Category Archives: Rangers

A Hometown Discount

We throw that phrase around a lot in sports thinking that players will take less to stay or come “home”. Most of the time, it’s a false concept. The player isn’t going to take a cent less than they can get elsewhere. Robinson Cano is a good example of that.

That’s what makes the signing of Kevin Shattenkirk by the Rangers so unusual,  Shattenkirk, from New Rochelle, NY, was the prize of the free agent class and probably could have gotten a contract similar to Keith Yandle’s seven-year, $44-million deal signed just last year.

But Shattenkirk is coming to the Rangers on only a four-year deal at $6.65-million a season. That’s a big discount, but Shattenkirk said he wanted to come home and play for the franchise he grew up loving.

That should be music to Rangers’ fans ears and I suspect Shattenkirk will be almost as popular as Henrik and McDonaugh next season. For a kid who grew up a short train ride from the Garden, can it get any better than that?

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A Ranger Reset

The Rangers pulled off a shocking trade today, Derek Stephan and Antti Raanta for the #7 pick in the draft and Anthony DeAngelo.

I won’t begin to suggest that a team that traded its top center and backup goalie for a rookie defenseman and a draft pick is better, but this is a move the Rangers had to make.

I loved Stepan, but he wasn’t an elite center and he was earning $6.5-million a year through 2021. Raanta was a great backup goalie, but he was headed out the door after this upcoming season.

The Rangers now have a bunch of cap room and a chance to do some things. They could sign Kevin Shattenkirk and make a big splash, or spread the money out more equitably. They probably go for the splash, but might be smarter to spread the money around. One thing is for sure, Jeff Gorton has a plan and he is willing to make bold moves to execute it.

Thank You, Dan

The majority of New York sports fans will always associate the name Girardi with Joe, the current manager. But, a passionate subset will also associate it with Dan, the Rangers forward who was bought out today after a stellar eleven years on Broadway.

Much like his namesake, Dan Girardi was an underrated player who did the little things. He was undrafted, yet became an integral part of a Stanley Cup contender. He was the epitome of the “black and blue” shirts and anchored the top line of the defense.

But all those games and all of those blocked shots took a toll on his body and the Girardi of today simply couldn’t keep up with the top lines of most NHL squads. His big salary made him untradeable and the savings from a buyout made it the only possible solution.

Thats a shame because much like another Ranger on the top-10 list of games played, Rom Greschner, Girardi should have ended his career in New York. I hope he catches on somewhere and earns a much-deserved Cup. Just not against the Rangers!

Playoff Hockey

It’s the best time of the year in hockey and so far, the Rangers and Canadiens are living up to the hype. Montreal pulled out a stunner in Game 2 and then blasted the Rangers in Game 3. New York rebounded with a much, much better effort in Game 4, and now we head to Montreal tied at 2.

The best series right now is the Toronto-Washington one. All three games have gone to OT and the surprising Maple Leafs have the Presidents Cup winners on their heels. Game 4 is tonight in Toronto and the Leafs could go up 3-1. Pretty much every other team in the East would be thrilled by that.

Boston and Ottawa aren’t far behind. The last two games have been OT affairs and Game 1 was decided by a goal as well. Game 4 is tonight with the Senators looking to take a 3-1 lead back home Friday.

A really shocking series is Chicago-Nashville. Chicago was the best team in the West, but they are down 3-0 to a surprisingly tough Predators squad. Nashville can close things out tomorrow night at home.

If you like late games, Edmonton-San Jose has been a great series, apart from Game 4 which was a rout. The series is tied, but the games don’t start until 10:30 EDT, which is rough.

Not all the series have been good, or even close to what was expected. Columbus finally put up an effort last night to avoid getting swept by Pittsburgh. Both teams won 50-games during the season and Pittsburgh only claimed home ice because of a better record in OT, so this looked to be a close series. Maybe Columbus will rally, but it hasn’t been pretty so far.

Anaheim and St. Louis can sweep their series tonight. The Minnesota-St. Louis series is a surprise as the Blues were actually the underdog. Barring a historic collapse, that wasn’t accurate.

And while I am not a huge fan of the fact that the NHL takes the games away from local TV after this round, the flip side to that is that all playoff games are televised nationally now. USA and NBCSports are doing the bulk of the games, with the NHL Network chipping in occasionally. So go out and watch, there is nothing like it.

 

 

Catching Up

Sorry to have been away during a big week in New York sports, but I don’t set the school vacation calendar!

Anyway, I watched the Rangers’ season end from 30,000 feet thanks to Jet Blue and the Giants draft thanks to ESPN on the ground. Some thoughts on both follow.

For the Rangers the really discouraging part is that Lundqvist looked terrible for most of the series. That could be a sign he is acting his age (34) and if that is so, the Rangers are in a lot of trouble.  This team is built around Lundqvist and any slippage on his part dooms them to mediocrity.

But even if it isn’t a function of age, what do the Rangers do then? Do they double down (or quadruple down I guess at this point) and try for one last cup run? Or do they make the more sensible choice and rebuild? And if they choose to rebuild, what does that look like? This is a team with a lot of talent locked up into the future and very little talent in the pipeline. Rebuilding could take a few years, but trying for one last run could dig the hole even deeper. Not an easy choice.

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I think all of the draft grades assigned to the Giants are meaningless because this is a team that won’t compete for a Super Bowl next year without an amazing amount of luck. If you accept that assessment you can accurately judge this draft. If you don’t, it is a big failure.

Apple in the first round is a pick that will marginally improve this team, but could help enormously down the road. In the best case, Apple is the 3rd corner this year. That’s it, so he isn’t going to improve the team dramatically. But, if the Giants are right about him, he takes the job from DRC in 2017 and stars from there.

Shepard could be a great #2 receiver and the perfect complement to OBJ. That’s a great second round pick. Thompson in the third round fills a void at free safety and could become the ball hawk this secondary needs.

Goodson, Perkins, and Adams add depth, but not in the places the 2016 Giants necessarily need. Goodson will be a great addition to the linebacking corp, but the other two are “luxury” picks, which is weird for a team coming off a losing season. However, if Perkins is the RB scouts think he is and Adams is the TE scouts think he is, they have two huge weapons for the future.

But, there are still HUGE questions for this team going forward. What is the right side of the offensive line? Where is the depth on the defensive line? There are no clear cut answers to those questions at this point and that means we have no idea how the 2016 season will unfold.

The Beginning and The End

For the Rangers, tonight marks the start of the NHL Playoffs. For the Knicks, tonight marks the first day of the offseason. Let’s delve into both.

The Rangers have won eight playoff series over the last four seasons, but they haven’t hoisted a Stanley Cup. That ties a “record’ held by the Bruins of the late 1980’s for most playoff series wins without a Cup- ugh. They absolutely can win this year, but they made it more difficult by beating Detroit on Saturday. If they had lost that game, they would have opened the playoffs in Florida and assuming a victory there, played the winner of the Detroit-Tampa series. Now they have to beat the Penguins in Round 1 and probably face the best team in the NHL, Washington, in Round 2.

It won’t be easy, but it comes down to a simple formula for them. Lundqvist, Lundqvist, and more Lundqvist. If he is on top of his game, the Rangers will be a very tough team to play. If he isn’t, if he plays like he has the past few weeks, this will be a very quick playoff appearance.

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Then there are the Knicks and we can actually look at their season with some good feelings. For one, they weren’t the disaster they were last year. 32-50 is nothing to brag about, but when it comes on the heels of a 17-65 season it represents progress. Two, Kristaps Porzingas looks like a cornerstone player.

They are going to need more and that’s where Phil Jackson is going to have to earn his paycheck. I think that the easiest route to respectability is trading Carmelo for a lottery pick this year, stinking next year for another lottery pick, and using your major cap room after the 2016-17 season to round out the roster. I can’t tell what the team is going to do. Part of me thinks Anthony is going to force his way out of here, but part of me suspects that the Knicks won’t part with him because he gives them the illusion of competitiveness. I hope I am wrong about that because Anthony is on the decline and by the time Porzingas is all that he can be, Anthony will be a role player at best.

Stay tuned.

Losses Ranked

After last night I tried to come up with the worst losses I have suffered as a sports fan. This is called catharsis.

1- Game 5 1995 ALDS- So many things make this the worst starting with the fact that the Yankees had the series in hand the day before when they jumped out to a 5-0 lead in Game 4. They blew that and then came into the 11th inning of this game with a one-run lead. Three batters later the game and the series were over.

2- 2002 NFL Playoffs- Start with the fact that the Giants led 38-14 with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter, but then consider this. The 49ers rally and cut the lead to 38-30 with two TD’s and two 2-point conversions. They then kick a field goal to make it 38-33, but the Giants drive deep into SF territory only to miss a field goal on a bad snap.

Then things really got nutty. The 49ers drive down and score a TD, but the 2-point conversion fails. The Giants have a minute left and get into position for a 42-yard field goal to win the game. Bad snap #2 ensues and the Giants have the heave the ball downfield in desperation. Everyone in the world sees the Giants’ receiver get tackled before the ball arrives and the flag on the play. But, the call is ineligible man down field and the game is over. The following day the NFL apologized to the Giants because the player flagged as ineligible had in fact checked in and was eligible and for missing the obvious pass interference call. <sigh>

3- Game 3 1980 ALCS- George Brett off of Goose Gossage, tears flowed.

4- Game 5 2004 ALCS- What people forget about this game, which went 14 innings, is how many times the Yankees bent, but didn’t break as the extra innings progressed. Made it that more painful when things finally ended.

5- Villanova 77 UNC 74. The cruel part of this game was the fact that it was “over” with a few minutes left. UNC trailed by 10 and had no shot. But Marcus Paige refused to accept that and hit one of the craziest three-pointers you will ever see with 4.7 seconds left. But then….

6 and 7- Games 1+2 2014 Stanley Cup- Both games see the Rangers up 2-0 early. Both games see LA storm back. Both games go to extra time. Both games end with LA winning.

8- Game 5 2011 ALDS- I saw this one in person and I will never forget the quiet after the game ended.

9- 1989 NFL Playoffs- Rams come behind in the 4th quarter to tie the game and then win the coin toss in OT. Flipper Anderson catches a pass, gets to the end zone, runs down the tunnel, and disappears.

10- Games 1 and 7 1995 NBA Semifinals- Pick your poison. Game 1 is Reggie Miller’s “8 points in 9 seconds” where the Knicks blow a 6-point lead over the final 18. Game 7 is Patrick Ewing missing a layup at the buzzer and the Knicks losing their first ever Game 7 at home.

Honorable Mention- 2002 Olympic Hockey Finals- The 1980 Men’s Team lights the torch and you can feel the gold medal finally coming back to U.S. soil. The 2002 team beats the Russians in the semis, just like 1980, and then gets bombed by Canada on home ice to lose the gold medal.

 

Good Move, But More Needed

The Rangers pulled off a very savy trade yesterday for Eric Staal. Staal isn’t the player he once was, but he provides the Rangers with a lot of flexibility. They can slot him in at center on the third line, moving Hayes out of that spot, and deepening their overall roster. Or they can put him on the wing, and let him add experience and grit to one of their top lines. Having him as a wing gives you a very good face-off guy on the ice as an alternate to your center. Don’t underestimate the impact of that in a playoff series.

And the price was right. This is a team built for today, so renting Staal makes sense. They needed another piece and they got it, the problem is Staal doesn’t solve their problems on the penalty kill or their defensive malaises this season. But ultimately this team is a team built around a goaltender. It’s still up to Henrik to carry them across the finish line.

Here’s To 2016!

2015 was a bummer for too many reasons to mention, so I am glad to turn the page to 2016. Being an optimist by nature, I predict a much better year. I am also going to make some sports predictions- some serious, some less so.

Tonight (Close enough to 2016 for me)

Alabama and Oklahoma advance to the title game. So-so TV ratings and the fact that the MSU-Alabama game ends after the ball drops, lead to college football changing the date of the semifinals to New Year’s Day permanently.

January

I’ll take Oklahoma to win it all. That’s right, the team that lost to Texas wins the National Championship.

The Colts don’t make the playoffs, the Jets do, and we have a Super Bowl of Arizona and New England.

Yankees sign Justin Upton and trade Brett Gardner.

February

Arizona wins the Super Bowl because Bill Belichick elects to kick every time he touches the ball. When questioned after the game, Bill tells the press they don’t understand defense

March

There are a few upsets in the NCAA Tournament.

April

North Carolina cuts down the nets and wins its 7th NCAA Championship. Kennedy Meeks dominates throughout the Final Four.

Jordan Spieth wins the Masters.

The Knicks are the 8th seed in the NBA Playoffs and actually win a game in Round 1 before bowing out.

May

Rangers go down in flames to Washington in the second round of the NHL Playoffs and the rebuild begins.

June

A horse wins the triple crown for the 2nd-straight year.

Jordan Spieth wins the U.S. Open.

The Capitals win the Stanley Cup.

Golden State goes back-to-back.

July

MLB holds an All-Star Game and nobody seems to notice.

Jordan Spieth wins the British Open.

August

Tiger Woods wins the PGA Championship for his 15th, and last, major.

Mark Teixeira is ruled out for the rest of the year.

September

The NFL season starts with massive rule changes to prevent head injuries. Among them, no more extra points as touchdowns are automatically seven points unless a team goes for two.

The U.S. wins the Ryder Cup.

Serena wins the US Open and retires on the court.

October

The Cubs win the World Series. The World ends.

November (If there is a November)

 

Jerry Jones fires himself as GM after the Cowboys stumble to a 2-8 start.

The Giants, under new coach Jon Gruden, end November with a winning record for the first time in years.

December

The Jets wrap up the top seed in the AFC. The Giants are winners of the NFC East.

A blogger looks back at his failed predictions for 2016 and vows to do better in 2017.

 

Happy New Year to all!

 

 

 

Welcome To Rivalry Week

This week for the first time since 1988 we will see three intracity rivalries at once. The Jets will face the Giants, the Knicks will face the Nets, and the Rangers will face the Islanders. And as a special bonus, the Rangers make their first ever trip to Brooklyn tonight.

It will be very interesting to see how things go at Barclays tonight. Through 14 home games, the Islanders are only averaging 78.4% of their tickets sold. That’s 27th in the league and about what they did in Long Island before they announced they were moving to Brooklyn. (For comparison sake, the Nets are averaging only 79% this season, but they averaged 94.9% in their first season in Brooklyn.)

What’s the reason for the difference between the reception for the Islanders and the reception for the Nets? I have two theories.

1- Basketball is a much more popular sport than hockey. Both the Nets and Islanders came into a market with established teams, but the Nets had a better chance of pulling in the casual fan because there were more of them.

2- The Barclays Center  was not built to hold hockey, so it is not a symmetrical arena and one side of it offers obstructed seating in a lot of places. There are seats where you can’t see the goal, or you are facing away from the goal.

Perhaps it is a combination of both, and perhaps we need to wait until the season is over to see if attendance ticks up, but it is strange that the Islanders are not packing the building. That’s what makes tonight such an interesting game, how will the crowd split? Tickets are averaging over $200 to sit in the lower level, so maybe we won’t be able to draw any sold conclusions, but let’s listen to the crowd and see which team they are pulling for.