The New York Hockey Report: Rucchin! Rucchin! Rucchin!
By Joe McDonald
NEW YORK - At the end of August, the Rangers sent minor leaguer Trevor Gillies and a draft pick to the Mighty Ducks in exchange for center Steve Rucchin. It was a move designed not to bolster scoring, but to provide leadership to a young Blueshirt team.
But Rucchin quickly discovered the guidance was already here.
“These young guys, we have, are leaders too,” the 10-year veteran said. “We have so many guys who may not have a lot of NHL experience, but they have been leaders before. They know what it takes to be effective and get ready. They have the confidence to step up.”
Which makes his job so much easier. The former Ducks captain from 2003-2004 sees many guys who deserve to wear an ‘A’ and even though he officially shares that responsibility with Jaromir Jagr and Darius Kasparaitis, the Rangers lead throughout the roster. “It’s a combined effort; it’s not an individual thing,” he said. “We have so many guys who have experience and are leaders on this team. We have three guys with a letter on their jerseys, but it could be any number of guys who can have a letter.”
What surprised Rucchin was the way this Ranger team came together. The type of makeup reminded him of one of the most special Anaheim teams of the past.
“This team reminds me a lot of the Duck team that went to the finals,” he said. “I was pretty confident coming into the season. We understood what everyone had us pegged. We are not getting ahead of ourselves, because there’s a lot more time to play hockey. But it’s nice to get off to a good start.”
Rucchin came to the Rangers after playing his whole career with Anaheim. After the trade, the center found a different energy at Madison Square Garden compared to what he was used to with the Might Ducks.
“It’s a great place to play,” Rucchin explained. “The fans love their hockey. When times are good, they will let you know and when times are bad, they will let you know. It makes it a lot of fun to come and play. It’s a great experience for me to come and play here.”
The short flights in the Eastern Conference also help. “These half hour and 45 minute flights are something new to me,” Rucchin said. “But it really isn’t any advantage, since all the other teams have that. It definitely makes it easier on the body. It’s nice for me, since I am not used to being in the same time zone for much of the season.”
Coming into this season the 34 year-old scored 153 goals for 432 points during his career and he is known for his tough two-way play, which made him a perfect replacement for Bobby Holik. But this season he is scoring more with five goals for 12 points in 23 games. The new rules have been kind to the Ontario native and he liked them just fine.
“It’s a different game,” he said. “No question. Everyone has to play the same game. I think we are getting a grasp on the penalties. I think it’s getting better. You really have to skate a lot more.” But at 12-7-3, all the Rangers seem to be enjoying the new rules and coming together.
“It wasn’t easy but it was a testament of the guys they have in this locker room,” he said. “Yeah, it’s tough, but it shows the character we have in this locker room. Everyone gets a long and willing to work.”