Rangers Player Grades: Part II
With the Defensemen and Goaltenders already graded, it is time for the 28th ranked New York Ranger Offense to face the music. Again, I am grading the players that were on the playoff roster (with the exception of Anisimov), as Part III of this series will come on Tuesday when I grade players that played a limited role with the Rangers for parts of the season. The players are in alphabetical order, so enjoy and please to comment.
- #15 - Blair Betts (Age: 29) - Grade: B
I can hear you guys now; "A B for Betts? Are you insane...?" Possibly, but let me explain. Betts has always been destined to be a checking line center, and that is what he was for the Rangers this season and it is what he has been his whole NHL career. The fact of the matter is that Betts did his job this season, and he did it well. He won nearly 50% of his face-offs (which doesn't sound impressive, but it is), and was a rock on the Penalty Kill. Oh, and don't forget about him blocking shots, either. He is a UFA this summer, and I hope the Rangers bring him back because you need role players like Betts to win hockey games.
- #23 - Chris Drury (Age: 32) - Grade: B-
Drury's point total dropped for the fourth season in a row to 56, along with his goal total to 22. Still, he was third on the team in scoring, and won over 55% of his face-offs for the season. I'm sure Drury is disappointed in his point totals dropping as well, but I think it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Drury has gotten even better at face-offs than he has been in the past, and he does a lot of little things right that win hockey games. Drury could easily be one of the players to heavily benefit from a new and aggressive system, as he reads the game well and capitalizes on other teams' mistakes.
- #17 - Brandon Dubinsky (Age: 23) - Grade: B
One of the best forwards for his age and role on the Rangers all season, hands down. He tallied 13 goals and 28 assists for a 1 point improvement over last season to 41 points. He upped his shots on goal by over 30, and went from 0 Game-Winners last season to 7 this season. Next season could be huge for Dubinsky, who if he matures a little more in his body could be doing what he did in playoffs all season. He needs to watch the amount of time he spends in the box though, as he takes unnecessary penalties sometimes.
- #19 - Scott Gomez (Age: 29) - Grade: B-
The funny thing with Gomez is that all of us Ranger fans know he's got great speed and hands to dish the puck around, but we get mad when he's not scoring goals or creating chances. Gomez is a playmaker, there is no doubt about that, but this year without Jagr on his line his stats are kind of a microcosm of the Rangers season if you ask me. Gomez had the same amount of goals (16) as last season, but dropped 12 assists to 42 total points. Without guys who can bury the puck, Gomez can't be himself. Another telling stat is that he took the most shots of his career this past season, almost 30 more than any other season in the NHL. Once again, Gomez is in the group of talented Ranger forwards that could easily benefit from a more aggressive offensive plan; which we all hope to see.
- #80 - Nik Antropov (Age: 29) - Grade: C+
Antropov had his best season in the NHL, tallying 28 goals and 31 helpers for 59 points, a 3 point improvement from last season. Seven goals and 13 of those points came with the Rangers, to which he provided a little bit of a scoring spark to. Antropov only gets a C+ in my book because I watched him on Toronto plenty of times (Getting CBC in Central NY), and he seemed more aggressive there. I don't blame this all on him seeing the system he was playing in here in NY, but at the same time I thought we might see a couple of end to end rushes when I heard the Rangers had traded for him. Either way, Antropov is a UFA and it will be interesting to see if the Rangers bring him back. I personally would let him walk, as it clears nearly $2 million in cap and he isn't my style of player because he doesn't use his natural size that he is blessed with. But we all know Sather is in love with giant forwards, so we will see.
- #24 - Ryan Callahan (Age: 24) - Grade: B+
In his second full season with the Rangers Callahan made a huge impact. Arguably the best forward on the club all season, he netted 22 goals and added 18 helpers for 40 points, and ended up with a +7 rating. He had over 230 shots, and still did great in his own end blocking shots as well. There isn't much else I can say about Callahan, who really just stood out in a group of forwards that struggled all season. He is an RFA going into the summer, and I really hope Sather has enough cash to keep Cally, otherwise you will see a Ranger uprising in response.
- #29 - Colton Orr (Age: 27) - Grade: C+
I personally thought Colton Orr improved a lot this season from last. His skating is better, and he even improved his fighting record (according to the voters at Hockeyfights.com) from 10 to 12 wins out of 18 fights (same as last season). He had 1 goal and 4 assists for 5 points, his career high. The fact of the matter is Orr does his job and if he improves his skating again he isn't such a liability on the ice. If he can do that and take less unnecessary penalties when the fourth line is out there, Orr could be a key part to a winning Ranger team in 2009-2010 if he decides to re-sign.
- #13 - Nikolai Zherdev (Age 24) - Grade: B
Nokalai Zherdev will be a hot topic for weeks to come. He tied for the team lead in points with 58, scoring 23 goals and adding 35 assists. He was one of the few Ranger forwards to have a plus rating, coming in at +6. He had over a 10% shot percentage, and overall brought what was promised to Broadway. Zherdev will be a hot topic because of his lack of scoring in this year's playoffs along with the fact that many think he dogs shifts during points of the season. While both are true if you ask me, imagine what Zherdev could do on an offensive team if he led in points on the 28th ranked offense in the NHL. I could see him pushing 80 points, easily, if the Rangers go into the top 20 or 15 in scoring next season.
- #16 - Sean Avery (Age: 29) - Grade: B-
Avery will play his first full season with the Rangers starting next fall since 2007-2008 when he netted 33 points in 57 games. In his 18 games with the Rangers in 2009, he had 12 points; 5 of which were goals and 2 of those on the Power-Play. Everyone knows the Rangers record is ridiculously better with Sean in the lineup, so next season will be interesting. He and coach John Tortorella have spoken out and said they are comfortable with each other and look forward to next season, which is great as long as it holds true. I thought Avery did his job this season; and although he hurt the Rangers a couple of times with stupid penalties he is still an asset who the Rangers need to set the pace night in and night out.
- #29 - Lauri Korpikoski (Age: 22) - Grade: C+
Korpikoski had the typical adjustment season any above-average NHL prospect has in his first season. The key will be can he bounce back and really show his skills next season. He will need to add some size along with a craving to go the net, which he rarely showed if you ask me. He had 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points in 68 games this past season, which I somewhat expected. He also added 2 assists in the playoffs, which is a good sign. He should be back next season (RFA), and as long as he adds some size for 2009, we could see Korpikoski have a Dubinsky-esque season with 40 points or so.
- #91 - Markus Naslund (Age: 35) - Grade: C+
Fifteen seasons, almost 900 points, 395 of which were goals. He netted 46 points in his one season with the Rangers, 24 of which were goals and adding another 22 assists to his impressive resume. Many were hoping for a Broadway revival of the old Markus who could put up 70 points easily, but it just didn't happen. He did what he could in such a defensive system, but because he didn't really click with Gomez there wasn't really anyone that could get him the puck on a consistent basis. Sure, we lose an automatic 15 goals and 30 points next season with his retirement, but he clears some cap space for Sather to make up for some of his mistakes. Naslund has a great shot and I will miss some of the great ones that went in so beautifully next season.
- #20 - Fredrik Sjostrom (Age: 25) - Grade: B
Playing in a fourth line role, Sjostrom struggled with scoring with only 13 points, but he managed 7 of those to be goals, most of which were ugly and hard working. I like Sjostrom, he has great speed and size, and has great defensive instincts. If he could work on his hands over the next season or so, he could reach the 20 point plateau in a third line role. He did great work in the playoffs blocking shots, and as an RFA could be back for another season of the same.
- #34 - Aaron Voros (Age: 27) - Grade: D+
Giving Aaron Voros $1.2 million last season was another head-scratcher from Glen Sather, but he came out of the gate flying in 2008. Unfortunately, this would not last as Voros would play very little in the second half, and almost not at all under new coach John Tortorella. Voros has spent a lot of his career in the minors, and one of his biggest problem is playing consistently well in the NHL. Scoring so much early did not help expectations of him, because he couldn't keep a point per game pace for long, and he dropped off the depth chart for the Rangers. He will be back next season, and if he could find his game more next season, he could reach over 20 points and have a place on a Ranger offense that could use his size and physical play in a third or fourth line role.
So there is Part II of the Ranger grades. One thing I want everyone to keep in mind is that I grade each player by their role on the team, not necessarily who is "better." Of course I think Dubinsky (B) is better than Betts (also a B). But the fact of the matter is that both play different roles on the team, and both did their jobs well I thought this season. Part III will be coming tomorrow, as we examine those who chipped in a little over the 2008-2009 Ranger season, including those that were traded away at the deadline. Have at it in the comments.