Loss of Ortmeyer Leaves Blueshirts With a Spot To Fill
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The Rangers announced this week that gritty forward Jed Ortmeyer has been diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, and that he will be sidelined indefinitely. The condition surfaced on Thursday when, following a hard workout at the Blueshirts’ Westchester training facility, Ortmeyer experienced pain and coughed up blood. He was briefly hospitalized on Thursday and is scheduled to undergo more tests later this week.
A pulmonary embolism is a condition that occurs when an artery in the lungs becomes blocked and is usually caused when one or more blood clots travel to your lungs from another part of the body. In most cases, the condition is not fatal and can be treated with anti-clotting medication. And by immediately seeking medical attention, Ortmeyer wisely averted what could have been a disastrous situation; most cases of pulmonary embolism are diagnosed at autopsy.
Last April, Nashville Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun went down with a similar condition — pelvic thrombophlebitis — that forced him from the Preds’ lineup and derailed their Stanley Cup hopes. Vokoun was treated immediately with blood thinners, and was cleared by doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota at the end of last month.
Needless to say, Ortmeyer will need to remain off the ice until team doctors have concluded that he is no longer at risk. And so, the team must give some thought to who might take Ortmeyer’s place in the lineup until he’s ready to return.
Though Ortmeyer spent nearly all of the 2005–06 season playing on the fourth line, his importance to the club should not be understated. Skating alongside Ryan Hollweg and the since-departed Dominic Moore, Ortmeyer’s “HMO” line regularly energized the Garden crowd and made life unpleasant for the opposing defense. A classic agitator, Ortmeyer plays a critical role for the Blueshirts and if there’s a possibility that he’ll miss extended time, GM Glen Sather would be wise to seek out a suitable shortterm replacement.
As a result of three consecutive years of solid decision-making, it is quite possible that the solution will come from within. Unlike in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Rangers actually have a number of high-quality players in the system who are expected to push for roster spots. Here are four possible candidates to step in for Ortmeyer:
Alexandre Giroux: A talented Quebec native acquired from the Senators (along with Karel Rachunek) in exchange for Greg de Vries, has been quite a prolific scorer for the Hartford Wolf Pack (the Blueshirts’ AHL affiliate). He tallied 36 goals last season and 32 the year before, while also demonstrating a bit of grittiness, compiling more than 100 penalties in minutes in both seasons.
Nigel Dawes: The speedy Dawes has physical dimensions that mirror those of the diminutive Martin St. Louis, and he boasts the assets generally deemed essential for success in the “new” NHL. For Dawes, success on the fourth line would be measured more by scoring chances created than by the stats he accumulates.
Chad Wiseman: Probably the most logical choice, Wiseman lacks the upside of Giroux and Dawes, but his skill sets are quite comparable to Ortmeyer’s. A gritty right-winger with deceptive offensive skills, Wiseman tallied nine points in 11 games to go along with 22 penalty minutes during the 2006 AHL playoffs.
Dale Purinton: Though he’s listed as a defenseman, it’s become apparent that Purinton’s future with the Rangers is not on their blue line. Sturdy on his skates, the nasty Purinton more than makes up for his somewhat limited skating ability with his ability to intimidate. And though the NHL currently places a premium on speed over pugilism, the grind of an 82-game regular season makes size and strength a critical asset.
But of course, where the Rangers are concerned, the free agency route is always a possibility when a roster spot opens. And if the Blueshirts do in fact seek out a veteran to fill Ortmeyer’s shoes, one possibility would be particularly intriguing.
Back in the early 1990s, Tie Domi was a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden.A member of the Rangers for parts of three seasons, Domi registered an improbable 246 penalty minutes in just 42 games for the Rangers in 1991–92. And though he made a name for himself with his fists, Domi has evolved his game over time, improving his skating and his playmaking.
Now a 36-year-old veteran leader, Domi — like Brendan Shanahan — would be an excellent candidate for a one-year contract. Not only would his return generate considerable excitement amongst the Rangers’ fan base, but the progress he’s made with his game makes him a valuable fourth-line asset, even at this late stage in his career.
Over the past few seasons, the Rangers have done an excellent job of stockpiling talented young players and have also managed the salary cap very well. Combined with their relatively limitless coffers, they find themselves with a financial flexibility that few teams enjoy. And should they choose to take a chance on Domi, the benefits — heightened fan interest and jersey sales — would more than make up for what it would cost to lock him into a one-year contract.
Mr. Greenstein is the editor in chief of InsideHockey.com.