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10-30-2011, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Cook View Post

On Individual Performances

Workhorse. Great play at both ends of the ice. With Staalís concussion issues, an enormous amount of pressure and responsibility have been placed on Girardi and he has responded in impressive fashion. The sheer magnitude of ice time entrusted to him is enormous but his play has been more than I could have hoped for making up for Staalís absence.

I am really happy with what I have seen from him thus far. Due to injuries to Staal and Saur, McD has been put in a position of far greater responsibility than I think anyone anticipated for him this season and has excelled. Defensively, I have seen relatively close to what I had expected coming into the season, but taking into account the volume of ice time entrusted to him and the higher caliber of the players he must defend playing as a top pairing d-man, his play in the defensive zone has certainly been more than I had hoped for. There have certainly been mistakes, but all things considered, fewer than I would expect. In the offensive zone I have seen decisiveness and confidence far in excess of my expectations. I guess a concise summarization of what I have seen is a level of maturity far beyond what I anticipated. Much credit to a defenseman asked to deal with a considerable amount of responsibility for his experience level in the NHL.

I must say, I am impressed with the poised he has exhibited considering his youth and lack of experience at this level. I have a lot of optimism about his future. I feel he could very easily grow into a defenseman that quietly flies under the radar much of the time, but plays very effectively at both ends. However, it must be admitted that this is based on a very small sampling of his play as I have seen little of him outside of this yearís preseason and early season.

Del Zotto:
Pretty much seeing the level of play I expected of him. Unfortunately, I see his cieling declining considerably. Now, that is not to say he doesnít still have the potential to be a good player, but I simply do not see what I consider to be the indicators of high potential that I saw in his first season. I do not believe he will ever grow into the great puck mover that we had hoped for.

Right now, he looks better than I have ever seen him. He has always been one of the best in the league, but the way he is playing at the moment is even better than the usual. Itís a bit early to say (and Iíve always felt one of Lunqvistís few negative qualities has been inconsistency), but if he can keep playing like he has, I think we will see his best season to date (although not necessarily statistically).

He currently seems to be playing with a lot of confidence (I refer more to the physical nature of his play than confidence with the puck), which certainly bodes well. Barring injury, I can see a season comparable to his first with the Rangers.

Great vision and passing without a doubt. However, I do not believe that the necessary chemistry/role/use has been found yet to exploit this to the greatest degree. At times, he has looked lost and uncertain about what he should be doing out on the ice. Hopefully, this will diminish with time.

From the other players, I have seen largely what I expected to see both positively and negatively.

Lines/Line Shuffling

I have always been of the opinion that some line shuffling/tweaking is a necessary and effect part of running a team. However, I find the degree to which Tortorella does this to be excessive. While it certainly has its positive effects, shuffling too frequently makes it difficult for players to develop chemistry and learn to feed off of each other. The fact of the matter is, as much as weíd all like to hope it will happen, mixing and matching players will not make them suddenly stumble upon a magical set of combinations where everyone clicks and the team just falls into place. The other side of the coin is holding to ineffective combinations overlong in the hopes that some great degree of chemistry will form. This is equally fallacious. Itís just not going to happen.
That said, I would like to see the following line combinations given a try:

Dubinsky - Richards - Callahan
I do not see the Richards-Gaborik combination working like Iíd hoped prior to the season. I think itís time to try something a bit different and I believe this combination could be effective. With Dubinsky and Callahan on the wings, they can both perform the board work and grinding. This could open up space for Richards to be creative with vision and passing to one of the other of Dubinsky and Callahan, both of whom are quite capable finishers.

Stepan - Anisimov - Gaborik
Iím not sure how well I can qualify this statement, but for some reason I think this could work well. Iíve seen flashes of chemistry between Stepan and Gaborik and I think this is well suited to the way Gaborik plays. Again, Iím having some difficulty qualifying this. Perhaps I will come back to it.

Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust
I donít think this needs much qualification. Weíve all seen how well it works and I see no reason not to put it to use.

Now, Iím not suggesting that this is the ultimate solution to all the Rangers problems. I think it is a possibility that could make the most of what is available. These lines might work, or they could be a complete disaster. I would, however, like to see them tried for a few games. Itís always possible to chop them up again if they donít produce any significant results. At the moment, I haven't got any significant thoughts to offer on possible adjustments in terms of personnel turnover.

The System

It seems to me that so far this season Tortorella has been implementing a somewhat more conservative system. Iíve noticed a far less aggressive forecheck and Iím not terribly happy with this decreased pressure on the puck. I definitely believe in a high pressure style of play to force mistakes from the other team. However, I am inclined to think that a big part of this could be simply trying to play it a little safer at the start of the season with two of the teams top four defensemen out with injuries. I have some other thoughts here as well, but for the time being I will reserve judgment and wait for a larger sampling of games.

The Avery Demotion

Obviously, this has been a very contentious issue with many fans. Personally, I have mixed feelings on the matter and I am not terribly sure what to think. On one hand, I think Avery would be an asset on the ice right now and the team would be better with him in the lineup. On the other, we simply do not know the entire dynamic of the decision to send him down. There could be any variety of hundreds of reasons behind the decision and, since the Rangers coaching and management folks know better than I what they are about, I will trust their decision for now.

Closing Thoughts

This is all I can really think to say for the time being. It is early and, as the season develops, many things will change. However, for kicks and giggles, I will offer my season prediction for the team at this point in time. I think the Rangers will finish the season 7th/8th in the east and will follow that up with another first round knockout, although with a more spirited series than what we saw against Washington last year.

--Please go ahead and pick everything in this post apart and tell me why I am completely wrong
Great opening post by the way
I personally believe Del Zotto bag of tricks do not translate as well at the NHL level and would be inclined to move him, if the right deal comes along.

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