With the New York Rangers hitting the ice today for training camp, it can’t be stressed enough that hockey is finally back. The Rangers open up their preseason on Monday night against the New Jersey Devils, and even though it’s just a tune-up game, it’s something that every fan is looking forward to. It may be a bunch of rookies out there, but it will be good to see those white and blue jerseys playing the game once again.
It was truly a long summer for every fan. The days went by slow, but now we’ve finally got our fix. With the regular season starting on Oct. 3 and quickly approaching, I thought it would be a great idea to grab some insight from a fellow diehard and hockey writer such as ourselves here at Blue Line. If you are aware of thehockeywriters.com, then you might know this one particular Rangers writer, Josh Smith. I reached out to him on Facebook the other day, and asked him if he would be interested in a little Q&A interview. He happily said yes, and I sent him 5 questions related to the Rangers and this upcoming season. He made some interesting points and had good things to say. Here’s the interview in it’s entirety:
I’m looking for big things from Nash this season. He should hit the 40-goal mark with a full season under Vigneault. Nash’s career-high is 41, and a full season alongside Derek Stepan could help him edge past that mark. The Rangers will need him to score. More importantly, they’ll need him to score key goals. He led the team with 21 last season, but was only 4th in game-winners.
Brassard will be challenged to maintain the scoring pace he had when he joined the Rangers. He posted 23 points in 25 games across the regular season and playoffs after coming to New York. Of course, that was in the #2 center role, with Brad Richards entrenched in John Tortorella’s doghouse. Assuming everyone gets a fresh start under the new coach, it’s likely Brassard will fall to centering the third line. Decreased ice time and less offensively-gifted wingers will hamper Brassard’s scoring totals.
I think Brad Richards will be bought out after the season regardless of his performance. It’s a great opportunity for Richards to prove that he can still contribute. With the team the Rangers will be icing this year, it’s also gives Richards a legitimate shot at contributing to a serious playoff run. Unfortunately, the financials of his deal will likely result in his being bought out. The excessively-front-loaded contract he signed would result in a Cap Advantage Recapture penalty that could see the Rangers absorb as much as $5M a year if Richards were to retire at age 37. With one compliance buyout left – an option that must be exercised in the coming offseason – I’d be surprised if the Rangers don’t use that opportunity to rid themselves of that contract and its’ potential penalties.
Absolutely not. I don’t think The King can see it either. Henrik is a great fit for New York and New York is a great fit for Henrik. He’s embraced the city, spending nights on the town and owning a restaurant in Tribeca. He’s also an eight-hour flight from Sweden. I don’t think there’s any other city in the league that would offer the same combination of benefits. I’d love to see them agree to an extension before the season, but I’m confident that they’ll come together before he hits free agency. I just hope it’s at a price that’s fair yet still gives the team room to retain and enhance their roster.
I see them finishing second in the Metropolitan, behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Blueshirts are definitely poised for a long playoff run. They’ve made moves to help increase their depth – Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot will help out in the bottom six. The continued growth and maturity of some of their younger players, most notably Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh, will further bolster their on-ice performance. A bounce-back season from Brad Richards will certainly help. Presuming he’ll be bought out, this may as well be a contract year for the former Conn Smythe winner, and that should help motivate him. Being able to roll three solid lines will be key under Vigneault, and his fresh approach behind the bench might just be enough to help push the Rangers all the way to the Stanley Cup.