by Timmy Corbett
The Rangers announced today they signed Greg de Vries. Greg is a good skater with good passing and shooting ability. He is good on the penalty kill and likewise on 5-on-5 action. He can score goals and gets good numbers on assists. Not once did I say great, not once will anyone confuse him with Brian Leetch.
Sometimes is less really more? The rangers no longer have a clear cut all-star defenseman and his quiet partner. Brian Leetch hasn’t re-signed as of yet and it looks like he may not. Sather’s big words are looking very much like that, words… words as vacant as his playoff promise of last spring. Will Brian’s community ties be enough to keep him a ranger?
The Rangers defensive lineup seems quite average now, but is that a bad thing, will less be more? In Leetch’s prime, they had the likes of Beukeboom and Samuelsson so cover his flank, gone is the steady defenseman. Leetch had to cover Poti, and if it wasn’t for his speed and experience, we might not have realized how valuable Leetch is.
Sylvain Lefebvre is a true stay at home defenseman, steady and valuable in every sense of the word and position, but free agency might take away a viable option, every playoff club covets a steady hand on the blueline and there’s no reason to think anything will change that.
Tom Poti is slated to be Leetch’s replacement since the “too small, too light” Mike Mottau was cast off from the Wolfpack lineup. The fact Tom Poti learned defense at the “Pavel Bure school of checking’ aside, he is a tremendous skater, top line passer with a great outlet to forwards.
Following close behind in the offensive defenseman slot is Vladimir Malakhov, a world class player with pogo stick consistency. His level of commitment and health aside, he is a tremendous player, teamed with a revolving door partner last year he looked downright solid most nights. He can put up highlight reel magic, but on this squad… sound with flashes of brilliance is still spectacular.
Dale Purinton could fill in most of Lefebvre’s minutes… I know if I had said that a year ago, I’d beat myself over the head till I caught up with Eric Lindros on the concussion charts. Gone is the Dale with stupid penalties, blind passes and the ever present sin of passing across the ice in his own zone. He has quietly developed into a steady defenseman, ( yes, the rangers developed a defenseman!!! ) we will see if an increased role slows or reverses the great strides in his game.
Boris Mironov played solidly last season, providing good first passes out of his zone and out of trouble. He is no longer the man who would skate out of the Blackhawks zone on a rush but he also was solid playing with several partners. There was no flashes of brilliance, but there was no series of glaring blunders that made you wish Jan Mertzig was still on the team.
Then there’s the human wrecking ball, the savior of the defensive corps, Darius Kasparaitis… ok maybe I’m sarcastic, maybe. He was a mid level defenseman last season, even as he picked it up after their record was streaking past the Ty-D-bowl man on his raft. He has to have a solid season, though there’s nothing in his record that suggests he wont… but we all suspect high priced ranger signings.
Right now, that’s the rangers, a pretty average group. Not much flash, not much dazzle, most certainly not the game breaking bunch of blueliners we have had promised to us. Looking at the forwards we have right now and their inability to back-check, someone on the ice playing simple, sound defense doesn’t sound so horrid. Naturally Leetch is world class all on his own and anyone who has seen him play on a daily basis will attest to his skill, endurance and leadership. He simply takes over in the playoffs, as well as when the game is on the line, in a word, he is money. But… if he isn’t re-signed, the rangers aren’t dead. Will the rangers play a simpler safer game without him? Will less be more?
I can only hope Sather dose the right and logical thing and that question will not be answered.