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bmoak 05-01-2005 11:23 PM

Hartford Overview Thread
 
Well the season is over for the Hartford Wolf*Pack. 50 wins and 106 points for the best regular season in Pack history followed by a first-round playoff exit (a fate shared by Manchester, Binghamton, and Milwaukee). Pack defense and goaltending finished with the fewest goals allowed for the second consecutive year. Offense was a less than spectacular 18th, although it was an improvement over the previous season. Special teams featured a #2 in the AHL PK (necessary because the Pack was also #2 in times shorthanded) while the PP was ranked 15th. The total offense was hindered by several horrible periods during the season when the Pack couldn't buy goals. One of those was right after the team's hot start and oanother was at the end of the season. (For most of the year, Pack offense was in the #12-15 range and the PP was in the #8-12 range

Team offense was a problem with the Pack. Injuries, inconsistentcy, line combos, a defense-first mentality, and stronger goaltenders and defenseman than usual on opposing teams. It was obvious even during camp that offense would be a concern, which is why Hamilton was brought in late in the pre-season. (Unfortunately he would soon get injured and spend a month on the shelf.

The Pack started with a top 6 made up of Moore, Wiseman, Balej, Hamilton, Giroux and Ulmer and McGill played them together at first. And the team had great success at first, reeling off 6 straight wins. Then the team starting struggling, and players either got injured or went into slumps. This is when McGill started mixing up his lines to spread the scoring talent around and put some size and grit onto each line.

Going into the season, the primary scorers were supposed to be Balej, Wiseman, Giroux, and Hamilton. However, those 4 were wingers on 4 different teams last season and they couldn't all get the first-line/PP unit time they were used to. Also, the offensive forwards were not a very big group (except for Giroux). Also, in Murray, Ortmeyer, Hollweg, and Weller the Pack had a group of checking forwards to develop. Part of development is to give those players chances to strenghten their offensive game, which won't happen if they play 8 minutes on the 4th line with Gillies on their wing. Overall, the strategy was a mixed bag.

The Pack tries to play an uptempo game that forces turnovers rather than a passive trap. McGill demands defensive responsiblity but I don't think he's an especially stifling coach. The offense isn't very creative, and the defense rarely joins the rush or jumps in, which makes it conservative. However, several players with disappointing seasons (Wiseman, Balej, Murray) have produced for McGill in the past. People also forget that his 1st Hartford team in 2002-3 was an AHL offensive powerhouse featuring Ekman, Ward, Lyashenko, Tripp and Larose.

CONT'D

bmoak 05-02-2005 12:42 AM

On to the players....

Take this for what it's worth as I've only seen 7-8 Pack games this year.

FORWARDS

Moore: Improved from last year but still expected more, especially since he was the de facto #1 center. And that may be part of the problem. I see Moore as the classic tweener: niehter a nd nor a 3rd line NHL center. He plays well both ways and carried the team on his back the first two months or so. However, once teams began keying on him and his line, his production dropped off as he lacks the attributes (creativity, extra gear, and/or strength) to produce at a high level matched up against top-pair D and shutdown centers. He's certainly had a rockey relationship with McGill at times....

Balej: Alternated between hot and ice-cold in a disappointing season. Since Hmailton and Hartford play different styles, I was expecting him to perhaps produce a little less than last season. Even while slumping, he generates shots and opportunities. i think part of the prblem is mental since when I saw him play in the midst of one of his barren stretches he was pressing and looked tight around the net. Part of the problem may be chemistry, as he didn''t seem to click with any of the Pack centers I saw him play with (anyone remember who he played wiith in the playoffs last year?)

Giroux: Rooster's improved every year since turning pro (and I'e watched him play in Binghamton) but has really turned the corner this year. Improved his consistnecy, physical play, and play around the net. Has gone from from fringe guy to likely Ranger next season. Matbe could be a little quicker.

Wiseman: Stepped way back from his career best year of 2003-4. The loss of 20 games due to a concussion didn't help. He hasn't been the same player since coming back.

Daisy 05-02-2005 05:51 AM

Character Check

Quote:

Jozef Balej was scoreless in the playoffs after being the leading scorer last year (16 points in 16 games) partly because he broke a bone in his foot in the next-to-the-last game of the regular season.
I'm certainly not trying to make excuses for Balej, but this must have contributed to his lack of offense in the playoffs. Without having seen the games, it's hard to judge his effort and motivation. The lack of offense is frustrating anyways.

pld459666 05-02-2005 08:04 AM

Doesn't seem like management
 
was all that happy with this years group.

Seems like there's going to be alot of easy decisions during the summer with regards to who's staying and who's going.

50 wins this season and according to management (and stats) they could have done better means that they are a few pkayers away from being a dominant team in the AHL.

7 Shootout wins is masking the win total, but also scoring just 206 goals on the year also enhances the value of those other 43 wins.

If they were to get better offensively while still having the same commitment to defence, 55+ wins would not be out of the question.

The Wolfpack as we know them today will be ALOT different next season. I'd expect close to 10 regulars changing.

Liffiton, Baranka, Montoya, Lundqvist, Dawes, Jessiman, M. Jonasen, D. Olver could be signed and Petr Prucha could make his way over the pond and Dwight Helminen can and should earn a spot.

Not to mention Falardeau and some of the other borderline players with the Checkers

Levitate 05-02-2005 08:20 AM

from the games i saw i always thought balej was working hard...but he wasn't always playing the type of game it seemed like he needed to in order to produce goals...not offensively aggressive enough. which seems to be a change from how he played before, which makes me wonder if he was told to cut back or did so on purpose or because he was frustrated with his lack of scoring and it was getting to him or what.

but whatever, we could argue about it all day long i'm sure

Levitate 05-02-2005 08:26 AM

Quote:

Liffiton, Baranka, Montoya, Lundqvist, Dawes, Jessiman, M. Jonasen, D. Olver could be signed and Petr Prucha could make his way over the pond and Dwight Helminen can and should earn a spot.
Yeah I imagine Liffiton, Baranka, and Taylor will be regulars on D more or less...leaving 3 spots for Nycholat, Lampman, Pck, Grenier, etc...though I imagine one or so of those guys could be with the rangers. The blueline will be pretty young...

Not sure Montoya will be over but we'll see...Lundqvist could start the year but I imagine the rangers will try to resign Labarbera, especially with Valliquette leaving. Need at least one AHL vet in there to steady things. Dawes and Jonasen will definatly be either in Hartford or Charolotte, probably Hartford depending on their play...I can also see Helminen being a regular. Dunno about Jessiman...honestly at this point it might be good for him to go to hartford, but I could see the value of another year in college to get him back on his feet. It might hurt him throwing him into the AHL if he's not ready but he's already lost development time last year...if he can handle it he should go.

I'd bet Olver stays at N. Michigan...he's still elligible and still has stuff to learn and needs to grow. If Prucha comes over he'll probably start in Hartford at least

it's gonna be a zoo next year and I actually dont' expect the pack to win as much...lot of new players having to learn stuff. That is unless McGill sits them all in favor of playing the vets he knows

Daisy 05-02-2005 03:07 PM

Does anyone know the contract status of these guys for next season?

Levitate 05-02-2005 03:10 PM

I'm pretty sure Liffiton and Taylor are under contract next year...they had to sign pro contracts to play in hartford/charlotte and i'm pretty sure it wasn't just one year

Baranka also signed a pro contract last year so he'll be under contract

Dawes signed one too...not sure about Jonasen though

Jessiman and Olver aren't under contract since they're still in college...Lundqvist isn't but the Rangers apparently are very keen on signing him (dunno if it'll happen if there isn't a CBA but I'd hope so). Same with Prucha.

Not sure on the contract status of guys like Lampman, Pck (though I'm pretty sure he signed a multi-year contract back last year), Nycholat, Grenier, etc.

Daisy 05-02-2005 03:18 PM

I know that something like 9 players had to sign AHL contracts to play this season. Guys like Nycholat and Valliquette come to mind. I was just wondering who was coming back for sure and who we might not see in a Wolfpack jersey next year.

Levitate 05-02-2005 03:37 PM

valliquette is apparently already gone, signed with a russian team for next year

Labarbera is a free agent so he might be gone

here's a good list actually

http://www.outsidethegarden.com/salaries.asp

Daisy 05-02-2005 04:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Levitate
valliquette is apparently already gone, signed with a russian team for next year

Labarbera is a free agent so he might be gone

here's a good list actually

http://www.outsidethegarden.com/salaries.asp

Thanks, Lev.

ATLANTARANGER* 05-03-2005 10:56 AM

Next year the NYR's need to start trimming the Hartford roster
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bmoak
Well the season is over for the Hartford Wolf*Pack. 50 wins and 106 points for the best regular season in Pack history followed by a first-round playoff exit (a fate shared by Manchester, Binghamton, and Milwaukee). Pack defense and goaltending finished with the fewest goals allowed for the second consecutive year. Offense was a less than spectacular 18th, although it was an improvement over the previous season. Special teams featured a #2 in the AHL PK (necessary because the Pack was also #2 in times shorthanded) while the PP was ranked 15th. The total offense was hindered by several horrible periods during the season when the Pack couldn't buy goals. One of those was right after the team's hot start and oanother was at the end of the season. (For most of the year, Pack offense was in the #12-15 range and the PP was in the #8-12 range

Team offense was a problem with the Pack. Injuries, inconsistentcy, line combos, a defense-first mentality, and stronger goaltenders and defenseman than usual on opposing teams. It was obvious even during camp that offense would be a concern, which is why Hamilton was brought in late in the pre-season. (Unfortunately he would soon get injured and spend a month on the shelf.

The Pack started with a top 6 made up of Moore, Wiseman, Balej, Hamilton, Giroux and Ulmer and McGill played them together at first. And the team had great success at first, reeling off 6 straight wins. Then the team starting struggling, and players either got injured or went into slumps. This is when McGill started mixing up his lines to spread the scoring talent around and put some size and grit onto each line.

Going into the season, the primary scorers were supposed to be Balej, Wiseman, Giroux, and Hamilton. However, those 4 were wingers on 4 different teams last season and they couldn't all get the first-line/PP unit time they were used to. Also, the offensive forwards were not a very big group (except for Giroux). Also, in Murray, Ortmeyer, Hollweg, and Weller the Pack had a group of checking forwards to develop. Part of development is to give those players chances to strenghten their offensive game, which won't happen if they play 8 minutes on the 4th line with Gillies on their wing. Overall, the strategy was a mixed bag.

The Pack tries to play an uptempo game that forces turnovers rather than a passive trap. McGill demands defensive responsiblity but I don't think he's an especially stifling coach. The offense isn't very creative, and the defense rarely joins the rush or jumps in, which makes it conservative. However, several players with disappointing seasons (Wiseman, Balej, Murray) have produced for McGill in the past. People also forget that his 1st Hartford team in 2002-3 was an AHL offensive powerhouse featuring Ekman, Ward, Lyashenko, Tripp and Larose.

CONT'D

and start populating it with younger guys. Some of the current squad should be on the NYR's squad, others can be retained at Hartford to add a veteran presence. But, roster spots need to open up. The organization needs to start rotating up its prospects, from Charlotte to Hartford to NY.

Balej I think was one of those players who was harmed by the lockout. He had nothing left to prove at the AHL level. He needed to move on. On a positive side, I think he has become a more rounded player and that should help him at the NHL level. Funny that you mentioned two players, Balej and Wiseman who had Moore as their Center, no? His up and down year I am sure helped to contribute to both of those players inconsistent play. Moore to me is a Mactavish type player. To have a higher expectation I think is unrealistic. Wiseman, like Giroux, suffers from inconsistent play. Giroux has seemed to learn the need to play hard shift after shift and carry into the next game. Consistency is a big thing. I think people, fans, mistake what McGill says. He knows that players have to play at their A game all the time. You have to make your A game your normal game.

pld459666 05-03-2005 11:25 AM

Not sure
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ATLANTARANGER
and start populating it with younger guys. Some of the current squad should be on the NYR's squad, others can be retained at Hartford to add a veteran presence. But, roster spots need to open up. The organization needs to start rotating up its prospects, from Charlotte to Hartford to NY.

Balej I think was one of those players who was harmed by the lockout. He had nothing left to prove at the AHL level. He needed to move on. On a positive side, I think he has become a more rounded player and that should help him at the NHL level. Funny that you mentioned two players, Balej and Wiseman who had Moore as their Center, no? His up and down year I am sure helped to contribute to both of those players inconsistent play. Moore to me is a Mactavish type player. To have a higher expectation I think is unrealistic. Wiseman, like Giroux, suffers from inconsistent play. Giroux has seemed to learn the need to play hard shift after shift and carry into the next game. Consistency is a big thing. I think people, fans, mistake what McGill says. He knows that players have to play at their A game all the time. You have to make your A game your normal game.


that I agree that Balej had nothing left to prove on the AHL level after a medicore first year and a decent 2nd year.

Bear in mind that he played on one of the top teams in the AHL while with Hamilton both years there.

I don't think that Balej did anything in the minors to prove that he was NHL ready.

Rather I just think that the reason he was going to get such a legit shot at the Pro Squad was due to our lack of scoring wingers.

Belaj is a player that needed to play as sound defensively as he did this year in ADDITION to posting 25+ goals and 25+ assists.

He didn't do that for whatever reason. Maybe some of it was coaching, or the mandate to be more mindful of playing within a strict defensive system. He still should have emerged as one of our top players which he didn't do.

For me, when the league starts again, he along with Lundmark would find themselves back in Hartford looking to earn a spot with the Rangers.

pld459666 05-03-2005 11:34 AM

Also
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ATLANTARANGER
and start populating it with younger guys. Some of the current squad should be on the NYR's squad, others can be retained at Hartford to add a veteran presence. But, roster spots need to open up. The organization needs to start rotating up its prospects, from Charlotte to Hartford to NY.

This concept would be very very bad for the Rangers Org.

There's more guys on the Hartford team that do not belong anywhere near a pro-roster.

The only defenceman I could see an argument being made for would be Nycholat.

The only forwards that I would give even half a shot to, would be Giroux and Hamilton.

While there was success in Hartford, it was purely systemic as opposed to any player(s) standing out above the rest of the group.

The only players that deserve to be with the Rangers are the ones that have earned it and aside from those mentioned above, I don't see that any have earned it.

Levitate 05-03-2005 11:39 AM

actually i'd say lundmark made a pretty strong case for himself in the second part of his season when it comes to impressing the rangers. he was one of the few guys who showed up for the playoffs as well

Balej...well remember he still did score like 20 goals. he had a horrible slump in the middle of the year, so if he can avoid something like that in the future i think he would have netted 25-30 pretty easily. he was really pressing a lot when it came to putting the puck in the net during that time

I agree he has to get up and prove himself again but I'm not ready to throw him in the trash like some people seem to be

ATLANTARANGER* 05-03-2005 02:12 PM

Hamilton? Nycholat? You are kidding?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by pld459666
This concept would be very very bad for the Rangers Org.

There's more guys on the Hartford team that do not belong anywhere near a pro-roster.

The only defenceman I could see an argument being made for would be Nycholat.

The only forwards that I would give even half a shot to, would be Giroux and Hamilton.

While there was success in Hartford, it was purely systemic as opposed to any player(s) standing out above the rest of the group.

The only players that deserve to be with the Rangers are the ones that have earned it and aside from those mentioned above, I don't see that any have earned it.

Now listen, can I call you, Neil?
2 career minor leaguers? I know that's you Neil!
Only one problem Neil, Hamilton still belongs to the Isles.

Levitate 05-03-2005 02:24 PM

eh i can't agree with those assessments...

i don't really like nycholat. he's very mistake prone and takes dumb penalties. he's not NHL material in my eyes. lampman is a better defenseman and actually has NHL potential, I see him getting a shot with the rangers if he has a good training camp.

Hamilton doesn't have a NHL game i don't believe...he just shoots and shoots and that's it. poor decisions with the puck as well, though a year with the pack made some improvements i believe.

lundmark and balej definatly have NHL chances too...i know it's fashionable to bash them right now but that's the way i see it. i think moore will make the NHL too but not necessarily with the rangers.

pck also has NHL ability.

we can argue back and forth over whether they deserve a shot right now after their performances this year, but that's at least a starting list of guys on the pack who can/will play in the NHL IMO.

Balej20* 05-03-2005 03:24 PM

Hamilton isnt our property...

pld459666 05-03-2005 05:43 PM

tried to reply earlier
 
Atlanta,

I think that we have finally realized that the moves made by Neil Smith were not of his own choosing. And when he finally had the gumption to go with youth (while bridging the gap with the likes of Kamensky Fleury, Quintal and Sylvain) he actually had the right idea.

He had some very good drafts and some not so good ones. But his change of direction after the 97 season was clear. Had Lil Jimmy Dolan stuck with the program we would have been close to out of the woods. Instead he brought in Sather and went with Vet's again until finally, after being hit over the head with the obvious, he agreed to allowing the rebuild.

I personally don't blame Neil Smith for where we are. Jim Dolan is the moron in all of this.


Lev,

I like the fact that Hamilton shoots and shoots and shoots some more. In fact it's a big part of the offence that we don't have. We have to many players on this team that think pass first and out PP suffered a great deal because of it. Maybe with a Shoot first mindset like Hamilton's on the PP the Rangers fortunes in some of those 1 goal losses would have been a bit better? How often do you remember screaming at the TV for SOMEONE, ANYONE to shoot the friggin puck? As for the PIM issue. He has 32 minutes in 60 games. That's about 1 minor penalty every 4 games. He may have taken some bad ones when you saw him play, but 1 penalty every 4 games I don't think is all that bad.

Also, I didn't see anything out of Pock this year to think anything other than his short stint with the Rangers was a fluke. He was unimpressive for the 50 games he played in. But that's just my opinion.

As for Nycholat, while I missed Lampman's progress, I didn't think that there was a defenceman on the team that showed as much noticable improvement from last year to this as Lawrence did.

While I wasn't really all that impressed with Nycholat while with the Rangers, this past season he looked like he was incontrol of his game and the games he played in for the most part. Additinally he played upwards of 30 minutes a night. Played in every situation, 1st pairing on D, 1st line PP and PK units. Was consisently chosen as a shooter in shootouts and pretty much was a leader from the Blueline and was looked at that way from his teammates.

I too witnessed some bonehead plays from him infront of the net, but I'd rather see an agressive mistake that results in a penalty than a lazy mistake that costs an immediate goal.

But like you said, we can banter about this all night.

Levitate 05-03-2005 05:51 PM

meh, i see nycholat as a guy who has some skill and all, but is really quite inconsistant. i don't know how many times i've seen him do something like recover the puck and go behind the net to start the play...sit there waiting for it to set up, then skate out and fire a "pass" all the way down the ice for icing :dunno: it's just like, what the holy crap were you thinking?

Balej20* 05-03-2005 06:12 PM

Guy, I dont know i fyou realize this or not, But Hamilton is NOT ours. He cannot play for the Rangers once the lockout ends.

Levitate 05-03-2005 06:46 PM

I fully realize that and realized it long before this thread ever started (back when he signed actually...)

I'm merely saying i don't think he's really NHL material

pld459666 05-03-2005 08:22 PM

considering all of that
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Levitate
meh, i see nycholat as a guy who has some skill and all, but is really quite inconsistant. i don't know how many times i've seen him do something like recover the puck and go behind the net to start the play...sit there waiting for it to set up, then skate out and fire a "pass" all the way down the ice for icing :dunno: it's just like, what the holy crap were you thinking?

to end the season with 43 points is more than amazing, especially when you look at the next guy in line was 19 points trailing.

maybe it's a matter of default. someone on defence had to benefit.

Balej20* 05-03-2005 10:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Levitate
I fully realize that and realized it long before this thread ever started (back when he signed actually...)

I'm merely saying i don't think he's really NHL material

Fair

bmoak 05-13-2005 11:02 PM

Back to this....

Lundmark: After his Italian vacation, Jamie came back to the fold and did didldly. Benched for indifferent play, followed by a 22 game goal-scoring drought. Then he was switched to checking line duties with Ortmeyer and Hollweg and something clicked. His overall numbers aren't impressive, but almost all of his scoring (12 of 14 goals) was in the second half. What's more strking is that he was out there taking defensive zone draws in the last minute of one-goal games. Lundmark used to be atrocious on faceoffs. It's one of the reasons people suggested switching him to wing. For McGill, not the easiest coach to please, to use him as a go-to defensive center marks a definite improvement both in ability in character.


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