When it comes to this offseason, the New York Rangers have undergone a face lift. Names like Scott Gomez, Paul Mara, Markus Naslund, Derek Morris, Nikolai Zherdev, Lauri Korpikoski, and Colton Orr are out while names like Marian Gaborik, Christopher Higgins, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin, and Donald Brashear. Oh and do not forget the head coaching change when John Tortorella replaced Tom Renney. Also joining Tortorella will be his assistant coach from Tampa Bay, Mike Sullivan.
New faces, new coaches, new system, new philosophy. Not since Mike Keenan was helping New York raise its first Stanley Cup in 54 years have the New York Rangers had such a fiery and animated coach like Tortorella. "Torts" will be implementing a high octane offense that plays a fast, aggressive style of hockey, one that matches the style of play needed to win in the National Hockey League today.
When Torts tried to implement his system late last year, it was obvious the Rangers were not in the right physical condition to sustain the style of play as the team would fall apart in the third period. But with a full training camp coming up, the Rangers will need to be in top physical condition if they want to make the team this season. John Tortorella and the Ranger training staff has outlined a rigorous training regimen for the players to follow this offseason until training camp. It is there that the players will be put through a boot camp to get them prepared for what will be the toughest camp of their hockey lives.
Of course, when the camp is all said and done, Tortorella and the coaching staff will have a team that is in top physical condition and will be able to endure the long season and be ready for a long playoff run.
But to say the Rangers are done with this offseason would be a mistake. While Tortorella has mentioned that young players will get a chance to make the team, the head coach and Sather need to realize you cannot have too many young players, especially on the blue line. As of right now, the top four defensive positions are taken up by Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal, leaving the bottom two open. Rumors of signing feisty Francis Bouillon have been abound this past week. Signing him would be a good move considering he will be relatively cheap, is a veteran, and brings a physical element to the blue line despite his small stature.
With the departure of Scott Gomez, the hunt for a top center is on. Brandon Dubinsky still needs to be re-signed but it is unknown if he can make the step to be a top center in the NHL. Behind him are Chris Drury, Artem Anisimov, and Brian Boyle. Personally, it does not really matter who the top center on this team is. A guy like Marian Gaborik is good enough that he can create and make plays for himself. Dubinsky was able to mesh with Jaromir Jagr, who played a very slow style compared to Dubinsky playing a much more direct play like Gaborik will. Gaborik and Dubinsky will mesh very well while having a winger like Christopher Higgins, Ryan Callahan, or even Sean Avery who will get in the corners and grind it out, getting the puck to one of Dubinsky or Gaborik to make a play.
For now though fans must wait and see what happens over the next few weeks. August is a tough month to get through because of the lack of hockey news. However, that does not mean hockey fans should be out of the loop. With many good free agents still left out there and the Rangers needing to fill a couple of holes, this offseason is far from over.