is Jagr, where is Jagr. Rozie is a soild 2 way player and is having a solid year.
Sean Avery: B
He has not lit up the scoreboard this year. He is playing on the top 2 lines, so he will have to start scoring more for this to be considered a successful season. What he brings though can not be argued. The record when he plays and is out can not be thrown away. He is the straw that stirs Rangers intensity and second half he will need to step it up on the scoreboard.
Martin Straka: B
Scott Gomez has said a million times, Straka is the key to there line. I think he is overplaying it a little, but I understand what he means. Straka is that great team player all teams need. Does everything good but nothing great, the effort makes him great. He can play PP, PK and on top line and fit in anywhere. He is a core player that has played well. Have to pray he does not get hurt.
He does everything a great team player can do. Wins draws, PK and skates a lot better then given credit for. He would be even better is Renney would play Dawes or someone like that with him. Enough with the Orr/Hollweg love fest. I really think there contribution is over-rated. Betts is not to blame but if given anyone to play with his hard work might result in more production. Glue type player doing all he is asked.
Marc Staal: B
For what he has been asked to do he is doing well, especially for a 20 year old rookie. This is a foundation type d-man. It is time to take the chains off a little and let this kid play on the PP more. Tyutin is not the PP type guy and Staal has great hands. Lets, let this kid shine a little more.
Dan Girardi/Fedor Tyutin: C+
I place these two together as they really are better as a unit then individual. I like that they are going to be together on the backline for years to come. They are not a # 1 unit though and Renney needs to realize that. Girardi has surprised with his offensive upside and Tyutin has proven he is what he is. He is an average defenseman with potential to break out, problem is he never seems to take that next step.
Chris Drury: C+
I think he had a longer adjustment period then Gomez and with 1 more month of solid play this grade will jump considerable. Over the last month he has dominated faceoffs, has started to get dirty in front and put home those tough goals. PK has been a rock all year. Drury will be another one Ranger fans fall in love with. Gomez/Drury are 2 great players to build around and we will all thank Sather for years to come getting to watch these 2.
THE KIDS: Dubinsky C, Callahan F and Dawes (incomplete)
Dubi was miscast by Renney all season he is not a # 1 center, but the last few weeks he has impressed with solid 2 way play. Gomez/Drury/Dubinsky will be a nice 1-2-3 punch. Callahan F may be a little harsh but he is expected to score and he has 1 goal. Is it time to send him back down? My vote yes. Dawes just has not been given the chance other kids have. It is time to give his kid 30 plus games on the 3rd line (prucha or Callahan off the line) and see what he can do.
Paul Mara C- /Jason Strudwick C+
Nothing great, nothing bad, they have been a middle of the road d-men all year. For that money he needs to do more or I will not miss Mara next year. Strudwicz gets the plus because he a great locker room guy, but he is, what he is.
Jaromir Jagr: D-
He is one of the leaders in points on the team, but he just has not seemed interested all season. He is one person I think that is keeping this team in middle of the pack. I mean how come every west coast team they play the top players score (Ignila, Garbonik types), but Jagr gets a couple assists, maybe. It is time for Jagr to wake up and carry this team like he can.
Marik Malik F
I actually liked Malik prior to this season, but I think Ranger fans are finnaly getting to this guy. If he will not hit and does not have that huge plus/minus he is not worth his price.
Marcel Hossa F, Peter Prucha F
Hossa 20 plus games number 1 line no goals, enough said. Prucha plays with Jagr on PP and is on pace for 8 goals, enough said.
Ryan Hollweg F, Colton Orr F
I give them F’s as I am just so tired of there role being forced on them. All I hear Renney say is, if our players all played like the HBO line we would be working the puck deep, blah, blah, blah. That could be the exact problem with this team, Renney expects Jagr, Gomez types to play like career 4th liners. They bring intensity, but both should not be in the lineup. They do not add any offense and are a combined -20. This is our checking line!!!!!!
Two get 2 key pieces and not figure out how to use them until this late in the season is inexcusable. The dubi # 1 line thing was a mess for to long and Drury is not a # 3 center. I hope he gives some more freedom to the top 2 lines and falls out of love with the HBO line. You put Dawes in Hollweg or Orr’s spot can actually take advantage of a Betts forecheck. We will see. Time to practice the PP, I have said it all year, you want to play a conservative game you MUST, I REPEAT MUST, have a top PP unit.
OVERALL C –
My expectations were high and the Rangers really could have put themselves on an elite level (battle for first in conference) with a solid first start. They are in a better spot then last year and should make the playoffs, but cup ready, I am just not sure. They need a stay at home/hitting/lockdown defenseman (ala Brandon Witt type) and I think they can turn the corner. I expected an Eastern Conference Finals appearance this year, now I am not to sure of that. Playoffs and first round win will happen, but I am not sure they will be playing for the Conference Championship this year.