For two years, Wade Redden served as the Bobby Holik Memorial Scapegoat at Madison Square Garden, thanks to what commenter Short_Round aptly described this morning as Rangers fans' tendency to choose "an annual whipping boy." But Redden's in Hartford now, and Donald Brashear — who was booed last year before the season even started — is gone, too. So whose turn is it to suffer the wrath of angry Rangers fans? A few candidates, after the jump.
Michal Rozsival. Far and away the leading contender, Rozsival heard it as bad as Redden did at times over the past two seasons. Why? He's a $5 million cap hit, and since signing his new contract in 2008, his offensive numbers have plummeted while his "pucks bouncing over his stick at the blue line" totals have risen. In his defense, he wasn't always so unpopular. He was liked just fine back during the Jaromir Jagr era, when he posted a +35 in the season after the lockout and put up 40 points the year after that.
Chris Drury. Another brutal contract — he's a $7.05 million cap hit — he's disappointed fans even more than Rozsival because of higher expectations. (Four of five ESPN "experts" picked the Rangers to reach the finals in 2007-08, after the dual signings of Drury and Scott Gomez.) Worse still, he had by far his worst professional season last year. On the other hand, Drury does a lot of things well, and not in an intangible "leadership and heart" sense. He's an excellent penalty killer — something that does not go unnoticed — and is very good on face-offs.
Derek Boogaard. To quote Down Goes Brown's evaluation of the Rangers summer, "Their annual 'free agent signing which everyone agrees was the most outrageously over-priced mistake of the summer' ended up being a lot cheaper than usual this year." So Boogaard needs to hope fans forgive his big-for-a-pure-enforcer contract and total lack of offensive production, and instead focus on how scary a fighter he is. A couple of early-season KOs will help his case, but he's such a good fighter opponents might be hesitant to drop the gloves: He tallied just nine fighting majors last year, albeit in only 57 games.
Alexander Frolov. A long shot, but hear us out. Frolov may very well team up with Marian Gaborik to form a dangerous top line. And he's on a reasonable one-year contract, so one would think he's particularly motivated. But he wore out his welcome in Los Angeles — Kings coach Terry Murray described him as "careless" at one point during his contract year last season — and the comparisons to Nik Zherdev started almost immediately upon his signing in July. (Full disclosure: Zherdev drove this Rangers fan mad during his time in New York. It's like he thought he was being paid by the toe-drag.) So if Frolov displays similar tendencies in New York, or if he and Gaborik are split up, then ... nah, on second though, it's definitely going to be Michal Rozsival. Poor guy.