Marek Malik

Rangers Must Dump Malik NOW

by Mark Owens

The Rangers had every reason to get rid of Malik before he disrespected one of his biggest allies, who just happens to be the team’s head coach and bench leader. Malik’s play has rapidly deteriorated, with the home fans’ relentless abuse playing a role in his demise. But now that Renney’s already questionable team leadership has been undermined, the Rangers have no choice but to dump Malik as fast as they can, preferably before the next game. There’s just no hope that things are going to get better for Malik. If fans booed him when times were good around MSG, how do you think they’re going to treat him as the team underachieves and possibly plays itself out of playoff contention?

We’ve seen it before, with the likes of Willie Huber and Tom Poti run out of town by the home fans. Why? The only thing I can think of is the fans have no use for large defensemen who do not play a physical game. Add in an alarming number of defensive zone turnovers and the fans’ pathological need for a designated whipping boy and it’s ‘another one bites the dust’ at MSG.

Unless the Rangers can swap Malik ‘ as part of a larger package of players if need be ‘ for a serviceable defenseman who can help the team this year, the Malik situation is a huge negative (no pun intended) for the team. Until he acted out of line, removing Malik from the roster would not have been a case of addition by subtraction, contrary to what many Ranger fans believe.

Malik was a big part of the Rangers’ post-lockout resurgence, which was led by the team’s European-heavy roster. The potent five-man unit of Jaromir JagrMichael NylanderMartin StrakaMichal Rozsival and Malik was complemented by fellow Euros Petr PruchaMartin RucinskyKarel RachunekFedor TyutinDarius Kasparaitis, and Petr Sykora.

Malik’s first two seasons in New York were remarkably consistent: 2 G 16 A 18 pts +28 his first year and 2 G 19 A 21 pts +32 his second year. His solid outlet passes contributed to the team’s offensive flow and puck possession, which in turn covered up for his weaknesses (most notably his lack of foot speed) in the defensive zone. But now his confidence appears to be shot, and confidence is extremely important to his high-risk passing game.

Until now it was hard not to feel sorry for Malik. But showing up the coach is no way to handle this situation. It seems to be the act of a frustrated man who desperately needs ‘ and is asking for ‘ a change of scenery.

Barring a high-impact trade, Sather should swap Malik for the highest draft pick he can fleece out of a desperate team. A third or fourth rounder would do. Release him if need be. After all, it cost us nothing to sign him as a free agent in 2005 and he’s almost certain to leave New York this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Unfortunately, the Rangers organization already has little depth at the defense position. Subtracting Malik without adding a dependable defenseman leaves us with Jason Strudwick in the lineup every night and the unproven Ivan Baranka serving as our seventh defensemen. Thomas Pock and Andrew Hutchinson are unlikely recalls since they would have to pass through re-entry waivers. Factor in an injury or two and the situation becomes somewhat grim.

Hutchinson is thriving at the AHL level with 8 G 26 A 34 pts +13, and was recently named captain of the Wolf Pack. Promoting Hutchinson would also serve the dual purpose of having something to show for the Matt Cullen trade. Hutchinson skates like the wind and his confidence should be at an all-time high. He may even be able to help the anemic power play.

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