I guess it’s time to update my category list and move a bunch of players around. And coaches, too! Don’t forget coaches.
First of all, I’d like to say that I was shocked and saddened by the news of the plane crash carrying the KHL team Lokomotiv. I was already going to miss Karlis Skrastins and now I get all teary whenever he’s mentioned. It’s very sad. I really liked him while he was playing with the Stars. He was underappreciated, I thought. I’m a big fan of responsible, dedicated, unsung but important defensemen. They’re getting fewer and fewer these days. The defensemen that really should be forwards get all the press these days, but those like Skrastins are the ones that get the job done. From all accounts he was the nicest guy in the world and we’re going to miss him. We were going to miss him anyway.
On to less serious topics.
We had some defections and some firings and some non-rehirings.
The big defection, of course was Brad Richards. I’ve been on record as being on board with Brad and really not on board with him, so I can’t really say a full-on I told you so, either way. At this moment, though, I’m not that sorry he’s gone. I think we’ll do fine without him. I was happy that Joe Nieuwendyk didn’t trade him at the deadline, but I’m also happy he didn’t shackle the team to him for the rest of his career. Let’s be clear. Brad Richards was not going to sign with Dallas. And it’s not because we didn’t have stable ownership. He was just saying that to be polite. The reason is because we’re not the New York Rangers. Any pretense that he was going to sign anywhere else was just that. Pretense. He wanted the money and the fame. He’s got his Cup, so he wants the rest. I don’t think anybody thinks that the Rangers have any better a chance at winning the Stanley Cup than anybody else, including Richards. And if anybody thinks that Richards is the missing piece to anybody’s Cup dreams, I’m not sure why. He didn’t really do us much good. He got points, but he didn’t help the team over any humps. They tanked after the All-Star Break three years in a row. Nobody led them out of that, including Brad Richards. I hope he and the Rangers are happy together. They’re going to be together for a looooong time.
Brandon Segal and Brian Sutherby have been let go. I liked them both. I thought they brought a little spunk and toughness, but I guess it’s time to move on. I especially hope Sutherby finds a place to go. He got kind of the short end of the stick for some reason. He did fine when he was in, but Crawford didn’t put him in enough.
As we all know, James Neal and Matt Niskanen were shipped off to Pittsburgh back at the trade deadline in exchange for Alex Gologoski. I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but I’ve gotten over it. I think they’re both going to be good players for years to come but these things happen. I think Niskanen needed a change of scenery and I hope it brings him back to where he was. He was getting a lot of undeserved flak here, so I hope he can get a fresh start in Pittsburgh. James Neal is probably chomping at the bit to play with Sid Crosby. So I think he’ll be fine. He has a lot of potential and I’ll hate seeing him meet it somewhere else. I think we got a good return for them, but I’ll be keeping track to make sure.
I have nothing against Jeff Woywitka — I’m sure he’s a nice guy — but I never understood why he got all of Mark Fistric’s ice time. I didn’t really see what Crawford saw in him. Hopefully Mark will get some of that time back and the new coach will see what we all see and give him a chance.
And Jamie Langenbrunner. Now, with him, I could say a HUGE I told you so. Loved him in ’99, but folks, that was thirteen years ago. That’s a long time in hockey player years. And it proved to be true. He pretty much brought nothing with him, because he had nothing with him in New Jersey. It was obvious. I’m glad Nieuwy didn’t keep him any longer and we can still remember the good times.
The big news, and another huge I told you so from me (and pretty much everybody else) to Joe Nieuwendyk, was the firing of Marc Crawford. I cannot tell you how relieved I was about that. I’m sure I’d make a terrible coach, but I think I would have done a better job than Crawford. Especially if it only required me to pick the right players to ice. (If it requires hard work and attention to detail, sure, he’d probably be slightly better.)
There are lots of changes and it’s been a long summer, but I think the thing I’m looking forward to the most is the new coaching staff. I hope they put an exclamation point on the fact that Crawford was a bad pick from the very start. Still, I have to give Nieuwy credit for cutting his losses there. He could have pouted and kept him because he picked him against all advice (I assume), but he sees the bigger picture. I like that about him.