With Head Coach John Tortorella conducting his first camp with the team, and a slew of new players, the Rangers head into training camp with many questions to be answered. As we count down the final days to the unofficial start of the 2009-10 season, let's take a look at some of the issues facing the Blueshirts heading into camp:
The Power Play
Obviously the Rangers biggest weakness last season, without improvement with the man advantage the overall results won't be much better than last season. The coaching staff will try many different combinations in camp, including putting a forward (Ales Kotalik has been mentioned) at the point. With the additions of Kotalik, Chris Higgins, Vinny Prospal, and of course Marian Gaborik, there will be no excuse for an unimproved power play.
The Penalty Kill
Two of last season's best penalty killers, Blair Betts and Freddie Sjostrom, are gone, leaving the Rangers league leading penalty kill unit in search of some new recruits. Betts logged more penalty kill minutes than anyone else on the roster (over 241 minutes); it is going to be a challenge to figure out who can play those minutes successfully. With Dubinsky, Callahan, and Drury still on the roster, that will help alleviate some of the burden, but there is still going to be a lot of time to be made up, someone will have to step into the position.
Tortorella made no secret of the fact he was repeatedly disappointed in the conditioning of his team late in games. The Rangers gave up 81 3rd period goals, not the worst in the league, but it was far more than they gave up in either of the first two. Expect the Rangers to be worked hard for the next three weeks as Torts whips them into game shape. The Rangers are going to have to play 60 hard minutes every night to succeed in his up-tempo style of play, and you can be sure he will do everything possible to make sure they are up to the task. We'll have more on what a Tortorella training camp is like later in the week.
Marian, Chris, Chris, Marian. Ales, Vinny, Vinny, Ales. Donald, Enver, Enver, Donald. There are enough new faces on the Rangers to fill a short bus, and it will take time for everyone to get familiar. Figuring out who the square pegs and round holes are won't happen in a day. Don't be surprised if the Rangers start slowly for this reason. I'm a little surprised the Rangers didn't schedule some kind of "team-building" exercise, like the West Point trips they've taken in the past, just so the new faces can get to know each other.
Anisimov, Grachev, Del Zotto, Sanguinetti. We've all been waiting to see these kids get a chance to show what they can do, and Coach Tortorella says he is going to give it to them. Only Anisimov can be considered anything close to a lock to make the Opening Day roster, the rest, especially Grachev, are really going to have to open eyes at camp to show they are ready for the NHL level.
With all the questions surrounding the team, this promises to be one of the most exciting and interesting camps the Rangers have had in years.