The 2013-14 NHL season officially began today for the New York Rangers with the first day of training camp as coaches and players returned to embark on their quest for the Cup. Well, most of them returned.
A notable absence, Derek Stepan, did not report to camp and officially became a holdout while he awaits a new contract from Rangers GM Glen Sather. According to reports, Stepan’s camp and Sather are substantially far apart on the terms of a new contract for the restricted free agent and there is no imminent deal in sight. This poses an issue for new head coach Alain Vigneault.
Training camp is always a valuable time for players starting a new season. It gives them a chance to shake off the rust that may have accumulated over the course of the offseason, all while getting back together with your teammates to hopefully form a greater camaraderie. More important for the Rangers this time around is learning a new system implemented by Vigneault.
Although there was no on-ice workout today for the Rangers, each day that goes by without Stepan in camp is more time missed learning a new system. For the player supposed to take over the role of first line center, this is an undesirable situation. For the head coach, this is not a spot you want to find yourself in with your new team. For everyone, this is as frustrating as it gets. Stepan needs to get into camp immediately, for his benefit and for the team’s.
This morning Vigneault introduced what he will use as a motto this camp for the Rangers players: “Clean Slate. Grab It.” He even handed out shirts to players on the team at camp with the phrase imprinted on the front. By the time Stepan comes to camp the slate may have something built on it already, and instead of starting clean he will be starting behind on a season in which he is being counted upon to blossom into a star.
Martin Burns is a New York Rangers’ and sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter.