Through the first half of the 2009-10 season, the New York Rangers have dealt with some injuries, inconsistencies, a shaky defense, and a major lack of offense.
Through 41 games, the Rangers are 19-17-5 with 43 points. Sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers' main issue has been their inability to finish and score goals on a consistent basis. The Rangers have the third fewest goals in the league (108), just ahead of the Boston Bruins (105) and Carolina Hurricanes (102).
It's been a tough first half of the season for the Rangers and their fans, yet thanks to the play of Marian Gaborik, Vaclav Prospal, and Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers aren't at a total loss.
Here are the midterm grades for the Rangers:
#10: Marian Gaborik (A)
What can be said about Marian Gaborik that hasn't been said already?
The moment the Rangers signed Gaborik this past offseason, they instantly got a game changer and difference maker. Gaborik has dazzled Rangers fans with his speed and lightning-quick shot and how he pretty much represents the Rangers' entire offense. He is truly amazing to watch game after game and never ceases to impress.
Gaborik leads the league in scoring with 27 goals and is third in the NHL in points with 52. He is second on the Rangers in assists with 25.
#12 Ales Kotalik (D-)
To say Ales Kotalik has been a disappointment would be an understatement. Kotalik, the supposed power play specialist, has just six goals on the season, three of which came on the power play. He is tied for third on the team with 20 points (with Del Zotto), but is struggling to find consistency in his debut season with the Rangers. Kotalik looks lost during 5-on-5 play and has cost the Rangers quite a bit with the amount of turnovers he creates. He sports a team worst minus-17 plus/minus rating.
#16 Sean Avery (C-)
What happened to the Sean Avery of old?
This season's Avery lacks not only a punch, but hasn't been contributing offensively like he has done in the past. Avery, being targeted by referees more and more, has really stepped down from his normal agitator role and on most nights is skating without emotion.
It’s been a disappointing season for Avery so far; Rangers fans can only hope he snaps out of his funk soon.
#17 Brandon Dubinsky (C)
Brandon Dubinsky started off the new season on thin ice. After his contract holdout, he began very slow and when he sustained a broken right hand, it sure didn’t help matters. Dubinsky missed a total of 13 games, yet he ranks fourth on the team in points...which doesn't say much for the rest of the team’s offense.
Dubinsky has now recorded a point in five of his last six games and definitely gave the Rangers an energetic boost upon his return.
#20 Vaclav Prospal (A-)
Entering the 2009-10 season, Vaclav "Vinny" Prospal had a lot to prove, not only to the rest of the NHL, but to himself as well. Fresh from being cut from his contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Prospal has shown his outstanding on-ice vision with 24 assists and is also second on the team in points with 32 (both behind Gaborik).
Prospal really earned the alternate captain status with his leadership and determined play; unfortunately, Prospal has been missing in action due to knee surgery and it’s been reported that he could miss anywhere from 10 days to three weeks in recovery.
#21 Christopher Higgins (D)
Christopher Higgins is very frustrating to watch because the talent is there; he just can't seem to finish.
Higgins' biggest problem is trying to find consistency. In 40 games, Higgins has just 10 points and is struggling on a nightly basis to find the back of the net. The effort is there (for the most part), ranking third on the team in shots, but it's quality not quantity that matter. Higgins has just four goals on the season and must start producing.
#22 Brian Boyle (D-)
Brian Boyle was never expected to be an offensive forward, but he was expected to bring a certain amount of toughness to the team. The 6'7", 252-pound fourth liner lacks toughness and has been a big disappointment (no pun intended). Boyle remains a useless fourth liner with a coach that rarely gives his fourth line a chance. Still, Boyle has yet to impress.
#23 Chris Drury (D+)
It seems Rangers fans love hating on the captain for so many reasons (that are mostly justified).
Drury's leadership skills and emotion out on the ice are virtually non-existent, along with his offensive production. He remains just an average center in the league; however, because of his contract, it's hard to see past the dollar signs. When a player receives such a large contract, he is expected to produce on a consistent basis.
Too bad Drury didn't get that memo.
Drury has just five goals and nine assists (14 points), which is a shell of his former self. Is he really a deserving Olympian for Team USA?
#24 Ryan Callahan (C+)
Ryan Callahan started the season off slowly, possibly letting his $4 million contract add some extra pressure and raise the expectations that he just couldn't meet. Callahan hit a very rough patch in mid-October and early November, where he went a 13-of-14 game span without recording a goal or an assist.
Despite those struggles, Callahan still puts forth one of the better efforts on the team. His leadership skills are constantly improving while he continues to mature as a player and an individual. He is fourth on the team with 19 points with nine goals and 10 assists.
#26 Erik Christensen (INC)
Erik Christensen was claimed off Waivers on Dec. 2 and has skated in 10 games with the Rangers this season. He has just three points this season (all coming in his last two games).
#34 Aaron Voros (D-)
Aaron Voros has had a limited role this season, seeing a reduction in games played, as well as minutes on the ice. Voros has skated in 21 games this season and has recorded just one assist. He is nothing more than a below average fourth liner.
#42 Artem Anisimov (B-)
Artem Anisimov hasn't had an overly impressive first half of the season (stat-wise), but the rookie definitely is showcasing his skills and talent on the ice.
If only he would be given more minutes per game. Anisimov is sixth on the Rangers with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and will only get better with more experience in the league. He skates well for a big man and displays good puck control (for the most part), but he needs to work on the defensive aspect of his game.
The future looks bright for this Russian rookie.
#81 Enver Lisin (C-)
The best part of Enver Lisin's game is his speed. Lisin is considered to have a great offensive upside because of his speed and quick shot.
Unfortunately, Rangers fans have yet to see this. Lisin skates hard every game and even played through an injury, but he has really struggled with inconsistencies and like so many other Rangers, he has struggled to find the back of the net. Lisin has 10 points in 36 games (four goals, six assists).
#86 Donald Brashear (F)
It seems like Glen Sather always has room to make one huge mistake during every offseason. Signing an "enforcer"; Donald Brashear instead of Colton Orr was a disastrous move, not even taking into account Brashear's past (not to mention his unforgettable cheap shot to Blair Betts in the 2009 playoffs).
Brashear has done nothing at all for the Rangers this season. He is no longer the fighter he once was and his skating is not as Sather advertised. Overall, Brashear has no place on the Rangers, as he lacks toughness and any true enforcer characteristics.
#4 Michael Del Zotto (B)
Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto fits in perfectly with John Tortorella's up-tempo style of play. Del Zotto exhibits great awareness on the ice and is continually improving his defensive play. He is third on the Rangers with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists).
Of course, like any other rookie, Del Zotto has a few glitches in his game and has been on the ice for his fair share of goals allowed too. His minus-17 plus/minus rating is the worst on the team (along with Ales Kotalik). With time and more experience, Del Zotto will grow into a sound defenseman.
#5 Dan Girardi (C)
Dan Girardi's biggest problem is his lack of consistency. One game he will be a defensive rock; the next, he struggles immensely, wandering out of position. His biggest struggles are seen in the toughness department, clearing the front of the net.
Girardi needs to strengthen his defensive game and play more consistently if he wants to be successful in this league. He also needs to improve his ugly plus/minus rating, which currently sits at minus-13.
#6 Wade Redden (D-)
For the most part, Wade Redden shows no passion and it seems that he puts forth a very small amount of effort into his game. Redden gives up on plays, fails to get into position, and is offensively challenged.
He started off the season playing much better than he did last year, but it didn’t last. His horrible play in mid-December led to a two-game benching, in which Tortorella wanted to make a statement and an example out of his struggling veteran defenseman.
Redden does have some decent games, but the bad far outweighs the good and his six-year contract worth $39 million definitely doesn’t help his cause. His plus/minus rating is minus-1.
#18 Marc Staal (B)
I truly believe Marc Staal was so wrapped up in Tortorella's up-tempo system (which stresses offensive production from the defense) that his solid defensive style suffered immensely from it.
It’s no secret that Staal struggles with his offensive game and is just not who the Rangers want him to be...at least not yet. Once Staal went back to focusing on the defensive aspect of his game, he has been more consistent and has slowly gotten his shutdown defenseman reputation back. Staal has the offensive talent in him, but for some reason it just doesn't want to come out. He has a plus/minus rating of 1.
#33 Michal Rozsival (D-)
Michal Rozsival is another Ranger sporting a big contract who continually underperforms.
Like Girardi, Rozsival’s biggest problem is inconsistency. Rozsival started getting his game together late last season, but unfortunately he began the new campaign struggling by getting out of position and creating too many turnovers.
As bad as Rozsival has been, he still sports a plus/minus rating of 2. But that still won’t save him from receiving a poor midterm grade.
#97 Matt Gilroy (C)
The former Hobey Baker award winner has had an up-and-down rookie season thus far. Gilroy had seen early praises from everyone in the organization, then his offensive production began to slip, which then caused his defensive game to suffer. Though Gilroy could be considered the second or third best defenseman on the Rangers, he was demoted by Tortorella for a couple of games.
Gilroy leads the Rangers defensemen with a plus/minus rating of 3, but his offensive game hasn’t been as expected (especially when compared to his fellow rookie defenseman Del Zotto). His offensive game needs to improve, as does his defensive game, but that should come with more experience in the league.
# 30 Henrik Lundqvist (A)
Henrik Lundqvist is still one of the top goaltenders in the league; it’s just unfortunate that he’s a netminder for a team with a struggling defense and virtually no offense (except for Gaborik).
Lundqvist’s win/loss record could be a lot better, again if only his team would stop hanging him out to dry. King Henrik is 17-14-5 with a 2.43 GAA. His glove-side weakness has been taken advantage more frequently this season, but that’s the risk teams take with a butterfly goaltender.
Lundqvist has had a few inconsistent moments this season, but for the most part he has always given the Rangers a chance. He can’t help it if they only can score two goals a game.
With no true backup goaltender, the backup position will remain incomplete for now.
Glen Sather (F+)
It seems like the Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather has failed to put together a winning team once again.
Sather has a laundry list of screw-ups and underachievers on his team and this analysis would be way too long to go through them all. So just focusing on this past offseason, Sather's best move was getting rid of Scott Gomez's huge contract and making room to sign superstar Marian Gaborik. His worst move was signing Ales Kotalik and Donald Brashear.
Thanks to his past blunders, there is very little room to make any significant roster moves.
John Tortorella (C+)
Everyone thought that bringing in head coach John Tortorella was the perfect move. After all, Tortorella is a tough coach who holds his veteran players accountable for their actions. He doesn't take any crap from anyone and has an offensive system that should've made the Rangers a much more interesting team to watch.
However, the Rangers remain offensively challenged and are no better than they were under former coach Tom Renney. Tortorella is stuck with Sather's mess of a team that has a sprinkle of talent mixed in with inconsistent skaters. Tortorella can make all of the line changes he desires, but you can only do so much with a broken product.
Note: All stats as of 1/4/10
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