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Ok, so with the end of the Stanley Cup Finals approaching I think it is time to start talking about what the Rangers should do, in my personal opinion, to go from being pretenders, to contenders. Personally speaking, I don’t think the Rangers are far off, and I really do believe they can do it in 1 season.

First off, today, let’s just talk about our own players. So, I’m going to talk about each and every player, one by one.

Marian Gaborik:

Gabby had a down season by his standards. Hell if it wasn’t for Chris Drury being so frikkin awful for the past few years, Gabbys production would be the single biggest problem with this team. However, Gaborik is 1 season removed from his best statistical season of his career and has always shown the ability to bounce back from bad years. What Gaborik really needs though, is help. Last year his help came in the form of a rookie center straight out of college, a 4th line center who almost failed to make the roster this season, and an enigmatic Russian who suffered a season ending injury halfway through the season. Gabby will be back next year, of that I have no doubts, but the question is, can the Rangers harness his greatness by giving the opposition other looks. Making them have to defend more than 1 player. Remember, as great as Jagr was during his record setting season, he still had Nylander and Straka who all had outstanding seasons to give the opposition someone else to think about.

Chris Drury:
Drury’s tenure as a Ranger has been nothing short of pitiful. A once great offensive star in Colorado and Buffalo reduced to a 3rd and 4th line player, sometimes on the wing, sometimes at center. He has become a penalty killer and a trophy old guy for everyone to praise. I know the guys in the lockerroom always say what a great guy Drury is, how much they respect him and owe him and blah blah blah. But seriously, does anyone expect them to say “Drury is our 2nd highest paid forward and produces jack shit out there, if it wasn’t for his 7 million dollar black hole salary on this roster, we could be a legit contender”. No, they aren’t, nor should they, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Chris Drury had exactly 1 goal last season. That was tied with recently departed superstar offensive machine Derek Boogaard. His 5 points in 24 games looks pathetic compared to Vinny Prospal, who was also injured, who managed to score 23 points in 29 games. Drury is done. The only question is, will he do the right thing and allow the Rangers to trade his rights away so we can save ourselves his cap hit. There are a few possible trades the Rangers could do where they trade Captain Cardboard for another teams garbage, and the other team buys out Drury, and we simply send their garbage to the minors. This saves the other team real money, and saves us cap money. If Drury is the great guy everyone says he is, he will waive his NMC and let the Rangers finally get out from under his 4 year attempt at suffocating this club.

Alexander Frolov:
Frolovs time as a Ranger was a series of failed wraparounds intermixed with some good board play. Following his injury we all knew he was gone, and it looks like he’s headed to Russia 1 year later than expected. Good luck Frolov. While I don’t despise you as a player, it was clear you didn’t have the offensive touch you were supposed to have had when signing here.

Ryan Callahan:
Give this man the captaincy. Give this man a long term contract. Don’t screw around. This guy is going to be the face of this franchise for the next 15 years. Want to know how the Rangers need to play to win? Watch him. Now give him the C and let this organization move into the future the right way.

Vinny Prospal:
Prospal surprised everyone, including myself, but rehabbing his way to a late season appearance. Prospal was extremely effective, once again showing that passion for the game other players seem to lack, and using that, and sheer force of will to get points. However, Prospal is older, slower, and not a part of this teams future. Personally speaking, I’m ready to move on. I like what Prospal brings, but this team has a tremendous amount of youth on the way up, I’m not going to let Prospal be the one to hold them back. Christian Thomas, Evgeny Grachev, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, these guys are going to need their time to play.

Sean Avery:
There are few people who loved Sean Avery as much as I did 3 years ago. Sean brought fire, energy, antics, and plain old life to what seemed like a dead organization. However Avery of today is a far cry from what we saw those many years ago. Sean seems to think he’s a skilled guy who can out deke the opposition. No Sean, you aren’t. You are a fast skater, but the skill level isn’t there to play that kind of a game. Sean Avery is ripe in line for a buyout, and frankly, that’s exactly what I would do. Time to move on. See you later Sean, thanks for everything.

Wojtek Wolski:

Wolski was brought in here to give the Rangers some offensive punch once Frolov went down. He didn’t really do that only registering 6 goals, 13 assists for 19 points during his 37 games here. Basically a 1/2 a point per game player. Sorry Wolski, but a guy who makes 4 million bucks needs to produce more than that, or at least bring more to his game than you do. Wolski floats, and doesn’t bring any physicality to the team. He’s not a heart player, he’s a skilled guy who hasn’t produced near enough. Another perfect buyout waiting to happen, I personally would buy him out. The skill is there, but I’m ready to cut bait. Bye Bye.

Brandon Dubinsky:
Dubi played most of last year with the consistency we were all looking for. He, along with Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan made an exceptionally strong 2nd line, that really played like a first line when they were all together, unfortunately Dubi missed 5 games, and Cally missed 22. That’s a lot of time they missed together. Dubi is an RFA and you can expect him to get paid. Lock him up Glen, get him in the fold long term.

Derek Boogaard:
While it’s sad that Derek passed away, I stand by what I’ve said forever. Heavyweights are not necessary in todays hockey. Pay your respects from Boogaard, and move on. Realize what failures Boogaard and Brashear have been to this club. How they provide nothing on the ice whatsoever, and just keep going. The Rangers didn’t play any more or less physical with or without Boogaard in our out of the lineup. They didn’t receive any more or less physical contact with or without him in the lineup. In short, his presence, at least to me, seemed completely useless out there. The Rangers were a far more effective team with someone who can actually play in the offensive zone and who could either kill penalties or play a shut down game.

Ruslan Fedotenko:
The Rangers picked up Fedotenko off the scrap heap when no team out there would take a flier on him. The Rangers however got some excellent minutes from Fedotenko including a very useful 10 goals and 15 assists in 66 games along with a rock solid 2-way game. However, much like Prospal, Fedotenko is unlikely to be a part of this team future, and frankly, I think there are better options internally that would cost less (Carl Hagelin for example). Time to walk away from a feel good story and improve the team elsewhere.

Erik Christensen:
Christensen is such a maddening player. He has all the skill in the world, but a head that just can’t make it all work. And it’s not like it’s his hockey sense either, its his intensity. He just doesn’t have it. The guy can look like the best player in the world on one shift, and be completely invisible the next. I would keep Christensen because he is valuable as a shootout specialist and because the upside is there and his cap hit is low, but I wouldn’t be opposed to trading or waiving him either.

Derek Stepan:
Stepan had an outstanding rookie season posting 21 goals and 24 assists, good enough for third on the Rangers in points, and 5th amongst all rookies in points. Stepan however does seem like a prime candidate for a sophomore slump. Many of his goals came off of very lucky bounces and crazy angles. You can’t count on them, and with such a successful season in the books you know teams are going to be gunning for him. Stepan really needs to improve his footspeed. Really if he can do that, he can up his ceiling tremendously because personally speaking, that is his biggest flaw.

Artem Anisimov: Outside of Laurie from Beyond the Blueshirts, there is probably nobody out there who is a bigger fan of Artem Anisimov. The kid is tall, has world class hands, excellent hockey IQ, is extremely responsible defensively, and the perfect attitude to boot. With that said, all those things are positives that allows him to be moved if the right deal comes along. Personally speaking, I think it may be time for the Rangers to make a big time move with one of their bigger assets. This may be the one piece we are forced to move in order to get a big time player via trade.

Brandon Prust:
Heart, soul, guts. It’s just pain. What more is there to say about Prust? The guy is a core piece. I love him as a Ranger. I want him here for a long time. Lock his ass up Glen.

Brian Boyle:
I’m a statistical nut. You should know that by now. So to me, seeing a guy who puts up 21 goals, 14 assists for 35 points when his previous career high was 4 goals and 2 assists, it screams outlier. Especially when said player only put up 1 goal, 2 assists for 3 points in his final 23 games played (4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points over 82 games played). Don’t count on another big season from Boyle. In fact, if we can find some team willing to take Boyle in a big package instead of one of our big time prospects, I would do it. Boyle is a nice story, but I don’t buy his ability to maintain it long term. Let’s move along if we can get something good, or expect less if he’s back. Nice player, but don’t believe the hype.

Mats Zuccarello-Aasen:
I kind of waffle on Mats. My problem here is that he doesn’t play the small space game very well. He’s not a good forechecker, and he’s not a fast skater. However MZA is certainly a very smart player, with exceptional hands and vision. The skill is unquestionably there. And 23 points in 42 games as a rookie who averaged only 14 minutes per game of ice time is nothing to scoff at. I’ll give him 1 more season to see what he’s got. Who knows, maybe he can put it all together.

Evgeny Grachev:
He’s big. He’s fast. He’s got a heavy shot. And now he’s learned to play the other side of the puck. This guy is ready for the NHL. I still believe he’s going to be a big time player for us in the future, his prime is still not for another 3-4 years. But when he hits it, watch out. Get him in the lineup.

Carl Hagelin:
He’s not going to wow you with his talent, but Hagelin seems like the picture perfect 4th line player. An outstanding penalty killer, a speed demon, and a world class defensive forward. He’s ready too, let him cut his teeth on the 4th line getting 5-7 minutes a night.

Christian Thomas:
The wild card. Thomas is small, but boy oh boy is he skilled. Putting up 54 goals, and 45 assists in the OHL is no small feat. Thomas has world class hands, and an elite, hard, rocket of a shot. You need a shooter on your power play? He’s your guy. I think the Rangers need to make a move towards getting more skilled, and getting younger. I think they need to make a trade for an elite forward, and I think they are going to need to have their kids play big minutes this year. I think Thomas will make this club.

Part 2 will be the Defenseman and Goalies, probably in the next day or 2. Part 3 will be the overview of what I think we should do, in detail.

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