There are currently a few roster spots on the Rangers roster that are up for grabs. The Rangers basically have eight players who are fighting for a bottom six spot. While Prust, Boyle, Fedetenko, and Rupp will surely make the team,the are guys like Avery, Zuccarello, and Christensen who's jobs are up for grabs. On Defense the Rangers will need to decide who there fifth and sixth d-men are. Then, we have the, who will play LW on the top line situation. Dubisnky? Wolski? Stepan? Then the Rangers have other players with major question marks. Gaborik, can he perform like he did in 09-10 season? Which one of the talented second year players will have the classic sophmore slump? These players all have something to prove. Here's is my list of the five Rangers who have the most to prove.
#5- Wojtek Wolski- The 21 overall pick in the 04' draft needs to prove that he can consistently play at high level. We have all seen flashes of brilliance from the talented foward. Sometimes he was scoring key shootout goals or setting up plays to Prospal to help lead a comeback. Other times he was gliding around the ice being invisible. To me, it's not a lack of effort, he just mentally is not there. To me this is Wolski's biggest season of his career. He is making $3.8mil this year and he needs to score at least 50 points if he wants another contract close to that amount. He seems motivated becuase he is working out with Underhill and another trainer as well. If he ends up playing with Richards and Gaborik he should put in a 25-35-60 year. That should help playing with two world class players but ultimately it is up to him.
#4- Michael Del Zotto- The smooth puck moving defenseman has a lot to lose this season. A few things Del Zotto knows he has to lose. 1. A roster spot. The Rangers already have their top 4 d-men in place but who will as #'s 5 and 6 still remains a question. Del Zotto could lose to Erixon and Eminger. Maybe Valentenko? 2. Money, MDZ will be making about $60,000 in Hartford where as about $1 mil. with NYR. 3. Even more Confidence will be lost. Going from a 37 points in his rookie season quarterbacking the PP to 11 points, being sent down, then getting injured,to next season not making the team. That would shatter the kid's confidence. This kid is only 21 and to me he will be an annual 50 point d-man.
#3- Sean Avery- Avery did not perform well last season potting just 3 goals and 24 points. Avery has not been an effective player under Torts and Tortorella should not be blamed for this either, it's all on Avery. Avery needs to prove in training camp that he can play smart and be effective.Sure he has wheels and a works well behind the net but he is aging and losing his effectiveness as an agitator,Torts will not tolerate him much longer. He will definately come out with fire in his eyes this training camp and look for a fight or two from him during pre-season.
#2- Brad Richards- The big offseason signing of the summer has a lot to prove this year. Numbers wise Richards should put up 20-25 goals and 45-50 assists. Richards will provide leadership and a solid work ethic and he seems like a no nonsense type guy as well.He also adds Stanley Cup experience. With the addition of Richards many believe the Rangers are contenders this year and I think so too. What Richards will have to deal with is the added pressure of NY and also playing in a tough division. He played in TB his first years and the Southeast division was not considered a power house. Same with when he was with Dallas. He needs to forget about the fact that people will say, "Oh the Rangers signed him to a huge deal he can't live up to that contract. Look what happened Drury, Gomez, Redden etc." He just needs to go out and play his game and he'll be great.
#1- Marian Gaborik- Just imagine if Gaborik had the kind of year he had his first season this past season. The Rangers had great secondary scoring this year, they just didn't have any primary scorers. The Rangers scored 224 goals this last season. They scored 219 before. If you add Gabby's total from the previous season this last one the Rangers would have scored 244 goals this year. That total would have been fifth in the league this year. Tied with Cup Champions this year. Gaborik needs to pretend that he's playing against the Islanders and Maple Leafs every game this year. Playing with an elite center like Richards should get him back to the 40 goal mark. If Gaborik plays like he did in the 09-10 season we should be contenders. Another thing he needs to prove is he can play on the post-season. He has to prove he won't play like the typical soft european in the tough games.(See Semin, Sedin twins, and Nick Backstrom) Gaborik is capable of being one of the games best snipers and I see him returning to that status.