Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So Who Gets The Chop? A Look At The Rangers

It looks like after tonight's Rangers pre-season game against Detroit that the Rangers will be making their final cuts from the Rangers training camp roster. Currently there are 27 players in camp and Tortorella has indicated that he wants to cut it down to 23 players (he could cut it down to 20 if he wanted).

Forwards: Anisimov, Avery, Boogaard, Boyle, Callahan, Christensen, Drury, Dubinsky, Fedotenko (tryout), Frolov, Gaborik, Kennedy, Prospal, Prust, Stepan and White
Defense: Staal, Girardi, Del Zotto, Rozsival, Sauer, McDonagh, Eminger, Valentenko and Gilroy
Goalies: Lundqvist & Biron 


We already know that the team is going to carry two goalies (Lundqvist and Biron). It's very likely that Tortorella/Sather intend on keeping seven defensemen on the roster, although they could carry six if they wanted to. Staal, Girardi, Del Zotto and Rozsival are who I would consider the four guaranteed spots. That leaves the Sauer, McDonagh, Eminger, Valentenko and Gilroy fighting it out for the final three spots on defense. Eminger in my opinion is going to get the seventh defenseman gig. While he may not be better than the other players he's competing with, he is the veteran and more than likely if the team carries a seventh defenseman to rotate in and out of the lineup on a nightly basis it's going to be a veteran, not a rookie.

At this point to me it looks like Gilroy is also likely going to be given a spot on the roster. He's gotten bigger physically since last season, he's playing similar to the way he did last pre-season when he impressed the Rangers by using his exceptional skating to jump up into the play. Gilroy has also been given time on the power play and given his offensive talent, I think he could be a very likely candidate to man the point on the second power play unit.


That leaves Sauer, McDonagh and Valentenko duking it out for the final spot being allotted to defensemen. Of the three I think that Sauer is the least likely to make the roster. He's had a pretty good camp so far, but I think that McDonagh and Valentenko have just been better. However, unlike the other two, Sauer will have to clear waivers if he's sent down to Hartford. The monkey wrench however may have been thrown into my analysis of Tortorella's plans because tonight the defensemen will be Gilroy-Valentenko, Del Zotto-Rozsival, Staal-Sauer. If the Rangers do intend on announcing their final 23-man roster tomorrow, would they really send McDonagh down without giving him another shot tonight? Would they not have just sent him down the other day when they made their second round of cuts? Is McDonagh now considered a lock for a roster spot and Gilroy the one competing with Sauer and Sauer for the final spot on the team? 


If I had a gun held to my head right now I'd say that the Rangers start the season with Staal, Girardi, Del Zotto, Rozsival, Gilroy, Eminger and then it's a toss up between McDonagh and Valentenko.

As difficult as it is to analyze what's going on in Tortorella's mind regarding defensemen it's just as difficult, if not more so, to try and figure out what forwards are going to be on the roster. If the Rangers carry seven defensemen, it means that they will be carrying 14 forwards going into opening night. I will assume that once Chris Drury is healthy that the Rangers will then send one of the other forwards back to Hartford and carry 13 forwards the rest of the way.

Right off the bat I have to assume that Anisimov, Avery, Boogaard, Callahan, Drury, Dubinsky, Frolov, Gaborik, Prospal and Prust are all going to be on the roster going forward. That leaves the six remaining players; Boyle, Christensen, Fedotenko, Stepan, Kennedy and White fighting for the remaining four spots.

Strangely, both Stepan and Christensen who have been considered candidates for the number one center position could either make the team or be sent to Hartford. At this point in camp, Christensen hasn't really impressed me. I've never been a big fan of his simply because he is so hot/cold. But, it's not me that he has to impress. I think that Tortorella is going to give Stepan at least a few games to show what he can do. If he's not producing then he'll be the guy sent to Hartford when Drury is ready to step into the lineup.

Another guy who hasn't shown me anything at all is Todd White, but Tortorella has been praising the guy a lot, talking about how versatile he is. Then there's tryout Ruslan Fedotenko, who was average in his first game against the Devils and then probably the Rangers best forward on the ice (a part from Ryan Callahan) in the second game.

Tim Kennedy is another guy who has had a pretty good camp and Tortorella has heaped a lot of praise on. But, where does he fit in? He's going to be given a shot tonight against the Red Wings playing LW on the third line next to Anisimov and Callahan. Brian Boyle looked to have improved drastically in his first pre-season game when he played center, but in the second game when Tortorella had him on the wing he was pretty much invisible. If the battle is between Boyle and someone else for the fourth line center role then I think the job will be Boyle's. But, I can't see him being placed anywhere else in the lineup. He doesn't seem like a guy that's able to adapt to the wing and he's still not capable of centering a third line, unless he starts playing like the way he did in the first pre-season game a hell of a lot more often.

I honestly think that tonight's game is going to factor a lot into whether one or two of these guys ultimately go down to Hartford or stay in New York.

If it were up to me Christensen and White would be the players heading to Hartford. Some of you will say it's a good thing because you want Christensen in the lineup. I think that Anisimov is going to show everyone that he's come leaps and bounds since last season and not only will he play big time top-6 minutes this year, he may be the guy who ultimately ends up centering Forlov and Gaborik. If Christensen isn't centering Gaborik/Frolov he has no business playing on the third or fourth line.


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