Since I began writing for Blue Line Station back in March of this year, I’ve written your standard articles such as player reviews, post-games, musings & opinions etc. However, today will be something different for you. In order to grow, you have to expand yourself, correct?
This article will be my first venture in to the art of the e-mail interview and my first volunteer is Brian Ring of the Connecticut Whale. To give you some background, Brian Ring is the Media Relations Manager for the Whale and has been with the Connecticut/Hartford organization since 2007. He graduated Quinnipiac University as a Journalism Major in 2009.
Join me after the jump to read Brian’s thoughts on Michael Del Zotto’s disappointing season, which prospects have the best chance of making the Rangers, the leadership of Wade Redden (no, that’s not a typo) and more!
James: At times during the season the Rangers needed to call upon some players from the farm because of injuries. Players like Chad Kolarik and Dale Weise came up and seamlessly fit in to the Rangers style of play. What do you attribute that to?
Brian: I would say that the seamless transition of players like Kolarik, Weise and others is due to the great coaches that the Whale has in Ken Gernander, J.J. Daigneault and Pat Boller. Not to mention the fact that GM Jim Schoenfeld does a great job maintaining the team. With those factors in mind, and the fact that the Whale plays the same type of system as the Rangers, it is easy to see how guys can immediately step in and not just take up space, but contribute. The Whale are also very well conditioned, evidenced by the fact that they won eight games this past season in which they were trailing after two periods.
James: What’s your take on Michael Del Zotto’s past season with New York? How did his play look when he was sent down? What do you think is the most important thing he needs to improve upon for next season to have a shot with the Rangers?
Brian: I think Del Zotto is certainly capable of being a star defenseman in the NHL and he’s obviously shown plenty of promise. It’s tough to put much stock in his play for Connecticut this season, he only skated in 11 games, but it was definitely productive with seven assists. Obviously he reads the ice very well and is able to make plays. I think the important thing to remember is that he’s not even 21 until next week, but already has a season and a half equivalent of NHL experience. He’s going to keep developing, I think the biggest thing he can do to help himself in camp is just stay healthy and play his game, show how he can move the puck on the power play.
James: Which Whale prospect do you think has the best chance to make the Rangers next season? Conversely, which prospect do you think needs more time down in Connecticut to work on his game?
Brian: Tough to say who has the best chance. Plenty of guys have a great chance to get a call up during the season, but right out of camp it’s tough to predict. My guess is that if players like Chad Kolarik or John Mitchell end up under contract and have a very good camp, they have a great chance to contribute to some depth up the middle for the Rangers. Obviously, needs are always changing, so it’s tough to predict what’s going to happen.
James: It was only for a few games, but Dylan McIlrath was with the Whale on an amateur try-out during the end of the season. How did he look? Do you think his development is going smoothly? What does he need work on?
Brian: McIlrath’s physical presence is definitely something that is going to help him on any level, he’s a big body that will clear out the front of the net. He also got into a pretty good scrap in one of his games and looked more than fine doing it. However, he is still raw and needs time to adjust to the speed of the game at this level, as just about any player coming out of junior hockey would. Being a 19 year old, I would say he’s developing just fine, and needs to continue rounding out his game on both sides of the puck.
James: A lot was made of Wade Redden’s demotion to the Whale when it happened. However, it sounds like he has gone about it in a very positive manner. How much of an influence has he had on the young defenseman?
Brian: Wade Redden definitely handled his assignment to the Whale with the utmost class that you could ask for, at least as far as I have both seen and heard as an individual. That is definitely the sign of a true professional. He had a great role in helping to mentor and develop a very young and raw corps of defensemen this season, including Tomas Kundratek, Jyri Niemi, Blake Parlett and Pavel Valentenko. All of those players made great strides throughout the course of the season. I would think that going forward, should Redden continue his time with the Whale, that he will resume his role as both a teacher and a team leader here.
James: Who do you think are this year’s Derek Stepan & Michael Sauer?
Brian: Tough to say who could be the 2011-12 version of Stepan and Sauer, both guys that went to the NHL and excelled from the start more or less. Definitely not something you can always count on. My best guess would be Ryan Bourque or Carl Hagelin at forward and either Blake Parlett or Pavel Valentenko on defense. But again, that’s just my best guess.
I would like to extend a huge thank you to Brian Ring for taking time out of his busy schedule to do an interview with me. Going over his answers, you learn some things that stand out to you. For example, Wade Redden’s acceptance to the AHL and how gracefully he’s handled it. Any other player might have refused the assignment, retired, or otherwise complained about being demoted. Not Redden, who not only accepted it but embraced it. Just by himself, he’s been able to take several defenseman under his wing to aide in their development. Looking over some of the names he feels have a chance to make the Rangers next season, it’s going to be a fun training camp to watch this September.
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