2004-12-31 / Sports

Maloney Positive About the Rangers, Not The NHL

By Joe McDonald

Don Maloney
Don Maloney BRIDGEPORT, CT - Don Maloney is known as an optimistic guy.

The former Ranger great and the team’s current assistant GM usually looks at the sunnier side of situations when it comes to the Blueshirts. Even with the team missing the playoffs the last seven seasons, Maloney tries to put a positive spin on the future.

So it’s a little disheartening to hear his prognosis for the 2004-2005 NHL season.

“We have American League hockey,” he said with a laugh. “But I don’t think we will be seeing the NHL play again this season.”

With this grim view, the Rangers are concentrating on the minor leagues and their prospects playing in college and Europe. Maloney has become somewhat of a team spokesman by making appearances on the Rangers behalf. He has also hosted season ticket holder meetings to discuss what the view will be for the Blueshirts.

“In my opinion, (the lockout) came at a good time for our organization, if there is a good time for our organization. We have so many young players and they are all gaining experience (in the AHL),” Maloney said. “You are playing against what you will normally see at the next level, so it’s a great learning time for us.”

There’s that optimism again, but he has a point since the Hartford Wolf Pack is currently second in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with 47 points.

The Wolf Pack roster has numerous players that would be up on Broadway right now if the NHL were playing. Led by center Jamie Lundmark, Hartford currently employs centers Dominic Moore and Blair Betts, wingers Josef Balej, Jed Ortmeyer, Garth Murray and defensemen Thomas Pock and Bryce Lampman.

All these players have seen time in the NHL and would have been with the Rangers, if there was no labor dispute. Now they get to develop together without any worries about being shuttled back and forth between New York and Hartford.

“This American League has three to six players that would normally be in the NHL, so you are playing against fourth line NHL competition,” Maloney added. “We got lots of bodies and young guys have been playing and having great seasons.”

The Rangers also have very high on their goaltending prospects. The organization is having new goaltending coach Benoit Allaire work with Hartford goalies, Jason LaBarbera and Steve Valiquette. That work has paid off with both goalies continuing on their development and the organization is very high on them.

“We have Jason LaBarbera and Steve Valiquette, who are as good as anybody in this league,” Maloney said.

That helps the Rangers not rush the younger draft picks, such as this year’s first round selection, Al Montoya. Because the Wolf Pack roster has NHL level talent, there is no hurry to get players like Montoya signed.

“Montoya is not going to take the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in two years. When he gets to be 24 to 26, he will be a top-level goaltender,” Maloney said. “There is no reason to rush a 19-year-old, but I would expect to get Al here and put him in the American League next year.”

The assistant GM added that Ranger president Glen Sather has been over in Europe to keep tabs on some of the organization’s European prospect and the team also keeps an eye on its NHL player playing overseas.

With the AHL becoming the top league in this area, there have been some inquiries about moving a few of the ‘Pack’s games to Madison Square Garden. Maloney said that there have been no confirmed plans, but it has been discussed.

“I know they will love to put a game or two down there,” Maloney added. “They have discussed dates and is something being considered.”

Now if Maloney could only be as positive about the lockout, the Rangers would be set.

(Joe McDonald is a writer and owner of www.nysportsday.com, a website dedicated to the coverage of all sports team in New York City. You may contact him at JoeMcDonald@nysportsday .com).

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