Little disclaimer before I start this one. I am not saying the season is over. It is far from it.
However it is time to start looking how to fix this team in an attempt to save the season. The New York Rangers are 4-6 in their last ten games and are tied for 9th in the Eastern Conference with the New York Islanders and just one point out of the top 8. That is why the season is not done yet.
But the long slide down the standings is continuing and something needs to be done to reverse it. This is where general manager Glen Sather needs to start to figure who has been naughty and who has been nice for this team.
First things first. John Tortorella is not being fired and Chris Drury is not going anywhere. Drury cannot be moved because of the no movement clause he has and frankly no one wants his cap hit of just over $7 million. We saw the frustration he was feeling last night after Detroit scored the empty net goal when he slammed his stick on the bench and snapped it like a twig.
I am not removing Tortorella because his system has worked. It worked during the seven game winning streak at the beginning of the season and it has worked at times during the last few games. The man won a Stanley Cup using the same system. With a very new team it takes time to implement it.
Now to the nitty gritty. Here is who I will not deal no matter what:
Michael Del Zotto
All of these players have earned the right to stay on this team. A GM would be very hard pressed to force me to let one of these guys go. Lets just say anything short of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, or Patrick Roy is not going to work on this. And frankly, what other organization wants Sean Avery?
Here are people I would only give up in the right deal:
These two guys are ones I would rather not deal. Prospal has been very good for the Rangers and is one of the best free agent signings in the entire NHL from this past offseason. But his production and small salary will make him attractive to other teams looking for cheap offensive help. While Christopher Higgins has not put up the points that everyone has been looking for he has played very well the last two weeks or so. He is creating chances for others and getting plenty himself. Some people may see his inability to finish right now a s a reason to trade him but as a two way forward Higgins is looking very valuable.
I am not going to write down every other player on the team in this category because they don't all deserve to be here. This is the group of players who I really could care less if they were traded:
I know that I am going to be crucified to even THINK about letting Ryan Callahan go. He seems to be everyone's boy this season including John Tortorella's. I hate to be the bearer of bad news people but all Callahan is is a third liner. We all love effort and work ethic but when it comes down to it Callahan is relatively replaceable. Honestly, he does not belong on the powerplay. If he has such a high value then let him go and get us something useful in return. Have to give to get people.
Enver Lisin was my boy at the beginning of the season and I have been trying to defend the kid all season. He has been much better on the defensive side of things than at previous times in his career. Yet until he is out of Le Chateau Bow Wow, he will not be doing much. His offensive upside could attract teams.
Kotalik was brought in for the powerplay and he has done very well on that front. Yet his even strength play leaves much to be desired. I like the guy and would rather see him stay in New York but if a deal materializes around him then go for it Slats.
Voros? A for effort buddy but thats about it.
Dan Girardi has been up and down all season. He has his games where he looks like a solid shutdown defenseman and others where he looks just as bad as Michal Rozsival.
Speaking of Rozsival. Everyone who knows me knows how much I dislike him. I am convinced that he is a reason that Marek Malik was so bad. He is too slow in his decision making and often makes the wrong decision. His salary will be tough to move but even if Slats has to bite the bullet and just waive him, he should do it. $5 million in cap space would go a long way in improving the overall team. If there is one guy who definitely needs to go, it is him.
Wade Redden. I am sorry to most Ranger fans on this one but I am officially on the Wade Redden band wagon. Did he have an awful season last year? Yes. It was terrible and I found myself rooting against him. However I decided to give him another chance this season and he has done well. One thing people have to realize, and same goes with Drury, is that their contracts are a product of the free agent market that they were involved in. Drury will never be as good as the $7 million and Redden probably will not be worth his $6.5 million. Yet Redden has improved his play in the defensive zone and the Rangers have not done so well without him. Yes all this losing started before Redden went down to injury but look at how the defense has done without him.
What does the team need? As Ned Braden asks in Slapshot, "Is the answer Jesus?". Not quite but he would be a good start.
Pardon the expression but anyone with a pair of grapefruits will do fine in replacig Rozsival. The Rangers need a defenseman who is not afraid to mix it up and use the physical game. Too many times the last few games players have been allowed to skate all the way up the ice untouched and get a goal. See Mike Rupp and Jason Pominville for examples of this. Lundqvist has been run into too many times this season. New York needs someone with cajones.
The other thing the Rangers need is secondary scoring. The talent is there with people like Higgins, Drury, Callahan, and Avery but it is not happening. The possible return of Brandon Dubinsky in the near future may help spark some offense but Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal cannot do everything. Whether this scoring help comes from someone on the team already or someone is brought in to do it, it needs to appear fast.
Henrik Lundqvist needs to stop giving up soft goals. I love the man but he needs to be sharper. He played very well against Buffalo and made some good saves against Detroit. The team needs to put more goals up so he isn't forced to be nearly perfect every night but Henrik needs to be Henrik. Simple as that.
Like I said before it is not time to close the season down. The warning signs are there though and something needs to be planned if this team wants to be successful.