With the new management coming in and the captain, Mark Messier, coming back to the team, everyone in New York with a pint-sized brain, including me, figured this year would be an exciting season in which the Rangers could do something big, maybe even become legitimate contenders for hockey’s prized trophy, the Stanley Cup.
Well, so far it has not gone as planned.
After a good 2 months to start the season, the losing started to pile up and the Rangers never were able to recover. Mike Richter was lost for the season with a knee injury and Theoren Fleury just recently volunteered to enter the NHL’s Drug Abuse and Behavior program, likely meaning he will not return to the ice this season. This leaves the Rangers in 10th place in the East and a near impossible chance of being able to catch Boston or Carolina for the 8th and final playoff spot. Although there has not been many, a few of the bright spots for the Blue shirts this season has got to be the improved play of rookie defensemen Tomas Kloucek and Dale Purinton.
Both Kloucek and Purinton now have surpassed the 25 games played mark, meaning this year will indeed be their rookie seasons for Rangers defensemen Tomas Kloucek and Dale Purinton. There’s not one game where I can remember seeing Tomas Kloucek (31 games played) or Dale Purinton (26 games played) not giving it their all on the ice every shift, game in and game out. That has not been something we have seen from other players on the team, and that shows that we indeed need to get some more youngsters on this team. Kloucek and Purinton both play a very similar physical, stay-at-home type of game. There are a couple differences between the two however, as Kloucek projects to be a top 4 defenseman with his hard-hitting, nasty, in your face type of game that he showed Pavel Bure last night. On the other hand, Purinton will likely be a 5th/6th defenseman throughout his career. A lot of teams would love to have him though for his toughness that he brings to the ice. He’s not a great skater, and that may hold him back a bit as speed seems to be one of the key’s for success in today’s NHL.
Both players still need some improvement, but that will come with more playing time and experience. Their futures seem bright in the NHL and I wish them the best of luck. I will now be placing both players under the “Graduated” section of the page as they are no longer prospects in my mind, but now are defined as NHLers.