Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Labor Day weekend is over, the kids are back in school and the NFL has kicked off their season. Where, oh where, has the time gone? “The Summer of George” is now behind us!
For me, and if you’ve been reading these blogs all summer, then you know where all of my free time has gone – time spent working on my two book projects.
Heck, let’s get the “DIARY” segment of tonight’s manifesto out of the way first, and then dive into everything else.
As mentioned during the last several blogs on this site, “One Game at a Time – A Season to Remember” is now available for purchase. I won’t give you the whole spiel again, but if you haven’t picked up this four volume set just yet, you can find the complete ordering information here: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/onegamebook/
Earlier this week, I shipped out all of the pre-orders that I had received, where once again, I thank all of you who bought this title and in turn, donated to my Rangers’ road-trip/tickets fund! I have already received some reviews, and I’m happy to report back to you that all of them are positive. (And if they were negative – I’d tell you too – I don’t hide anything on this site!)
In an update to my passion project, “Tricks of the Trade – A Century-Long Journey Through Every Trade Made In New York Rangers’ History,” which I believe will be the best Rangers’ history title on the market once released (confidence, not cockiness), the first two volumes of the title are in the hands of my editor. We’re getting close to the finish line!
As talked about last week, I’m not sure if this title will run three or four volumes, as it will all depend on the format/editing process. Obviously, the less volumes the better, but I don’t want to cut corners.
Currently, I have about 500 more pages to proof-read (Volume III – hopefully the final volume), before submitting it to my editor.
At the end of the day, it’s just impossible to squeeze in nearly 700 trades, over 3,000 players and every general manager of franchise history in just one title. I can’t stress this enough – this title covers EVERYTHING.
Hopefully by next week, I can share some of the cover art with you, where thankfully (and based on my horrific photoshops) – I’m not the one designing these covers!
It’s still my goal to release this book before the start of the 2022-23 season, but I’m not going to force such a release until I feel the book/title is 100% perfect.
I’ve been working on this project for over a year now (and I rarely hit the bars this summer, where if you know me, that says a lot!), and I can wait a bit longer.
There’s no point in releasing something substandard, just to meet a self-imposed publishing date. I want everyone to be blown away by this volume-set, including the man who wrote the foreword to the book, Stan Fischler. (I can’t say enough great things about Stan Fischler – he’s gone out of his way to improve my writing, promote this site and help with this book.)
And that concludes the “DIARY” segment for tonight!
Let’s now get into all of the news and notes that are making waves in the streets of Rangerstown, USA.
When the news of Rod Gilbert’s passing became publicly known on August 22nd, 2021 (he passed away three days prior, on August 19th, 2021), I wrote multiple articles on this site, in tribute to #7, where I also brought up his role as the team’s ambassador – a role that he enjoyed for over forty years.
During these articles, I also mentioned the role that Adam Graves has with the team, as ever since July of 2005, #9 has served the club, MSG, and the franchise’s charity, “The Garden of Dreams,” as a spokesman/ambassador.
Officially, and according to the Rangers’ press guide; Graves is presently the head of the franchise’s “Hockey and Business Operations” department. However, that title sounds somewhat cold, as Graves is much more than some guy in a suit crunching numbers – perhaps as that “Hockey and Business Operations” title would suggest.
Gilbert and Graves were cut from the same cloth, as the two Ranger legends, both during their playing days and in retirement, have been model representatives of the organization.
Simply stated – I can’t shower enough praise on both of these Ranger icons.
Essentially, both men have been ambassadors for the franchise ever since retiring from their days on the ice.
If there was any true difference to note between the two philanthropic men, both with their names in the rafters of Madison Square Garden, it was that Gilbert was kind of like the owner of a famous restaurant, while Graves was the one making sure that the restaurant ran smoothly. (Maybe a poor analogy, but I hope you get my point. If there’s any intention I want to make known here, it is that both men have been instrumental in spreading good-will and positivity throughout New York.)
Just like a famous restaurant owner, it was Gilbert that went “table-to-table,” as he schmoozed it up with anyone that he encountered. Better than that – all of his interactions were genuine. He was always happy to be there.
Maybe someone has a different story than me, but from my own interactions with “Mr. Ranger,” and from the stories you guys and gals have told me – every Gilbert interaction is remembered with a glowing amount of fondness. There was nothing “fake” about him.
As opposed to Graves, it was Gilbert who was the one that you’d always see floating around MSG, hamming it up, sharing drinks with fans, taking pictures, signing autographs, and basically being the life of any room that he entered – including during the Rangers’ first game in Las Vegas – a memory enjoyed by all.
While Gilbert most certainly was serious about the causes that appealed to him, including both the “Garden of Dreams” and the “Ronald McDonald House;” between Graves and himself, it was always Gilbert who’d you see more of during palling around situations. And heck, since Gilbert was nearly thirty years older than Graves – it was always fun to see him liven up any event that he was at.
While he was alive, Gilbert’s official title with the Rangers was as their “Team Ambassador” – somewhat the equivalent of being a human mascot for the franchise that he so richly and devoutly adored.
Graves, who has/had the more serious title between the two, is very well-known for all of the charitable endeavors that he’s involved in.
While you can still catch Graves at MSG from time-to-time, more times than not, when he’s at MSG, he’s enriching the life of a child, via the “Garden of Dreams” charity.
From my own experiences, Graves is never there for himself, or just to shake hands. He’s always there with the purpose of helping out a young child. (And this isn’t a knock on Gilbert, so please don’t take it that way. It’s just to say that Graves has always been “Saint Ranger.”)
I bring up Graves here, because I didn’t want to omit all of the hard work that he does on behalf of the Rangers and the Madison Square Garden corporation.
When Gilbert passed, and knowing what Graves’ role is with the club, I said the following on this site (check the archives if you don’t believe me):
“If Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t move to Sweden, he’d be the perfect successor to Gilbert.”
On Thursday, that’s what happened, although Lundqvist’s title, just like Graves’ title, seems more intense than just being the team’s “Official Ambassador.”
The following press release comes from the Rangers themselves, courtesy of https://www.nhl.com/rangers/news/rangers-legend-henrik-lundqvist-joins-msg-sports-and-msg-entertainment-in-newly-created-business-operations-role/c-335489350?icmp=int_web_nyr_news_rightrail:
Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. (NYSE: MSGS) (“MSG Sports”) and Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: MSGE) (“MSG Entertainment”) announced today that New York Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist will be joining both organizations in a unique new role that helps support business operations for each company. In this position, Lundqvist will be involved in numerous areas including representing MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment in a variety of partner and sponsorship endeavors, assisting with content development for digital platforms across both companies, growing and strengthening the connection with Rangers alumni, as well as lending his support with the Garden of Dreams Foundation. In addition, Lundqvist will once again be a lead studio analyst on MSG Network throughout the Rangers season.
“During the past year since I announced my retirement, I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore many different areas of the sports and entertainment industry and I look forward to continuing on that path,” said Lundqvist. “At the same time, I am a Ranger at heart, and Madison Square Garden is my home. I am thrilled to continue my relationship with MSG and the Rangers in this exciting, expanded role.”
“Henrik Lundqvist has been an exemplary representative of the Rangers, both on and off the ice,” said James L. Dolan, Executive Chairman, MSG Sports and Executive Chairman and CEO, MSG Entertainment. “In this newly created role, he will be able to utilize his passion for sports and entertainment, as well as for the city he loves so dearly, to support MSG’s businesses and partnerships. We are confident he will have a great impact on our organizations, our brands and our philanthropic endeavors across New York City.”
During his tenure in New York, Lundqvist established himself as one of the greatest players in Rangers history, both on and off the ice. Off the ice, Henrik and his wife, Therese, founded the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation (HLF), and he has served the official spokesperson for the Garden of Dreams Foundation (GDF). Through its fundraising efforts and community outreach, HLF strives to create positive change in the lives of children and adults throughout the world through education and health services. In 2012, he received the Garden of Dreams Hero Award, which annually honors a person or organization who embodies the spirit and commitment of the Foundation, with active, on-going dedication to children facing obstacles.
The Sweden native played 15 seasons with the Rangers (2005-06 – 2019-20) and owned over 50 franchise records at the time of his retirement, including all-time records for wins (459), appearances by a goaltender (887), shutouts (64), playoff appearances (by either a skater or goaltender – 130), playoff wins (61), and playoff shutouts (10). In 2011-12, Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s Best Goaltender and was a finalist for the award in four other seasons throughout his tenure with the Rangers (2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2012-13). A five-time NHL All-Star (2009, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019), Lundqvist was named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team in 2011-12, the NHL’s Second All-Star Team in 2012-13, and the NHL’s All-Rookie Team in 2005-06.
Lundqvist earned numerous team awards and honors throughout his career. He was named the Rangers’ Most Valuable Player in nine different seasons, which is more than any other player in franchise history. In addition, Lundqvist was twice named the winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, which is presented annually to the Ranger who, as chosen by the fans, “goes above and beyond the call of duty.” On January 28, 2022, Lundqvist was given the highest honor a Rangers player can receive, when his No. 30 jersey was raised to the MSG rafters.
As a result of this announcement, while Lundqvist’s new job/title sounds a bit busy; more important than that – it does feel like he’s following in the footsteps of Rod Gilbert.
I also think it says a lot, that Lundqvist, a man who earned over $100,000,000 during his playing days, has chose to remain in New York City, rather than returning home to Sweden on a full-time basis, or for that matter, living anywhere else in the world.
Whatever I once felt about his salary during his playing days (I still stand by these points, and let’s face it, over time, everything that I ever said/predicted about it wound up becoming true), is long behind me. (I still don’t think I’ll be on his Christmas card list anytime soon though!)
As has been the case for the past year, I see Lundqvist for what he is/was – an all-time great Ranger and a future Hall of Famer.
Sure, I always disliked his final contract (and no one believed me when I said the Rangers would eventually buy him out of it – but there’s no point in harping on that and doing the “I told you so” act), but if I truly hate anything, it’s this – the salary cap era.
I know I’ve made this point 724678267824678252546789256789256789254 times before (hi Mike The Esquire, Dan M., and Rich M.), but if it weren’t for the salary cap – I would’ve never had a gripe about Lundqvist to begin with. However, what’s done is done!
While I love history, I rather promote positive history (which is what all of my books do), rather than live in the past, or to be specific, wallow around in negative history. Life is short – there’s no point in being negative all of the time.
This is my long way of saying that this was the right move.
The Rangers have their most famous player (and arguably best – depending on how you feel about Jaromir Jagr and the players of today) of the last two decades now under a new deal. This only creates good-will.
And perhaps similar to me, whenever I ran into Rod Gilbert at MSG; come ten, twenty, thirty years down the line, younger fans will be looking at “King Gray Beard” at MSG, while their parents tell them how great he was during his playing days. And maybe, as it once was for me, these young fans will then do their research and appreciate Rangers’ history as much as I do.
If there’s any line in the Rangers’ press release that caught my eye, it was this one:
“Lundqvist will once again be a lead studio analyst on MSG Network throughout the Rangers season.”
I saw some fans ponder if this meant the end of Sieve Vagistat on the MSGN. However, for as much as I’d like to see Vally promoting his homemade arts-and-crafts chart nonsense to Shannon Hogan on Islander broadcasts – I don’t think this means the end of Vally during Ranger broadcasts.
After all, the two keywords of that sentence, “once again.”
If anything, I think the Rangers meant that Lundqvist will be making more appearances on the MSGN, where he will then share the “lead studio analyst” role with the worst back-up goaltender that he ever played with. (And that’s a fact, and not an opinion!)
In addition, MSGN just had Vally on their network during the Jacob Trouba captaincy press conference from a few weeks ago. If they were moving on from him, the clear-sighted ANALytic one wouldn’t have been there.
In conclusion on this topic, I feel that Lundqvist’s new job is somewhat a “circle of life” thing. The great Rod Gilbert is gone. Another player that exclusively played for the Rangers has succeeded him.
In the future, and as Lundqvist grows older, perhaps you’ll see players like Chris Kreider and Adam Fox adding the word “ambassador” to their resumes.
Good luck to Lundqvist, and the club, during the 2022-23 season.
Let’s now cover some rapid-fire questions and thoughts, before sharing with you my latest for Stan Fischler.
During the summer, I’ve been running “this day in Rangers’ history” bits on my Twitter account. A lot of the stuff that I’ve posted is material that I just flat-out know off of the top of my head, due to writing so much about the franchise’s history this summer.
The point of bringing up Emile Francis here? Easy, and for the 986789678678967896789678967896th time on this site – it’s pure blasphemy that the Rangers refuse to honor “The Cat” in their rafters.
As previously noted, and on numerous occasions, both on this site, and in my books – if there’s any true sad act of defiance committed by the organization – it’s the fact that they didn’t honor Francis when he was alive.
If the Rangers ever decide to do so, it’s now too late.
Furthermore, with Gilbert gone, Francis may have lost his biggest advocate, as it was Gilbert himself who pushed the Rangers to honor both Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield.
And if you’re one of these people, like someone I respect, Larry Brooks, who thinks that Brad Park should be there – well I can name eight other people, including Francis, that belong there, before the former #2 of the Rangers’ blue line gets his day – a day I wouldn’t mind, as long as everyone else has their day too.
As far as everyone else omitted from the rafters? Well there’s a book out there about that, a book I’ll plug at the end of this blog!
Switching gears to a lighter note, is our next topic of discussion!
If you’re unfamiliar with my past, in another life, I once promoted and booked independent wrestling shows for ten years. In other words, I’m very familiar with the wrestling business, and one of the greatest (and perhaps the most troubled) to ever do it was “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
On Thursday, September 8th, Flair, who was friends with Bob Probert during his heyday, met up with a fellow pugilist, Ryan Reaves, at a local watering hole in New Jersey:
— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) September 8, 2022
If you don’t know this already (and I’ve even been told this by Flair’s son-in-law, wrestling impresario, Conrad Thompson) – when it comes to front-running, no one is a bigger band-wagoner than Ric Flair himself.
Need proof? Just google “Ric Flair + sports,” and you’ll see Flair adorning 9876786789 different jerseys while also making 967868667896 different pregame speeches, and on behalf of 56756767567858 different teams.
As a child of the late 1980s and early 1990s, I grew up as a huge “mark” of Ric Flair. Suffice to say, Flair tag-teaming with “The Grim Reaver” brought a smile to my face when I saw this video.
Sure, at the end of this day, this video means nothing, but I enjoyed this video for two reasons:
— Flair had been a fixture for the Carolina Hurricanes, where they even play his famous “WOOOO’s” during their games.
— Maybe we’ll get a Ric Flair sighting at MSG this season.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that Flair is a hockey fan. One of my buddies, during the early 2000s, mentioned that Flair was late to a show because he was watching a Stanley Cup Final.
While I don’t know how familiar Flair truly is with Reaves and his career; at the same time, Flair enjoys hockey.
My point? This solely isn’t a video of two random celebrities who are unfamiliar with one another, and then posting something online for clicks/views.
What I’d like to see happen next? Flair chopping Vally right out of the MSG studio. Maybe he can get “color” on him too.
Let’s get into a status update on the Rangers, before closing out with two features centered around the Flyers.
As the 2022-23 season rapidly approaches, we don’t have a true update on Lundkvist’s trade demand, outside of (and as suggested last blog) that this demand didn’t just take place last week, when Larry Brooks, of the New York Post, first reported it.
(Of note, Brooks is the only reporter on the beat that breaks news. Maybe one day, I’ll start reporting what I hear, but then again, I probably won’t. If I did, I’d lose all of my contacts, which admittedly, are contacts that are not in the Rangers’ front office! That said, and if you noticed last season, I’ve hinted at stuff, and then let the real beat reporters break it first. I’ve just always considered myself as someone with an opinion, rather than as a true “reporter.”)
It’s being reported by multiple sources (I believe Arthur Staple, who made up the Drury is angry at Panarin story, was the first to have it), that Lundkvist’s ask for a trade goes all the way back to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Gun to my head, I believe that Drury will trade Lundkvist between now and training camp, especially since the Rangers have no use for him. In addition, there’s no reason to keep an unhappy player around.
Furthermore, Staple, among others, is also reporting that teams have offered a second-round pick for Lundkvist, who was a first-round pick himself. However, Lundkvist was the 28th-overall pick of a 31-team draft, so a second-round pick offer isn’t that egregious.
As far as anything else, we’re just biding our time until Rangers’ training camp, but before getting there, we do have two games of interest to watch!
Perhaps by the time you read these words, Rangers’ hockey, or at least some form of it, returns in just a week’s time.
The Flyers and Rangers will play a pair of games at the PPL Center starting this Friday, September 16th.
For those unfamiliar, the PPL Center is located in Allentown, PA, and boasts a capacity of 8,500 seats. It’s also where the Lehigh Valley Phantoms play, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate team.
I’d love to attend these games, but I do have prior engagements that weekend. If I can wiggle out of them, maybe I’ll go to the Friday night game.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been to Allentown many times in my life (during my wrestling days) and it’s a fun city – especially if you love small-town dive bars! Yuengling draft all the way!
One of my favorite Allentown stories? One time (not at band camp – yes, that’s an “American Pie” reference – maybe I’m dating myself), I was traveling with three wrestlers and we were going to some show that Afa “The Wild Samoan” was promoting. These were in the days long before GPS and smart phones. Instead, we fuddled around with a map the size of Manhattan. And trying to fold it back up? Forget about it!
Once arriving into Allentown, we had trouble finding the building. We stopped on a local street and then asked some guy if he knew where the building was. He responded with, “you see that red light, make a right there and the building is on your left.” Being a smart-ass, I replied, “what if the light turns green?” I shit you not, this guy was totally perplexed about this question, and then took what felt like five minutes to think it over (in reality, it was probably about twenty seconds), and said, “you can still make the right.”
Maybe I’m a city-slicker, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed this interaction with small-town folk, and perhaps a folk that was an imbecilic fan of the Flyers! (I kid, I kid!)
As I write these words to you, the Rangers, nor the Flyers, have announced any information about these games on their official websites.
However, if you visit https://www.pplcenter.com/events/detail/flyers-vs-rangers-rookie-game-series, you’ll see that you can buy tickets for both games for as low as $10 and as high as $25.
Give the Flyers and/or the venue credit – this is an affordable night out. Plus, you get to see the future of both franchises.
Presently, we don’t know the rosters for each team, nor if these games will be aired for an internet/TV audience.
For what it’s worth, the Flyers are pretty good when it comes to streaming events, whether it be through their website or via their social media channels.
As you may know, you can’t say the same about the Rangers, despite you know, the fact that they own their own network. However, the Rangers did air the Trouba captaincy press conference on both the M$GN and on their social media channels, so maybe the tide is turning.
In the event that these games are aired on the internet and/or on television, I’ll cover them on this site. If not, oh well. And if you go to these games, feel free to reach out and send in your own thoughts to BULLSMC@aol.com
Speaking of the Flyers, our penultimate segment (sans the PLUGS), my latest for Stan Fischler!
As mentioned to the point of ad-nauseam on this site; for over a year now, I’ve been writing for Stan Fischler, where “The Maven” (who has nicknamed yours truly as “The Young Maven” – a true honor), publishes my stuff on both NHL.com and in “The Hockey News.”
For what it’s worth, my article on Hobey Baker, among other things, will appear in Friday’s edition of “The Hockey News.” I think it will be posted around 1PM Friday, and you can find the link when posted here: https://thehockeynews.com/tag/stan-fischler
Anyway, as mentioned 7895678967867897896 times in the past, Fischler, unlike yours truly on this site, has space constraints. In turn, I run what I write for Fischler in whole here, and then let Stan do his editing magic for whatever makes the cut for NHL.com and “The Hockey News.”
This is my long-winded way of introducing one of my latest assignments for “The Maven” – coming up with a surprise team of the Metropolitan Division.
As you’ll now see, the Flyers are my pick to shatter all expectations. Let’s get into it.
THE SURPRISE TEAM OF THE METROPOLITAN DIVISION
THE PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
The heralded Metropolitan Division, and as is usually the case, feels like a tag team steel cage death match.
In one corner, are the veterans of the division, the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the other corner, are the young bucks looking to vanquish the pair of former Stanley Cup winners, and hoist the silver chalice themselves, the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers.
While these four teams jockeyed it out for first-place last season – can any of the bottom four horses nose their way to a playoff berth?
The New York Islanders, who do play adjacent to a racetrack (Belmont), didn’t add any new stallions to their stable in the off-season. Instead, Isles’ head-honcho Lou Lamoriello is banking that last season was an aberration. Time will tell, but he may be ripping up his tickets by the end of the season.
The New Jersey Devils enter the Metropolitan race with a collection of mustangs ready to run, now with a former two-time champion, Ondrej Palat, looking to pace the pack. However, goaltending, a key piece of any strong playoff team, is suspect in Newark.
One team that did land a pure thoroughbred this summer were the Columbus Blue Jackets, when they now famously signed Johnny Gaudreau to a seven-year deal worth $68,250,000. While Gaudreau can play in a breakneck fashion, it remains to be seen if his teammates can keep up.
Ironically, it is the team that brought the former head coach of the Blue Jackets (and the Rangers before that) into the fold, that could become the “Rocky Balboa” underdog of the division. Of course, I’m talking about the John Tortorella led Philadelphia Flyers.
There have been a myriad of suggestions and theories on why the Flyers have fallen from grace, ever since being ousted by the Islanders in seven games during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s now up to Tortorella, a two-time winner of the Jack Adams Award, to pull in the reins and veer the Flyers back on track.
One of the Flyers’ biggest weaknesses from last season was their defense, and to be specific, their defensive structure.
“You need structure. I think one of the most important attributes of a head coach is to find and teach the structure away from the puck, and I work at that,” said Tortorella after being hired by Flyers’ g.m. Chuck Fletcher.
Defense starts at the goaltending position. For the Flyers, seemingly, and ever since the retirement of Ron Hextall – they haven’t been able to find stability in net.
At one point in his career, it was thought that Carter Hart could become a perennial Vezina contender. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
“I think we need to give Carter a little bit more support as far as how we play around him. Allow him to really get himself into the National Hockey League. He’s 23 — 23 as a goalie,” said the new Flyers’ bench boss. “And I’m not gonna give any criticisms to his prior play, but this is how you go about it.”
If anyone can get the best out of Hart, it’s Tortorella himself.
Not only did he previously coach a pair of Vezina Trophy winners, Henrik Lundqvist (2012) and Sergei Bobrovsky (2017), but both goalies became annual candidates for the award while Torts coached them. More important than that? Both of these net-minders had their peak years under Torts.
Much has been said about the Flyers’ biggest acquisition of the off-season, defenseman Tony DeAngelo. While others are predicting nuclear warfare between the two strong-willed hockeymen – I believe Torts and TDA will thrive together.
“Tony DeAngelo’s a hell of a player, DeAngelo has personality. Is he going to say and do some stupid stuff? You’re damn right he is,” said Tortorella. “But I’d rather have a guy doing stupid stuff than having a choir boy here just going about your business. You don’t win that way, you don’t win championships, you don’t build a team without any personality. Tony’s going to bring that and, plus, he’s a hell of a player.”
DeAngelo and Tortorella, who each had their own stints in New York, will be aligned with another former Ranger himself, Kevin Hayes.
Hayes, now in the fourth-year of his seven-year deal that pays him $7,142,857 annually, will be looking to excel following an injury-plagued 2021-22 season, and more important than that – the tragic loss of his brother, Jimmy Hayes.
Joining Hayes down the middle in Philly is front-line center, Sean Couturier, who like Hayes, spent the bulk of the 2021-22 campaign on the shelf with injuries. Having both centers back in tip-top shape should only improve the state of the club.
“I kind of get coined as that defensive guy. You can coin me any way you want, you can say what you want about me. That’s a huge part of winning,” said Tortorella during his introductory press conference.
In the eyes of some, the plus-minus stat isn’t as important as it used to be. However, it is alarming that the remainder of the Flyers’ top nine group of forwards finished last season with abysmal plus-minus stats.
Travis Konecny (-23), Cam Atkinson (-2), James van Reimsdyk (-33), Joel Farabee (-11), Scott Laughton (-9), Morgan Frost (-11) and Owen Tippett (-4) should see their plus-minus numbers improve under Tortorella – especially if Hart bounces back and has a stellar campaign.
The same goes for the Flyers’ defensive core, Ivan Provorov (-20), Rasmus Ristolainen (-9), and Cam York (-14).
Of all returning Flyers, only defenseman Travis Sanheim finished with a positive plus-minus stat (+9) last season.
“The culture needs to change,” said Tortorella following his July hiring.
If anyone can change the mood in Philly, it’s the head coach with twelve playoff appearances and one Stanley Cup to his name.
Currently, the Vegas odd-makers have the Flyers pegged as the worst team of the Metropolitan Division (+15000 odds of winning the Stanley Cup).
While it would most certainly be surprising should the Flyers win the Stanley Cup in 2023; what shouldn’t be surprising is if the Flyers qualify for the postseason – especially if Flyer foes, the Capitals and Penguins, continue to regress.
Before heading home tonight, I’m happy (and thankful) that many of you readers are interested in my upcoming title, “Tricks of the Trade – A Century-Long Journey Through Every Trade Made In New York Rangers’ History.”
My email (and Twitter account) has been flooded with many questions about the book, including some iteration of this one, “what do you consider to be the greatest what if question in Rangers’ history?”
If you don’t know already (and all of them will be covered in the book/title), the Rangers have had a litany of “what if questions” throughout their near one hundred years of existence.
Perhaps two of the biggest questions are these:
“What if the Rangers (prior to the Emile Francis era) played home playoff games at MSG?”
My answer – they’d have more than four Stanley Cups to their ledger – where the 1950 loss to the Red Wings hurts the most. After all, if the Rangers had a home game at M$G during that seven-game set (that damn circus), most likely, there would’ve been no such thing as the mocking “19-40” chant.
“What if the Rangers drafted Mike Bossy during the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft?”
This one also stings like sweat in the eyes, or like a butthole after eating bad Mexican food. During the 1977 NHL Draft, then general manager, John Ferguson, selected both Lucien DeBlois (8th overall) and Ron Duguay (13th overall). The upstart Islanders then selected Mike Bossy with their 15th overall pick. Ugh.
Had Ferguson selected Bossy, who the g.m. thought was both small and soft, it changes everything. Maybe the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1979. At the very least, there’s no way the Islanders win four straight Stanley Cups in the early 1980s. Once again – ugh.
As a “Rangers’ Historian” (Fischler calls me one and that’s good enough for me), my biggest “what if question” begins at the start of the franchise’s existence – “what if the Rangers never fired Conn Smythe prior to playing their first game?”
I extensively go into detail when covering this question in “Tricks of the Trade – A Century-Long Journey Through Every Trade Made In New York Rangers’ History,” but for the purpose of this blog posting – who knows?
If you don’t know your hockey history, it was Conn Smythe who put the Original Rangers together – an “expansion” team that then won their first Stanley Cup in Year Two of their existence.
Prior to the club’s first game, the Rangers fired Smythe for several reasons, where the two biggest reasons were Smythe’s refusal to sign Babe Dye at the persistence of his boss, and because Lester Patrick, now formerly of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, had become available.
Again, while I explain all of this in-detail during my upcoming book – just think about it. Had Smythe not been fired, there’s no such thing as the Toronto Maple Leafs today – or at the very least, the incarnation that we now know.
Furthermore, while the cantankerous and hard-headed Smythe would’ve most likely butted heads anyway with his boss at the time, Col. John S. Hammond – maybe the Rangers win more than three Stanley Cups, as they did under Patrick.
In addition, if Smythe wasn’t fired, we would never have the “Silver Fox” story either, when Patrick temporarily took over the Rangers’ net during the 1928 Stanley Cup Final, following an injury to then starting goaltender, Lorne Chabot.
Admittedly, the above is my unsubtle way of running a shameless plug for my upcoming volume set of books!
Speaking of plugs, it’s now time for everyone’s favorite segment, “THE PLUGS” segment.
My first 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:
Here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them:
Nils Lundkvist Wants Out; Jimmy Vesey Wants In, No Fault Nils’ History, Claude Lemieux’s Role in Ranger Exiles, The Sportsmanship Legacy of Hobey Baker, Can the JT Miller Rumors, Book Updates & More
Why The Metropolitan Division Still Reigns Supreme; ’22-’23 Thoughts, Who’s Better: Shestyorkin vs Vasilevskiy, Gallant and Drury Year II, Early Season Previews, Book Updates & More
Ryan Strome Interview; New Duck Quacks About His Entire Rangers’ Career; The Unimpressive World Juniors Tournament & The Disney Finish, Evaluating Prospects; Thoughts on Othmann, Garand and Cuylle, “ONE GAME AT A TIME” Now On Sale & More
If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:
Up next for yours truly: completing “Tricks of the Trade!” Cross your fingers that the book comes out before the first puck drop of the 2022-23 campaign!
I’ll be back next week. I know it sounds cliche and boring, but I still can’t believe the summer is over. (For me, the summer is over once I change the dial on my air conditioner from “max” to somewhere between “min” and the middle!)
Thanks for reading.
LET’S GO RANGERS!
@NYCTHEMIC on the Tweeter machine