I started and stopped writing what is supposed to be my thoughts as to what I
felt were the Ranger's chances for a playoff spot this season several times over
the last couple of weeks. It seemed that no matter which way I tried to look at
it that nothing was going to work except for what normally would be the bottom
line at the end of the article.
The bottom line is simple no matter which way I looked, no matter which what
evidence was offered by the Rangers that the results remained the same. The
Rangers are simply not going to make the playoffs for the 7th straight season in
my book. Now I realize that this isn't the kind of optimism that Ranger fans
would like to see on the eve of a brand new season.
I wish I could have written an article that said the Rangers were not only
going to make the playoffs but they also will contend for the Cup this season.
However when I looked at what I felt wasn't said during the preseason and
measured them against what has hurt the team over the last 6 seasons I realized
that some very important areas have not been addressed at all.
For starters has anyone seen much said about the very important need for the
Rangers to play a full 60 minutes of hockey every single night? I haven't and
that to me goes a very long way towards the need for a strong work ethic. If the
Rangers don't produce 60 strong minutes of effort whether they are playing the
Debbies or the worst team in the NHL then how can people expect this year to be
any different from previous years?
We have been spoon fed this "system" that the team will use for
this upcoming season but I got a few questions about it. Does it have a name
like the Debbie's trap or the left wing lock of the Red Wings? How can a team
adjust to a system that has only been in place for about a month like the
Rangers claim they have? I don't believe that you can as a good solid system
takes lots of time and effort for a team to get used to using in actual game
play. Sorry there is no way that I can believe that this system is ready to go
after a mere 9 preseason games. Especially when in those 9 games the Rangers did
not always use what is supposed to be the regular lineup.
I also don't believe there really is a system until the first time the
Rangers run into trouble during a game and instead of abandoning it they stick
with it no matter what. That to me will tell a lot as to whether they actually
do have not only a system but a team that believes in it. It is easy to talk
about installing a system but there is no way it works overnight like the
Rangers want you to believe. When the Rangers show they are sticking to their
"system" no matter what then you can start to have some hope but if
they don't then abandon your hope.
Another area that hasn't been talked about much is the need for a smarter
brand of hockey played by the Rangers. Relying on a system works just so far for
a team but it is the need to play a smarter game that allows a team to make
those critical in-game adjustments that are the difference between winning and
losing. How many times were the Rangers simply out coached last season?
How many times did we see teams go into the locker rooms for the first
intermission only to come out with changes in their gameplan? Both Slats and
Trottier were outsmarted more times than not last season and that goes towards a
team that is playing smart hockey. A smart hockey team will see those attempted
changes and adapt to them to prevent them from working.
In addition smart hockey also means the need to help hide the team's weakest
areas so the other teams don't take advantage of them. In the case of the
Rangers the weakest area of the team is the penalty kill so what is the best way
to cut down on the other guy scoring power play goals you ask? How is this one
for a radical idea, simply cut down on the number of penalties you are taking in
In fact cutting down on the number of penalties in all areas would do a lot
to improve the Rangers but you have seen little said about it this preseason
(not to mention seen the numbers go down in preseason games either). Whether the
penalties are in the Ranger offensive zone which killed so many Ranger offensive
chances over the last few years or the even worse "reaction" penalties
where the other team suckers you into reacting to something they did doesn't
matter they have to stop. "The Big Whistle" Bill Chadwick used to talk
all the time about how smart players could get dumber ones to react to something
mainly because the refs almost never see the first action but they always see
the reaction to it. The Rangers quite simply would be a vastly improved hockey
team if they somehow cut the number of penalties they take by 25%.
When you factor these 2 areas along with things like not playing down to the
level of your opposition like the Ranger have done for years. How about going
for the kill when you have the other team on the ropes instead of sitting on a
lead? Even better try playing with a hunger because you actually want to
accomplish something as a team.
Take it further and look at how fragile the Ranger confidence is since most
of the same players from last season are back this season. What will happen if
the team falls a goal or two behind in the first period? Will they fold up or
will they fight back? How about what happens when the team hits a rough spot and
loses a few games in a row? Will we see the return of the rumored cliques or
will they remain together as a team?
I wish I could say I am sorry about this, that I feel bad that I don't see
any of signs that things will be different this season for the Rangers. I can't
be since all I am going on is what the Rangers present as evidence about their
team and how I view it. So you can see why I simply don't believe that the
Rangers are going to have the kind of season the fans want and deserve out of
I am looking at the Rangers to tease like they did last season, going up and
down with their record hovering about 500 for most of the season. I think they
will further tease Ranger fans by remaining in the playoff spot hunt until late
in the season as well but when the smoke clears they will be playing golf in
April once again.
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