NHL Preview: Can The Local Teams Compete?
By the Masked Man
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So, is there any hope?
Can any of the three locals compete for a title like the Jets or Yankees or is this going to be a winter of bad ice chips in the metropolitan area?
Let’s start with the Rangers. Overall outlook is that they might have a fresh goalie come post season as Henrik Lundquist should get some nights off with the capable Martin Biron backing him up.
They did pick up two offensive-minded free-agent forwards in Alexander Frolov and Ruslan Fedotenko, who have both shown scoring touches at times during their careers. They still have Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury but both start nicked up and Drury, let’s face it, has yet to really produce what a player of his salary line needs to.
There is cause for optimism on the back line as Wade Redden has finally departed and Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi continue to develop. Matt Gilroy should be much better though parts of me still think that he could be more effective up front as a forward where he did play a lot during his junior and college career.
Overall this is a group that can be hard pressed to score, is susceptible in its own end, and still hasn’t learned its lesson from last season when it comes to wasting a roster spot on a thug like Derek Boogaard (last season it was Donald Brashear). The Rangers bottom six fds are shaky. Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky should be huge bright spots but that isn’t enough.
With a little luck the Rangers could crack the top ten in the conference but the top eight from last season and the Tampa Bay Lightning also improved, especially Tampa with its new management team led by the successful Steve Yzerman.
Is it fair to say the Rangers improved? That might be a stretch.
The Islanders are in a bad spot with key players Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit both out for a long time with shoulder injuries. The Isles have a great core of kids and Josh Bailey and Rob Schrempf (also a little banged up) are key character guys that can play.
In goal the question is could Rick DiPietro play a full season and be healthy. We’d take a full month at this point. John Tavares should continue to improve but getting the Isles near the promised land of the post season is a tall order.
The Isles are well coached and have tremendous work ethic. They should have an attitude of throwing caution to the wind because they will have to lay it out there every night to stay in the race. Hopefully there are meaningful games to play in February but odds are by the start of the World Juniors in Buffalo it could be a lost cause.
The Devils are in salary cap hell but have a pretty good team. Marty Brodeur has a capable backup so he can go down to 55 games and the Devils can still be an elite team.
Ilya Kovalchuk is a game-breaker and part of an offense that includes legit offensive stars in Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner and the returning Jason Arnott. That gives New Jersey two lines that will be tough and you would be led to believe that a scoring sensation in coach John MacLean will want to play up tempo and play in the offensive zone a whole lot more than many of his predecessors.
Two good defensemen replace Paul Martin in blue line in Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder.
The Devils have to solve some cap issues but the team looks good and with Doc Emrick calling their games they make for an entertaining watch.