Unsigned Dubinsky Among 30 at Rangers Pre-Camp Workout


Written on 8/31/2009 by Jim Cerny

Brandon Dubinsky remains without a contract, but that didn't stop the 23 year-old center from taking to the ice on Monday with roughly 30 other players at an informal pre-camp workout at the Rangers training facility in Westchester, NY.

While I was otherwise engaged with new Ranger---and fellow New Yorker---Chris Higgins in the locker room after the workout, Newsday's Steve Zipay caught up with Dubinsky, and Dubi told him that, "I want to be a Ranger....something's going to get done real quick and this will be an afterthought."

The ongoing contract negotiations have not affected the affable Dubinsky's sarcastic sense of humor at all. When Dubinsky tried on a new pair of Bauer gloves, I asked him if they had some goals in them. Dubinsky, who potted 14 goals as a rookie two years ago and 13  last season, quickly shot back, "At least 50....give or take!"

The Rangers would sign up for half that 50-goal total in a heartbeat.

Dubinsky was also quite happy to show off his new watch. I asked him if he bought it on the streets of New York City, and the proud Dubinsky responded, "Nope. $27....on Amazon!"

And with that Dubinsky bid adieu, and left the contract work up to his agent.

Prediction: despite a somewhat down Sophomore campaign, Dubinsky is highly regarded by Rangers management and head coach John Tortorella. I think the two sides will avoid Dubinsky having to sign a qualifying offer, and instead he will get a multi-year deal in similar fashion---if not similar dollars---as 24 year-old teammate Ryan Callahan.

Gillis Gets Defensive in Vancouver


Written on 8/28/2009 by Jim Cerny

When word was out that the Vancouver Canucks had a pair of press announcements to make today, it seemed that the inevitable was finally taking place: that the club had come to terms with franchise goalie Roberto Luongo on a long-term contract extension.

Thing is, neither announcement was about Luongo. Though you could argue that both were made with Luongo in mind.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis instead sent out word that he had acquired three veteran defensemen to bolster what had been considered a problem area in front of Luongo.

The long-rumored signing of 40 year-old Mathieu Schndeider (left) was made official; and Gillis also announced the acquisitions of 27 year-old Christian Ehrhoff (right) and 33 year-old Brad Lukowich from the San Jose Sharks for prospects Patrick White---a former first round pick---and Daniel Rahimi.

Today's moves brought the Canucks to the absolute tip of the salary cap, though Gillis cautioned that "a lot of things can happen" to sort out available---and unavailable---dollars before the cap is enforced on October 1st

More importantly, the three additions to the blueline will surely provide Luongo---as well as head coach Alain Vignault---a sense of relief. Prior to today the Canucks were looking at four solid NHL-caliber defensemen---Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo, Alex Edler, and Kevin Bieksa---and many question marks. Now the club is seven deep, not including the rugged Shane O'Brien who led the club in penalty minutes a year ago.

"In the West, what we have found is that you can never have enough good defensemen," stated Gillis. "It'll be a very competitive camp, which I like. We want to be as deep as possible."

While Schneider and Lukowich arrive with one Stanley Cup ring each, it is Ehrhoff who was the most important addition today for the Canucks. He is a big (6'2", 205) defenseman who averaged just under 22 minutes of ice-time per game last season. Ehrhoff is also coming off a career-best 42 points, 25 of which were produced on the power play. He will be a quality replacement for the departed Mattias Ohlund, younger and with much more upside, as well.

The question of why San Jose would choose to move Ehrhoff is simple to answer. He is due to make more than $6 million in total salary over the next two seasons, and the Sharks wanted to free up some money to chase a top-six forward before the regular season gets underway. It will be interesting to see if the main object of their desire---Ottawa's disgruntled Dany Heatley---will be more difficult to trade for now that Ehrhoff is no longer a chip in the mix.

Nonetheless, the Sharks search for a goal scorer is not of concern to Gillis, who needs only to lock-up Luongo long-term to finish his off-season to-do list, now that he has bolstered his defense corps.

To that end, Gillis said today that he has "no concerns whatsoever" about a pending deal with his star goaltender and team captain, and that the two sides were "still on course" to finalize the new contract.

Howlings in Glendale


Written on 8/27/2009 by Jim Cerny

While all hell has broken loose with the Phoenix Coyotes the past several months, Don Maloney has tried to go about the business of assembling a competitive hockey club on a phantom budget, not knowing if his team will remain in Glendale, move to Hamilton, or even continue to employ its head coach, Wayne Gretzky.

Just consider this the latest imperfect situation for one of the NHL's classiest gentlemen.

That Maloney is indeed as first-class as they come is something I know firsthand, having worked with him in the Islanders organization during the 1990's. At the time of his retirement as a player, on my birthday---January the 17th---in 1991, the Islanders hired Maloney as Assistant General Manager, and heir apparent, to legendary GM Bill Torrey.

While the Isles fully expected the intelligent and hard-working Maloney to one day succeed Torrey---to that point, the only General Manager in franchise history---no one believed that it would happen as quickly as it did. But a new ownership group forced Torrey out after the 1991-92 season, and Maloney---only a year and a half removed from his playing days---was elevated to the GM position at the age of 33.

Just call this "Imperfect Situation No. 1" because Maloney was often overwhelmed---and rightfully so---by the job at hand, and he no longer had one of the sharpest minds in all of the sport to turn to and learn from with Torrey out of the picture.

That 1992-93 Islanders squad actually made a shocking run to the Eastern Conferenec Finals---remember David Volek's OT goal that ended the Pittsburgh Penguins two-year reign as champion?---albeit with a group of players largely acquired by Torrey, not Maloney.

The following season, the Isles barely made the playoffs, and then were embarrassed in a one-sided first-round sweep at the hands of the Rangers. It was their final playoff appearance for the next eight years.

While balancing his own missteps, diminishing returns, learning on the fly, and dealing with a shaky ownership situation, Maloney remained true to himself. He was upbeat, personable, and friendly to all whom he came in contact with. And just like he was as a player, Maloney worked dilgently at his craft.

But in the summer of 1995, he signed his own death certificate when he hired Mike Milbury as head coach. Everyone in the game knew of Milbury's hunger to run his own club---not only on the ice, but in the front office, as well. Not shockingly, Maloney was out as Isles GM before the season was even three months old, replaced by Milbury.

Maloney's reputation as a future management star had taken quite the hit. And things actually got worse over the ensuing months when many in the Islanders organization, likely seeking to curry favor with Milbury, continued to take shots at Maloney's ability to lead a franchise.

Often not mentioned, however, is that under his watch as GM, the Isles had drafted solid NHLers in Darius Kasparaitis, Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, Tommy Salo, and Wade Redden (who was flipped for Bryan Berard in a deal with Ottawa). Instead, it was more commonly discussed that he had swung and missed by selecting Brett Lindros with the ninth overall pick in 1994, and Lindros would only play 51 NHL games due to consussion-related issues.

Eventually, Maloney returned to the Rangers, the team that had drafted him and for which he played the majority of his 13-year NHL career. He served as Assistant General Manager under, first, Neil Smith, and then Glen Sather for ten seasons.

Unfortunately for Maloney---and the Rangers---the Blueshirts reached the post-season only twice during those ten years.

To a lesser degree, you can call this the "Imperfect Situation No. 2" for Maloney, considering the fact that it was one of the least successful runs in Rangers' history.

However, it was an excellent learning time for Maloney, who eventually became Vice President of Player Personnel for the Rangers, helping draft the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, and Brandon Dubinsky, among others.

After being passed over for many GM openings over the years---perhaps the stigma of his time on Long Island haunted him---Maloney was named General Manager of the Coyotes in May of 2007. And since that time, Maloney has actually received deserved respect for the job he has done running the show in the desert.

However, pretty much from Day One with the 'Yotes, it has been "Imperfect Situation No. 3" for Maloney. An extremely tight budget, declining fan base and revenues despite a state-of-the-art arena in Glendale, and then bankruptcy this past spring have overshadowed Maloney's solid work the previous two seasons.

Maloney has had his young squad knocking on the playoff door in the Western Conference two years running. And with the likes of impressive youngsters Kyle Turris, Peter Mueller, Mikael Boedker, and Viktor Tikhonov all on the rise, buoyed by Maloney acquisitions Ilya Bryzgalov, Matthew Lombardi, Scottie Upshall, Petr Prucha, and Lauri Korpikoski, the Coyotes have the look of a team ready to make their first post-season appearance since 2002.

But will that be in Phoenix---err, Glendale---or in Hamilton? And will the NHL own the club or will Jim Balsillie defy all odds---despite his $200+ million plus bid---and be awarded this team by a bankruptcy judge? And will Gretzky be retained---even at a salary less than his current $8 mill a year---by either entity?

And in the end, how will all of this affect the job Maloney has been hired to do? That answer, like so many others in this mess, lies down the road. But what is known, is that Maloney still remains true to the classy individual he has always been.

Like his days on the Island and on Broadway, Maloney continues to forge ahead, still smiling and doling out witty remarks and hearty backslaps. A gentleman who deserves better than he has gotten, though he would never think so, himself.

So, why "Rink Rap"?


Written on 8/26/2009 by Jim Cerny

Now, the title of today's post might lead you to believe that my first offering here on Rink Rap, and for World Sports Blogs, is a set-up. You know, use my own blog to self promote. Place the ball on the tee and knock it out of the yard, all for my own good.

In other words, ask the question: "Why choose to read and follow Rink Rap?"

And then inundate you with the reasons why.

Well because I have 20 years of experience covering the NHL. And my blog will be fun and often zany, as well as informative and opinionated. And many of the top people---players, coaches, broadcasters, front office execs, scouts, writers, etc.---will stop by for interviews. You know, that kind of shameless self promotion.

Of course, I wouldn't insult your intelligence by doing that. The thought would never cross my mind to subtlely lure you in and then zap you with all of that pat-on-the-back information...

No, instead the title of today's post is really about "Why did Jim choose the name 'Rink Rap' for his blog?"
And with that I can provide a little historical background into Rink Rap, with no real puffing out of the chest.

First off, I can not take credit for the name Rink Rap. So if you like it, well there is someone else to praise. And, just as importantly, if you hate it, there is someone else to blame!

Chris Botta---whom many of you know for his terrific work on Islanders Point Blank, and who was an Isles exec for 20 years,---was hosting a hockey talk show called "Rink Rap" on Long Island's WGBB-AM when he was also starting out as the editor of The Islander News (remember that blast from the past?!). He asked me to co-host with him, which I did for two years before before the financial backers of the show stopped backing and, instead, backed out.

Though the show was no more, I had caught the bug and couldn't shake it. With a real dearth of hockey talk on the airwaves in early '90's New York radio, I ventured out solo and created my own program. Without asking---Botts never said anything, so I am assuming no grudge on his part---I named the show Rink Rap.

As it turned out, Rink Rap aired for four years and provided me with the exposure I needed to jumpstart my career. I really believe that all the good things that have happened to me in hockey since---becoming the play-by-play voice of the Islanders, covering the sport for The New York Times, hosting the NHL Live talk show, and now being the beat writer at the New York Rangers official web site---have come about because of Rink Rap.

And perhaps most important, Rink Rap was fun. There was so much zaniness behind the scenes---mainly at the hands of my producer, Wild Bill Parrinello (yes, I finally spelled your name right, Billy)---and so many laughs, it is impossible not to look back and think of Rink Rap with a smile.

But we delivered the goods, too. In fact, the debut of Rink Rap featured the GMs of all three local New York area teams at the time---Neil Smith, Don Maloney, and Lou Lamoriello---on air for live interviews that night.

So that is why this blog is titled Rink Rap. Resurrecting a good name---and great memories--from my past.

And looking to create more of the same moving forward.

It should be a fun ride. Let's take it together.