This past week the New York Rangers held voluntary informal workouts where many of the players came to the MSG Training Center to begin working out together. These informal workouts were not run by the Ranger coaching staff or the organization but by the players themselves.
The big names were all there as Chris Drury, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, Wade Redden, Marc Staal, and many more showed up for an entire week to get ready for what will be the toughest training camp they have ever gone through.
The new names like Gaborik, Chris Higgins, Donald Brashear, Ales Kotalik, and Enver Lisin all participated in the practices beginning a long process of conditioning for the club. However, they do serve another purpose that is just as, if not more important, than the physical conditioning.
Any team that has won the Stanley Cup has been a very tight knit group both on and off the ice. Last season the Rangers attributed much of their success early in the season from being able to become a close group while on their trip to Europe during the Premier Series. With many new players joining the Broadway Blueshirts and a relatively new coaching staff, any extra bonding time that the team can have is a plus.
One of the toughest jobs the team will face is figuring out the leadership group that will be at the forefront of the team this season. Chris Drury will retain the captain's C but with both alternates from last season, Scott Gomez and Markus Naslund, gone head coach John Tortorella will have to look for new leaders to emerge.
There are many candidates for the two positions so the running will be fierce for the titles. My guess is that at least one of the alternates will be someone who just joined this offseason. Marian Gaborik was a captain for a short time in Minnesota where they rotate the captaincy every month but he is the only newcomer with any captain experience in the NHL.
Although there is another route that the head coach could go and it would be consistent with what he said this offseason. Torts mentioned he is not afraid of putting youth into the lineup and in important positions on the team. Don't be surprised if you see a young player like Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky (if and when he signs), or Ryan Callahan don one of the letters on the shoulder. There is a young core developing with the team that is slowly becoming the foundation for the future. Like the Rangers of the early 1990s had Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, and Mike Richter the Rangers of now have Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal, and Henrik Lundqvist for the future.
Of course I am not saying that this group is nearly or will be as good or have an impact as great as they did. But it seems that some parallels can be seen between the two different eras. Could a Stanley Cup be on the way? That takes alot of luck and a couple of bounces your way. But you never know.