Welcome to part five of our ongoing series of previewing the new 'Metropolitan' Division by interviewing SBN writers and asking some general questions to get caught up on what our divisional foes did this summer, and how their fans are feeling about their chances in 2013-14.
In case you missed the earlier pieces and want to keep up:
- Philadelphia Flyers season preview with Broad Street Hockey
- Columbus Blue Jackets season preview with Jackets Cannon
- New Jersey Devils season preview with In Lou We Trust
- Carolina Hurricanes season preview with Canes Country
#1 - Give a 4-sentence preview of your 2013-14 team.
The 2013-14 New York Rangers are going to be a team defined by offensive depth, developing stars, a promising young blueline, and what superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash can do. The Rangers have a new coach and a new system this year so it will be interesting to see how much of the Tortorella identity they hold onto while embracing Alain Vigneault’s brand of hockey. This Rangers lineup will be faster, will move the puck better, and will (maybe) finally have a powerplay that demands the respect of their opponents. Blueshirts fans are understandably excited about the youth in the lineup and the potential of what this team can accomplish this season led by stars like Stepan, Lundqvist, Nash, McDonagh, Staal, Richards, Callahan, and Girardi.
#2 - What is your team's biggest addition and why?
The new head coach is the team’s biggest addition. A lot of depth was added to the roster but there is no single change bigger than Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella trading places. Rangers fans are hoping that with Vigneault comes offense, puck possession, and offense. Did I say offense twice? Well… we really, really need offense.
#3 - What is your team's biggest loss from last season?
Ryane Clowe, who cost the Rangers a 2nd, 3rd, and 5th round pick, signed a five-year deal with the rival New Jersey Devils. Clowe was often banged up (concussion issues) and didn’t play many games for the Rangers but he cost the team quite a lot and when he was healthy and in the lineup he represented an exceptional, though slow-footed, second liner that added some quality depth scoring. That being said, most Ranger fans are laughing at the contract that Clowe got from the Devils given his lack of versatility, age, and recent injury history. No Marian Gaborik for this season is also quite a big loss but trading him yielded two very promising players (Brassard and John Moore) and one mediocre one (Derek Dorsett).
#4 - Which player on your team do you see being a pleasant surprise?
Benoit Pouliot. A long, lanky frame with sweet hands. Pouliot was the Wild’s 4th overall pick in 2005 because of his toolset and potential. I think it is safe to say that he will never be a true first liner in this league but as a 2nd/3rd line player playing against lesser competition Pouliot can provide some solid depth scoring especially if he is paired with creative puck movers like Zuccarello or Brassard. Most Rangers fans, including myself, are hoping for him to eclipse twenty goals but I’d be happy if he buried anything in the neighborhood of fifteen.
#5 - What's your biggest worry regarding your team as this season begins?
Derek Stepan getting signed and hoping that the ongoing negotiations for Henrik Lundqvist’s next contract aren’t a distraction are the biggest worries for the Rangers. The Stepan signing is exceptionally worrisome given that so many other potential hold-outs have come to terms so that they could join their teams at training camp. There is a great deal of center depth on the Rangers but it will be a tough task to replace what Derek Stepan brings to the team. In our minds, he is really and truly developing into a star first line center.
#6 - If you had to predict a finishing position (1st through 8th) in the division for your team today for 2013-14, which place would it be?
Somewhere in the top four. Let’s go with second in the division, behind the Penguins. There might be some growing pains with the new coach and new system so they could fall a few places behind that and it wouldn’t be shocking but this team should make the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Going to go with Crosby because I expect Ovechkin to continue his resurgence and do more with less. It is crazy to think but Ovechkin is probably more important to his team than Crosby is. Ovechkin will almost certainly have better linemates but his supporting staff is nothing compared to Crosby’s.
#8 - Give me one player in the division (who's not on your team) that you think is poised for a big-time year.
Scott Hartnell. Hartnell had a seriously disappointing 2012-13 campaign where he missed twelve games due to injuries and often played banged up. The season before last Hartnell had a career year, burying 37 goals and tallying 30 assists. I’m not sure he’ll return to that kind of form but he has looked hungry, aggressive, and motivated in preseason and so long as he has some talented linemates Hartnell should bounce back.
#9 - As a division rival there's naturally a lot of tension and animosity when the competitive portion of the season begins... So before that, I challenge you to pay a compliment to the Penguins, Sidney Crosby, city of Pittsburgh, its residents, anything you'd like.
As fashionable and easy as it is to mock Crosby and call him a whiner or a diver there is no denying that he is, without a doubt, the most talented and entertaining player in the league. Crosby is the kind of player that turns Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz (no offense meant) into guys who could eclipse 30 goals. His vision with the puck and hockey intelligence is off the charts. I may find him to have an irritating personality, a smug disposition, and a proclivity for drama but there isn’t much I wouldn’t give to have him play for the Rangers.
The Steelers are also kinda badass… not this season so far (sorry about that) but I’ve never been able to dislike the Steelers or the brand of football that they play. Also, I am sure that the residents of Pittsburgh are charming people with winning smiles, luscious hair, and firm, manly handshakes. Except the womenfolk… I am sure they have very ladylike handshakes… that leave your hands stained in coal and soot.
#10 - If you had to guess, what is a potential division name that was left on the drawing board before the geniuses in the NHL picked 'Metropolitan' as the best idea?
Newyorksylvania and Friends! The Eastern Seaboard Division. The Patrick Division.
Thanks to Mike for answering our questions and be sure again to checkout Blueshirt Banter!