2009 NHL Preview: New York Rangers

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the New York Rangers…

Team Play: ISSUE – It’s all about the “G”, baby. Last season, the Rangers’ biggest challenge was finding the back of the net. With just four 20+ goal scorers, led by Markus Naslund with 24 (Nik Antropov (28) doesn’t count, as he scored 21 of his goals in a Maple Leafs’ sweater), New York was one of only two playoff teams with a negative goal differential in the regular season (Columbus being the other). In fact, the Blueshirts’ 210 goals in 08-09 tied them with the Lightning for 25th in the NHL.

Two of the Rangers’ four “snipers” – Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund – won’t be back. In an effort to not just fill those holes in the lineup, but also to increase scoring, GM Glen Sather rolled the dice over the summer. On 1 July, he signed oft-injured sharpshooter Marian Gaborik. Should Gaby’s groin/hip/whatever hold up (he has yet to play in a preseason game due to a ‘tender groin’), he should be just what the doctor ordered: Gaborik has averaged better than a point per game in each of the last four seasons. On the downside, he’s only played more than 65 games once in those four seasons.

The day before signing Gaborik, Sather pulled the trigger on a significant trade, sending underachieving pivot Scott Gomez to Montreal for winger Christopher Higgins, a proven 20+ man. On 9 July, Slats signed another 20+ club member, Ales Kotalik. Less than a week later, the Rangers dealt centerman Lauri Korpikoski to Phoenix for speedy winger Enver Lisin, who has been one of the Blueshirts’ best skaters in September, and should join the 20+ club in 09-10. More recently, New York added veteran forward Vinny Prospal, boosting the number of proven or potential 20+ goal scorers on the roster to eight – nine if you count holdout center Brandon Dubinsky. Thus, the New York Rangers enter the 09-10 season with significantly increased firepower for new Coach John Tortorella’s up-tempo “Safe is Death” system. The economy may still be in the toilet, but things are looking up on Broadway.

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

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2009 NHL Preview: New York Islanders

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the New York Islanders…

SUMMER SPLASH

* While not on the ice, the Islanders made big news in the game of staying on the Island. Owner Charles Wang and the Lighthouse Project have made significant strides in the push to replace aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a new, mixed use sporting complex. For the Town of Hempstead, it means much needed development and an infusion of cash. For the Isles Faithful, it means there is still no island in the middle of Kansas City. And let’s keep it that way. The Project next address zoning issues in another important meeting with the Town on September 22nd and fans are asked to continue to lend their support and voices. Get more info at www.lighthouseli.com

* The Islanders also did something related to improving their chances of making the playoffs this season – won the draft lottery and used the pick to snag the OGA-named, Long Island Ice-T, John Tavares. The much sought after Tavares was proud to be drafted by the Islanders (remember when some wondered if he would pull a Lindros?) and he is even more proud to help carry some of the Weight, er, weight of lifting up the franchise. Expectations are high, the pressure is on but one man does not a team make. And he wasn’t the only first round draft pick the Islanders had.

* Defenseman Calvin de Haan was selected just 11 picks after Tavares when Garth Snow and Co. worked some magic to move up in the draft (moving twice from pick 26th to land at 12) for their second pick. While the Long Island Ice-T has garnished tons of press and blatherings during the off-season, de Haan has quietly worked on what he needs to do to make the team this coming season. And things are looking pretty good for him in camp so far. He scored his first goal against Edmonton in the Islander’s second pre-season game (de Haan’s first) and is impressing many in camp with his demeanor as well as play-making abilities. Will he make the cut at the end of camp? Stranger things have happened (see 15-year contracts…)

* Management shocked the NHL when they brought in two more starting-caliber goalies to back up their number one starting goalie who may not be able to start this season. Rick DiPietro played five games last season before succumbing again to injury. Is he ready to start this October? Nobody knows…but Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron were also signed during the off-season so Ricky D does not have to push his recovery schedule. But secretly, Rangers fans are hoping they decide to play each goalie in each game. Each goalie would play one period. It would be like those child-actors who get cast in a TV sitcom but, because they are one of a set of twins/triplets, etc., their siblings get to work, too, alternating episodes. And then we, the viewers, are left wondering, ‘now, which goalie was that? they look so much alike…!’

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

2009 NHL Preview: New Jersey Devils

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the New Jersey Devils…

Team Play: ISSUE – Too much defense? It’s ba-ack. Or is it? Is the stifling 2-1 defensive game of Coach-Lemaire-in-New-Jersey-and-Minnesota fame coming to a Prudential Center near you? According to players interviewed after the first day of camp, changes made were ‘small tweaks’ and they have no instructions to sit back and trap. Might it come out if the team is ahead in a crucial game or if key players are injured during the season? That remains to be seen. But for now, this is not looking like your Daddy’s Coach Lemaire.

The early CBS Sports page for the Devils indicates a No. 1 line of Parise–Zajac–Langenbrunner from left to right, and Elias–Zubrus–Rolston at No. 2. One issue here is the health of Patrick Elias. It has been widely reported that ‘minor’ groin surgery (is that possible?) conducted Tuesday, 15 September will keep him off the ice until sometime between 6 and 27 October. That’s two-to-nine games to come back and three-to-10 for the sea legs to settle in. When you are the team’s most prolific scorer, that might dampen prospects. However, indications are the other forwards will tote the note and get scoring done by committee, especially when early training camp indications are positive for some of the youngsters (like Patrice Cormier and Rod Pelley).

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

2009 NHL Preview: Nashville Predators

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the Nashville Predators…

Team Play: ISSUE – Of Biscuits and Baskets. Last season, just three Predators scored more than 17 goals (Jason Arnott – 33, Shea Weber – 23, and David Legwand – 20). Nashville’s 213 goals were good for 24th in the league in scoring. Having (a healthy) Steve Sullivan on board will give the Preds a fourth 20+ goal man, but they desperately need another to jump start Legwand and Martin Erat on the 2nd line. The interwebs are rife with stories and speculation: On one hand, Nashville is pursuing Boston’s disgruntled RFA, Phil Kessel (h/t to On the Forecheck) . On the other hand, Ranger castoff Nikolai Zherdev might be The One; time will tell, but the preseason is underway and time is running out. UPDATED: Looks like Zherdev will play in the KHL this season. The Predators play in what is arguably the toughest division in the NHL. Since 1 July, the Red Wings are the only Central Division rival which can be said to have lost a step, and they were a couple of steps above the rest to begin with. Nashville must add another scoring winger in order to keep up with the Joneses. If not, the Predators and their fans already know the answer to the question, “Is it possible to finish last in the Central Division and still make the playoffs?”

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

2009 NHL Preview: Montreal Canadiens

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the Montreal Canadiens…

SUMMER SPLASH

* Big moves over the summer in Montreal as Bob Gainey went against some of the conventional wisdom and provided the club with the shakeup it needed…and may have found the future is now in Montreal.

* Some big names are gone from the roster, too as the Canadiens enter camp. Favorite Captain Koivu (of the Sako variety) was not re-signed and Alex Kovalev was also welcome to explore other pastures. Two big names in Montreal that are now playing elsewhere left some fans wondering about the overall strategy. They then saw defenseman Mike Komisarek go to Toronto and Chris Higgins traded to the Rangers. Bruiser Tom Kostopoulos left for the Hurricanes.

* To remake the team, defense was bolstered as a priority by adding size and puck-moving, proven players in: Hal Gill (PIT), Jaroslav Spacek (BUF) and Paul Mara (NYR)

* Offense was given a kick in the pants with speedy additions of: Scott Gomez (NYR), Mike Cammalleri (CGY) and Brian Gionta (NJD) and the gritty Travis Moen (SJS)

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

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