Recently, I did an interview with Rangers beat writer Rick Carpiniello for my site, the Rangers Tribune. Rick writes for the Journal News and runs his own blog, Rangers Report. I am sure you all are familiar with his work. Anyway, I asked him many questions about the 2009-10 Rangers season. Below, I shared some of those questions and responses with you, and to read the interview in its entirety, you can head over to my site for that.
Before that, though, I would just like to thank Rick for doing this. All of the readers of the site, as well as myself, greatly appreciate it. Now, onto the Q and A.
Q: Have the Rangers met, not met, or exceeded your expectations that you had for them heading into the season so far?
A: In the beginning of the season, and throughout, I said that they would be in the same position as last year -- in a large group of mediocre teams fighting for the last two or three playoff berths in the weak Eastern Conference. So I guess they have met my expectations.
Q: Did you agree with GM Glen Sather’s move to trade away forwards Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik? And in your mind, were they players that needed to be moved?
A: Yes. From all I'd heard about Higgins, I thought he would be a solid 20-goal scorer; and I originally liked the Kotalik deal (though it was for too much money). The Rangers rarely get those second-tier free agents that seem to thrive with other teams. But both were busts, especially Higgins, who couldn't hit the side of a barn with a handful of rice. Getting Jokinen and Prust for those guys was a steal, even if Jokinen is not re-signed this summer. As one of my readers said, it would have been a good trade even if it was Higgins and Kotalik for no Higgins and no Kotalik.
Q: With 70 plus games now in the rear view mirror, you have had the opportunity to watch star winger Marian Gaborik work his magic for about five months now. In your opinion, is he in a league with talents such as Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Ilya Kovalchuk?
A: I think Gaborik is at the next level down from those guys. He's surely talented, and an absolute sniper. But sometimes he seems distracted, though I don't want to use the word lazy. Those other guys, Crosby and Ovechkin especially, are absolute superstars who do other things besides score, and are factors in every game they play. Gaborik is almost that. Still, he might be the best free agent the Rangers have signed since Adam Graves.
Q: Vinny Prospal has been a pleasant surprise for the Rangers this season. Do you think that Glen Sather should consider re-signing him and will Vinny’s age play a major role in that decision?
A: I don't think Prospal's age will be as big a factor as how much money he wants. He played at a discount this year because he was bought out by Tampa Bay, and therefore getting big bucks from the Lightning. If he wants to come back for another discount, he should be back. But how often do free agents in any sport actually sign for less money? Don't count on it.
Q: At the moment, Captain Chris Drury has 30 points on the season, but has contributed to this team in many other ways. Do you feel that Chris has felt the pressure of wearing the "C"? If so, has he responded to it in a negative or a positive way?
A: I don't think it's the C as much as it is the $. Drury's contract brings unrealistic expectations. But he also failed to reach even acceptable offensive numbers for most of the season. He's a very good player who does a lot of things away from the puck, but at that price the Rangers can't have him having numbers like he's had. And I don't think he's a bad captain at all. I believe his teammates truly respect and look up to him as a captain and a leader.
Q: In your opinion, what do you think Glen Sather’s approach will be this offseason? Will he be more focused on staying the course, or will he blow up the roster once again like we have seen in prior years?
A: I can't even guess what's going on behind Sather's doors. But if it were me, I'd stay the course, go for some lower level free agents or trades over the summer, and accept another season or two of lowered expectations until some of those huge contracts expire or can be traded or otherwise dumped. Until they get those off the books, I can't see the Rangers filling the top-level holes they have. Even if they got a Kovalchuk, for example, they would have to fill their second, third and fourth lines with low-paid guys again, and barely have enough cap space to have 20 NHL-caliber players. That has been the case at several points this season.
Q: Based on what you have seen from this team this season, do you think they have what it takes to make the playoffs? And if so, can they go further than the first round?
A: I think they can make it. I do not see them going beyond the first round unless Lundqvist is spectacular (and the opponent's goalie is not).
Q: I know this next question has been the cause for much debate among Ranger fans, so I would like to hear your take on it. How would you rate coach John Tortorella’s performance this season and do you still believe he is the right man for the job?
A: I think he's the right man for the job, but that the job is impossible for any coach right now. I don't think he's had a great first full season. Some players have regressed, obviously. I wonder how much influence he had, for example, on the Brashear signing. He's been a bit of a bully, and he has disrespected people in the press, and people from the team's own network, and though he thinks he doesn't need allies in the media, that will come back to bite him eventually. As I said earlier, I think the system he tried to shove into place didn't fit the talent he had. He failed to get sufficient rest for his goalie, who now has to play every night. On the other hand, he was at least partly responsible for the acquisitions of Prospal and Gilroy. He's handled the three rookies well, especially Anisimov. Basically, though, it's unrealistic to judge his performance given the roster he has. He should get the first half of next year at the very least, playoffs or not.
Read the full interview at Rangers Tribune.