Jim Schoenfeld (Chris Rutsch photo)
The New York Rangers-- losers of four of their last five games before the All-Star break-- aren't doing so well as of late, and blithering old Larry Brooks of the New York Post thinks he knows who is at fault: Jim Schoenfeld and the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Brooks puts the panic on in his Jan. 22nd column:
For as long as I am covering the Rangers, I do not want to hear Jim Schoenfeld's name again.
I do not want Tom Renney or Don Maloney or Glen Sather to ever again explain that one player rather than another has been recalled from Hartford because of anything, "Schony said."
I do not want to hear about a prospect remaining in Hartford rather than getting a call to Broadway because, "Schony doesn't think he's ready."
I want the people running the Rangers to decide what's best for the Rangers; not the person who runs Hartford. (Is it better for the Rangers organization or is it better for the 2006-07 Wolf Pack to have Hugh Jessiman playing in the ECHL right now?).
I want Renney this week to make personnel evaluations based on the best interests of the Rangers. And in conjunction with Renney's visits to Wolf Pack practices, I want Sather to use waivers to cut the safety net of veterans the head coach has used as a security blanket right out from under him.
I want to see two or three fresh faces - Brandon Dubinsky, and maybe Ryan Callahan, maybe Lauri Korpikoski, maybe Dane Byers, maybe Nigel Dawes - when the Rangers reconvene Thursday.
Help is going to have to come from Hartford, but it is a move that needs to be made for every conceivable right reason. And it's one that needs to be made regardless of what "Schony says."
Never mind that Callahan has already been called up twice, and basically saw no minutes each time, or that Dawes and Immonen were already in New York for even longer stretches and either sat around a lot or were underutilized. Contrary to what Brooks is suggesting-- that Schoenfeld is keeping players in Hartford for his own reasons, at the expense of the Rangers organization-- players have left Hartford to join the Rangers this season. It shouldn't be held against Schoenfeld that call-ups get treated like unwanted step-children once they're on the New York roster.
Dubi of Blueshirt Bulletin, normally the most coherent of the Rangers web writers out there, agrees:
Larry Brooks of the New York Post writes today about the imperative of bringing up at least Brandon Dubinsky and possibly others, and the imperative of making decisions that benefit the Rangers, not the Wolf Pack. Can't agree with him more.
I'm not sure if Dubi is agreeing with Brooks' assertion that the Rangers, who are paying Schoenfeld to be the head coach and general manager of the Wolf Pack, should nevertheless disregard Schoenfeld's input when they evaluate the players in Hartford-- thus making Schoenfeld the equivalent of a potted plant. Or a newspaper reporter.
The Journal News' Sam Weinman-- by contrast an actual, useful newspaper reporter-- puts the Rangers player evaluation process in a much different light, by way of a discussion with Rangers head coach Tom Renney that Weinman had posted a couple of weeks earlier:
The question had to do with personnel changes, specifically bringing players up from Hartford, and why the Rangers have been reluctant to make many.
"I assume responsibility for what is in front of me as a team. I take the responsibility seriously. This is what I have. I’ve agreed to participate in this process, and this is my job," Renney said.
One other part: I asked Renney how the dynamic works with Jim Schoenfeld, whether the Hartford GM and coach is in his ear about bringing players up. Renney said that Schoenfeld never makes a case for a player unless Renney and others in New York ask first.
Jarkko Immonen (Chris Rutsch photo)
Weinman floated another possibility yesterday-- that Renney's visit to Hartford during the All-Star break might not just be to see which players are ready to make their way up, but also which players should make their way out:
The plan was for Tom Renney to be in Hartford yesterday to assess the Rangers’ young talent, and I doubt there are many among you who would have a problem if he came back to New York with a player or two (or eight).
I’m not sure, but if it does result in a call-up (and not just for a couple of games) you wonder if the team could have come to this conclusion a bit earlier in the season.
Again, I doubt the Peter Forsberg trade is likely, but the team surely has its eyes open for someone else who might mesh better with Brendan Shanahan on the second line. And that’s the other part to consider with Renney’s trip to the farm: if the coach might have a clearer picture of who he wants on his roster, he might just as easily realize who’s expendable as well.
To borrow from Michael Gerald, therein lies the rub: whenever the Rangers do have a player in Hartford who shows NHL-level talent, that player usually ends up jump-starting his career elsewhere.
The list of Wolf Pack players who have stuck with the Rangers this season may be short, but the list of players who have passed through Hartford on their way to becoming useful players somewhere else is a lot longer: Dan Cloutier, Mac Savard, Mike York, Vitaly Yeremeyev, Derek Armstrong, Dominic Moore, Lawrence Nycholat, and Jeff Hamilton, just to name a few.
UPDATE 1/24/07 - This is part of what Bruce Berlet (another actual, useful reporter) wrote in this morning's Hartford Courant:
The Wolf Pack went through a 65-minute audition for five members of the Rangers hierarchy Tuesday, and indications are a few will be heading to Broadway after the NHL All-Star break.
Renney wouldn't reveal leading candidates but left little doubt there would be new faces when the Rangers practice Thursday. They resume play Saturday.
Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes, center Brandon Dubinsky and defensemen Daniel Girardi and Ivan Baranka are the most likely to join the Rangers. The Rangers would have to put a player or players on waivers because they're at the 23-man limit.