Rangers Kids Not Their Own

By Evan Andriopoulos
With the hopes of a new season to lighten the eyes of the Manny Malhotras, Pavel Brendls and Derek Armstrongs of the world, Glen Sather orchestrated some deals to make the Rangers younger, bigger, and hungrier. However, this was done done via the additions of Dale Purinton and Johan Witehall, but the move of Stephane Quintal (much to the delight of Rangers fans) “in theory via waivers” for Brad Brown and Michal Grosek.

While the move makes the Rangers a better team, it sends tremors down the spine of the Rangers infrastructure. Players such as Purinton and Witehall are deserving as any to be in the NHL, but again have not been afforded the chance to make the show.

In the case of Lundmark and Brendl, neither showed up to play everyday and if not for Brendl’s big game to close the preseason, the entire camp would have been a wash. Mike Mottau, who so many decided was “on the team,” was dispatched to Hartford much like the rider after the initial engagement at Lexington and Concord. Mottau responded by having a rough opening act in the AHL.

Erstwhile, Johan Witehall survived waivers and was sent to Hartford where he responded with impressive totals (4G-3A-7P) in just three games. Johan Holmqvist has also been playing well, yielding just one goal in his first action of the season. J-F Labbe returned the favor with a 6-1 win and 26 saves vs Rochester. The Big Rangers lose if the baby Rangers gain. Several players including Witehall, Armstrong, Purinton, Mottau, and Malhotra were in camp until the last minute, all so close to a shot in the NHL with Messier and company.

One positive sign is that Glen Sather did promise to have more kids in for a look during the season than John Muckler did. But does this offer any solace to those who should be mainstays already? No. While the Big Rangers are a better team, the likelihood that some of these players in Hartford have been discouraged enough to want out is greater yet.

Veterans like John Maclean and young vet Eric Lacroix will be battling for minutes and bench time, but would it not be better for these precious minutes to be occupied by say Purinton or Witehall? The argument is “minutes of ice in the AHL” vs “almost no minutes in the NHL” would be valid if not for the fact that each and every year the same old story comes to the head of the argument. But then again, the Rangers are 1-0.

NOTES: Jeff Brown where have you gone. The former heir apparent to Brian Leetch has now been assigned to a new team… the New Haven Knights of the UHL. Has that level increased so much that a former first rounder and junior star with size could play there? Or has his stock fallen faster than those Scud Missiles shot by Saddam Hussein? For all those wondering, goaltender Bryce Wandler also joined the Knights in New Haven. Rick Bennett are you around somewhere?