Coach Ron Low and G.M. Glen Sather who have seemingly lost touch with how to motivate the new era of NHL players have basically refused to look at what is available in the system. Certain questions need to be asked. What is available & can it help? Are there other routes available?
After much “hair pulling” Glen Sather finally made a couple “inspirational” moves: The first was to send Dan Blackburn down to Hartford for a little extra work and motivation while calling up Johan Holmqvist to sit on the bench, face NHL warm up and NHL practice shots proved be a good one. Holmqvist returned to Hartford as even a greater asset and that much better of a player. Holmqvist has registered a solid season in Hartford posting a 19-9-6 record with a very respectable 3.12 GAA. Blackburn responded with back to back starts and solid performances for the Rangers.
The second move was to finally bring the self made enigma Michal Grosek up from Hartford where he was playing his normal physical, penalty filled, offensive game. Grosek wracked up 14 goals and 44 points in 48 games and added 167 penalty minutes. His banging style has been something the Rangers have really needed in the past 2 months. He was united with Eric Lindros and added a nice physical presence, one that can even spell a goal and assist when needed here and there. The problem is that Grosek seems to play when he wants to and in the style he wants, then again … Coach Low seems more out of touch of what any player can offer thus nullifying this argue.
The third move was to send the “painful” to watch Igor Ulanov to Hartford where he has responded with a hint of his formerly nasty self registering 2 points and many nasty hits in his first 6 games at the AHL level for Hartford.
Now what is available? Mike Mottau on defense to replace Ulanov. Mottau again an All-Star in the AHL has steadily improved and become the mention of several teams wish lists. Mottau has piled up 8 goals and 35 assists in 66 games. He can move the puck up and down the ice and play defense.
The next group includes several bit NHL players like Jason Dawe and Brad Smyth. Smyth the leading Wolf Pack scorer has continued to pile up impressive numbers with 27 goals and 68 points and 7 pp goals. Smyth who is a banging 3rd line winger was used a bit over the past years with the Rangers but was assigned to checking duty which is not necessarily his niche. Jason Dawe with 25 goals and 55 points has shown signs of belonging in NY with his AHL sniper lable but he appears more destined for a future permanent AHL career under Sather and Low. Rico Fata has the speed of speed skater and the hands of the charmin toilet paper man Mr.Whipple, has seemingly found his niche in Hartford registering 30 goals. Used properly as a offensive winger this kid just may have what it takes to end the season in New York and have earned his way back to the NHL for good. However his ability fades at the NHL perhaps because of his limited ice time but also perhaps something more psychological.
Jamie Lundmark is in the next group by himself. He has rebounded from a slow start to register 20 goals and 50 points but has to work better on his own end to make it in the NHL. He has responded somewhat and looks to make an impact in 2002-03.
Boyd Kane while not a big AHL scorer may just be what the Rangers need. A banging physical winger who can score and drop the gloves when needed. Perhaps he can spell Steve McKenna?
There are certain players who have fallen off the map, not including our NHL Rangers club, the Wolf Pack has seen its fare share of MIAs. Barrett Heisten with just 9 goals which is about 15 less than expected seems to have lost his game. Petr Smrek played well in the Olympic Qualifier but has struggled offensively. Matt Kinch with just a goal and seven points has found it tough to cover his own end.
We also have the pleasant suprises: rookie Scott Meyer in the nets has posted a solid 3-1-2 record with a goals against under 2, Ken Gernander the veteran AHLer who played so gallantly way back when for the Rangers in the playoffs before injuring his shoulder via his cousin Trent Klatt (Phil.) has led the Pack to a solid showing and 15 goals. Cam Severson with 10 goals and Chris St.Croix with 10 assists and a plus 12 on defense.
In the end it boils down to whom the Rangers management see can fill a small hole without taking ice from a non injured NHLer. One hopes that one of the above AHLers gets his just shot and we are spared from watching the Igor Ulanovs anymore trying to sweep check the puck from the attacking winger.