Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The deepest Broadway Blues are black


Post #11 Topic: The Hossa the Rising Sun

In what could very well be a preview of next year’s Rangers team (its important to acknowledge next year at the beginning of this year so as to recognize that the opportunities for a Stanley Cup are not a one time deal… especially for a team that only recently turned the corner on a decade of misery and mistakes) tough guys Sean Avery is out for a month. Sean Avery, a pesky, agitating, slightly scoring inclined forward that the Rangers acquired from the Los Angeles Kings for a marginal prospect WAS the sparkplug that lit the Rangers fuse at the end of last season. One can not deny that Sean is largely responsible for the Rangers late season surge. However this is a contract year. And as in all professional sports, a contract year symbolizes “one last chance to earn a spot on next year’s roster/earn a higher paycheck elsewhere”. A month on the bench will not be conducive to either of those options, and will instead give some young Rangers a chance to take the spotlight.

But not so fast! Three years ago the Rangers traded one of the few bright spots of their miserable farm system, Garth Murray, to the Montreal Canadiens for brother of NHL superstar Marion Hossa, Marcel Hossa. Since that acquisition Tom Renney has been patiently waiting for a track for Marcel to explode on, and other than slight glimpses, Mt. Marcel has been disappointingly dormant.

That was until the end of last year when Coach gave Marcel an opportunity that few NHLers get, and even few are bad enough to screw up… a chance to play on a line with Jaromir Jagr. To be fair, Marcel played great on that line. He scored, he forechecked, he grinded, he pinched, he played defense, he hit and most importantly, he made Jagr happy. Just as things were going well for Marcel he got injured, ending his short but illustrious rise to the top of the Rangers depth charts. When he returned, he was not the same.

That takes us to this year where Marcel was benched for the first two games. With the acquisitions of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez (both of which I remain uncertain about), Marcel’s spot seemed to disappear. The only remaining openings (penciling in Sean Avery) were 3rd line center, and 1st line wing. Unfortunately for Marcel that 1st line wing spot had to be taken by Marty Straka in order to avoid relegating Avery to the 4th line where he could not be as effective as last year. So Marcel was benched for two games, until Avery got hurt. Now it is Marcel’s chance to show all of New York why he should be traded as quickly as possible.

Prediction: Marcel comes back, plays several effective games, chips in a few points, and plays some defense. Jagr is happy, but only because he gets to keep the puck more often than if he were playing with Gomez or Straka, and Hossa slides under the radar, remaining in the line up. CAUTION: this will be a huge mistake.

Looking at the future, Marcel Hossa does not fit into the Rangers plans. Out of the 12 forward spots on next year’s team, 8 are already filled including: Jagr, Drury, Gomez, Straka, Callahan, Prucha (or equivalent replacement from farm system) Blair Betts, Brandon Dubinsky (if he is given the time to show his talents which Marcel’s presence could hinder). This leaves four spots that might already be spoken for. 1st, Artem Anisimov, young Russian phenom WILL BE IN THE RANGERS LINEUP NEXT YEAR. The kid is simply too good not to be. He showed flashes of brilliance in camp this year and is only 19. After a year of dominating the AHL, there will be nowhere else for him to go. The same can be said about this year’s draft day steal, Alexei Cherapanov, a 17 year old who has already broken Russian super league records set by Ilya kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin (which is great company for non-hockey fans).

Down to two spots. Now I assume that Brandan Shanahan will not be back, and have a slight intuition that we will see Marty Straka depart over the course of this year, however neither predictions are guaranteed which is even more evidence of an imminent Hossa Departure… Plus Avery might be back, which I highly doubt. The next name in line is Alex Bourret, acquired from Atlanta on the trade deadline for a bagel and a free movie pass by the name of Pascal Dupuis. Last year, as the youngest skater in the AHL, Bourret started slow. But, once he got comfortable on that Hartford first line he illustrated why the Rangers were so thrilled about his deal. Bourret has 1st line potential, but will likely be stuck on the 3rd line due to the Rangers strong farm system and already impressive professional depth.

The last spot is opened by the departure of Ryan Hollweg or Colton Orr, whomever takes more stupid penalties. Within the Rangers system are several prospects that play a similar agitating style of hockey but, gain an advantage over Hollweg/Orr from their ability to put the puck on the net. These names, who will compete for that last spot are: Jessiman, Byers, Korpikoski. Assuming the Rangers roll 4 lines then this spot is (Lauri) Korpikoski’s. Should they choose to have a seldom used checking line then the job goes to one of the other two. Either way, the potential lines look something like this (projected mid-season lines after we see how talented certain youngsters truly are)

Bourret Anisimov Jagr

Drury Gomez Callahan

Prucha Dubinsky Cherapanov

Byers/Korpikoski/Jessiman Betts Hollwg/Orr

This leaves no room for Marcel Hossa. On top of that, there are several other prospects within the system that have a chance to make large strides this year (Tom Pyatt being a strong candidate), that could create an even greater problem of “who goes where”.

So why trade Marcel today? Simple. By staying on a line with Jagr, Hossa’s true abilities are disguised. If any do surface they will quickly be credited to playing on a line with Jagr, and if they don’t then his trade value will plummet even farther. Ironically, Marcel’s trade value is already low, perhaps in part to unfair comparisons to his brother Marion, but nonetheless, he is a 25 year old forward who has yet to show any of the promise he was originally pegged with.

If the Rangers trade him today, they are likely to send him off at his highest value. In his place the Rangers call up Nigel Dawes, who had a terribly impressive finish to his camp and has been amongst the league leaders in the AHL in scoring for two straight years (and juniors before that). Chances are Dawes doesn’t make the lineup next year, which is the perfect reason to bring him up now. Should he pan out, score 25 goals and play a decent +/-, then the Rangers win and have a tougher competition for Alex Bourret’s otherwise pending spot next year. Or, in worst-case scenario, the Rangers have a valuable chip to package with goalie prospect Al Montoya and one of either Paul Mara or Marek Malik at the deadline for a true #1 defenseman not named Michael Roszival, in which case the Rangers become the absolute favorites for the cup.

Should he flounder the Rangers have at least determined that he is not good for their system, and can dump him at season’s end at no loss. If he stays in the minors all season, he is exposed to the same mediocre talent that has enabled him to post such great numbers on a consistent basis… Nigel Needs to show that his game translates to the NHL, and keeping Marcel around completely ruins that chance.

So in essence, the Avery injury was a blessing in disguise, as it should give the Rangers a chance to find out a little bit more about some of their presumably NHL ready talent. Here is how I see the lines breaking down:

Straka Drury Jagr

Dawes Gomez Shanahan (this line showed a lot of chemistry in the pre-season)

Prucha Dubinsky Callahan

Hollweg Betts Orr

This way, by the time Avery comes back we know whether we really need him. If Dawes pans out and then Avery is highly tradable as an expiring contract to a cup contender looking for some grit. If Dawes doesn’t work, then Avery pops right back in on that 2nd line as if he never left. And if I have my way, Marcel Hossa is playing in Colorado or Calgary where should he emerge as the star he was once predicted to be, there won’t be a radio feed anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard with enough interest to let us know how terrible of a mistake we made.


Other Notes:

No one goes to Subway without ordering ETNC (Extra Tuna No Charge). I swear that all of the people that work in those stores know what it is already, and expect you as a customer to ask for it. Therefore, if you don’t you’re inevitably being ridiculed by the guy who always gives more peppers than he should.

I can’t stand the people that make fun of the people that say “do you hear the lyrics?”. Only mindless music is worthwhile for its beat alone. A really good song becomes good by how catchy its words are, and its goodness should be judged based on how many times/day you catch yourself singing it without reason: Case in point: Brandy, you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you will be SUCH A FINE GIRL.

Florida Marlins Manager admitted that he’s not tough enough and needs to toughen up. Owner of the Marlins 0 – David 2

You take my hand I’ll take your hand, together we may get away.

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