30 Thoughts, Part 1

I've decided to emulate Elliote Friedman's great + 30 Thoughts columns with my own. Then I realized that 30 thoughts in one post are too many, and so I've split them into three separate posts. The following are my first 10 thoughts on the Rangers.

1. If the Rangers had signed Vinny Prospal to a 2-year deal at the end of the 2010-11 season, there wouldn't be any need for Shane Doan'. Prospal is a perennial 50+ point player. 2010-11 notwithstanding, Prospal has played almost a full 82 games each season since the lockout. He'd only have cost $2.5 million per, which is, at most, about half of what Doan is expected to command. Prospal should be a Ranger.

2. Everyone wants Rick Nash the player on their team. Rick Nash the cap hit, not so much. Prorated over a full 82 game season, Nash averaged 72 points in the two seasons prior to 2011-12. In today's market, $7.8 million gets you a 70+ point player, even though one might expect the production upwards of 85+ points (see: Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos). To be fair, Nash the cap hit is certainly more palatable than Zach Parise the cap hit.

3. Marian Gaborik is one of the most skilled players in the league. Top 25 at the least. If he had any ability to stickhandle away from a defender laterally, he'd be top 10. In my opinion, his greatest skills are, in order: wrist and snap shot that are as equally elite as his skating; ability to find open space and get into lanes to receive the puck; and hand-eye coordination and reaction (if there are 3 people and Gaborik around a loose puck in front of the net, the vast majority of the time Gaborik gains control). He is, in my opinion, a more physically talented player than Steven Stamkos. Stamkos' greatest skill, in my opinion, isn't his shot... it's his ability to get into open space and put himself into a position to both receive the puck and get it immediately on net. No matter where the puck is, Stamkos creates a lane to get the puck and shoot it. Someone asked what makes Stamkos better than Gaborik. I think it's that quality. Stamkos does it better than anyone in the league, with Gaborik, Jarome Iginla, and Claude Giroux a far second through fourth.

4. Advanced stats are not the enemy of logic, but the "eye test" can be. No two people experience the world in the same manner. Brandon Dubinsky had a poor offensive year. His overall play was not poor. Calls for him to be traded one year after he was arguably the Rangers' best forward were outrageous.

5. People also screamed about trading Gaborik after he had one off year that followed a 86-points-in-76 game season, when he was always the best Ranger on the ice. Can anyone recall with whom Gaborik played while Prospal was out? The main lines that season were Dubinsky- Artem Anisimov- Ryan Callahan, Ruslan Fedotenko- Brian Boyle- Brandon Prust, and Wojtek Wolski- Derek Stepan- Mats Zuccarello. Gaborik played with whatever random player was available at the time (Erik Christensen, Sean Avery, Stepan), carried the puck far too often (his ability to use his stickhandling to beat a defender is as poor as I've seen) and even though he played his usual great game away from the puck (see above), no one got it to him when he was open. In 2011-12, Gaborik was again the Rangers' best forward. Should he still be traded?

6. If Brad Richards and Gaborik hadn't been split up so early in the season, I imagine that each of those two, Dubinsky, and Anisimov would have had better point totals this past season. I'd think something along the lines of: Richards, 72 pts; Gaborik, 85 pts; Dubinsky, 51 pts; Anisimov, 48 pts.

7. Over/under. Rick Nash plays 75 games and scores 70 points.

8. Ryan Callahan is a middle-6 player. He can slot in any team's top-6 or third line easily. If the Rangers acquire Doan, when Gaborik returns, Callahan should move down to the third line. The notion that a team captain's has to play in the top 6 is absurd. Players should play where their skills can best be put to use to serve the team. Callahan is the Rangers' best defensive forward, and would be far better suited to a checking role than Doan (or Gaborik, obviously). Callahan has no problem getting off his shot, so his offense wouldn't suffer nearly as much as it may otherwise be presumed.

9. Brian Boyle is the Rangers' third line, checking line center. And he's good in that role. Since when did the 4th line become known as the checking line? It has always been a luxury for teams to roll four lines. The fourth line has, so far as I understand it, been an energy line that forechecks and cycles to keep a tired opposing line on the ice, or a line with skilled youngsters that gets easy minutes against other 4th lines. In that regard, the past Stanley Cup winners were anchored by very good checking third lines, with LA (led by Stoll), Boston (Peverly), Chicago (Ladd- Bolland- Versteeg, the best third line in the past 5 years or so), and Pittsburgh (Staal).

10. Meanwhile, the Rangers sacrificed depth to acquire another high-end skill player. I wonder what kind of system Tortorella will employ. In 2010-11, he constantly said that the Rangers weren't skilled enough to play a skill-based possession game. Now that they are skilled enough (Gaborik, Richards, Nash, Kreider), will they?

I'd like to hear your thoughts, if you've any to share.

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