Friday, August 24, 2007

The Real World

So the non-blogger world of 'working for a living' and feeding my family beckons and The Dark Ranger will be away over the next couple of weeks for work. Because it is August and most of the important free agents have landed, there won't be news of great consequence to my 'dear heart' Blueshirts.

I will continue to read, via blackberry, all of your blogs and posts - so keep hockey alive until my return! I'll check-in at the beginning of training camp.

Until then, stay Dark and let's go Rangers!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Peca Doesn't Join Our Mecca (8:45 PM)

Pucks on Broadway: Peca Not A Ranger

Agent Don Meehan confirmed moments ago that the Rangers did not make Peca a contract offer.

Meehan said that he expected to complete negotiation on a one-year deal for the 33-year-old center within a couple of hours. Columbus appears to be the city where the former Islanders captain will be playing his home games this season.

"Slats doesn't want him, but 'good luck to you and break a leg!'

Predicting the Eastern Conference Finals

It is that moment during the opera, the crescendo builds and the diva (or fat lady from Jersey, in hockey terms) hits the vibrato high note, falls to her death poisoned out of love -- all of which is proceeded by the pivotal moment when that audience member screams 'brava!' (or bravo!) first! This is what the audience waited for - whoever is FIRST is king.

Such is the case in hockey, whoever makes predictions FIRST on the upcoming season is the only prediction people care about. Relevant and accurate doesn't matter, it is all in the timing. After that, it is just another list.

So without further adieu, may I present to you
The Hockey News first official-hockey prediction of the new season in order of predicted rankings in the Eastern Conference:

Predicted Eastern Conference Finals

1. Ottawa Senators
2. NY Rangers
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Carolina Hurricanes
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Atlanta Thrashers
9. Philadelphia Flyers
10. Washington Capitals
11. Toronto Leafs
12. Florida Panthers
13. Montreal Canadiens
14. NY Islanders
15. Boston Bruins

Naturally, The Dark Ranger would be extremely pleased with these rankings and it would ring true to what most people are already thinking about the Atlantic division -- that both the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins are equal threats. It will be close in the rankings, and will make for enjoyable and nerve racking meetings between these two teams. Oh, those poor Islanders -- not only are they considered one of the weakest teams on the planet this season, check out their new jerseys 'to boot'. Go here for a bad fashion statement.

In regards to the remaining free agents, just let Mike Peca go to Columbus -- though he is providing us fellow hockey bloggers something to write about in August, it is resembling 'annoying' if this indecision drags on any further.

You know it's time when you start looking forward to the pre-season.


Show Me The Money

Don Meehan, agent for Mike Peca, has put an expiration date on the New York Rangers signing him by the end of business today.

Given Peca's been in negotiations with the New York Rangers for at least a couple of weeks now, and has practically been taken off the market by them if you believe most reports on how close Peca and the Rangers are to finishing up a deal. But the truth is, it's been dragging on for quite a while, and Peca is still a UFA, whether or not they are 'close' to a deal.

What this really means is that Mike Peca is taking back the power. There aren't many free agents left on the market with his experience and well-balanced center line, and he's not going to let a tiny little team like the New York Rangers boss him around. ;)

So this could all come down to a matter of Peca's personal preferences, or if he is willing to go to a team with a more chaotic year in store than a team pretty much favored to compete for the Lord Stanley Cup this season.

Unrelated to Mike Peca, the Rangers signed goaltender Matt Zaba to a contract on Monday. The 24-year-old appeared in 33 games with Colorado College last season, posting a 15-13-4 record, 2.39 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Zaba spent four years at the school and appeared in 110 games. He finished with a record of 55-42-10. The native of Yorkton, Sask., was originally drafted in the eighth round of the 2003 NHL draft by Los Angeles.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Now THAT Will Help Your Ailing Career!

COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Aaron Portzline reports UFA centre Mike Peca said he'd be willing to sign with the Blue Jackets despite multiple reports having him close to signing with the New York Rangers. Peca cited head coach Ken Hitchcock and GM Scott Howson as reasons why he'd consider it.

Now I do think Ken Hitchcock is one of the most underrated coaches in the NHL and he led Philadelphia to many playoff runs, after a scapegoat-ed firing from the Philly Flyers and now the coach of the under-developed Columbus Blue Jackets (I am being nice) - Mike Peca is now considering taking on a position with Columbus. This is probably due to Glen Sather not making a decision until next week.

I am not familiar with Columbus and their cap position today, but assuming they can pay him the $2 million he was originally seeking, it is likely they will sign him for only one-year. If offered, you can guess he will receive the same length of contract with the NY Rangers, though rumors suggest that he would take a salary of closer to $1 million plus performance bonuses, financial incentives based on the number of games he plays, etc. to play for New York.

Here is the operative question at hand. As an aging defensive forward and having missed half of last season with the Toronto Leafs, is a player in his position better taking a position with a highly visible All-Star Original Six team, one favored to be a Stanley Cup contender? Or will he stand out as the veteran forward on a team that is underdeveloped and never made it close to playoff consideration last season?

Maybe his agent is applying pressure by using the press as a weapon (the Sean Avery negotiation technique) or perhaps there is real truth to this rumor. Not that it would severely hurt the NY Rangers, but it would leave the Rangers in a position of having to further seek that defensive powerhouse they've needed from the beginning. Currently available, there are no defensive powerhouses that the Rangers can afford at this point -- so it leaves Blueshirt management having to seek changes in trading.

My belief is Mike Peca would be best off as a NY Ranger -- it would better his player-career situation and provide us with the much needed veteran, hard-hitting presence the third-line needs. It would round out that last puzzle piece we've been expecting. At this point in his career where scouts and owners are unsure of his quality and level of play, taking a position with Columbus at this point would damage his chances of ever making an impression again to other franchises. This type of negotiating behavior, this far into talks just pisses off managers like Glen Sather; his no nonsense, 'take your time' tactic is obvious and a move such as this very well may make Mike Peca the newest member of the Blue Jackets.

More this week.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Anders Hedberg Returns!

New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather announced this week that Anders Hedberg has been added to the club’s scouting staff as the Head Professional European Scout. Hedberg will be responsible for assessing free agent talent playing in Europe, which means Glen Sather doesn't have to work that hard. After Sather's self-proclaimed seven scouting trips to Russia to find the Rangers first round draft pick Cherepanov, I am certain he is very tired.

I like Anders and it shows that loyalty in a club is rewarded down the road of life (perhaps they will finally announce a Brian Leetch Tribute game this coming's about time?).

When The Dark Ranger was just a mere teenager in his early hockey years, Anders Hedberg played a big role in the Islanders-Rangers rivalry during the 1970s and 1980s, scoring the game-winner in Game 5 of the 1979 Stanley Cup semifinals vs. the Isles. He spent seven NHL season with the Rangers. The two time NHL All-Star remains the highest-scoring European-trained player in Rangers history with 397 career points and currently ranks ninth on the Rangers’ all-time playoff scoring list with 46 points in 58 career postseason games.

Hedberg, 56, joins the team after working with the Ottawa Senators organization for the past five seasons. Hedberg served as Ottawa’s Director of Player Personnel from 2002 to 2006 and spent the 2006-07 season as the team’s North American and European Hockey Coordinator.

In other news, no word on Mike Peca as a Ranger and it appears from many sources that it is now in the hands of the NY Ranger management. They have until next week to make a decision, and Peca and his agents are confident he will be wearing the Blueshirt next month.

A quiet week and happy "no" hockey weekend everyone,


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Dark Days for The Dark Ranger

Waiting on the final call from BLUEmanagement regarding Peca, I wanted to share with all my readers a funny clip from my good buddy, Seth Green, as part of his Robot Chicken show.

It is VERY Dark Ranger-like. More hockey later.


Monday, August 13, 2007

PETA Alert! Extermination of Penguins Imminent.

The Dark Ranger & The Blueshirts declare war on our "Enemy Number One" - the Pittsburgh Penguins. An informal poll conducted by this site over the last two weeks, voters showed us who was The NY Rangers #1 threatening opponent in the Atlantic Division this upcoming season. Although the NJ Devils were a close second, Pittsburgh spiked dramatically with only four hours left on the poll last evening:

The Rangers Enemy #1
39% Pittsburgh Penguins
35% NJ Devils
14% NY Islanders
10% Philadelphia Flyers

Let's look at the current team. The Penguins recently signed Sidney Crosby for a long term, added quality veterans on defense and forward and might have got one of the steals of the draft. All in all, it has been a pretty good summer for the Penguins on the heels of a monumental season. Aside from extending Crosby and talented young defenseman Ryan Whitney, the Penguins reeled in veterans Darryl Sydor to bolster the blue line and Peter Sykora to add scoring depth. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh retained several of its key young players (a 20-year-old Evgeni Malkin, 18-year-old Jordan Staal and 22-year-old goalie Marc-Andre Fleury) which helped to transform the culture of the franchise. Additionally, they brought back veteran Mark Recchi and in-demand trade deadline rental Gary Roberts, who is 41 but provides the kind of intangible leadership critical to a young team.

As a Rangers fan, the Penguins were one of the most excruciating teams to watch in the NHL last season because of the combination of their youthful exuberance and incredible skill. I would vote the Penguins as the NHL's "Top Kids Club" franchise. The trend of playing kids has been gaining in popularity the last two years. A big part of that has to do with the salary cap, but it also has to do with the fact that a part of the NHL’s youngest generation, the teenagers and those in their early 20’s, can hold their own in the big leagues.

Even with the Rangers considered one of the top five prospect teams in the entire league and our including top young prospects into the starting lineup (Daniel Girardi & Ryan Callahan) and training camp this fall (Marc Staal & Bobby Sanguinetti), the current Penguins are living proof of the effectiveness of long term prospect development and the loyalties of those programs.

I do agree with the poll that the Penguins are one of the most-balanced teams in the division, or the NHL for that matter, but they still lack both the level of veteran depth and rookies that the Rangers will be carrying into the 2007-2008 season.

Not to contradict the results of the poll, I lean more toward this ranking:
#1. Pittsburgh - biggest threat in the division. No questions about it.
#2. Philadelphia - I am going on the line with this one, but this 'new' team scares me.
#3. NJ Devils - Lucky Lou looks small this year, w/o Gomez and Rafalski - no real improvements.
#4. NY Islanders - hate to say it, it's a cake walk this year. Sorry Teddy.

Although, I might feel differently three months from now.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Atlantic Division Enemy #1 is....

Only (4) hours left on the poll (to the right of this post) and as of 7:56pm EST, both the Pittsburgh Penguins and NJ Devils are tie.
Vote for the New York Rangers biggest threat this coming season.


(still no word on Peca at this point -- expect word first thing tomorrow morning. The Dark Ranger predicts this is a done-deal and expect a bout of trade rumors just prior to training camp)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ex-Isle Looking For Blueshirt Fit

Michael Peca wants to jump aboard the Rangers' bandwagon. He expects to find out today whether the feeling is mutual. His agent is not negotiating with any other team.


Taking a look back in history, Peca was drafted in the 2nd round, 40th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. Peca has twice won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for being the best defensive forward, in 1996-97 and 2001-02. He was a member of the gold medal-winning Canadian ice hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

He was acquired by the Edmonton Oilers in a trade with the New York Islanders in exchange for Mike York. Peca was part of the "Cinderella" Edmonton Oiler team that made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Peca had 6 goals and 5 assists in the 2006 Playoffs.

On July 18, 2006, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they had signed Peca as a free agent to a One-year $2.5 Million dollar contract for the 2006-07 NHL season. During a game against the Blackhawks on December 22, 2006, Peca collided with Chicago defenseman Jim Vandermeer in the Toronto zone with 5:17 left in the first period. Vandermeer was assessed a minor penalty and a game misconduct for the hit. While Peca went down hard and it was determined that he sustained a fractured tibia at the base of his right knee and also suffered significant ligament damage. Peca missed the remainder of the 2006-07 season.


The Dark Ranger questions whether or not we would be acquiring another healing veteran who will play at 75%. We have already lived in that world with Jag's damn shoulder for almost a season. Though, Peca is tough and would close any third-line center questions for training camp.

"Is there any cap room?" Please trade Malik, please trade Malik, please trade Malik, please....


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

England - Our NHL Season Opener. Woo-hoo!

Fish 'n chips? Ice Hockey?

As we are counting weeks for the opening of the NHL season, I wanted to celebrate one very bad decision by the NHL that is further diluting our already troubled world of hockey. The Stanley Cup champion Ducks will open the league's 90th anniversary season with a two-game series against the Los Angeles Kings at the O2 Arena in London. It marks the first time the NHL will hold a regular-season game in England, and in fact, anywhere in Europe. There has been no announcement thus far which network in the States will be broadcasting these opening games.
I posted here last month regarding this issue, and it was received with mixed emotion and downright disagreement.

The branding of the NHL in London is a bad idea. Some would disagree with me on this, but understand, on the positive side, I do believe exposing hockey anywhere is a good thing. Furthermore, I will acknowledge there are already established leagues throughout Europe, Russia, Czech, etc, that are powerhouse leagues (Elite) that provide some of the best NHL league players. England on the other hand is limited and audiences don't much care for it. Of all of the European cities to choose from, this one is a stinker.

Not for trying, huge efforts have been made to expand the game of hockey throughout the United Kingdom -- but unlike the national sports of soccer, rugby (and God help us, cricket) where one can play in any open field or park, equipment and ice skating facilities are much greater financial burdens on smaller towns, and in most cases, not accessible. In fact, the tiny country of Finland - where hockey is worshipped, has over 250 professional ice rinks used for the training of amateur & professional sports, recreational skating, etc., whereas, throughout all of England, they have under 40 workable ice rinks. Additionally, most of Englands' fan base identifies with their local sports team and admires those that are 'from our town' celebrities; there are historical rival cities and it is especially challenging for local fans to identify with players that are currently imported.

In order to objectively consider the NHL's 'London Calling', it is best to look at the history of hockey in England over the last decade or so. The Elite Ice Hockey League is the professional ice hockey league in the United Kingdom. Formed in 2003 following the demise of the Ice Hockey Superleague, it is the highest level of ice hockey competition in the United Kingdom. Unlike its North American counterparts, the Elite League is not divided into conferences; teams compete in a single division.
The league currently consists of ten teams.

Ice hockey is a minor sport in the United Kingdom and the EIHL, like its predecessors, faces a constant struggle to stay on the ice. Turns out ice hockey receives little national media coverage in the United Kingdom. Some national newspapers list results and provide short summaries of the league's news but more extensive coverage remains minimal. There was a small surge in interest during the 2004-05 season when newspapers such as The (London) Times reported on the NHL players playing the Elite League as a result of the lockout but since the lockout ended, coverage has returned to its previous levels.

Elite League teams rely heavily on 'imports', players from outside the United Kingdom. The majority of these players are from North America, and typically played in the North American leagues such as the ECHL before coming to Britain. For example, of the 21 players to play for champions Belfast Giants in the 2005-06 season, 10 were Canadian, 7 were British and 4 were American. The league restricts the number of import players which can be on a team's roster at any one time, with a current limit of 10 imports. Player turnover is high, with a large proportion of players spending a single season at a team before moving on, and multi-year contracts are uncommon.

British ice hockey's structure underwent major reorganization in 1996. The British Hockey League (the highest senior competition since 1982) was disbanded and replaced by the Ice Hockey Superleague and British National League. The BNL pursued a British player orientated structure, while the Superleague increased the wage cap significantly and abolished limits on the number of overseas players, resulting in the highest standard of ice hockey seen in the United Kingdom in the modern era of the professional game. By 2002, both leagues were suffering financial problems and a shortage of attendees. The Superleague in particular was having great difficulty. Record attendance levels achieved shortly after the league was formed proved unsustainable, and as a result, the cost of maintaining the Superleague's high standard of ice hockey became unaffordable. A number of clubs folded amidst financial problems, and others had to seek new ownership in order to stay afloat. Hockey couldn't find an audience in England, so they attempted to reinvent hockey once again to it's current status.

So all in all, it suggests that if the English leagues cannot generate enough fan base and interest in their own hockey leagues, then the NHL's expansion effect on hockey in England will be, at best, minimal. We can thank our homeboy hockey-man leader, Gary Bettman, Overlord of the NHL, for opening our proud hockey season in London and for further 'spreading thin' the NHL brand - as one third of our own league needs more exposure, higher and more mainstream television coverage, and a good 'ole fashioned kick-in-the-pants.

Coincidentally, Bettman made this deal with Phil Anschutz who just so happens to own the Los Angeles Kings, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and also the O2 Arena in London - where the opening NHL games are taking place.

Perhaps Mr. Bettman is looking for employment over the next couple of years!!?



Monday, August 6, 2007

Marek Malik Our Third-Line Center?

Just kidding, but I got your attention nonetheless. Though The Dark Ranger has been advocating for Malik's removal as our heavy 'D'-Man this upcoming season, I must reflect on the following video -- the first segment a slow-motion winning penalty shot by Marek Malik himself - more than anyone would expect from the most boo'ed New York Ranger of last season. Watch how this moment happens so quickly, within seconds - a distant Moog synthesizer is heard followed by a crescendo of rocking music. Then we see an unfamiliar confidence in his face. We are then treated to a montage of excellent Ranger moments - followed by those echoing sounds of THE KING!

Malik - for this moment only, I simply bow to you in your moment of brilliance. Perhaps a little more of this this season should be expected of you.

(tipping the hat)


(hats off to Fatal_NYR for the video post)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Knock, Knock. Who's There? Anisimov. Anisimov Who?

The New York Rangers of old is slowly becoming something of the past. A slew of new & young talent is emerging for current and future seasons, most recently the emergence of both Girardi and Callahan as young starters on the roster this fall. Perhaps we might see our 'in the system' brother-behaved Marc Staal (D) hitting training camp fighting for a starting position as well. A mix of young talent from all over the world -- no language barriers in the sport and business of professional hockey for this 'seeing the future' hockey franchise.

This week the Rangers signed 19-year-old centre Artem Anisimov to a professional contract on Thursday. He played in 39 games with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the Russian Super League last season and had 10 points (2-8). Anisimov also played on the Russian team that won silver at the world junior championship earlier this year and will be part of Russia's team for the under-20 Canada-Russia Super Series later this summer. A native of Yaroslavl, Russia, Anisimov was the Rangers’ second round choice, 54th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.Once the Rangers are able to work through a Russian trade agreement of their own (good luck Slats) it will be exciting to see Alexei Cherepanov finally wear the coveted jersey and hit MSG. We may have another Ovechkin on our hands.

No more Avery controversy? No more Salary Cap discussion? Henrik is signed? The Dark Ranger is pleased.....and bored. Bring on the season....please!


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Bitch is Back! Avery Still a Blueshirt

from the New York Rangers official site:
New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has signed restricted free agent forward Sean Avery.

"We are pleased to have Sean under contract and are looking forward to him returning with the same passion and enthusiasm he brought to our team last year," stated Sather. "He is a terrific competitor, who we expect to play a significant role in a successful season."
I am certain Glen Sather would have liked to have said, "We are pleased to have Sean under control...." If you haven't heard any Sean Avery drama over the last couple of weeks, the Hockey Rabbi has said it best, so you can go here for more fun reading material.

Avery is now worth $1,900,000 this season for hitting, dramatic hockey faking, drawing penalty minutes, and lastly, motivating our Blueshirts more than any motherfu&%#r on the planet in years! May we all be blessed for at least one more year of the "Fiery One". The Dark Ranger says it's good for the franchise & the fans, and now let us all wish my seats upgrade! I haven't said it yet, until now, so let's bring on the show and here goes....

LET'S GO RANGERS (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap)!!!!!!, LET'S GO RANGERS (clap, clap, etc, etc...


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