The expansion draft, free agency, and the entry draft are all fast approaching and for a team looking to rebuild and re-evaluate under new management the Rangers time is now.
First and foremost should be the hiring of a coach. Glen Sather is expected to announce the hiring of Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL Champions) coach John Paddock to take over the duties of NY bench boss. Paddock is a well respected team coach who uses a philosophy which balances respect, toughness, and motivation to win over his players. Other candidates include the banished Ted Nolan and Rangers assistant John Tortorella. Tortorella may assume the duties of Paddock in Hartford. However, Sather believes he is a capable drafter of talent without a coach, none the less the time is now.
With the upcoming draft the Rangers have several options available even without a first rounder, which went to Tampa for the rights to Pavel Brendl. Disgruntled Stephane Quintal may be included in a package for a 1st rounder, or in fact for anything at all. Another option would be to sit on the 2nd pick and look for a 2nd round gem. This player may turn out to be one of the few players the Rangers have been analyzing such as Brett Nowak who is a projected 2nd Rounder after a non existent World Juniors Tourney, but he would help fill the void up front. Thatcher Bell is another player who should be available but at 175 pounds may not be big enough for the Rangers needs. Of course disgruntled Randy Copley, 1998 draftee of New York, re-enters and may be a return product.
The State of Connecticut and the New York Rangers have a Champion in the
Hartford Wolf Pack, the top minor league affiliate of the New York Rangers.
Not only did the Rangers of New York win… but the state of Connecticut and
the city of Hartford, the former home of their beloved “Whale”, have won. After a
season of up and down crowds, usually nearing 6,000, the Pack held the season
records for attendance per game in the finals drawing 11,000 and 12,000 in
their last two home games and much to the ire of Hurricanes Owner Peter
Karmanos, who fled Hartford for the southern climates of North Carolina
three seasons ago, and the NHL for allowing such a move. These crowds would
have made both the NHL and Peter a very happy party.
After 25 years of professional hockey, minus the last few years when the
Whalers played under its last ownership… Hartford has a champion, and
it was brought in by Ex Rangers-Whalers player and current Pack GM Don
Hartford skated to a 4-1 win over Rochester in the Calder Final on away ice
giving the brass and new GM in New York hope of future riches with this win.
Sadly enough as the face on minor league hockey continues to mimic it`s NHL
parent many of these players will be gone via expansion, retirement, release
or what have you… but for at least a summer… everyone has something to
With the horrific season known as 1999-2000 over the Rangers ship had to be righted, not in order to sail in New York for OpSail 2000 but to save the club from prolonging the embarrassment that they had now become.
Glen Sather the builder of champions in Edmonton has landed in Manhattan and it could not have come at a better time. Sather the designer of the Oilers` dynasty in the 80`s that featured his drafting and nurturing of Wayne, Mark, Kevin, Charlie, Jarri, Paul, Glen and Grant among others (no last names needed)… has an even more daunting task. That being to rebuild the Ranger ship in as short as time as possible with the ever opinionated media on his back, the ownership that wishes to run the club “hands on” and the pressure from Gary Bettman and the NHL to build a new winner in New York…and not New Jersey or the Island. The Rangers have become the flagship team on the American Side of the National Hockey League.
For the Rangers kids, Sather`s entrenchment could not have come at a better time. Neil Smith restocked a few shelves with prospects… Mike York, Kim Johnsson, Radek Dvorak and Jan Hlavac at the NHL level… Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark at the development level and a couple Euro Prospects in Johan Holmqvist and again Rudolf Vercik, in addition with the Baby Rangers in Hartford (AHL) with Tomas Kloucek and Johan Witehall and then there is Manny Malhotra… perhaps Sather is his savior.
Regardless of what “experts” say, Jamie Lundmark had a very good year for a very poor team. Maintaining a 90 plus point pace on a team that lost far more game than it won proved to be a challenging task for the 19-year-old Edmonton native who now appears ready for a new challenge in the NHL.
The Rangers fully expect 1999 first round blue chipper Jamie Lundmark to make a run for a shot in the 1999-00 NHL season. His work ethic isn’t a problem, nor is his world class skill level but still he isn’t a sure bet to make the team and one must wonder why. The answer to the riddle is simply a lack of space for the young speedster. Where can the Rangers find room with Petr Nedved anchored on the first line, soon to be hot shot sophomore Mike York on line two and most likely Tim Taylor and Manny Malhotra on the remaining two lines? All this and still the possibility of a Mark Messier return looming. One possible solution being thrown around is possibly turning Manny Malhotra into a left winger. Malhotra has proven a little lost at center at the pro level and turning the 6’2 210 center into a winger might solve two problems. Still Malhotra does appear a lot more comfortable at a pivot position.
Take one look at Pat Leahy’s stats and it is easy to go gaga thinking about him becoming a solid power foward. Take a look at his numbers and the picture comes into focus better. At 6’3 and 215 pounds, the right handed shooting Leahy certainly has the ability to make the show. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact just a year ago Leahy was seen as your typical mid round player with virtually no chance of making the show.
A fifth round pick back in the ’98 draft, Leahy was seen as a kid worth taking a flyer on. The Miami of Ohio player was regarded as a kid with good skills and descent skating ability, and if given time capable of evolving into a real player. Tall and lanky he didn’t have an overpowering physical game and he surely wasn’t a game breaking scorer but the Rangers had faith he could develop his skills over time in the Miami of Ohio program.
The first year did not exactly net the offensive results that the Rangers had hoped for, but still there was a level of improvement. He just wasn’t looking like a minor league player, let alone a potential pro player. Finally something clicked his Junior year. More responsibility, more ice time. Leahy got more comfortable with his body and used it more effectively. The result was 37 points in 34 games as Leahy started to look like a solid player.