2002-07-13 / Sports

These Teams, They are A’ Changin’ A Metro Hockey Update

Hockey Columnist
By Andrei Petrovitch
These Teams, They are A’ Changin’ A Metro Hockey Update By Andrei Petrovitch Hockey Columnist

These Teams, They are A’ Changin’
A Metro Hockey Update
Hockey Columnist

A hockey update? In July? No, you’re not hallucinating. If anything, the NHL offseason is one in name only, as the various summer free-agent signings and player trades generate the excitement necessary to keep hockey fans from shooting themselves before training camps open in September. With that in mind, let’s look at how the locals are reshaping themselves:

The New York Rangers

They’re mad as hell, and they’re not gonna take it any more!!!!

You wanna push them around in the corners and in front of the net? Try it, punk. Try pushing and shoving Bobby Holik out from in front of the net. Holik gives the Blueshirts added depth at center with his strong two-way play and aggressive attitude. He is useful in any situation and has a reputation for speaking up in the locker room and challenging underachieving teammates.

Still wanna cause trouble? Well, don’t think about skating with your head down-not even for a second. If you do, you’d better watch out for Darius Kasparaitus. Finally, the Rangers have the physical presence that they have been lacking on the blueline ever since Jeff Beukeboom retired. His simple, stay-at-home game will also allow puck rushers like Brian Leetch and Tom Poti to trigger the offense with greater freedom, creativity and confidence.

Off-Season Grade (so far…): B

Center ice and defense have been upgraded, but the team still lacks depth at left wing.

The New Jersey Devils

"Lose a lot, get a little" is the phrase that best describes the Devil’s offseason so far. First, the team took a big hit with the loss of Holik to their Hudson River rivals the Rangers. There are many parallels between Holik’s defection and that of Mark Messier from the Rangers in 1997. In both cases, the departing player reportedly accused his previous organization of disrespect in terms of monetary worth. The latter incident ended up sabotaging the Rangers and costing former General Manager Neil Smith his job; the same could very well happen to Devils’ GM Lou Lamoriello if he isn’t careful.

That said, Lamoriello did make a significant move to offset his team’s costly loss.

Last week he traded forward Petr Sykora and defenseman Mike Commodore, along with some prospects, to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in exchange for forward Jeff Friesen and defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky. Friesen is bigger and more physical than the finesse oriented Sykora (a major plus for a team that plays in the same conference with ruffians such as the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs), while Tverdovsky adds speed to a rapidly aging blueline corps.

Off-Season Grade (so far…): C+

Friesen is good, but he won’t make up for Holik’s leadership.

The New York Islanders

General Manager Mike Milbury earns the Metro Hockey Update’s "SO WHAT?" award for his off-season activity so far. Then again, it’s hard to blame him for standing pat as last year’s moves pushed the Isles into the playoffs for the first time in seven years; as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

However, the team still lacks the scoring winger and physical defenseman necessary to win it all. If anything, the team is worse (on paper, anyway) now that right winger and Metro Hockey Update whipping boy Mariuz Czerkawski has been traded to Montreal. Then again, Czerkawski was too streaky and inconsistent anyway to be of much use in the playoffs. If the Islanders truly want to get the most out of their long-term, big-money investment to center Alexei Yashin, they need to provide him with a consistent North American-style winger who can truly handle the physical traffic that is so common in front of the crease and in the corners of the typical Eastern Conference game. Tony Amonte, a free-agent defector from the Chicago Blackhawks who is familiar with the East from his early days with the Rangers, would be the perfect fit. Unfortunately for the Isles, their player payroll budget might not be able to accommodate Amonte’s demands which may exceed $7 million per season.

Off-Season Grade (so far…): D

There’s still plenty of time, but Milbury has still not given Islander fans any reason to believe that this is their year.

Around the League:

The Dallas Stars signed wingers Bill Guerin and Scott Young from the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues, respectively…the Detroit Red Wings signed goalie Curtis Joseph, who previously played for Toronto…to replace him, the Leafs signed goalie Ed Belfour away from Dallas.

For more hockey news during the off-season, check out the following web sites:

www.hockeybird.com

www.Faceoff.com

www.tsn.ca/nhl

www.sportingnews.com/nhl

www.fourthperiod.com


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