by Gary Pino
As the busy off-season starts to wind down, and the Rangers start to set their roster, it appears that Petr Nedved will remain with the Rangers after all. I tend to think of this as a possible good thing, in light of the rigorous off-season training schedule he was accessed by Glen Sather after last season’s disappointment. According to team sources he has beefed up and added 10 pounds of muscle and has undergone a strenuous leg-training program. This is great news for the Rangers! Nedved has always been a guy who could produce if he is given some talent around him, and pairing him with an all-star center playing left wing with Bobby Holik, and Radek Dvorak could produce some great numbers for the Blueshirts.
Petr has one of the best wrist shots in the NHL, and if he can start pulling the trigger sooner, the puck will go in the net for him. Nedved sees the ice well, and though he shies away from the dirty work in the corners, he has improved his toughness over the last 3 seasons, but his inability to contain guys down low were a major problem for the Rangers, and the staff thought Nedved had to do something to help his play down low. Last season, the man who seemed to be the only production the Rangers have had in the last 3 seasons before the 2001-02 season when Lindros and Bure joined the team, started to be jeered by the home town fans every time he touched the puck. Was it fair? I have to say yes! The fans are the ones who pay the ticket prices and they get tired of seeing a talented scorer shoot high and miss the net almost on a nightly basis.
Nedved is very good on a power play, and he can quarterback one if he has to! So he had a terrible year last year, but so did the rest of the club! And if there were any fingers that need to be pointed at one individual, it would have to be Ronnie Low! After all, he was the guy who called the shots and line combinations all year, and until Bure joined the team, and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out which line he should play on. Low was absolutely clueless all season…hopefully Trottier will take a few pages out of the Joe Torre playbook and pull some serious strings in the right direction, and achieve Joe’s “Genius” label? Just having coached in Colorado the last few seasons, I am sure he knows how to get the best out of his players during any given situation? And lets face it; He has some talent to work with this season! This is one case where I think his career, as a player may not come into play? The game has changed since Trottier laced them up as a player; guys are bigger and faster these days!
What I find interesting is the future status of “The Captain!” Mark Messier. Nothing has been reported on contracts, or even his plans on coming back for another season! I hear most of the fans want him back, but my question is this…do the Rangers want to go thru all the trouble of making a special DVD and have a jersey sent to Mark with the “C” on it to sway Messier to come back at the young age of 42? Or, is Messier really thinking twice about ending his career under nemesis Bryan Trottier? For Messier I think he may find it difficult to play under Trottier, especially since Messier could have easily ended up behind the Rangers bench this season. But with all positions in lock down the only question remaining is, will Messier accept a 4th line role on this team?
The Rangers are stacked with centers right now, but Jamie Lundmark could yet make the team this year, it just remains to be seen whether he can breakthrough.
So many questions remain for a club that has relied on finding the answers in free agent pickups; you think everything is set in stone around here? There is still the one single knuckleball that has to be hit! I see it as a catch-22, if he signs for one more year, he has a chance to go out of the game as a winner and not remembered as the guy who couldn’t help the Rangers back to the playoffs upon his return. Or if Messier calls it a career, than you don’t have to worry about him getting hurt again, and you open the door for some younger kids to come up and get some playing time? Roman Lyashenko I think, can flat out play! I liked his game from the first time he suited up for the Rangers. It would be a shame to put a halt on the kid’s development for a year! Something the Rangers have been guilty of as long as I can remember. Usually after one of my articles gets published, something always seems to happen, so the jury’s still out on anything I said here!
Only time will tell!