After witnessing one of the most horrendous hockey games I have ever seen in any capacity on any stage (Tuesday night’s bore fest against Montreal) I feel like I can’t even keep anything straight! Once a well-researched and thoroughly – thought out writer, my matters of correctness have been cast aside and I feel the need to simply rant about the New York Rangers success, or lack thereof, to date this season. Despite the team appearing to be one of the best formed rosters since their epic Stanley Cup Run in 1994, the Rangers have been unfocused, uninterested and nonchalant in 2013, earning them an F for an epic fail in my books.
Some may believe that a failing grade for the Rangers may be a little harsh or over the top, but consider this: in North America’s letter-grading system, an F means “the objectives of the course have not been attained,” which is exactly the case in New York. Over the past several seasons, the Rangers have been making changes in an attempt to strengthen the club but it seems that in their attempt, they have placed the franchise back into a position in which they will play just bad enough to miss the post- season, but just good enough to miss out on a great first round draft pick.
Expectations are High with Talent This Good
Rick Nash may very well be the cornerstone of the Broadway Blueshirts crumbling expectations. No doubt Nash is a superstar in the NHL, and has been nothing short of stellar and entertaining to watch every time he steps on the ice. The inherent problem, however, is the depth that Glen Sather and company had given up in order to entice Nash to the Big Apple, drastically changing the chemistry that was working for the Rangers in recent years.
In the past season alone the Rangers have lost contributors in Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko that added the glue to keep things together. In addition, the loss of role-players such as Michael Rupp, John Scott or John Mitchell seems to have hindered the club’s progression, as they no longer have a big, strapping lad to stand up for the team’s highest priced assets.
Now the team has lost a major piece of their puzzle in Darroll Powe, who is sidelined with a concussion until further notice. Powe had been acquired at the expense of Rupp, and was expected to be a major contributor on the penalty kill.
Is Anything Working for the Blueshirts Right Now?
When invited to write an article grading the Rangers performance in 2013, I was asked to comment on what is working for the club and what is not, but the truth is that nothing has been working for the Rangers so far in 2013, at least not on any consistent basis. The ailing franchise is currently directly in the middle of the pack in wins, 18th in the NHL in points, 19th in goals per game, and dead last in power play percentage, registering a goal only 10.9% of the time with a man advantage.
What is more disheartening is the absolute atrocity the team calls defense so far this season. The team has had a great deal of trouble clearing the puck in the defensive zone, and once the opposition gets the puck deep, there is almost certainly going to be a chance in which Henrik Lundqvist or Martin Biron need to make a highlight reel save… or not.
On an individual note, Marc Staal seems to have forgotten his role over the course of the NHL lockout, as he is frequently out of position. Likewise, newly re-signed Michael Del Zotto has been earning the “DelZaster” moniker as of late with ineffective passes, inability to protect zone coverage, and coughing up the puck on a regular basis.
Goaltending has also not been up to par so far in 2013. While Hank and Marty have made some stellar saves, mainly due to the ineptness of the defensive core, the goaltending pair has nothing to write home about.
Lundqvist currently sports a .915 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average, both of which are among some of the worst numbers in his career. What’s more, his current record 7-6-0 is barely enough to get the Blue Shirts to the post season.
Biron, on the other hand, has been the better of the two net minders thus far in the shortened NHL season. His record of 1-0-1 has earned the Rangers 3 points and his save percentage of .928 is better than his counterpart’s. Unfortunately, his GAA of 2.31 places him directly above Lundqvist in the category at 25th among active goaltenders.
Big Talent, Big Contracts
Offensive firepower is another area in which the Rangers are struggling. Over the past several seasons, Glen Sather has done everything in his power to build a contender. First, he brought in sniper Marian Gaborik to boost offensive production. Next, he signed forward Brad Richards to provide secondary scoring and to be a set-up man for Gaborik; this season Nash has been acquired to fill a hole that Gaborik and Richards were recruited to fill.
These three players alone carry close to $22 million of the Rangers $64 million available cap space, but their point production certainly doesn’t justify their salaries. The trio of superstars has combined for only 34 points thus far. Rick Nash has only found the back of the net three times through 15 games, putting him on pace for a pitiful 10 goals this season.
Likewise, Richards has only tallied goals on two occasions, and is on pace for 7 goals while Gaborik has scored 7 times, and is projected to score a team high 23 goals in 48 games.
Maybe I am unjustified in my criticism of the Broadway Blueshirts thus far in the season. Don’t get me wrong, I love this team and stick with them through thick and thin, but with an April deadline to make the post season quickly approaching, the team cannot afford to play the casual and indifferent game they have succumbed to in recent weeks.
I still stand behind my recent twitter comment in which I expressed my frustration with the Rangers. The Rangers, I suggested, “have plenty of talent but zero heart this season… not interested, hungry, or competitive…I can be happy with a team that loses but makes an effort to win… This Rangers (sic) team just has no interest in winning.”
Head coach John Tortorella echoed these sentiments in his post-game press conference after the Rangers miserable game against the Canadiens on Tuesday night.
“I thought it was probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve been involved in,” Tortorella quipped to reporters after the February 19th home loss, clearing showing his frustration with his players. “It was two bad teams playing and we were worse than they were.”
It surely isn’t what New York Rangers want to hear after last year’s storybook season, but the journey the organization has planned is clearly veering precariously off track. The Rangers, however, have the talent to pull things together and improve on their F-grade performance in order to make the grade in 2013.
It takes a good team to succeed, but true greatness can be found in one’s ability to bounce back. New York Ranger fans simply need to hang on for the ride, and hope the club’s derailment is a temporary bump in a journey to greatness and the game’s most coveted trophy.