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Have the Rangers turned the corner?

No, still fundamentally flawed
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 INJURY REPORT
Mika Zibanejad 12/5
Not travelling with the team, but did manage to get on the stationary bike today
 
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RUMOR MILL

Tuesday - October 25th

Either Josh Jooris (New York Daily News) or Dylan McIlrath are likely to find themselves on waivers when Pavel Buchnevich returns from back spasms.

The team is expected to cut the roster down to 22 players, and as such one of the two will need to be either moved or sent down.

  MORE RUMORS...

Question Of The Day

September 29th, 2017

How many rostered players were on the ice for opening night 2016-17

Answer...
  BIRTHDAYS

Len Wharton - 1927
Don Johns - 1937
Kevin Klein - 1984

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  RANDOM RANGER

JED ORTMEYER
(2003-2007)
  Born: Sep 3 - 1978  
  Pos: Left Wing  
  GP: 177  
  G: 9  
  A: 15  
  Pts: 24  
  PIMs: 76  
 
What will Michael Del Zotto do in his second year?

Room For Optimism - Part III
Posted by Toby Ivey ≡ 4:38:47 PM - October 6, 2010

For those who've been following, I've been responding to a post on the OTG message boards that asked why we should be optimistic. In Part I of my response, I focused on what other teams have done in the Eastern Conference, and how many of those teams have questions two.

In Part II I turned my attention back to the Rangers to show that the improvements they've made are actually a little more substantial than first look would suggest, and that the Rangers were actually a lot closer to being a good team if they could get a few more bounces to go their way.

In this third installment, I'll take a look at each of the players on the roster and why I think there's plenty of reason to think that there'll be significant improvement on an individual level.

But before I turn my attention to the positives, let's first focus on the players who are trending down and see why they may not be able to reach last year's levels.

First on the list may be a surprise to some, Brandon Dubinsky. Last year Dubinsky came into camp late, and then missed some time with a hand injury. Even with those challenges, the young forward still managed to put up career high goals (20) and points (44). It didn't hurt that he was playing between Prospal and Gaborik of course.

Without the opportunity to center the Rangers' two top scorers, it seems unlikely that he'll be able reach, let alone top those numbers. Even if he does drop back a little, it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect him to get close to his 2008-09 figures of 13 goals and 28 assists.

Another guy who could well trend down is Ryan Callahan. The fourth year pro dropped back to 19 goals last season off a career high 22 set in his third full season in the league. Of those 19 he scored last season, 9 were on the man advantage to rank him second on the team in that category behind just Gaborik.

With Frolov now on the team, it's hard to see where Callahan fits on the PP, and the amount of PP time he'll actually receive could be substantially less, with less talented linemates. A drop off of 4-5 goals doesn't seem out of the question, although perhaps some improved luck at even strength would help mitigate that.

Finally, Marian Gaborik lead the way last season with 42 goals and 86 points, matching his career high in the former category and setting a new mark in the latter. Both are pretty big numbers, and it wouldn't take much for the star winger to fall short this year. Perhaps the one plus is that he won't be playing in the Olympics this year.

Throw in the uncertainly around Prospal, and his 19 goals, and the Rangers four top scorers from last year could contribute as many as 20-40 fewer goals.

Enough with the pessimism, let's take a look at the plus side...

Perhaps the player with the most upside - excluding Derek Stepan - would have to be Alexander Frolov. The Russian winger is coming of a 19 goal season, and fell down the depth chart in LA. While not a prolific scorer in his career - he has bested 24 goals just twice in his seven seasons - he has demonstrated the ability to get things right.

In fact in the last four seasons he has scored 35, 23, 32 and 19 goals respectively. If the pattern was to continue, then 29 goals would be the next logical number in the sequence. With Gaborik on the opposite wing, and perhaps a return to just under 20 minutes of ice time - he was closer to around 18:30 last year - and a 25 goal season certainly seems achievable.

Another player who could be due for a bounce back is free agent signing Ruslan Fedotenko. The Ukrainian born Fedotenko comes to the Rangers off the worst season of his career with the Penguins, all the more remarkable when you consider the lack of depth on the wing with that club.

At 31, he's still young enough to potentially have some of his best performances ahead of him, though he's now five seasons removed from his career highs set under John Tortorella in Tampa during the 2005-06 season.

While I don't subscribe to his prediction that he can be a 25 goal scorer, he has generally averaged 16-17 goals each year, and it would seem a reasonable expectation that he could reach that mark again this time around.

Another guy who could bounce back with a good season is Sean Avery. Last year Avery managed just 11 goals and missed 15 games due to various injuries. Getting injured is part and parcel with the way he plays the game. With a career high of 18 goals, there doesn't seem to be a lot of headroom for improvement, but even if he can get to 15 or so goals, it would help the team.

Last year's waiver wire pickup Erik Christensen also has some room to contribute more. He always seems to promise more than he actually delivers, but going into the season healthy, with a shot at playing on the top line with Gaborik and Frolov looks like a sure bet to improve on his 8 goals from last year.

With a career high of 18 in 61 games set in his sophomore season, he's shown he can at least become a second tier scorer in this league. While he's unlikely to last the whole season as the "number one" center, a mark of 12-14 goals seems within reach.

Moving down to the second line, and Artem Anisimov again presents a player who could add more goals to the 12 he put up last year. In his first two year in Hartford he went from 16 goals to 37, and a similar trend might be possible with a year of the NHL now under his belt.

No, I'm not saying he's going to score 37, but 20 goals would be a nice mark for the second year center, and an increase success offensively might actually help the likes of Callahan and Dubinsky off-set some of the drops that I've projected.

Brandon Prust too could be heading for a career year. With just two goals in 89 NHL appearances before coming to New York, Prust "exploded" with four goals in 26 games with the Rangers. It's hard to imagine that Prust could translate that into a 12-13 goal season given his record to date, but it looks likely that he'll find a way to get some scoring from the fourth line and perhaps get into the 8-10 goal range.

Even the injured Chris Drury figures to be at least good for the 14 he put up last year. While I don't expect him to get much power play time initially, I think there's still room for him to contribute, perhaps pushing Stepan or Christensen to the bench, at least until injuries begin taking their toll.

Finally I liked what I saw from Brian Boyle in the preseason, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of more goals from the big guy.

Back on defense there's also room for improvement...

Michael Del Zotto registered nine goals last year, and a good deal of those came in the first two months. He may not get off to as hot a start, but perhaps he'll end with 3-5 more by the time the season's done.

Fellow Ranger draft pick, Marc Staal has been on an upward trend offensively in each of his first three years, and set career marks of 8 goals, 19 assists and 27 points last year. They might be tough marks to best this time around, but if the team can demonstrate a little more confidence in Tortorella's approach to the game, perhaps there's some room for improvement.

After setting a career high of 10 goals three seasons ago, Dan Girardi has put up more modest of 4 and 6 in the last two seasons. One of the main reasons is the reduction in PP opportunity, and the need to "babysit" Del Zotto through his rookie season.

This year Girardi looks like he'll be moving back to partner Staal, and without a big shot on the point, he may get a little more time on the second unit PP and perhaps at least match his total from last season, if not best it.

Michal Rozsival figures to have another slow year offensively, and of the remainder, Matt Gilroy is probably the best potential to put up a few goals.

Ultimately I see potential for as much as a 20 goal improvement in this team, which could really help them win some of those tight games. I've been impressed in the preseason, mostly with their ability to keep battling no matter what the score, and I think that will certainly help the offense.

While Gaborik will continue to be the clear offensive leader, I think we'll see more contributors behind him, though it'll remain a collective effort with few standouts.


Profile of the Author:
Has been an active follower of the New York Rangers since the 1996-97 season. Began OutsideTheGarden.com in 2001, and has continued to collect data and provide analysis on the team through to the current day.

 Additional stories from Toby Ivey:


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