After being drafted by the Capitals in the '05 sixth round, the former Michigan State product spent a season with AHL affiliate Portland before departing for his hometown in a trade. Under Lindy Ruff, Kennedy became a fixture on the Sabres' third line, providing energy while playing responsibly and chipping in offensively. In his first full season, he posted 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points while racking up 50 penalty minutes over 78 games, finishing minus-three with a power play goal and three game-winners. Previously, the 24 year-old who can play both center and wing got into one NHL game, debuting for the Sabres in '08-09.
Kennedy acquitted himself well in the playoffs tallying a goal and two helpers while going plus-three in Buffalo's six-game first round defeat to Boston. He'll likely battle Sean Avery, Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle and Derek Boogard in camp. The newest Ranger should be popular as he brings a tireless work ethic to the rink.
Initially, I was not floored by the move because while I like the addition, it doesn't really improve our roster a ton. Especially offensively where outside of Big Ticket Marian Gaborik and key July addition Alexander Frolov, there aren't any proven finishers. In order for the 2010-11 Rangers to have success, they'll need a team effort. Continued improvement from Brandon Dubinsky along with more consistency from spark plug Ryan Callahan are keys as is the continued development of Artem Anisimov, who must carry a strong finish into this Fall. The second-year Russian will need a bigger role. Is he up to the challenge?
The Blueshirts need better years from Avery and captain Chris Drury. Both are capable of bouncing back. A lot also depends on Erik Christensen and Todd White, who was brought in because he's worked with Gabby before in St. Paul. The club lacks skill at center. Hoping Derek Stepan will be ready is just that. The Badger has to adjust to the pro game. Unless he overly impresses in camp, Hartford's where he'll start.
When the face of the franchise basically calls out the organization, it speaks volumes. If that doesn't send a message, what else will? When Henrik speaks, people listen. An elite goalie who has carried this team on its back since the lockout deserves better. The Rangers were picked by THN to finish 13th in the East. I'm not overly optimistic either, seeing them anywhere from 8-12. Realistically, they should compete with Tampa Bay for the final spot. However, other clubs have improved including Atlanta and the Islanders. Montreal may take a step back unless Carey Price ($2.75 million) can make Habs fans forget Jaroslav Halak. Even the Leafs should be marginally better if top '09 pick Nazem Kadri is ready for primetime.
It won't be easy. But since when is it ever with an owner who sells mediocrity to diehards starved for a contender that can seriously challenge? Sure. Ticket prices for subscribers remain the same. But is making the playoffs really the goal in such a huge market?
Only time shall tell if this year's roster can surprise many including this blogger. The puck's in their zone.