The decision to buy a player’s jersey is perhaps the most important one a fan can make. That jersey is going to be on your back, in public, for years. If you choose poorly you will be mocked by friends and strangers. Especially Devils and Islanders fans. Do not underestimate the importance of this decision. So how should one pick which player’s jersey to buy?
Here are the criteria I use:
(1) How good is the player.
(2) Does the player have staying power — will he be/has he been a Ranger for a long time.
(3) Type of player — gritty, dainty scorer, role player, leader, veteran, rookie, etc.
(4) The name — rarely invoked, but there are some that you just can’t buy.
(5) How popular the player already is — are there lots of his jerseys already in the stands.
(6) Intangible — does he evoke the spirit of what a Ranger is.
(7) How proud you will be to wear the jersey this year.
(8) How proud you will be to wear the jersey in the years to come.
Let’s take a look at the roster. There is a group that shouldn’t even be considered. This includes Boyle, Voros, Lisin, Parenteau, Redden, Rozsival, Valiquette (he’s a backup goalie), and Brashear. There are a few players you could make a case for, but probably not yet. Such as Higgins and Kotalik.
And then there’s the select group of 11 Rangers that are viable options. Or at least worthy of discussion.
The Contenders (in reverse order of whose jersey I would buy):
(11) Prospal – He’s out for me simply based on the fake tan. It’s like watching George Hamilton on skates. Does he go up to the roof with Kramer and saute himself in butter? Only been a Ranger for a few months. Could easily regress. (Tampa Bay did buy him out just last year.) Probably the most obscure choice on the list.
(10) Gaborik – He scores high in every metric. But I just can’t get to buying his jersey. The deal-breaker for me is that there are going to be TONS of fans wearing his jersey. Too obvious. I hate being a sheep. And he just doesn’t invoke “Ranger” to me yet. Plus, there’s about a 64% chance he tears his groin getting out of a cab tomorrow.
(9) Lundqvist – Great choice, if this were 2007. Basically the same as Gabby other than he’s definitely a Ranger. But everyone already has his jersey. He’s a bit of a ladies’ pick now too. (I still do not recommend for ladies because of the popularity concern. It’s like buying a Jeter t-shirt — unless you are under 11 it must not be done.)
(8) Avery — He’s got his niche. But if you wanted one you should have gotten on that bandwagon the first time around. Plus, he’s been neutered. Not much going for him at the moment. Also, wearing one labels you as a bit of a punk.
(7) Girardi – You either love the guy or hate him. I like him. He’s young and promising, and plays hard (at least as Ranger defensemen go). And not too many of his sweaters out there. But he’s kind of plain. There are many more better younger options.
(6) Drury – Hard-nosed and likeable. But it appears his best years are behind him. Lots of them out there too, especially among women. I can’t fault you if you go this route though. It’s a Renney-esque safe choice.
(5) Gilroy – Highly touted. Signed for multiple years. Chose the Rangers over all other teams. Fun to watch. Offensive/great skater. Surprisingly solid defensively. Not too many jerseys out there yet. American (hey, we’re in New York!). Gives a decent interview/likeable. Was not great his whole life so he’s got that underdog vibe in him. Good for a guy or girl. I don’t have much against this choice, other than he’s a rookie.
(4) Staal – Another you either love him or hate him. He’s kind of like Eli Manning in that expectations are so high, maybe based on his brothers. Perhaps he doesn’t become the next Beukeboom/Zubov hybrid, but he’s still very young and has a huge upside (and already is good). Should be with the Rangers for many years. A fair number of his jerseys out there. Boom or bust choice — either you’re buying fairly young on the next Pronger or 5 years from now people will laugh at you as you enter the Garden.
(3) Dubinsky — I love the guy, as I’ve said before. If he harnesses his anger he could be a top line center. He plays with passion. Has skills. Works hard. Definitely strikes me as what a Ranger is. A reasonably popular choice already, but certainly not overdone.
(2) Callahan – Should win the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award every year in a landslide. Gets everything out of his small frame. Surprisingly quick. Can play in any situation. Absolutely evokes the spirit of being a Ranger. His jersey is becoming more popular each day, but nowhere near the Lundqvist level yet. Good for a guy or a girl. Hands down my #1…except that my girlfriend got on his bandwagon before he had a band or a wagon his rookie year and purchased a #43 — the number he wore early in his career — Callahan jersey. Damn it.
And the winner is…
(1) Del Zotto – It’s like watching Brian Leetch incarnate. The guy is going to be a stud for years to come. The type of player that can single handedly win games. And he’s only 19! That said, there is risk in that he’s just a quarter of the way through his rookie year. But perhaps the biggest risk (for a guy) is that he could become Jeter. The type of player that no one can make fun of you for wearing the jersey of (if you are a dude) but which just fits better if you are a lady. DZ’s a bit pretty — yes, I said it. Still, with Callahan being out for me for relationship reasons and Dubinsky being too uncertain, the winner is Michael Del Zotto. Plus, it’s a freaking cool name.