By Jon A. Dolezar, CNNSI.com
Bryan Trottier will be teaching chemistry this fall at the University of Vermont.
No, Trottier hasn't been fired already as head coach of the Rangers, but his immediate future will depend significantly on the team's ability to bond during their five-day training camp at Gutterson Field House in Burlington, Vt., from Sept. 12-17.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather was aggressive in free agency again, and even turned to the dark side to find his next head coach.
Sure, it will be strange to look behind the bench at the Garden this season and see one of the New York Islanders' all-time greats calling the shots for the Rangers. But Sather is hoping that Trottier can instill some passion and intensity into the Rangers, qualities they sorely lacked under Ron Low the past two seasons.
The offensive talent is impressive, the checking lines offer a nice blend of scoring ability and physical play, the depth at defense is decent and the netminding is solid. But will this add up to the Rangers' first playoff appearance since 1996-97?
That depends on if Trottier can mix Lindrosium, Bureanium and a dose of Leetchium in the proper amounts.
The steady, cerebral Leetch remains one of the best defensemen in the game, thanks to his excellent play at both ends of the ice. Though his goals dipped from 21 in 2000-01 to 10 last season, he improved his plus-minus from minus-18 to plus-14, the first time he has been in the positive territory since 1996-97.
The Rangers' captain continues to play ironman minutes, finishing sixth in the league in total ice time last season at age 34.
Leetch is rarely never out of position and has maintained his reputation as the best power-play quarterback in the game. The emergence of Vladimir Malakhov as a second threat on the power play was beneficial to Leetch, who will be aided on special teams by the signing of Darius Kasparaitis and a full season of Tom Poti, as well.
Having deep pockets doesn't hurt in such an instance.
The Rangers -- like the Yankees in baseball -- have a farm system seemingly for the sole purpose of acquiring big names when they need to. Getting Pavel Bure prior to the trade deadline for just Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak and three draft picks was widely heralded as a steal. But Novak was one of New York's best prospects and left the blueline ranks thin in the minors, with only Fedor Tyutin and Mike Mottau pegged as sure-fire NHL defensemen.
Sather paid Kasparaitis $4.25 million per season while Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix didn't want to offer him more than about $2.5 million to stay in Denver. Even a perennial contender like the Avs tries to stay within some budgetary framework, but the Rangers know no such bounds. Bobby Holik moved east across the Hudson River, leaving the Devils for a five-year, $45 million deal with the Rangers.
So the Rangers have retooled once again by bringing in the best off the open market. But if it doesn't work again this season, rest assured they will be at the front of the beggars' line next offseason, waving their millions in the face of the big-name free agents.
If his four-week stint with the Blueshirts was any indication, there is little doubt he could challenge Adam Graves' mark of 52, in 1993-94. The Russian Rocket scored 12 goals in 12 games with the Rangers after they acquired Bure from the Panthers before the trade deadline.
Other than Graves, only Vic Hadfield (50 in 1971-72) has hit the 50-goal plateau. So with all the tradition of great hockey in the Garden and famous players on the world's biggest stage, elite scorers haven't been common in the annals of Rangers history.
Imagine the commotion if Bure nets 50 this season, let alone the 60 or 65 he is capable of putting home with a big, physical center like Lindros to take pressure off him.
The obstacles to such a huge season are Lindros' always-shaky health and an uncertain third member of the top line. But regardless of who mans the left side, Lindros and Bure alone are a scary enough site for other teams. And a return to his 50-goal (and 90-point) ways of the past seems pretty likely for the top sniper in the world.
Lundmark had 27 goals and 32 assists with Hartford of the AHL last season, but he was overshadowed by high-scoring right wing Rico Fata, who had 71 points in 61 games. While Fata offers more flash and has played 37 games over four seasons in the NHL, Lundmark has yet to make his NHL debut, but probably will develop into the better all-around player.
After scoring more than a point per game in each of his junior seasons, Lundmark had to adjust to more attention last season and the need to play a complete game rather just focusing on offense.
After originally being projected as a future first-line center, Lundmark may now be pegged as a second-line player, largely due to his solid defense. Though he probably won't be a perennial Selke Award candidate like Michael Peca, he could emerge as a Steve Yzerman or Jeremy Roenick-type, with a bit less scoring.
Lundmark's defensive development will be expedited by playing with checker extraordinaire Holik, and playing for one of the best two-way centers ever in Trottier.
There wouldn't seem to be anything else for Lundmark to prove in the minor leagues -- and Rangers fans have been clamoring for him to get regular time with the big club -- but his development could be slowed if he plays a lesser role with the NHL club rather than spending another season as the top-line center in Hartford.
Jon A. Dolezar covers the NHL for CNNSI.com.