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New York Rangers Fan Club

The Fish Bowl
by Toby Ivey

Sunday, January 25 2004


Causes For Concern

It looked as if the Rangers were about to turn their season around.  After a inconclusive start to the New Year, New York broke out with two emotional wins against the rival New York Islanders, and an 2-1 overtime loss (but creditable performance) against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  They followed this up with a 3-3 come from behind tie with their nemesis the New Jersey Devils, and another one in Montreal against perhaps one of the hottest teams in the league.  And then came Boston...

In the space of 20 minutes, the Rangers went from a team that was winning and building confidence to one whose confidence was once again suspect.  The Bruins came out hard against the Rangers and New York quickly lost their composure and their confidence, collapsing to a 5-2 loss including three minutes of a fruitless two man advantage.  The result was compounded by the loss of their last steady defenseman in Kasparaitis, perhaps for the rest of the season.  The only Ranger highlight of the game, a punch from Eric Lindros that sent Joe Thornton to the locker room (and ultimately out of the follow up contest), but it was the only punch the Rangers showed.

Primed for the rematch, the home team proved to be no match defensively for the speedy Bruins who skated rings around a defense that included Joel Bouchard, Dale Purinton and Lawrence Nycholat.  The forwards were constantly caught up ice and Dunham appeared to be tiring as he slid around the crease, out of position trying to keep the Rangers in it.  The 4-1 loss on home ice was followed up by an equally frustrating 4-2 failure against the cooling Flyers, including a concussion to Mike Dunham, starting his ninth straight.  The Rangers season was quickly approaching the crossroads...

With de Vries, Dunham and Kasparaitis out, Poti and Leetch ailing, a power play that had more power than play and a veteran line-up that spent most of their time behind the play, the Ranger General Manager did the obvious thing...at least if you're an observer of the New York Rangers, he acquired high-priced malcontent Jaromir Jagr in exchange for the struggling Anson Carter.

On the plus side, the Rangers did not give up any of their future in terms of players/prospects/picks, but it should be noted that Lundmark, Tjutin and Blackburn were all injured and the Rangers were really the only team in a position to (or perhaps more correctly, the only team willing to) acquire the four, maybe five years remaining on Jagr's contract.  On the down side...the Rangers once again got older...

Already fielding the oldest line-up in team history (averaging 30.8 years of age on average this season), and the oldest in the league, the Rangers once again have turned to paying for the past instead of building for the future.  By the time their contracts run out, the Rangers will have a 36 (or perhaps even 37) year old Jagr, a 36 year old Holik, a 37 year old Leetch, a 35 year old de Vries and a 34 year old Greg de Vries, and with age comes increased fragility and a degradation of skills.  If you don't believe me just take a look at the Rangers free agent signings in the previous six seasons.

The continued reliance on big names and past accomplishments also has a demotivating effect on the prospects within the organization.  Young players feel increasingly that they can never break into the team, a stint like Dominic Moore's five games earlier in the season may actually do more to harm him ultimately if he is not given a chance to come back.  This frustration gets aired from time to time in the media when former players (Bouchard, Keefe, Green and Stock just to name a few) take aim at the Rangers and their inability to show any confidence in the younger players.

The problem is again compounded when you look at how many of the Ranger veterans have injury histories, and yet when those players get hurt it is older players who get to fill the gaps.  Even players like MacDonald and Nycholat are given chance over Wiseman, Moore and Lampman, as the Rangers look to minimize risk rather than generate rewards.

But perhaps the biggest problem with playing the free agent and trade markets, is that the Rangers continually put together the wrong pieces.  While Sather has clearly shown that he believes an offense first, overpower the opposition with offense strategy is one that he subscribes to, the league has quite clearly shown this not to be the case.  Look at last year's match-ups where teams like New Jersey, Anaheim and Minnesota were able to stifle much more offensively imaginative teams to make it deep into the playoffs.  If not that, simply look a the decreasing goal scoring in the league and it appears obvious that the time for offense is past.

The Rangers are now overloaded with forwards who are not normally used on the penalty kill or are considered weak defensively.  Hlavac, Simon and Barnaby to not kill penalties, while Holik, Lindros and perhaps Jagr will be used sparingly.  The Rangers have pressed Kovalev and Rucinsky into this role, though neither killed penalties in their previous stints with the Rangers.  That's already 8 of the 12 starting forwards who are not normally used, no wonder Messier is being used so much.  It should be noted however, that Holik does provide defensive responsibility at even strength when asked to match up against an opposition threat.

With a penalty kill now ranked 27th in the league (a constant cause for concern under the Sather regime), what they are doing now obviously isn't working.

And while they may not contribute defensively or on the penalty kill, these offensive forces do need the quality ice time to score.  While Kovalev, Carter, Nedved, Mironov, Malakhov and Lindros might have expected over 20 minutes (or 25 in the case of the defense) of ice time a night elsewhere on a lesser talented team, they are relegated to substantially less than that here in New York.  Players build on momentum and it's hard to do this when you're sitting on the bench for three quarters of the game.  If anything the Rangers need more role players now...particularly in the center position where there are three quality pivots and a fourth who until recently lead the team in goal scoring.

There are also some players who need to have their ice time reduced...

Brian Leetch has obviously struggled this season, with injuries perhaps and maybe because he is not as fresh.  Leetch came back with energy last season after missing 20+ games with a foot injury, a layoff that perhaps helped rather than hurt his play.  Dunham too is a player who appears better when given more time off, the recent run of nine straight starts with the impressive Markkanen sitting on the bench, lead to Markkanen being rusty and Dunham clearly overplaying the puck.  Now with Dunham out for an unknown length of time, Markkanen has to suddenly regain his early season form.

Playing time is of big concern when you consider it is one of the few motivators that can be used for a veteran player.  And while players do need more ice time to get over the hump, there has to be a limit at which point you have to reassess what you're doing and try and ride the hot hand.  If Lindros' ice time is limited by his wingers then perhaps it's time to move him to a line where he'll have partners who can play as much as he does, if Nedved is struggling because he has wingers who don't finish and the Holik line is struggling offensively then perhaps they can switch positions.  If Hlavac, who doesn't kill penalties is not scoring, then perhaps he needs to be sat in favor of a Dominic Moore who not only killed penalties in his debut, but also set up three goals, and finally if Nedved is not scoring nor preventing goals then perhaps it's time to trade him for some help on defense.

Outside the rink needs to become a more professional environment too.  Players need to learn  they only get breaks if they perform on the ice...no missing practices (except for injuries) and no parties.  If the New Jersey Devils are the model franchise that Sather is looking to emulate, then they need to act like them off the ice as well.

Can this poorly constructed team of defensively challenged individuals make it to the playoffs under the current leadership?  That's a question that I cannot answer, but I can say that there are numerous inconsistencies and concerns with the strategy that is being used, and success may ultimately be in spite of the way things are being done rather than because of it.

 


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September 29th, 2017

How many rostered players were on the ice for opening night 2016-17

Answer...
  STANDINGS
  Team GP W L OT Pts  
  Lightning 20 15 3 2 32  
  Maple Leafs 22 14 8 0 28  
  Devils 20 12 5 3 27  
  Blue Jackets 21 13 7 1 27  
  Red Wings 21 10 8 3 23  
  Penguins 22 11 8 3 25  
  Islanders 20 11 7 2 24  
  Capitals 22 11 10 1 23  
  Hurricanes 19 9 6 4 22  
  Senators 19 8 5 6 22  
  Rangers 21 10 9 2 22  
  Bruins 19 8 7 4 20  
  Flyers 20 8 8 4 20  
  Canadiens 21 8 11 2 18  
  Panthers 20 7 11 2 16  
  Sabres 21 5 12 4 14  
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SCOTT GOMEZ
(2007-2009)
  Born: Dec 23 - 1979  
  Pos: Center  
  GP: 158  
  G: 32  
  A: 96  
  Pts: 128  
  PIMs: 96  

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