by Patrick Hoffman on 08/03/11 at 02:59 PM ET
With the month of August finally upon us, that only means that hockey season is getting closer and closer.
With that in mind, here is what I will be watching for this season when it comes to the New York Rangers:
- Brad Richards: This is a no-brainer. Since the team signed him to a nine-year deal, it will be extremely important for Richards to live up to his contract by producing, scoring goals, setting goals up, playing on special teams, being a leader and more importantly, be a true No. 1 center, something the Rangers have lacked for several seasons.
- Marian Gaborik: This is also an obvious choice. After scoring 42 goals in his first season as a Blueshirt in 2009-10, Gaborik slumped to just 22 goals last season. Yes, this was without a true No. 1 center but he was able to score over 40 under the same situaiton in his first season. Hopefully, Gaborik will be ready to pile in goals and stay healthy in 2011-12.
- Derek Stepan: How will the second-year Ranger respond to a terrific rookie season in which he posted 45 points (21 goals and 24 assists)? Hopefully, he will not go through the all too common sophomore slump that plagues many second-year NHLers.
- Michael Del Zotto: After a solid rookie season, defenseman Michael Del Zotto struggled last season and was even sent down to the Connecticut Whale. It will be interesting to see how he responds this year whether he makes the club or he starts in the AHL.
- Sean Avery: It is obvious that team head coach John Tortorella and Sean Avery do not have the best relationship. What kind of player is Avery willing to be for the Blueshirts this season? Will he get a shot on the team’s No. 1 line with Richards and Gaborik or will he find himself in Tortorella’s doghouse as a player that gets limited minutes?
- Ryan Callahan: If Callahan gets the “C”, how much more will Callahan step up his game? Ever since becoming a Ranger regular, he has played like a leader on and off the ice every single game. With the “C” on his sweater, will anything change?
These are just a few things that will be going through my head this upcoming season when it comes to the Blueshirts.
What will you folks be watching for and thinking about this upcoming season?
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.