Pavel Bure

Filling In The Blanks

by Jess Rubenstein

It is a pretty sad offseason when Ranger fans find themselves cheering when players they feared Slats might want to sign choose to go elsewhere instead of the Rangers. Something is wrong when the fans of the team have such little faith in their GM to make the right moves so they pray that someone else takes the decisions out of their hands. Normally I would be among those who are happy that Kariya and Co decided to sign elsewhere but despite my own dislike of Slats I think it is only fair to give him a bit of credit for not going on a major spending spree like he could have.

From what I have seen so far it doesn’t appear that Slats has in fact made any kind of serious move towards any of the free agents other than the recently signed de Vries. If you take away Kariya and Selanne all the other free agents could have been had if Slats tossed a pile of money at them. Fedorov and Prospal are prime examples when you see what they signed for. Nobody can say that Slats made any kind of serious effort for either player even though he could have. The least I can do is give him credit for that.

But once we get past the joy of the big names signing elsewhere the Rangers still remain with a problem on the left side of the forwards. While there remain options out there for the Rangers to sign to address those needs the way I see things there really is only one true LW that the Rangers really should sign. That player is Magnus Arvedson of the Senators for he in my view would do more to address not only a problem area of needing LWs but also will help to greatly improve the PK for the coming season.

How I use Arvedson I expect would get some of you to question the move so I will explain after I tell you I use Arvedson with Lindros and Bure on the top line. Sure some of you will say is that he is a 3rd liner and should instead be used with Holik. Others will say that there are guys who will score more like Rucinsky and Whitney but if you sign either it is my belief that over the course of the season the line will do more to hurt the team than help it.

For starters one of the biggest problems the Rangers had last season was forwards being responsible defensively. Neither Lindros nor Bure will ever be accused of being even decent defensive players, so they do need someone on their line who will come back to help while they hang at the blue line looking for the breakout pass. If you signed say Whitney who is on the small side or Rucinsky who has defensive lapses then other teams will use their best line instead of their checking line against the Lindros line because quite bluntly most teams top lines are made up of strong 2 way players. Arvedson’s presence would keep them honest.

Another reason why I sign him and put him on the Lindros line deals with another problem area of the Rangers which has been winning the battles in the corners and along the boards. Those are areas in which the Rangers do very poorly but they are also areas in which Arvedson does very well. The Rangers badly need someone who will go into those areas and get the puck for Lindros and Bure and that someone to me is Arvedson.

Should I also mention that Arvedson is bigger, stronger and younger than any of the other supposed options among UFA LWs? Whitney is a gnat while Rucinsky for some reason doesn’t like to use his size. In Bure’s case his track record has shown that he can score with just about anyone on his line. Arvedson has shown he can score as well averaging 15 goals a season with the Sens though used in a mostly defensive role. One thing that also stands out is that of his 92 career goals 19 of them have been called game winners. Sure one can argue that it is hard to tell when exactly he scored his goals but I look at it as an ability to score important goals when needed.

Since I am also pretending to be GM why not for the heck of it just look at how the rest of the team might shape up if nothing else really changes between now and opening night. While I do expect Slats to look for his annual waiver draft pickup, I am leaning towards thinking that Slats is going to go into next season with basically the same roster as last year. I base this on his steadfast belief that injuries more than anything else were why the Rangers failed to make the playoffs. Not going to bother rehashing how wrong I think the current makeup of the roster but if this is what Slats wants to work with then it is his backside on the line.

The second line I see as Nedved/Kovalev/Carter. Nedved was the Ranger’s MVP for his play last season but one thing that was overlooked was that Nedved was also the guy who Trottier then Slats used to help get a player going. I see him doing that with Kovalev this season. Nedved also fits well with Kovalev as he doesn’t require the puck as much as Kovalev thinks he has to have it himself. Carter will give the line a little more size and a presence in the crease so together I can see these 3 if they click as a very dangerous line that will cause problems for a lot of NHL teams.

The checking unit should be Holik/Barnaby/Lundmark and I can already see people complaining about using Lundmark there instead of on either top line. Sorry folks but Lundmark still needs to develop more as a player at the NHL level. Placing him back with Holik is supported by the chemistry they showed together during last year’s preseason. Barnaby also had solid chemistry with Holik but his skills as a pest would be best suited for the checking line. I view this line as one that will also provide some offense as all three can pass the puck to generate offense.

The 4th line is sadly going to be taken up with Messier on it. I don’t know who Messier is kidding by waiting to tell the world what we already know he will be back. 6 points behind Gordie Howe alone should tell the world he will be back. Wanting to end his career with one last run in the playoffs unlike his pal TGO also is why he will be back. He will center Petrovicky and Dan LaCouture on the 4th line that because of Messier will play more than they might otherwise.

We already know that baring injury the goalies will be Dunham and Markkanen with Danny headed to Hartford so he can play every night to help improve his overall game. If only the Rangers would finally realize the need for a full-time goalie coach which would aid in his development.

On defense I think that people are going to expect too much from de Vries thanks in part to what de Vries said himself. I don’t however think he will be the number 2 that the Rangers hope he will be BUT his presence will still help the defense improve overall. I also look at if you use de Vries as Leetch’s partner then that means Leetch will still be playing 28 minutes a night plus and that will burn him out by the middle of the season.

Instead the goal should be to strengthen the entire defense by helping Leetch reduce those minutes as much as possible. I return Malakhov to Leetch as his partner, use de Vries instead with Poti and then Purinton with Kasparaitis. De Vries just by signing with the Rangers became their best defensive defensemen so why not pair him with the worst defender in Poti.

Poti, despite having to pay for being the player who cost the Rangers Mike York is a solid offensive defensemen(7th overall among NHL defensemen last season). He is the poster child for how the Rangers can totally misuse a player when they had him on all the units exposing his weaknesses while not allowing him to play to his strengths. I believe de Vries can fix that problem with him as his partner. Poti can be used as an offensive defensemen like he should be, he can be on the 1st or 2nd PP units but he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the PK.

De Vries on the other hand can still be used still on the with a rotation of Malakhov and Leetch to help cut Leetch’s minutes down with the Purinton/Kasparaitis pairing making up the 2nd PK defense pairing.

The 3rd defensive pairing of Purinton and Kasparaitis is out there for defense and the occasional enforcing roles. While Barnaby and Petrovicky will give it the college try when they drop their gloves neither will scare anyone off from running at the Rangers. Purinton will do that for them but pairing him with Kasparaitis will also force both players to think more about what they do on the ice instead of playing with a reckless no brains outlook. If neither does adjust how they play then waiting in the wings will be Pisa as the 7th defensemen and Tjutin in Hartford.

In addition to the lines I am guessing will be the ones when the season starts, I also can see the Rangers resigning Donato and perhaps a couple others for depth to play in Hartford. I don’t see them resigning Mironov or McCarthy unless both players take major pay cuts.

Time will tell what happens.

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