Was that really Olli Jokinen attempting a lame backhand deke on Brian Boucher with the Rangers’ entire season on the line two Sundays ago? Olli Jokinen…really? That’s the final vision Rangers fans will have to carry into the summer of the 2009-2010 season as 42-goal scorer Marion Gaborik’s skates never touched the ice in the shootout.
Thus, a season that began with such promise, along with a 7-0 start, ended with a whimper as 87 points was just one point too little.
Difficult to point to any one reason the Blueshirts missed the postseason for the first time since 2003-2004, as you could finger their inconsistent play at home, offensive ineptitude, physical shortcomings and John Tortorella’s sometimes questionable decisions as all equally responsible.
In one form or another you could also say every player on the roster was somewhat responsible—some more than others—so let’ take a look at each with our 2009-2010 Rangers report cards.
Center: Vinny Prospal — Age 35
That may have been the last little bit of toothpaste in Prospal’s tube as the 35-year-old is a UFA who’s best years are now in the rearview mirror. The mid-season knee surgery seemed to slow the veteran down, as his second half was not nearly as effective as his first. However, Prospal did seem to instantly click with Gaborik and essentially resurrected his career this year on Broadway. The energy level and on-ice leadership he brought every night were a pleasant surprise. Finding players that actually enjoy playing for Tortorella, as Prospal has admitted, is akin to finding Rangers fans that wear Wade Redden jerseys to the games. You wonder if that alone might get him one more year with the team.
Center: Artem Anisimov – Age: 21
After learning to pick his head up as to avoid having it separated from the rest of his body, Anisimov started finding his NHL legs. At 6-feet-4-inches and 195 lbs., the lanky Russian needs to fill out that frame a bit more, but the crafty skills on offense started to surface late in the season. There’s no questioning his skating ability and a fourth liner he most certainly is not. Some patience is in order here but we have a hunch this kid will break out sometime soon.
Center: Brandon Dubinsky – Age: 23
Not a favorite of Tortorella, Dubinsky was kept away from Gaborik most of the season, almost as if Torts didn’t want things to ever come easy for Duby. The pair found each other as the season reached it’s final week or so and we still think these two have games that are made for each other. Dubinsky’s puck carrying ability is top flight and a finishing touch seemed to be developing as the season closed as well. An important part of next year’s club, he’ll need to pick it up a notch to stay with Gabby, which is definitely where he belongs.
Center: Chris Drury – Age 33
A forgettable season for Drury as the final totals read 14-18-32. Toss in a -10 for a player that has always prided himself as being a two-way forward and this was not exactly a sparkler for Drury.
While you certainly can’t question his work ethic, it appears the days of clutch goals and big minutes are behind him. Settling into life as a third-line player won’t be easy for Drury, but turning 34 prior to next season won’t help his case as Tortorella has already said he’d like to see the Rangers, “Get younger next year.”
Center: Olli Jokinen — Age 31
Tough to grade Jokinen on his short time as a Ranger but you get the feeling what you saw is what you get…and that he simply won’t be back in October. Seems to thrive when the spotlight is dimmest, something his agent is surely aware of. How do you spell Carolina?
Center: Erik Christensen— Age 26
May have finally found a home in New York as the former third-round pick (Pens, 2002) seemed to get better as the season rolled along. Showed smarts with the puck and didn’t shy away from the high traffic areas, Christensen is an RFA the Rangers will seriously consider signing. Was one of the few forwards other than the fourth liners that was noticeable down the stretch.
Center: Brian Boyle – Age 25
If he ever figures out a way to make his 6-foot-6-inch, 225 lb. frame more a part of his game, look out. Our guess is that won’t happen in New York, unless he signs as a tight end with the Jets, who appear to be signing anyone and everyone lately.
Right Wing: Marion Gaborik – Age 27
Tortorella actually felt Gaborik wasn’t involved enough in the final game of the season against Philly. Unfortunately, when you represent the team’s only legitimate chance to score a goal you get some extra attention from the opposition. Gabby carried the team offensively all year and deserved the hockey equivalent of the purple heart for his efforts. The only one that looked uninvolved on that fateful Sunday afternoon in Philly was Torts, especially when he left Gabby on the bench during the shootout.