The guy was essentially a highlight reel the entire season and the priority this off season has to be scoring help up front to take some of the immense weight off his slender, Slovakian shoulders.
Right Wing: Ryan Callahan – Age 25
The late-season injury to Callahan was a huge blow as he appeared to be set to lift his game to the level everyone in the organization has come to expect from this kid. As we said during the first half—a relentless forechecker, the quintessential “banger” and a finishing touch you just know is lurking in his game, that aforementioned injury was as big a reason for the Rangers missing the playoffs as any.
Right Wing: Enver Lisin – Age 23
Showed some flashes and you had to love the kid’s speed but his deficiencies in his own end spelled doom as he fell into Tort’s doghouse and never reemerged. The almost daily post-game floggings of this kid by his head coach should prepare him for anything the rest of his career—though it won’t be spent here.
Left Wing: Sean Avery – Age 30
Just when it looked like Avery would help push the Rangers into the playoffs, he hurts his knee and misses the final stretch. However, he hasn’t exactly flourished under Tortorella and you wonder what his Ranger future really is.
Seems to play a less reckless style under Torts—which on the one hand is a good thing as he avoids the bad penalties but on the other hand it seemed to remove his most effective weapon: The ability to unnerve the opposition. Perhaps the solution lies somewhere in between though we’re not so sure Avery is back next season.
Left Wing: Aaron Voros – Age 28
Only played half the season but began showing his value as a physical force who has a better pair of hands than many think as the season drew to a close. You have to think there’s a place for Voros on the club next year as a fourth liner with his size and some ability.
While Brandon Prust, Jody Shelley and PA, Parenteau might actually play prominent roles on this club next season, particular Prust, each players’ body of work this season was simply too small to warrant a fair grade. One thing is certain though: Prust and Shelley brought much needed energy and a very necessary physical edge and our guess is at least one of the two, if not both, will be back next season.
Defense: Michael Del Zotto – Age 19
An up and down rookie season ended with Del Zotto finding his game again and at 19 this kid had some major flashes of brilliance. Handled the pressure of playing on one of the league’s toughest stages quite well. While the -20 is still a bit troubling, Del Zotto’s puck moving ability and smarts in his own end belies his tender age. The Rangers have a true blue chipper in this kid.
Defense: Matt Gilroy – Age 25
That electric start got everyone real excited but may also have raised bar higher than Gilroy was ready to reach in his first season. Seemed to wilt a bit defensively as the season went along and clearly fell into Tortorella’s doghouse, not even dressing down the stretch.
However, still think this kid has the goods to be special and the fact remains, for all the bellyaching about his defense he finished even in his 69 games. Part of the problem here may be the coaching staff doesn’t feel Gilroy is listening intently enough to their direction. He needs to make that a priority next season as the skills are obvious.
Defense: Dan Girardi – Age 25
Fair to say Girardi had his ups and downs this season with the highlight being his solid play during the late playoff run and lowlight occurring when he essentially bought a ticket during the Daniel Carcillo pummeling of Gaborik back in January.
Logs big minutes every night and has always avoided the glaring errors that seem to plague some of the club’s other blueliners. Brought more of a physical presence to his game this season (excusing the Carcillo thing) and needs to make that an even bigger part of his game next season. Is there a next step for Girardi? We’re sure Torts will tell him there needs to be.