The New York Rangers made a move this afternoon that will undoubtedly anger some fans while thrilling others. No, it is not an earth shattering move that strengthens a potential Cup run, and with John Tortorella’s low tolerance level it may last less than a week. However, someone in New York may have finally opened their eyes and realized something had to be done, a message had to be sent.
Micheal Haley has been recalled from the Connecticut Whale, and there are quite a few reasons for this move that are far more important than first glance may show.
You may remember Mr. Haley, the 5’11, 198 pound former New York Islander who has amassed 151 penalty minutes in 43 career NHL games. If your memory isn’t what it used to be, head over to YouTube, search ‘Micheal Haley fights,’ then sit back and take notice. You will realize the obvious; no, he’s not the biggest guy in the room, and he isn’t even considered a heavyweight by NHL standards. However, Haley will back down from no one. He will stand toe to toe with the big boys and, win, lose or draw, will come back for more. If you are one who no longer believes a player like Haley is important or even necessary in the game today, then perhaps you have not been watching the Rangers in 2013.
Rick Nash gets his head driven into the glass by Boston’s Milan Lucic. Ryan McDonagh is the victim of a similar hit by Max Pacioretty in Montreal. Brad Richards is cross checked from behind and driven head first into the boards by Patrick Kaleta. Marty Biron gets run over twice by the Canadiens while Carl Hagelin gets tossed away from the crease like a rag doll. The response from New York in each incident? Barely a menacing look or even a push or two.
The bottom line is you have to protect your best players, and it is clear the Rangers have not had the personnel to step up and deter cheap shots against their stars this season. Brandon Prust has been missed, no doubt. Mike Rupp was traded away, and Aaron Asham has been too often injured to make his presence felt. Stu Bickel tries, but his limited ice time makes him a non-factor on most nights. Jody Shelley is long gone, as is the faded Donald Brashear. Derek Boogaard tragically passed away. The Rangers have had the heavyweights, but for many reasons they have disappeared from the roster over recent years. There is no fear factor for opponents, not even the mildest threat that a Ranger might drop the gloves or, heaven forbid, run one of their superstars as payback.
Now again, Haley is not going to intimidate opponents with just his mere physical presence. However, he will get in their face, get under their skin, and fight the biggest guy they have in order to send a message and stand up for his teammates. Do you believe for one second that won’t be a huge hit with the Madison Square Garden crowd? More importantly, a guy like Haley will win over a locker room very quickly when he steps up for a Nash or a Marian Gaborik. Should somebody decide to take a run at Henrik Lundqvist, you can bet the opposing goaltenders’ radar will be up, searching for Haley.
Is it a coincidence that Haley has been recalled with the Philadelphia Flyers in town tonight? Will he play? It will be interesting to see how long Tortorella allows this experiment to last, if at all, but one thing is for sure. If given an opportunity, Haley will do everything he can to stick around for awhile, and that just may be what the 2013 Rangers need right now.
Billy Pepitone is a retired New York City Police Officer turned author and hockey writer. He has published two sports novels, most recently the murder/mystery ‘Ice Cold’ which revolves around the New York Rangers. A Ranger fan for over 35 years, Billy has covered the Blueshirts for NYRangers101.com and ‘The Instigators’ blog talk radio show.