Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Hockey is back.
While the Rangers don’t officially kick off the 2023-24 campaign until October 12th (in Buffalo – and where presumably, Sabres’ goaltender Devon Levi will dominate the Blueshirts – and as he did twice at the end of last season); for all intents and purposes – the New York Rangers are back in action.
As previewed on this site 48-hours ago (https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/91823/ ); on Wednesday, September 20th, the Blueshirts’ roster, coaching staff and everyone else associated with the club too, congregated in Tarrytown, NY, where medicals were taken and promotional materials were recorded, including these two pictures that caught the eyes of the men, women and children who reside in Rangerstown, USA:
While we will look at what the 37th head coach in franchise history said on Wednesday in just a bit; it is worth noting here that the new bench boss in town, Peter Laviolette, said that every player, all 58 of them, passed their medicals without issue.
In other words – all systems are a go – and spoiler-not-really-a-spoiler – you’ll also hear that word, “systems,” a lot during the next few weeks in every nook-and-cranny of Rangerstown, USA.
In fact, we heard it a few times today.
As you can see above, the Rangers are bringing in 58 players for this year’s training camp – where let’s face it – we pretty much know the 22 players who will be left standing come the final cut.
For the sake of posterity, here’s the breakdown in alphabetical order:
Forwards (32) – Maxim Barbashev, Alex Belzile, Brett Berard, Anton Blidh, Nick Bonino, Jonny Brodzinski, Filip Chytil, Will Cuylle, Adam Edstrom, Turner Elson, Barclay Goodrow, Karl Henriksson, Kaapo Kakko, Ryder Korczak, Chris Kreider, Alexis Lafreniere, Jake Leschyshyn, Bryce McConnell-Barker, Max McCue, Riley Nash, Brennan Othmann, Artemi Panarin, Sahil Panwar, Tyler Pitlick, Matt Rempe, Dylan Roobroeck, Adam Sykora, Bobby Trivigno, Vincent Trocheck, Jimmy Vesey, Blake Wheeler and Mika Zibanejad.
Defensemen (20) – Joe Arntsen, Seth Barton, Zach Berzolla, Nikolas Brouillard, Ty Emberson, Adam Fox, Erik Gustaffson, Ben Harpur, Blake Hillman, Mac Hollowell, Zac Jones, Ryan Lindgren, Connor Mackey, Ryan McCleary, K’Andre Miller, James Petrovski, Matthew Robertson, Brandon Scanlin, Braden Schneider and Jacob Trouba.
Goalies (6) – Talyn Boyko, Louis Domingue, Dylan Garand, Olof Lindbom, Jonathan Quick and CZAR Igor Shestyorkin.
As you can deduce from the names listed attending training camp – and unless Chris “Jong-Un” Drury and Peter Laviolette really go out of left-field, a move that I can’t see taking place (not that they worry about what I think!) – then most likely, the only spots up for grabs are the team’s 13th forward and 7th defenseman positions.
But even then, and especially following the slow progress from the pair of lottery picks, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko; I believe that “The Pizza Man,” the Rangers’ general manager, has learned from the mistakes of Blueshirts’ past.
Long story short, and as talked about all summer on this site: I don’t expect Brennan Othmann to make it out of camp – even if he does come out sizzling.
Heck, Othmann could score fifty goals in the Rangers’ six preseason games – and even then – I don’t think that will be enough to get him a spot on the varsity roster.
At the end of the day, it’s more beneficial for him to get first line pro minutes in the AHL (Hartford Wolfpack).
If there is even a competition (and for what it’s worth, that’s what Laviolette claimed on Wednesday – although that’s his job to say as much); then assuming that the Rangers will carry 22 players on their varsity roster instead of 23, as a way to accrue salary cap dollars for the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline (Hello Patrick Kane? And yes – you’ll hear his name routinely linked to the Blueshirts until a final resolution is rendered on his status); then it’s the 7D spot.
Gut feeling, and from what’s out there, Gustaffson will start the season as the Rangers third LD (sixth D), while Harpur and Jones duke it out for an NHL roster spot – a spot that I don’t see the pride-and-joy from the University of Amherst-MA winning.
There are only three days of practices (Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and featuring three different groups at that) prior to the Rangers’ late matinee exhibition match in Boston this Sunday.
On Wednesday, and in his first press conference since being installed as the team’s head coach (Drury’s third – including David Quinn, who Mr. ZOOM ZOOM fired); Laviolette shed some light on what to expect in his near 20-minute interview:
As an opening remark, I thought that Laviolette hit it out of the park on Wednesday – but then again – he had all summer to prepare for this press conference.
And let’s face it – he’s been through this tired process before (this was his sixth time with a new franchise) and is no dummy.
Furthermore, and since I know that the “Lateralette” moniker is a negative one, and not a mindset that I wish to have all season either (despite not feeling so high on this team as I have in previous seasons); I’m going to use the silly phrase of “LAVY’S LOUNGE” this season whenever recapping one of his press conferences, ala “TURK TALKS” from the past two years.
No one likes poor comedy (and alliteration too) more than me!
Let’s now take a look at what the new head coach said on Wednesday – but really – you do owe it to yourself to hear it from the horse’s mouth rather than from a blogging jackass!
If there was one prominent and apparent theme from Laviolette’s press conference, aka the first edition of “Lavy’s Lounge;” then it was that he’s open to anything – and will experiment with everything in order to execute that mission.
Throughout his near twenty-minute talk, Lavy said that he wasn’t tied down to anything from the past, while also acknowledging what has previously worked under the watch of his predecessor, Gerard Gallant.
A key quote? When Lavy said that he’s aware of the success that this core has had, but how they haven’t reached “ultimate success” just yet – where “ultimate success,” the Stanley Cup, is his goal.
But of course, that’s the goal for most coaches in this league, with the lone exceptions being the suit-and-ties behind the rebuilding clubs of the NHL (Philadelphia, Chicago, etc).
Really, and outside of CZAR IGOR as the team’s starting goalie – Lavy was open to everything and anything – and said that he will experiment with different lines and pairings in both the team’s practices and six preseason games.
Lavy also stressed for the newbies (<cough> Wince and Mollie </cough>) that no one should look deep at whatever happens during training camp.
After all, and as he repeated multiple times over, the next three weeks are all about trying out different things.
In other words, expect to see the Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider first line combo broken up. Ditto the first defensive pair of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren.
If there was any roster news that Lavy did make concrete, then it was the fact that Alexis Lafreniere will begin camp on his off-wing, the right wing – but at the same time – the head coach also said that Lafreniere’s fate as a right winger wasn’t set in stone either.
While Lavy never said this verbatim, one is to both deduct and assume that the organization’s desire is for Lafreniere to succeed on the right wing, because if he does, then it will be much easier to give him top-six minutes.
I know that many fans are clamoring for Lafreniere to bump Kreider from the top six on the left wing – but really – what’s the justification for such a move besides #13’s draft status?
Kreider has been the team’s top goal scorer of the past two seasons and the only top-six forward that showed up during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s also a leader – Lafreniere (zero points in his seven playoff games from last year) is not.
And I have to vent something out from my system in regards to Lafreniere and then move on:
Is it me, or does anyone else feel that the topic of Lafreniere has now hit overdose levels, ala a NYC junkie hopped up on fentanyl?
After three years of flash-in-the-pan brilliance, but mostly disappointment – I’m just sick of talking about Lafreniere.
And the horrible media’s obsession with Lafreniere, where he’s the only player that they talk about of the team’s 22, only makes it worse.
It’s time to shit or get off the pot for the first-overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft – and where yes, and for the 897678696967896th time on this site – I’m fully aware that his introduction into the league was the most unorthodox entry for a first-overall pick in NHL history.
But even still, hello Tim Stuetzle (3rd-overall), Lucas Raymond (4th-overall), Jake Sanderson (5th-overall), Jamie Drysdale (6th-overall), Anton Lundell (12th-overall), Seth Jarvis (13th-overall), Dawson Mercer (18th-overall) – and hell – even Braden Schneider too (19th-overall) – players also from Lafreniere’s 2020 draft class – and young men who seem further along the path of success than the first-overall pick – a consensus first-overall pick at that.
In other words – it’s time to judge Lafreniere as if he was anyone else – especially for a team both embracing and promoting a “WIN NOW” slogan and mantra.
It’s time to take off the kid gloves, and just because of his draft status – it shouldn’t mean that he should bump off and take away minutes from players who are producing – where again – the “WIN NOW” mantra comes above all else.
And let me be crystal clear here – in another world, a different franchise, a complete 180 scenario – then yes, you could live with Lafreniere’s growing pains.
However, once owner James Dolan (more on him in a bit) fired the previous regime (John “I Heart Mike Babcock” Davidson and Jeff “Where’s My McDonald Badge?” Gorton) – then that’s when all bets were off.
Another thing off?
The rebuild, where I’d also suggest that the temporary reconstruction ended once Gorton signed both Trouba and Panarin to “fat cat” contracts in July of 2019.
While I understand that both fans and the birdbrain Rangers’ beat will compare and contrast Laviolette to his predecessor, “The Turk,” Gerard Gallant (and just like how we all do the same with players from past and the present); I also believe that one thing doesn’t have to do with the other.
That said, or at least in this debut episode of “LAVY’S LOUNGE” – I thought that the long-time veteran, a Stanley Cup champion at that too, handled the media better than Gallant did – or at least how Double G. did at the end of his tenure – where of course – he had to be defensive due to the rumors about his future – rumors that soon became fact.
But again, and of course, Laviolette should come out cheery, friendly and open in his first foray – and I don’t blame Gallant for being surly at times with these morons asking him questions either – which was both a routine and regular occurrence.
I’m sure that David Quinn, who allowed this current crop of state reporters to bully him at times, would also agree.
Laviolette (and I don’t expect this to continue once he gets comfortable in his new digs in the Big Apple), was an open book on Wednesday, as he laid out his plans for all three practices and the six preseason games ahead.
Aside from what’s been written above and the obvious (winning the Cup); if anything else truly stood out to me, then it was when Lavy talked about his captain, a new “Great Eight” for him, Jacob Trouba:
“My conversations with him [Trouba] have been excellent. I knew him from before as well, he’s a really good leader. He has a good voice in the locker room, I believe that his daily habits are excellent, the conversations with him, he cares deeply about his teammates, about the team, striving for success for this team and those are the qualities that you want in a captain, somebody who cares about their teammates, someone who leads by example, willing to face adverse situations and be the guy that says something or does something or can right the ship and he certainly has those qualities for him.
“My time coaching him before was short, I do know him, the conversations with him have been excellent and I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
I can’t profess to fully know the ins-and-outs of the relationship that Trouba had with Gallant, but after hearing “LAVY’S LOUNGE” from Wednesday – we all can say and ascertain that the new head coach values, respects and appreciates his captain.
While I’m not saying that one thing has to do with another (and I just talked about this a few paragraphs above when it comes to comparing and contrasting); do you know who else valued, respected and appreciated his captain during his one year with the Rangers?
“Iron” Mike Keenan – and I think you know who his captain was in 1993-94!
When it comes to team leadership, Laviolette, who also said that he treats every player the same way (no one will be singled out as every player is a sum of the team’s parts), stated that he expects the alternate captains (he used the word “assistant” if that matters) to stay the same.
In other words, Trouba, who without a shadow of a doubt, will remain with the “C” on his sweater, will be “assisted” by his alternate captains from last season, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Barclay Goodrow and Artemi Panarin.
While I don’t think that this greatly matters; I also want to say that I would’ve liked to see both Fox and Lindgren considered for “A” status this season.
However, I also understand why Laviolette is running back the same letter-men this season.
By making any drastic changes, he risks losing his locker room prior to the team even playing a game. (But at least he isn’t Mike Babcock!)
If it were me, a dumb fan, then I would’ve ripped the “A’s” away from both Zibanejad and Panarin.
After all, something needs to change – and give too – following last year’s inexcusable playoff loss.
I would have liked to seen #23 and #55 with the “A” on their jerseys because Fox has signed a deal to remain with this franchise for the rest of the decade, while there isn’t a bigger warrior, a “heart-and-soul” type, like Lindgren.
There’s a reason why this dynamic defensive duo have won the Steven McDonald Award in recent years, while Lindgren has also become the defacto replacement for Jesper Fast for the Rangers “Players’ Player” award.
But again – I totally comprehend why Laviolette doesn’t want to make any changes – even if he did say on Wednesday that he treats his superstars the same as his players who will receive five-to-six minutes a game.
After all, just ask Quinn and Gallant about what these “leaders” said about them during their exit interviews – two coaches that Drury fired shortly thereafter.
Do you think that Lavy wants to piss off these guys from the jump?
I don’t think so!
As far as anything else of sustenance, Laviolette, and no less than several times at that, stated that he wants to employ his systems during the first days of practice, which as you’d suspect, is his main objective going into the season too.
It should be interesting to see if he comes up with a few tinkers and wrinkles in his system, because while some time has passed from his stays in his previous cities – he has coached most of the Rangers’ in-division rivals, including the Capitals, Hurricanes, Islanders and Flyers – four franchises who are all too aware of what Lavy’s system is.
In closing on the season premiere of “LAVY’S LOUNGE” – don’t judge, grade or opine on these next few weeks.
This is all a trial-and-error period.
And really, and as stated about 7867868967896789678966768767896789678967896 times this summer too – the only way to truly judge this team is based on whatever they do during the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs – assuming they are still playing in May and June.
As Tom Petty once sang, “Waiting is the Hardest Part!”
In an article (https://nypost.com/2023/09/20/knicks-rangers-owner-james-dolan-i-dont-really-like-owning-teams/ ) that had my eyes rolling and my stomach doing cartwheels; on Wednesday, the New York Post, while recapping an interview that the New York Times conducted with James Dolan, reported that the silver spoon son said the following:
“My teams [the Knicks and the Rangers] are near and dear to my heart, but I don’t really like owning teams.
“Basically every fan thinks of themselves as the owner/general manager.
“Being a professional sports owner in New York, you’re not beloved until you’re dead.”
It was mentioned in both the Post and the Times that most of the hatred and vitriol that Dolan receives is from Knick fans – and where it was also cited that Dolan is “hands-off” with the Rangers.
Not mentioned by either rag?
The fact that Dolan has employed Senile Sather for over 23-years – and doesn’t have one championship to show for it.
And if you haven’t read any of my books yet, then you can read this fact in every single one of them, ten in all – Glen Sather holds the dubious record of being the longest front office executive in all of New York sports history to NOT win a championship.
Congrats Slats – and someone who I’d violently kick out of the Hockey Hall of Fame too – due to his never-ending and painful tenure with the Rangers!
I’ve talked a lot about Dolan this summer, and where I told you that a little birdie, within the M$G umbrella, told me that Charlie’s boy, now 68-years-old, is aware of the legacy that he’s leaving – over fifty seasons as a team owner and not one championship to show for it.
This fact is also why Dolan blew up the Rangers’ rebuild in May of 2021, and where really, the first time that he ever made a swift and cataclysmic decision on his own accord (although it’s speculated that Sather, “Advisor to the Owner,” his official title, had something to do with it too).
Dolan desperately wants to win – but he isn’t George Steinbrenner either.
For a man who admitted how much he doesn’t like owning teams – he also doesn’t want to sell off his teams until he can go to the grave as a champion – and let’s face it – the Knicks suck (and in a league where superstars determine championships – the superstars don’t want to play for him either) – so the Rangers are his only chance.
For the 677896789679678967896247896234786327894673789647896th time on this site – MR. JAMES DOLAN – PLEASE FIRE GLEN SATHER. HE’S THE ONE CONSTANT IN ALL OF THIS LOSING!
And some “people” thought that former Rangers’ trainer, Jim Ramsay, was the problem – you know – the same “Rammer” that the Rangers’ beat reporters refuse to talk about as if they will lose their press access should they dare report on this pertinent story of a 29-year employee being canned without cause.
As I’m receiving the “go home” signal (I can hear Stan now – “stop writing 10,000 words for free, ya jackass!” – which is why this blog is “only” 5,000 words tonight); a few updates for the future – and a plug too!
On Wednesday, Fischler, who wrote the foreword to my new book (and if you haven’t bought it yet, then what are you waiting for?), “The Top 100 Villains of New York Rangers History,” posted a column on NHL.com featuring a “Ranger Killer” from my latest, the movie entitled “Air Force One.”
To read about what could’ve been, in regards to Joe Sakic manning the middle in Manhattan, check out: https://www.nhl.com/news/air-force-one-helped-colorado-match-new-york-offer-to-joe-sakic
In other news regarding “The Top 100 Villains of New York Rangers History;” due to my past in the pro wrestling industry, the esteemed Canadian scribe, Greg Oliver, interviewed me for https://slamwrestling.net/
Once the interview is posted, I’ll share the link with you. From what I’m told, the interview may run as early as tomorrow or as late as next week.
To go back to “The Maven,” yours truly will be interviewing one-third of the greatest third-line in Rangers’ history this week, Pete Stemkowski, for a future Fischler article on NHL.com. If you recall, “Stemmer” was a big help in my first book, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden.”
And if you also recall, there’s a chance that the former #21 in New York, a 1967 Stanley Cup champion too (Toronto), may have a more active elbow than yours truly – as both of us appreciate the “neck oil!”
I’m also thinking of asking Stemmer to autograph a few pucks for me, signed pieces of rubbers that I’ll give away to readers of this website as a thank you – especially for the readers who purchased signed copies of my books!
Speaking of books, I have decided on my next one, as I’m already 100 pages deep in “RANGER ICONS: The Story of “Fiery” Phil Watson.”
Up front, I totally know that this book won’t be a big seller, but it’s a project that I want to do.
At best, maybe I’ll make a few hundred bucks on it from you guys and gals; but for me – it’s about the work – not the profit – and it’s a story that should be told for future hockey historians.
I’m just honored that the Watson family has entrusted me to write about one of the most controversial Rangers of all-time – and I plan to do them proud.
And yep – I still have five other book ideas running around my mind as if my brain was a hamster wheel – but time remains an issue! But I’ll get there one day!
As far as anything else, I expect the next three days in Rangerstown, USA to be exciting – but not worth writing about either. After all, we already know what these three practices will be – trial-and-error.
I should be back Sunday night, not with a GAME REVIEW of the Rangers’ first preseason game – but just some thoughts – and a catch-up on the days that I didn’t cover.
Until then, and as I post this late night, 9/20 – enjoy the final day of your summer.
Drop the puck.
PLUGS TIME! (Buy a book and support my Rangers’ induced therapy bills. After all, I don’t run ads on this site!)
On Monday, September 18th, our buddies over at “2 Guys 1 Cup” ended their two-month hiatus with a return episode.
To check it out, click this link: https://www.facebook.com/100003992272173/videos/850665726466486/
On Thursday, September 21st, at 7:00PM, our other friends, “The Blueshirt Underground Show,” will end their one-month vacation with a new episode.
You can watch/listen to the show live here: https://www.youtube.com/@theblueshirtundergroundshow/streams
“The Top 100 Villains of New York Rangers History,” is now available for preorder.
For complete information, please visit: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/rangerkillers/
My second plug of tonight’s blog – the mandatory plug for my book, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden.”
As mentioned previously, the book is now available in hardcover, in paperback and in Kindle formats. To purchase a copy of the book, visit this link:
For those still looking for signed paperback versions of the book, I have re-ordered more copies. I now have a few signed copies for sale at $25 a pop (includes shipping price) through me directly. Here is all the information on that:
My four-volume set of books, “One Game at a Time – A Season to Remember,” is a game-by-game recount of the Rangers 2021-22 campaign.
My second title as an author, “One Game at a Time – A Season to Remember,” is now available in eBook, paperback and hardcover formats.
To obtain signed copies, visit: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/onegamebook/
To purchase all four volumes on Amazon, visit: Amazon.com – “One Game at a Time.”
The greatest volume-set of books on Rangers’ history today!
“Tricks of the Trade – A Century-Long Journey Through Every Trade Made In New York Rangers’ History,” a four-volume set of books that meticulously covers every trade made in franchise history, is now on sale.
All four volumes of the title can be purchased on Amazon.com and are presented in three different formats – eBook, paperback and hardcover.
To purchase Volume I: Conn Smythe (1926) – Craig Patrick (1986), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume II: Phil Esposito (1986) – Neil Smith (2000), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume III: Glen Sather (2000-2015), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume IV: Jeff Gorton (2015) – Chris Drury (2022), visit Amazon.com
To purchase signed copies of all four volumes, visit https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/tricksofthetrade/
Here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them:
Mike Babcock Rightfully Out in Columbus; But What Precedent Does This Set? Chris “Jong” Drury Talks to His State Media; Riveting Commentary on Panarin, Ranger Rookies Sweep Flyers; Early Prospect Impressions, NYR Camp Opens Wednesday & More
Is the Current State of NYC Driving Away Potential Free Agents? Tyler Motte Signs with Tampa; The NHL’s “Middle Class” Being Phased Away, Alice Cooper, TNT’s Paul Bissonnette Suggests a Violent Crime Against Mike Babcock; Why The NHL is Ignoring It, NYR Rookies, Phil Watson’s 1940 Cup Ring, Lundqvist Reunites with Hagelin; Who Says No to a Swedish M$GN Broadcast & More
A Complete Preview of the 2023-24 NHL Season: Detailed Profiles on all 32 NHL Teams; Departures & Arrivals, Division Rankings, Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions, What to Watch, The Rangers’ Chances & More
“Once a Ranger, Always a Ranger”: Former Blueshirt Carl Hagelin Announces His Retirement; A Career Retrospective, Ranger Alumni Update: Phil Watson, Tex Rickard and Pete Stemkowski, Patrick Kane Ready For Return, 2023-24 NHL Preview & More
If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:
Don’t forget to order my recently released four-volume set of books, “Tricks of the Trade!”
If you don’t order through me, all four volumes are now available on Amazon.com
For more details, check out: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/tricksofthetrade/
Thanks for reading.
LET’S GO RANGERS!
@NYCTHEMIC on the Tweeter machine