I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but then again, the Romans didn’t have the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins bird dogging them for a playoff spot as they tried to avoid a Mets-like collapse to their season.

Granted, the Rangers did some positive things under new head coach John Tortorella. They should flashes of the attacking style that Torts wants to bring to New York. The power play connected as Wade Redden scored his first goal since New York was a prairie. In the biggest departure from Tom Renney, Tortorella showed a willingness to ride his hot hands.

However, the Rangers first game under their new coach was a continuation of the cliché “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The Blueshirts continue to find ways to not play 60 minutes of hockey.

Tortorella believed that his team’s inability to finish off with a strong third period from the team’s lack of conditioning. In actuality, it is just a continuation of the Rangers being unable to finish teams off because of their ineffective offense and their peashooter power play. Let’s face it, if the Rangers held their sticks any tighter they would be left with a glove full of sawdust.

A couple of times the Rangers had Vesa Toskala scrambling for loose pucks in the crease, yet the Rangers were unable to bury these chances. During the first months or so of the season, the Rangers found a way to score. Now, they are happy that they don’t roof the puck into the netting behind the goal.

Despite the couple of flurries in front, Tortorella will be successful if he can get at least one forward to go to the top of the crease – not the side of the crease and not along the goal line. Just watch how many loose pucks pass through the top of the crease. If the Rangers had a forward stationed at the top of the crease, they would not be doing their best impersonation of being a GAG Team (Goal A Game).

With limited cap space available, and the lack of fiery leaders available on the trade front, President/GM Glen Sather filled his leadership void by bringing a spitfire as coach. That is not so much a knock at Renney as it is Sather for misreading his team. Slats turned his team over to Chris Drury and Scott Gomez when the Rangers passed on bringing back Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan – and he more or less admitted this mistake by bringing in Tortorella.

“Torts is certainly a lot more fiery and lot different in his approach to the game and the players,” Sather told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “He’s going to bring that fiery attitude, and a lot to the games we seemed to be missing it.”

The same fiery attitude his captains did not bring.

In his “exit interviews” with the New York media, Renney also addressed the lack of a “fiery on-ice leader.”
“But we had a struggle all year with internal leadership, and I have to think it was very difficult for guys, especially the younger guys, to look over the locker that used to belong to No. 68 (Jagr) and see someone else there, and the same about the locker that used to belong to No. 14 (Shanahan),” Renney told Larry Brooks of the NY Post on Wednesday.

“It’s a very heavy cross to bear to be a captain or in a leadership role with the New York Rangers, or any pro team in New York City.” I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. I’m not blaming Scott Gomez or Chris Drury. I know they want to win. But it’s different, that’s what I’m saying. And I should have recognized that.”

Renney also admitted to Brooks that he played a part in Shanahan’s not returning to the team because the former coach was “…the one standing in his way.”

Would Jagr and Shanahan made a difference this year? It is a question that one will not be able to answer. The team really couldn’t have been any worse. In fact, if the team was worse, it would have even been better because the Rangers might have been in a better position to win the NHL Draft lottery and get a shot at John Tavares.

With that said, it is a question that had to have gone through Sather’s mind as he watched the players he selected to pick up the leadership mantle on the verge of fumbling away a 10-2-1 start.

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