Friday, July 9, 2010

Men with Plans | In a Transitional Period

Back in the spring of my senior year in college, a loud knock on my door from the captain of the baseball team got my early morning attention. "We have a problem," he began. "Mono has wiped out most of the team and the j.v. We need bodies and I remember watching you pitch a couple of years ago. Can you still?" Such is the life in a league without athletic scholarships that leads the captain to seek out the likes of me.

Eight hours later and nearly 3 years after my last time in a uniform, I was standing on a pitching mound in Connecticut, about to start the 9th inning in relief to preserve a 1-0 lead against a rival. Six pitches later, the bases were loaded thanks to the combination of Roy Smalleys and Bill Buckners that constituted my defense. Nothing had changed since the last time I pitched.
Time to Cry Wolfe. 6 pitches in and carnage everywhere.
I signalled to the catcher for a visit. "Listen," I started, "I have a plan. The key to executing the plan is your catching every frigging
pitch I throw -- wherever it goes. The butchers behind me aren't touching the ball again. If I walk in the winning run, too bad." Reaching back for the remnants of my Bronx accent, I snarled, "By the way, that ain't happening."

My next 2 pitches were knockdown pitches - never miss an opportunity to exact some vengeance at a school that rejected you. My coach looked in my direction quizzically but I never looked over.

My catcher, however, had my back: "It's ok, coach; he has a plan!" Such is life on a cellar-dwelling team. 9 pitches later, or I should say, 9 swinging strikes later (including 3 checked swings), I walked off the mound, my Moonlight Graham college career finished after 17 pitches.

This little bit of summer fluff has much in common with a certain GM of the Blueshirts. Like me, Glen Sather is thrust into an unenviable and potentially untenable position (although his is due to his own ineptitude) of bailing out a team. We both scan the situation to identify and determine how to counteract obvious weaknesses.

For me, it was a leaky defense; for Slats, an overpaid leaky defense that just got more overpaid today. We both institute a plan that is conditioned on plowing ahead, taking no prisoners, and most importantly relying heavily on our backstops, to succeed.

I took care of business easily, with a touch of theatricality (what the hell did I have to lose?) and without comment to teammates or my coach. Similarly, Sather goes with precious few comments of substance to the press and fans, making people wonder if he knows what he is doing when in fact he does, acting with the showmanship of P.T. Barnum as the Rangers drain hard-earned dollars from the suckers known as season subscribers.

Trying to work one's way through the buzz on the Internet is difficult these days.
With the recent contract talks with Marc Staal and then Dan Girardi (now resolved) coming to the forefront -- Rangers bloggers and fans have raised the buzz level to levels unseen since the great Biblical plagues.

Just because you can type does not mean I need to see a jet stream of capital letters shouting your dismay, or ridiculous rumor-mongering so you can perhaps one day say you once scooped everyone else or the endless imperative voice commands to ownership about what to do about management. "Commentators" may criticize me for being so clinical in my analysis but this is sports we are talking about.

The endless drivel that permeated the airwaves, blogs, Facebook and then ESPN about the draft and free agency for the NHL and NBA, all of which culminated in an orgy about some NBA choke artist, has given me a lifetime full of what I can only call "internetual specjaculations."

Please Ranger fans, please bloggers, please anyone with opposable thumbs that bleed blue -- Chillax, baby. It's OK, Slats has a Plan!!!

We have seen the Ranger contract machinations before -- like last year with Brandon Dubinsky. By the way, after all that crying about possibly losing him, how did that all work out? I thought so -- I still could take him or lose him. He's nothing special. Some would argue that he is not even a nice player or a nice person.

Marc Staal? He's a decent defenseman that would anchor a second pair. Staal's misfortune is he is the one player that Slats can fiddle with. Glen's delay with signing Staal enables him to keep the team's overall salary lower -- why commit to raises when you don't have to. He has a greater cushion to chase big game out there thanks to the recently increased cap, the ability to have salaries exceed the cap by 10% until October, and not having a higher contract value assigned to Staal.

So what's the rush with signing Staal? If there is a team out there that wants to pay him more than $4 million, Slats will have to decide whether to keep him (although with the Girardi signing, we know Staal's value may be even higher). The GM postured today that he would match any offer sheet put out there. If another team wants him that badly, I am not so sure that I would not say let them overpay. He's not Beukeboom, he's not Leetch, he's not Park, he's not Pronger. It's likely when push comes to shove, he will be signed just like Dubinsky was. Sather may not know how to spend, but he certainly knows how to free up the money before spending it unwisely. Let's give him his due there.

But I think Slats has a plan and I am going to let it play out. We all know that one (if not 2) defenseman will be off the books come opening night -- either Michal Roszival (who has some trade value after his gold medal efforts in the World Championship) or Wade Redden (Hartford or bust, it appears) or perhaps both. The Rangers are stocking up on defensemen and some of them are coming cheap.

Meanwhile, Del Zotto and Gilroy got their introduction to what major league hockey looks like instead of the softer college and Ontario Hockey League schedules, respectively. As defensemen mature later than other players, both should make a nice jump this season. I am guessing Girardi and Staal will as well. Others are waiting in the wings for the overpaid to be paved over.

Some of the loudest screams have been for the Rangers to sign Kolvachuk. Really? Good grief. At $6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 million per year? I can hardly wait for the fans screaming for him the loudest to turn on him when they see what dreck he is.

Are you kilting me?? I can see Avery & Ilya getting along real well

Just what the Blueshirts need -- another overpaid, defensively impaired Kotalik who cannot take criticism, fades into the woodwork and has not mastered the art of defending -- at twice Kotalik's price? What is his team's playoff record as number 3 seeds in Atlanta and New Jersey? Oh, yeah, 1 and 8. When Ron Greschner puts the kabosh on this idea, I know I am in good company. Such a signing is right up Slats' alley given the dearth of marquee talent at MSG. That petrifies me.

Fans, please buy a ticket to the clue train. This team, even if the latest and greatest soft Russian were to be signed, is going to be at best a 7th place team next season and that may be highly optimistic. There are too many hurdles right now to overcome to join the elite (Pitt, Wash, Philly to name 3 obvious ones).

Rebuilding time is here in earnest for this season. I am hoping for an entertaining team; I am hoping for a team that will develop. I am willing to be patient this year to see what transpires. I may be the only Ranger fan with patience but so be it.

--- The Graying Mantis

p.s.: By the way, while the above game did in fact occur, we were compelled to forfeit the game for failing to get my five ragtag teammates and me properly authorized by the NCAA by game time. As far as the NCAA was concerned, we were technically ringers and thus ineligible.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This site/blog is not affiliated with the New York Rangers or The National Hockey League in any manner whatsoever. Some photos on this site are used w/out permission but are hosted on the blogger server, therefore not interfering with the profit or bandwidth of the original owner. If you are the owner of a specific image that we have used in our blog , please email me at to have it removed - we will gladly remove it immediately.

If you have a hockey blog/website and would like to place a link on our site, please contact me & we can do a link exchange (the best way to get more traffic to our blogs).

Any offer of 'tickets at cost' is exactly that -- I have season tickets and will sell them for what I paid --- so no mark-ups.

The Dark Ranger is a not-for-profit site, not officially, but we derive no income at all from anything on this site; in fact, DARK at his own expense enjoys the freedom of having no sponsors and speaking his f*cking mind.