NYR Report: Filling The Voids
There hasn’t been a repeat Stanley Cup champion in the NHL since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. Why? Because it is always so tough to keep the same team together and have the same chemistry as you did the year before.
The New York Rangers are experiencing that right now. After a magical run to the Final for the first time since 1994, already four key pieces to that team have left, leaving huge holes as the Rangers head into the 2014-15 campaign.
Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle left for the Sunshine State to play with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Benoit Pouliot was signed by the Edmonton Oilers, and Brad Richards was bought out by the organization, and he recently signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks.
These four players were prime pieces of the puzzle which resulted in the Rangers’ playoff run this year. Anton Stralman was a rock on defense and was the unsung hero for much of the regular season and playoffs, he even dove behind Henrik Lundqvist to sweep a puck off the goal line against the Los Angeles Kings. He was definitely the most underrated defenseman on the Rangers, and that was due to the fact of the shutdown qualities that Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi brought to the table.
Some may think that losing Stralman isn’t really a big deal, but in the eyes of many, it is a big deal, because of the passion and drive he brought to the team, and that simply can’t be replaced.
Brian Boyle was a big piece too. He is a huge body who can stand in front of the net to provide screens, he can throw the body if you need him too, and he is great on the penalty kill. He mixed in a few goals for the Rangers, but that really isn’t his forte. All in all, Boyle was a great two-way center and he will be sorely missed by head coach Alain Vigneault.
Benoit Pouliot was known for taking bad offensive-zone penalties which won’t be missed, but his chemistry with Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard is something that can’t be repeated. They were the Rangers’ most dangerous and consistent line throughout the entire season, and with Pouliot’s touch now gone, that line has now gone with it, and Brassard and Zuccarello (pending contracts) will need to find a new teammate to play with.
Finally, Brad Richards, although he has seriously lost his scoring touch over recent years, his veteran leadership and experience will be missed in a locker room full of young players. Although the Rangers played without officially naming a captain after Ryan Callahan left, fans including myself knew that Richards was playing the captain role, leading the team on and off the ice. We wish him nothing but the best in Chicago, and maybe a return awaits him?
To combat these losses, Glen Sather went out and reeled in Dan Boyle, Mike Kostka, Chris Mueller, Tanner Glass, Matt Hunwick and Chris Bourque. Besides the signing of Boyle, who will replace Stralman, the rest are really depth signings by Sather. He still needs to go out and get a true center, perhaps in the form of Joe Thornton or Dany Heatley who can play both.
Things change quickly in the NHL, and that may mean losing players that were on a Final team, and in this case, Rangers brass has some holes to fill.