Chris "Captain Clutch" Drury was given a big contract. Now is the time to live up to that contract. Drury had a decent season last year, but failed to really find his niche. He attributed it to doing too much, which anyone who watched last season could attest to. Yet, this is now his team and Drury will be expected to not only be the leader, but increase his on-ice production. Last season, Drury accumulated 25 goals and 33 assists for 58 points.
Pros: Drury is a proven winner. At every level, he has helped lead his team to victory and that is the role he will play even moreso this season. He has a knack for the net and for the timely goals and assists. His style fits well with the likes of Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes. Drury's intangibles are as essential as his tangible skills.
Cons: Drury failed to mesh completely last season and did not play as much ice time as he probably should have. While he seems to have clicked better this season with Dawes and Prucha, nothing is to guarantee that. If he can't find his niche, will he be relegated to the third line again? Drury needs to be able to assert himself more since this is his team.
Realistically: Drury put up decent numbers last season in a lessened role. More ice time will only further his production. Having a year of the spotlight under him, he should relish this role that he has wanted for so long as leader of the Rangers. Expect greater numbers and a more comfortable, confident Drury this season.
Now that I have seemingly worked out all of my computer issues, let's get back to preseason player analysis. Nigel Dawes has certainly served his time in the AHL. Having been bounced around pretty regularly over the past two seasons, this year will have to be a make or break year for the diminutive left winger. Having been signed to a modest contract, Dawes will get an opportunity to play on the second line this season alongside Chris Drury and Petr Prucha. Dawes will have the ability to showcase his scoring talents and prove once and for all he deserves to stay at the NHL level. Last season, he played in 61 games scoring 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points.
Pros: Dawes has a knack for scoring and is certainly a stalwart in the shootout. He has a nice touch around the net and shows good patience with the puck. Getting consistent playing time as well as playing with such effective forwards like Drury and Prucha will only make him stronger.
Cons: Size has always been a big question for Dawes, but he needs to look no further than his center, Drury, in who to emulate. Drury, listed as a mere inch taller than Dawes, is a great example for Dawes. Can he maintain a consistent scoring pace? Can he contribute nightly in more ways than just scoring? He may not be a stud winger, but he is certainly capable of a 25+ goal season.
Realistically: Dawes has a lot of talent, but can he contribute that talent night in and night out? Consistency will have to be key, which I think Dawes is capable of. Do I think you can expect a 40 goal campaign from him? No, but he should be able to put up a 50 point season. If not, he will find himself out of the mix.
Over at NYR Nation, we'll be chattin' it up at 8 p.m. Dancin' Larry, Doug Fischer, Jonathan Ragus, and I will be talking preseason, what to expect, and taking questions. Stop by for some fun!
The scrappy little Irish-man is back for another season on Broadway and it will be much of a make it or break it year. In what will be his third season with the big club(first real full season), Callahan has shown a lot of grit, determination, and a nose for the net. He appears destined for a third line role with Brandon Dubinsky and another winger, which should provide him enough ice time without overworking him. Last season, he played in 52 games and scored eight goals with five assists.
Pros: Callahan hasn't had a full season of NHL experience yet, but this season looks to be the year. He brings an up-tempo style and can certainly make up for some physical play along the boards. Since he doesn't shy away, he should be good for a few goals from the sloppy areas.
Cons: He is listed as 5'11", but his thin frame make his style of game difficult long term. There are injury concerns as well since he failed to really regain true form after missing 16 games in November and December with a knee injury. Can he recapture that spark? If not, he is not going to be playing when players like Petr Prucha, Nigel Dawes, Lauri Korpikoski, Freddy Sjostrom and co. are deserving of ice time.
Realistically: Callahan has a big heart and a lot of upside. Nobody can question his work ethic, but he is probably not a top line player. He should fit in nicely alongside Dubinsky as their styles are complementary. The duo could make for a dangerous third line with their speed and grit along the boards.
(Photo from NHL.com)
For our first player analysis, we look to the soft spoken fourth line center. Betts played in 75 games last season, accruing two goals and five assists. Despite suffering injuries at the end of the season, Betts was an effective penalty killer and face-off man. Betts will be in the mix of the bottom six or so players vying for a job on the fourth line this season.
Pros: Betts is a strong penalty killer and given the Rangers ability to take a pletora of penalties the past two seasons, that is a definite need. Betts is also a strong complementary face-off guy and very dependable in his own end. He also doesn't take many penalties.
Cons: Betts brings little offense to the fourth line. He has the occasional offensive spurt, but never seems to consistently maintain it. His ankle injury last season will also be cause for concern going into this season. Wuth the departure of Sean Avery and Ryan Hollweg, the Rangers should be taking less penalties, which could put Betts out of the running in favor of a more offensive player.
Realistically: Betts is a good and consistent fourth line center. However, he is currently battling a lot of young players as well as the likes of Petr Nedved who seems to have a bit of an upper hand in camp. Do I think he starts the season as a Ranger? I would give it 50/50 odds at best. My gut is telling me he is part of a package deal, or he starts the 13th forward.
(Photo from NHL.com)
The season is officially in swing as the Rangers are taking to interviews and physicals today for the first day of training camp. With Sundin's rumored deadline to be today and Shanahan not at camp since he does not have a contract, there is certainly a lot of eyes over at Tarrytown.
Before delving too much into this, I first have a couple announcements. First, is this Thursday over at Ranger Nation at 8 p.m. I will be participating in a LIVE BLOG with fellow Ranger writers, so tune in and feel free to ask away!
Next, I will be doing a feature during training camp leading into the season. Each day or so I will have an assessment of the potential 08'-09' Rangers' roster. I will include each player's history, recent stats, pros, cons, and what to realistically expect. Should be exciting. We'll get started tomorrow.
More in a bit...
Just when I am writing about a lack of topics on The Hockey News, a few newsworthy items come through.
First, was the first informal training session for the Rangers. Training camp starts next week, but most players were actually there. A positive sign going into the season, but I am sure it's not abnormal.
Who, of note, was there? Brendan Shanahan. The unsigned veteran was invited to practice by Head Coach Tom Renney and Gm Glen Sather. His agent is negotiating now with the club and while his signing isn't guaranteed, as we have said all summer, it's fairly imminent.
Shanahan has stuck to his guns, he wants to be a Ranger. There has to be a reason he hasn't signed yet. Can anyone say, "the NHLPA extending the agreement for bonuses..."
Next on the agenda, former instigator and current Dallas Star Sean Avery will have a movie made about his hockey career and fashion fancy. A romantic comedy about a hockey player who likes fashion? Sounds like a blockbuster.
On the Sundin front, he met with both the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs this past week. The news? Nothing. He will decide if and when he decides. I am still not convinced that the Rangers are not the front-runner.
Now a point of debate: the Rangers currently have six NHL-experienced defensemen on the roster: Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Paul Mara, and Dmitri Kalinin. Who will be the seventh defenseman? Thomas Pock? Doesn't seem reasonable nor reliable. Perhaps, Michael Sauer or Corey Potter. How about Michael Busto? The problem is that these rookies are better served skating daily, rather than practicing and sitting in a press box.
There are still some UFA's available (I believe) such as Jassen Cullimore, Patrice Brisebois, Jaroslav Modry, or Aaron Miller. (Based on NHL.com) One of them may be money well spent.
Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. I spent my final week of August traveling cross country (my first stop was Toronto and the HHOF), a very worthwhile endeavor. However, I was not far from Ranger rumblings and as my fellow bloggers have been on top of, not much has changed, but rumors are rampant.
The Sundin watch continues to unfold, with a radio interview on Toronto AM640 yesterday. Darren Dreger of TSN interviewed Sundin who simply said he still doesn't know.
Brendan Shanahan has also been in the news lately, saying he is back in Manhattan, his kids are in school, and he still intends to be a Ranger. He also noted that many clubs seem to be at a standstill because of the Sundin situation.
Again, I feel both of these come back to the September 15th NHLPA deadline, which could lead to player's bonuses not counting against the cap.
Nonetheless, another rumor popped up this morning involving Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild. It's not really a rumor, but more of a one line "don't be surprised if..." Honestly, I would be very surprised if the Wild don't retain him, but if I were the Rangers and this was feasible, I would consider it.
The Rangers have lacked a young stud winger for as long as I can remember and this could be a lethal combination with the likes of Naslund and Zherdev.
More in a bit as we begin to unfold the new season...