Rangers Roster Set…. For Now!
With the trimming of the roster yesterday, the 2000 Edition NY Rangers appear to be set as expected. With the exception of Swede Johan Witehall, enforcer Dale Purinton, Jason Doig, Mike Mottau, and new short term back up goalie Jason Labarbera, the Rangers team was set the day Mark Messier and Vladirmir Malakhov signed.
Lines:What the final lines will be is as good a guess as any chemist could levy. The center slot is filled with Mark Messier, Petr Nedved, Mike York and Tim Taylor. Messier will probably be side anchored by Theo Fleury and Adam Graves, Nedved with countrymen Jan Hlavac and Radek Dvorak, followed by the third line of Mike York, John MacLean and probably Valeri Kamensky. The fourth line will likely consist of oft-injured Tim Taylor – Sandy McCarthy/Johan Witehall and Eric Lacroix.
Analysis:If the Messier line can produce 20-30 goals each, which they are capable of, they will be an effective line. The questions are the heart of Fleury, the back of Graves and the age of Messier. Simply asked, difficult to answer. Time will tell. The Czechmates are a fast moving, puck control, prototypical European unit that has one issue to concern themselves with… their backs. Can Dale Purinton effectively scare off other teams hitmen? Will a fourth line wing in McCarthy be enough to keep these Czechmates safe? Questions all to be answered. Look for close to 30 goals from Nedved and Hlavac and Dvorak somewhat less as he has had some trouble in finding his “niche”.
Mike York has one question about him. Will he suffer from a sophomore slump? As the number 3 center, York will see enough ice time to make noise as well as power play time. Kamensky needs to focus and stay off the injury shelf, and John MacLean needs some proper powerplay time. York with 25 goals, Kamensky with 18 and MacLean 15-20 would be a nice fit. The final unit has questions, not about work ethic but about injury. Tim Taylor is a most effective defensive centerman when healthy, but is oft injured. Sandy McCarthy has shed some weight in his effort to ward off injury and add a scoring touch. Witehall and LaCroix will alternate games, with LaCroix playing against the more physical clubs. Witehall may earn ice on other lines as well.The Defense is always a question. On paper 1999`s edition had a top level defense but that came crashing down. Brian Leetch, who has looked for a consistent partner since Jeff Beukeboom`s retirement, will likely have a side gun in super steady Sylvain Lefebrve. Rich Pilon/Mike Mottau/Jason Doig look to decide who will partner with newcomer Vladimir Malakhov. Stephane Quintal was recently waived and is expected to be claimed by Chicago. Dale Purinton will likely see spot duty and wait out until either Doig or Mottau are re-assigned or Pilon falls to the injury bug. It is uncertain who Kim Johnsson, a fast puck moving offensive defender, will be paired with after Quintal’s departure. Mottau has shined in camp and has finally come to terms on a contract with the team. Doig played well and could spell Pilon. Malakhov is a lock. We have a somewhat new defense but the first two units will see most of the ice, and the third pair will get less time. Purinton may fit into a 4th line winger against the Flyers and biggers clubs, but only Glen Sather and Ron Low know for sure.Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark proved they were not yet ready for the big time. Derek Armstrong and Jeff Ulmer did a better job, as did defensemen David Wilkie and Drew Bannister. The value of the Brendl and Lundmark is not lost but will need some extra time in the shop.Goaltending… an area not difficult to cover. Richter will return to the starter upon the healing of his injury. Veteran Kirk McLean will start as the number one until that time. McLean, however, will see more icetime this season than under John Muckler. Rookie Jason Labarbera will start the season as backup, but is not likely play at all and will be re-assigned. One interesting note is that due to the ineptness of Johan Holmqvist and J-F Labbe to establish themselves as the backup, Labarbera was recalled from WolfPack camp to battle for the spot where he did indeed assert himself as the no 2. Worse case is he learns to sit the bench in MSG. Best Case is he learns to sit the bench in MSG and gain some NHL experience in the dressing room!
Playoffs, perhaps a 5th or 6th seed barring injuries… with injuries… 1999 re-lived?