The Brooklyn Nets enjoyed a dominant regular season, but the postseason offers a different beast

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

The Brooklyn Nets have been smoking hot this year. Roaring to life this season and setting the league on fire with their explosive superstars, the Nets have flat-out dominated teams with their offensive fortitude and have not slowed down. Despite having one of the most inconsistent starting lineups throughout the season due to injuries, mid-season trades, and personal, off-court circumstances, the Nets still managed to somehow muster a stellar 48-24 record on the season, clinching second overall in the East to secure a big playoff berth.

But what remains to be so impressive about the success of this team is how it has been executed through not only their core big three but also from their various different role-players as well. To see returning superstar Kevin Durant average a deadly stat line of 26.9 ppg, with 6.7 rpg and 5.6 apg in 35 games played, from Kyrie Irving becoming only the 9th player in NBA history to achieve a ‘50/40/90’ shooting performance on the season, to Joe Harris who shot 50.5% from the field and 47.5% from 3-PT range in 69 games, to Jeff Green’s, Bruce Brown’s and Landry Shamet’s ability to do all the little things this team needs on the floor, the Nets found various ways to win throughout the entire season, using just about everyone on their roster to achieve that goal.

However, despite all the success this team has accomplished under first-year head coach Steve Nash, the biggest, lingering obstacle left for the Nets to hurdle, comes down to how they are able to translate their seasonal success into the playoffs. Playoff basketball is gritty and intense, where not only do you face some of the best teams and players in the NBA, but you face them 4-7 games straight per round, home and away. And that level of flawless basketball that teams need to produce in order to win becomes that much harder to execute on a daily basis, especially when up against strong defensive teams who know what to watch for and adjust to after playing their opponent a couple of times in a row.

Although the Nets have great experience and talent all over their team, there are three major factors they will need to surmount if they want a chance to make their first Finals appearance in 18 years. And considering the severity and magnitude of these hurdles, it seems unlikely that the Nets will be able to get past the Eastern Conference Finals and could potentially come up short in the Semifinals. Though the Nets have proven that nothing is impossible, overcoming all of these challenges in the playoffs is simply far too grand and difficult of a feat, even for a team that’s as strong as the Nets. Without further ado, here are the three major concerns the Nets face in the playoffs:

3. Lack Of Chemistry Between Big Three: Though injuries are hard to avoid, lack of chemistry is a presiding reality with the Nets big three that could prove to be very costly during the playoffs. Playing a total of eight games together during the regular season along with two playoff games under their belts so far, Durant, Irving, and James Harden have not played a whole lot together, which has hindered their ability to garner a resilient chemistry level between the three of them. This might not be so problematic for a big three-unit that has a greater role-playing presence than the Nets do. But because the Nets have three mega scorers and ball-possession-oriented superstars, the balance between the need to score and unselfish play amongst each other is vital for them to strengthen and maintain, which doesn’t seem realistic to achieve during such a small window of time. Naturally, this concern will only get better with more playing time together, particularly since starters tend to play significantly bigger minutes during the postseason as well. However, great chemistry is developed with time, and this big three has not gotten much of that. Just take a look at the Miami Heat when they assembled their big three; they played a lot more games together and still came up short in the Finals back in 2011. Same thing with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three prior to winning their first championship in 2016; they didn’t win their first title with their big three until a year after they all joined the same team. If none of these epic franchises could muster a title in their first seasons with their respective big threes, it’s hard to envision that being any different with the Nets this season.

2. Poor Defense: Quite frankly, this is debatably the biggest issue for the Nets. Outside of Durant, Harris, Green, Brown, and Nicholas Claxton, the Nets don’t have anyone else who really plays good perimeter or interior defense, and it showed all season. Finishing the year in 21st overall in points allowed with a hefty total of 114.1 per game, the Nets also allowed their opponents to shoot just about 46% from the field and over 35% from the 3-PT line (ESPN). Though DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin do provide decent support inside, playing behind guards like Irving and Harden is a very difficult task, considering how often both guards struggle with keeping their opponents in front of them. Achieving regular-season success with a defense as poor as this is one thing. But when it comes to the playoffs, more or less the Finals, defense is what wins games, and the Nets don’t have much to show for on that front. If they come across teams like the 76ers, the Bucks, and even the Hawks or Knicks, the Nets are going to have to figure out how they not only can outscore their opponents every night but, in the process, will have to do so against some of the best defenses and defensive players in the league. And even for a big three as good as this one, that’s a huge challenge and a lot of pressure to take on every time they step on the court.

1. Tough Eastern Conference Opponents: You would think this wouldn’t be a major concern for the Nets, considering they are the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference. But, believe it or not, the Nets have a handful of opponents that could thwart their run to the Finals. If all goes well against the Celtics, the Nets would be in line to face the winner of the Miami Heat/Milwaukee Bucks series. With Miami down 3-0, it appears that the Nets will be in line to face the Bucks, which is a very concerning matchup. Losing back-to-back games against Milwaukee towards the end of the season, the Bucks have an offense that is debatably just as good as the Nets and was number one in points per game this season (ESPN). In addition, they also have much better defensive players in guys like Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jrue Holiday, P.J. Tucker, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If the Nets manage to get past the Bucks, there’s a very good chance they’ll be in line to face the 76ers, a nightmare matchup for any team. Possessing the deepest, most complete and well-rounded lineup in the NBA, the 76ers simply have it all. From an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, to a defensive player of the year candidate in Ben Simmons, to then an outstanding two-way threat in Tobias Harris, along with 3-PT snipers in Seth Curry, Danny Green, and Furkan Korkmaz, the Nets really don’t have an answer against this team. If the Knicks or the Hawks perchance make it past the 76ers, the Nets will certainly have better odds to make their first Finals appearance. But even then, both the Hawks and Knicks bring the offensive skill and defensive fortitude to overthrow the Nets, presenting Brooklyn with a difficult finish either way.

In short, there’s a lot that has to go right for the Nets to make it to the Finals this year, more or less win their first title. With a chemistry level that lacks the essence of time and a defensive scheme that desperately needs toughness and better skill both inside and out, the Nets will have a hard time surpassing deeper and stouter teams within their own conference and certainly want to avoid a long series with both the Bucks and the 76ers. If they somehow survive against the Bucks and avoid the 76ers, the Nets potentially have a shot at making a Finals appearance. However, despite all their success this season, the magnitude of these core concerns are far too large and imposing for the Nets to fix during the stretch of the postseason. And an early exit in the playoffs seems inevitable.

New York Giants’ Carter Coughlin making transition to inside linebacker: What does this mean?

New York Giants, Carter Coughlin

The New York Giants have a weakness next to Blake Martinez at linebacker, with the expectation that 2020’s “Mr. Irrelevant,” Tae Crowder, will earn the first crack at the starting gig.

Crowder had an interesting rookie campaign, far exceeding his expectations as a seventh-round draft pick. He showcased the ability to step up in the run game and also drop back in coverage sufficiently but undoubtedly has a few kinks in his game to work out. He finished the season starting in six games and playing in 11, making 57 combined tackles, 23 assists, three tackles for a loss, three QB hits, 1.0 sacks, and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

I believe Crowder will earn the first opportunity to play alongside Martinez, but one other Giant is in the mix as he makes a transition from outside linebacker to inside linebacker.

The differences between outside and inside linebackers are significant, as an OLB is expected to rush off the edge and pressure the quarterback, while the ILB is oftentimes referred to as middle linebackers.

Essentially, the inside linebacker’s role is to fill gaps and make tackles in the running game, protecting the second level of the defense. Carter Coughlin, another seventh-round pick from 2020, is making the transition to the second level, given his undersized frame and physical traits.

What does Carter Coughlin offer the New York Giants?

He stands at 6’3″ and 236-pounds, and considering the Giants brought in a few bigger, more physical options at the position, Coughlin will now have to learn how to play middle linebacker after posting 17 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and 1.0 sacks in 2020. I would be remiss not to mention is standout performance against the Seattle Seahawks, where he played the “spy” role to help bottle up Russell Wilson in one of the more improbable victories of the season.

This is the perfect opportunity for Coughlin to learn a new position at just 23 years old, especially as the Giants look to plug a position of weakness. Carter will compete with Crowder, TJ Brunson, and even Reggie Ragland for the second spot. However, I imagine whichever option proves to be the best in coverage will win out, as they already have their elite run-stopping LB in Blake Martinez.

I do like the versatility that Coghlan brings to the team, though, with the ability to rush the passer from the second level and expose gaps adequately with refined moves. Nonetheless, it will take him time to adjust to his new spot, but with great mentors around him and fantastic coaching staff, I imagine his transition won’t be strenuous.

Estevan Florial vows to be ‘always ready’ to help the Yankees; needs to work on some things in Triple-A

New York Yankees, Estevan Florial

The New York Yankees have gotten the worst posible news on center fielder Aaron Hicks: he is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season with his wrist injury. That means somebody in the organization will need to step up, or the Bombers would need to go to the trade market and spend valuable resources to solve the issue.

Veteran Brett Gardner is expected to take over Hicks in center, at least in the short term. But the Yankees are closely monitoring Estevan Florial’s progress in Triple-A and will probably not hesitate to recall him if needed.

In fact, they used him for yesterday’s twin bill against the Toronto Blue Jays, and after the second game, the Yankees sent him back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Florial himself told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that he has been closely monitoring the injury situation in the Yankees’ big league roster, and is trying to stay ready at all times in case he is needed, just like Thursday.

“As a member of the team, you don’t want your teammates to get hurt, but I’m always ready to help the team,” Florial said.

Could he play himself into the Yankees’ plans?

He was the center fielder in the Yankees’ victory in the second game, and went 1-for-3 with a double.

Injuries and issues to make contact cost him three years of development, but he is making up for the lost time with a power showing in the high minors.

“I think you know how much we like his ceiling and what his potential is,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “The biggest thing for him is gaining experience and allowing him time to learn from successes and failures, making the adjustments to be a Major League hitter.”

In 17 games between Double-A and Triple-A, Florial has a .203/.295/.536 slash line, but it comes with six homers and nine RBIs.

He could use some Triple-A seasoning to show he can increase that average through an improvement in bat-to-ball skills and pitch recognition.

“There’s a lot of competition down there,” Florial said. “[The numbers] weren’t great, but I used to face pitchers like that in Spring Training. Sometimes you’d have to face Gerrit Cole, big league arms. I’m kind of used to it, so I prepare myself. It doesn’t matter if it’s Double-A or Triple-A.”

Knicks’ Taj Gibson details why New York has been so successful and what’s to come

new york knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks are preparing to take on the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 on Friday evening, and if the first two games give us any indication of what this contest will be like, aggressive and intense might be the best two words to use.

Given the hostility that Knick fans implemented on Atlanta while at MSG, we can expect something similar as New York goes on the road for the next two games. Luckily, the Knicks did claim a win in Game 2, which ended up being significant as they guaranteed themselves a game 5 at The Garden.

However, it is clear that some players are simply more prepared to take on the postseason jitters and energy with more confidence. All-Star Julius Randle struggled considerably in both games, finally picking it up in the second half of Game 2 to help his team make a comeback from 15 points down. Others were far more prepared mentally to face the crowd and live energy, and one of those essential players was Taj Gibson.

Gibson joined the Knicks after Mitchell Robinson went down with a fractured foot, and the veteran big man has been an absolute godsend for a team that lacked a physical presence inside. While he’s only averaging 5.4 points, 3.4 defensive rebounds, and 20.8 minutes per game, he currently has his best average block rate at 1.1 per game since 2016.

In Game 2, the Knicks wouldn’t have walked away with a victory without Gibson and his effort. His constant energy and desire to get after the ball and remain aggressive was a catalyst on defense, forcing stops and giving Knick shooters more opportunities to find the hoop.

Taj Gibson has become a leader for the New York Knicks:

Gibson detailed his excitement to play with this team, the reason they’re so close, and the trust they have with one another because of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“The one thing about when you play for a Thibs team is that you’re going to put in a lot of work, you’re going to come together, you’re going to work every day as hard as you can,’’ Gibson said. “But along those trials and tribulations you become a family, you become real tight knit, you believe in each other. The way Thibs coaches he brings the whole group together, believing that it’s only us. So that’s kind of the mindset we take in. I just be myself, be the normal Taj I’ve been. It’s been working out for us. But it’s fun. We’ve got young guys, we’ve got a mixture of vets. Just pieces together, everybody works together, it’s a great atmosphere and it shows when we play.’’

This team seems to have a special bond, as they are mixed with a melting pot of veteran and youth faces, but they all understand their roles and have worked extremely hard to play at a high level this year. There’s no question they can defeat the Atlanta Hawks and make a postseason run, they just need to be firing on all cylinders.
With Nerlens Noel suffering an ankle sprain in Game one, Gibson has been asked to be a focal point. There is hope that Robinson can play on Friday evening, but even so, the Knicks feel confident that Taj can get the job done one way or another.

New York Yankees: 3 Major takeaways from the doubleheader split

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Spring thunderstorms caused the postponement of the New York Yankees Toronto Blue Jays game two on Wednesday, causing a day-night doubleheader yesterday. The Yankees lost the first game on Tuesday and split the doubleheader yesterday. The Yankees hoped to take both games and maintain their consecutive series winning streak, but it was not to be had.

Doubleheader pitching not so good

The New York Yankee pitching in both games yesterday was adequate but not as good as it should have been. In game one, Domingo German took the loss in a game that he could have won if he had some run support. Minus two pitches, he actually had a good outing. But two back-to-back bad location pitches resulted in two back-to-back home runs. He went into the sixth inning, only giving up three hits in his game.

Alek Manoah’s joy in winning his major league debut was a bit of an embarrassment for the Yankees. The Yankees lineup could only muster up two hits against the 23-year old that had only pitched 35 innings in his professional career. After his six innings, Jordan Romano came in the close it out for the Blue Jays, leaving the Yankees scoreless in the game.

Game two was much of the same but went in favor of the Yankees. Jordan Montgomery pitched okay but not as he did in his previous start. He went 4.2 innings giving up three earned runs; the only runs the Jays would get in the game. He was only able to strike out one Jays batter. Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, and Chad Green combined for a scoreless 2.1 innings. Unlike the first game, the Yankee hitting allowed the New York Yankees to salvage one game of the three-game set.

New York Yankee hitting remains pitiful

The Yankees’ lack of hitting remains a big problem for the team. Over the three Blue Jays games, they were only able to get 14 hits and 7 runs, that just over two runs a game. The only reason the Yankees are not at the bottom of the American League is the pitching has saved them as they continue to not get sufficient runs to win games consistently. In the last series sweep of the White Sox, the Yankees showed life and scored just over 4 runs per game, but in this series, they went back to their old ways of not hitting and broke their series winning streak.

Last night Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez came to the rescue, both with home runs and driving in four of the five runs. A timely hit by Gio Urshela drove in the other run. Judge’s home run was his team-leading 13th.

Injuries call for reinforcements

Yesterday, Aaron Boone made it public that centerfielder Aaron Hicks would most likely miss the rest of this season after his wrist surgery. At the same time, they called up Estevan Florial from Scranton, where he had played in only two triple-A games. With Mike Tauchman traded away and Hicks likely gone for the season, fill-in Brett Gardner couldn’t be expected to man centerfield every day. Florial may not be the answer either, leading general manager Cashman to forge a trade to get a permanent centerfielder.

With the news that Corey Kluber and Luke Voit being out for some time, the Yankees are getting deeper into injury troubles. Yesterday Lucas Luetge and Chad Green had to close games for the Yankees because Aroldis Chapman was unavailable due to a non-Covid bug. The only good news on the injury front is that Giancarlo Stanton is expected to be back with the team tonight in Detroit, and reliever Zack Britton is getting closer to returning. According to Aaron Boone, Chapman may also be available if needed.

 

 

UFC targeting September for Alexander Volkanovski – Brian Ortega

The UFC has a target date for their highly anticipated featherweight title fight. We have been wondering when we will see the champion Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) defend his title against top contender Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC).

Originally, the two men were supposed to fight back in March at UFC 260. However, Volkanovski tested positive for COVID and had to pull out of the fight. Following the fight getting cancelled, the UFC changed up the game plan.

With Volkanovski needing some time to recover from COVID, the promotion decided to make the two men the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC‘s ultimate reality show will be making it’s return in early June after a few years off.

The plan was to have the two coaches fight at the end of the show. However, there still wasn’t a definitive timeline. Well, the UFC featherweight champion appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience this week and he shed some light on when the fight will go down.

UFC targeting September

According to the UFC featherweight champion, he will be defending his title against Brian Ortega in September. Of course, this is not official and the UFC has not announced this fight as of yet.

However, September has been the rumored timeframe for some time now. The Ultimate Fighter debuts next Thursday on ESPN+ and it plans to perfectly build up the UFC title fight between Volkanovski and Ortega.

Volkanovski made it clear on JRE that he wasn’t a fan of Ortega. The champion labeled Ortega as a ‘fake’ individual and teased that you will see some of that by watching the show.

Dana White recently said that there were a couple of times where the coaches got into it on the Ultimate Fighter. However, he didn’t go into detail on how serious everything was, but it’s clear that there’s no love loss between these two men.

The Ultimate Fighter’s return is big for the UFC and it’s big for this buildup. I’m extremely excited and intrigued by this featherweight title fight.

New York Giants get first look at projected offensive line in 2021

new york giants, nyg

One of the biggest questions for the New York Giants heading into the 2021 season is their offensive line. Fans and analysts remain skeptical this group can rise to the occasion, simply based on their performance in 2020. The Giants’ staff didn’t allocate a plethora of resources to improve the OL, but they invested three draft picks in 2020 to help bolster the unit.

Drafting Andrew Thomas, Shane LeMieux, and Matt Peart, they expect all three to take a significant jump the season, and there is a high probability they end up starting right out of the gate. Thomas is the anticipated left tackle, Peart must beat out Nate Solder for the starting rate tackle job, and Lemieux, who was ranked as the worst pass-blocking guard in football last year, needs to take a significant step forward.

To start organized team activities, the Giants rolled out an extremely young unit, with an average age of about 22 years old. Letting veteran Kevin Zeitler walk in free agency significantly lowered the average age of each player, and it seems they will stick with Lemieux and Zach Fulton, a free agent signing they made this off-season to help provide some depth in the interior.

New York Giants projected starting OL as per OTA unit:

LT: Andrew Thomas

LG: Shane Lemieux

C: Nick Gates

RG: Will Hernandez

RT: Matt Peart

Reserve options in attendance:

OT: Nate Solder

OG: Zach Fulton

C: Jonotthan Harrison

The scariest part about this group is that if injuries take their toll or inadequacies hit, the Giants don’t have too much depth to work with. Relying on Zach Fulton, Jonotthan Harrison, and Solder doesn’t exactly scream quality.

However, the hiring of Rob Sale, formally the offensive coordinator for the Louisiana football program, should establish some sort of continuity and consistency in the trenches. Aside from acting as the OC for Louisiana, he was also the offensive line coach, showcasing his versatile attributes.

In his second season, Sale helped Louisiana break numerous offensive school records, including total offense, total touchdowns, most rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns, and most passing touchdowns. His influence has proved to be significant, and the Giants stole one of the most underrated assets in college football.

Joe Judge has proven that his hand-picked coaches make a significant impact, and I fully expect this offensive line to take a step forward with Sale 100% focused on their development.

Yankees: Good news and bad news in Gary Sanchez inspired victory over Toronto

yankees, gary sanchez

The New York Yankees completed a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, losing the first game and winning the second. Unfortunately, the Bombers were unable to score a single run in the opener, losing 2-0, despite an adequate performance from Domingo German over 5.2 innings.

The Yankees’ offense continues to struggle at an abnormal rate, striking out eight times and recording just two hits against Alek Manoah, a 23-year-old youngster out of Florida. Manoah had pitched in three games in AAA for Toronto, hosting a 0.50 ERA over 18 innings. He obviously looked strong enough to earn an opportunity at the highest level, and he completely blanked a struggling Yankees team, with Mike Ford and Rougned Odor striking out twice apiece.

Luckily, things went a bit better in the second game for the Yankees offense, as Aaron Judge completely took over and helped escape the series with a win under their belts.

Good news and bad news for the Yankees:

In the 5-3 victory, Judge recorded one hit and three RBIs, including a homer to center, which drove in DJ LeMahieu and a sacrifice hit to right field, driving in Tyler Wade to give the Yankees a two-run lead in the 5th inning.

Aside from Judge, Gary Sanchez had a stellar game, recording two hits over three at-bats, including a solo home run to centerfield, which traveled 444 feet.

The pitching was good, not great, as Jordan Montgomery lasted 4.2 innings, giving up five hits and three earned runs. He currently has a 4.22 ERA, adequate for a low-end starter, but certainly is underwhelming to start the 2021 season. Luckily, the bullpen looked solid, as Jonathan Loaisiga worked his way out of three hits in the fifth inning.

The bad news is that the Yankees are completely overwhelmed with injuries, as closer Aroldis Chapman has been unavailable for the last two days due to illness. The expectation is that he will return Friday, but thankfully he tested negative for COVID-19, so he might just be under the weather.

Unfortunately, starting centerfielder Aaron Hicks will miss the remainder of the 2021 season. With Corey Kluber/Luke Voit hitting the injured list, the Yankees will now have to dive into their reserves to supplement losses. Of course, this will have a significant impact one way or another, but the Yankees have the personnel to survive in the meantime.

Rangers’ Chris Drury preparing for first encounter with UFA’s & RFA’s as GM

President and GM Chris Drury has been a factor in the decision-making process of signing free agents in the past.  This season is a bit different as he now is the man who makes the final decision for the New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers are going to have some tough decisions to make when the 2020-2021 season officially concludes in July.

Unrestricted free agents along with restricted free agents are the keys to improving a hockey team.  Every decision is crucial to the organization and involves research and some luck in order to make the right moves to be a successful team.

The Rangers go through this every season as do most NHL teams, but this time around they are lead by a rookie GM with plenty of risk on the line.

RFA’s and UFA’s

A quick review of the team’s status via CapFriendly.com shows the hard work Drury has ahead of him. The decisions of who and how much to offer a player are hard enough, added to the equation is the Seattle Expansion draft, the NHL Draft, and the beginning of the free-agent signing period.

UFA

The Blueshirts have three unrestricted free agents on their roster. UFA’s are free to shop for other teams or negotiate with their current clubs.  The Rangers have no rights for these players once their contracts expire.

Philip Di Giuseppe, Brendan Smith, and Jack Johnson qualify as UFA’s at the end of this season.

RFA’s

Restricted free agents are players who have their contract expire but the club still retains their rights to play. Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, and Libr Hajek are RFA’s at the end of this season.

There are also Arbitration Eligible restricted free agents. Here a third-party arbitrator is used to determine a fair contract term and length for an expiring RFA player. Arbitration can be requested if a player meets the following conditions (CBA Reference 12.1 (b)):

  • The player qualifies as a Restricted Free Agent (RFA).
  • The player has not signed an offer sheet.
  • The player has met the required professional years of experience. (via CapFriendly.com)

The Rangers have two players who qualify for this section, Pavel Buchnevich, and Igor Shesterkin.

Buchnevich signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal in July of 2019.  His AAV was $3.25 million for each of the last two seasons.

Shesterkin signed a two-year, $7.75 million dollar entry-level contract that was loaded with bonuses in May of 2019.

Decisions, Decisions

Let’s start with the no-brainer, the team will absolutely re-sign Shesterkin.  He had the torch handed to him from the Henrik Lundqvist era and though he struggled at points this season he will be the man between the pipes for years to come.  The numbers will work themselves out one way or another.

Buchnvevich is a tough one, I’d anticipate this situation at least being scheduled for an arbitration hearing.  Buch is coming off a strong year that saw him score 20 goals with 48 points in 54 games.  He became a leader on the ice as was evident in the Tom Wilson fiasco where he was punched in the back of the head, the picked himself up to defend Artemi Panarin in the same play.

He will be looking for a long-term deal that will end with him being an unrestricted free agent. How much and for how many years will be the result of a long and most likely uncomfortable process.

Brendan Smith is the most compelling story to tell. A few seasons ago he was in the AHL with Hartford and ended the season injured after having a fight in practice with a teammate.  Fast forward to this season and he has become a player the kids look up to on and off the ice.

He played different positions with David Quinn as his coach while becoming a valuable and trusted player on the ice.

Now the problem changes from do they want to re-sign him to how can the club re-sign him now. Plenty of teams will be inquiring about his service offering more money and more years than the Rangers may be willing to offer.

His time with the club is most likely over. It would be hard to offer a big contract to a defenseman who will be a third-pair player.  He is probably ranked sixth out of the six defensive spots behind Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller.

Trades, signings, or re-signings are how teams succeed or fail in today’s NHL. Drury needs to have a solid game plan for his first go-around or the teams can find themselves out of the playoffs next April. A scenario this club would prefer to go through again.