Mon 8 Mar 2010
I have come to the sad realization that I hate the 2009/2010 New York Rangers. No, it has nothing to do with the fact they are losing more than they are winning. I have been a Rangers fans since circa 1971, so I have seen my fair share of bad teams. Rather, it has to do with the way one loss looks exactly like every other loss – like it is some evil trick out of the movie “Groundhog Day”. The two factors that seem to play into every game are the Rangers inconsistency and their undisciplined play.
Let’s face it; the only consistent thing about the Rangers is their inconsistency. The Rangers have taken the art of inconsistency and raised it to an art form. The Blueshirts are not only inconsistent from game to game (four goals against the Penguins and then they go nearly 150 minutes without a goal), but they are inconsistent within games (see the 5-4 overtime loss to Pittsburgh) – sometimes from shift to shift.
Andrew Gross not only summed up last night’s loss to Buffalo, but he pretty much summed the Rangers season.
“To me, this [the overtime loss to the Sabres] was about inconsistency on the Rangersâ€™ part,” Gross wrote on his NorthJersey.com Blog. â€Inconsistencyâ€™s nothing new with the Rangers and thereâ€™s little to suggest that with 16 games left to play, theyâ€™re suddenly going to become a consistent team.”
The truly sad thing is that this inconsistency is not limited to this season’s edition of the Rangers. Frankly, it has been a hallmark of the Rangers from day one of the Glen Sather Era (Error). The Rangers have been the epitome of inconsistency during the Sather Regime which has seen the franchise win just two playoff series since Slats took over on June 1, 2000. Last season’s playoff loss to the Washington Capitals pretty much serves as the poster child of the Rangers inconsistency.
During lost decade of Sather, there has been one consistent theme running throughout Blueshirts history. While five coaches have been place, the one constant is Sather as GM.
Look everyone knows that Sather deserves to be fired. Well, anyone not named Dolan that is. I think is great that 100+ people held a rally prior to the Rangers-Sabres game, but let’s look at the cold hard facts. It took a scandal for Dolan to ease Isiah Thomas out so a couple of hundred fans aren’t going to sway Jimmy Boy.
Anyway, I am digressing form the point of this rant. We all agree that if you looked up the word inconsistency in the dictionary, there would be a Rangers logo. The difficult job is to figure out why the team is so inconsistent.
As you might expect, the finger pointing and blame begins with Sather. The coaches need to take their share of blame, but they are not the ones who are charged with assembling the roster. It is their job to try and turn Sather’s chopped liver into caviar. Sather has assembled players and teams that refuse to show any discipline – and it is this undisciplined play that is at the root of the Rangers problems.
When talking about undisciplined play, most people focus their attention on the Rangers penchant for taking bad penalties at bad times. The loss at Washington on Saturday night is a perfect example as the Rangers take two bad penalties on their way to giving up a five-on-three power play goal.
However the Rangers lack of discipline, as individuals and as a team, goes much deeper than bad penalties in opportune times.
The Blueshirts inability to show discipline and focus shows up in all aspects of their game. When was the last time you saw a Rangers team spend 60 minutes of hockey attacking the opponents’ goaltenders by driving to the net, creating traffic in front and getting shots on goal?
Their loss to the Penguins shows the difference between a team that plays a disciplined style and one that does not. The Penguins scored three of their goals by just getting the puck at the net and creating traffic in front. A disciplined team not only works to change Pittsburgh’s attack, they also adopt the same tactic. However, the rangers did the exact opposite.
After driving Marc-Andre Fleury to the bench in the second period, the Rangers offense consisted of (once again) being guilty of over-passing and playing a passive game – the exact opposite of what was needed. The Rangers inability to be disciplined and keep the game simply reached its pinnacle in the third period where they only managed one shot on goal. Oh, they had chances to put pucks toward on net, but they refused to do so. Instead, they were more content to try and make perfect passes rather than be disciplined and get shots on goal and get their noses dirty.
All one has to do is watch the Rangers power play to see just how undisciplined the team is. 29 other NHL teams work their power plays by putting players in the slot or at the top of the crease in an attempt to create screens or deflections, but not the Rangers – at least not on any consistent basis. The Rangers lone goal against Ryan Miller came on the power play because Ryan Callahan created a screen in front of the US Olympian and Brandon Dubinsky was at the top of the crease to bang home the loose puck.
The irony of it all it is that the Rangers best part of their game – their penalty killing – requires a team to play disciplined hockey! The biggest shame of is the Blueshirts inability to transfer their ability to be disciplined while killing penalties to other areas of their game. The biggest question is why doesn’t that discipline translate to other parts of their game?
The easy answer would be to blame the coach. It is very possible that John Tortorella has “lost” the team in respect to getting through to his players. That is a question that needs to be addressed by the players and the coaching staff.
However, blaming the coach is also the easy way out because this is a symptom that goes beyond Torts. It goes back through the other Rangers coaches during the last decade: Ron Low, Bryan Trottier, Tom Renney and Sather himself prior to hiring Renney.
If this trend of inconsistency and undisciplined play transcends five coaches, then the blame rests on the players – sort of. What this problem shows is that the Rangers do not have the right mix of players, or more to the point, the Rangers do not have the right players period. That reason for that problem rests squarely on the shoulders of the Rangers President/GM.
Even if Jim Dolan fired Sather or “promoted” him to President Emeritus, the problem does not go away. It is generally accepted that Mark Messier is crown prince when it comes to be anointed as the new GM. Will Messier be his own man or will he just be a more-accessible Sather in a better suit?
The cold hard reality is that the Rangers problems, whatever you think they may be, were not created in one day. Unfortunately, as a result, they are not going to be solved in one day either. The best that we can hope for is a step in the right direction and that first step begins with the firing of Glen Sather.
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