Igor Ulanov

The Negativity Manifesto

by PenYada

I’ve been reading the various Rangers message boards on the ‘net, and there seems to be an overriding feeling of disappointment and negativity by many of the posters. Then there are those posters who come on and express dismay at having to read so many negative comments. My response is….WELL WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?? To me, when you have a team that has underachieved and not made the playoffs for 4 straight ugly years, those who keep saying that the “negative” folks are overdoing it, whining and so on, are simply ignoring history and looking at their Rangers world through rose-colored glasses.

It’s one thing to lose 4 years in a row. It’s another, even worse, thing to repeat the same damned mistakes and follow the same patterns that caused the losing in the first place. That is the problem and that is what is causing all negativity….95% of it justified, in my opinion.

To add insult to injury, in the last 15 games or so last season, the organization finally seemed to be getting itself straightened out, it appeared to be seeing the light and heading in a positive direction. It seemed that, as The Who once sung, “The Kids are All Right!”. Kloucek had blossomed. We get Smrek for Gusarov and he plays very well. Mottau steps in and plays well. The Malhotra/Messier/Dvorak line is the best one on the team. Dvorak gets 30 goals and Malhotra shows he is a different player when given lots of ice on a line with talented players. Hlavac shows that he’ll be a 30-35 goal scorer for years to come. Purinton plays with Leetch and shows that indeed he has the ability to play in the NHL. We play 2 excellent games against the Devils, a tie and finally a win…games in which we did not back down an inch from the bully tactics that we so often shrunk from in the past. Kloucek bloodies Colin White in one game. In another game, Messier pops Arnott square in the kisser for taking liberties with Mottau. Dvorak scores 4 goals in a game and Malhotra has 3 beautiful assists on them. He also scores a game winning overtime goal against Khabibulin. Messier expresses admiration for Malhotra and says all he needs is a chance to play without fear of being benched and he’ll be just fine. Low follows that up by saying that he has high hopes for that line starting the next season and that Malhotra is proving that he indeed has a future on LW, not center.

So, Sather goes into the off-season and, to many people’s dismay, fails to get Jagr. But then to many people’s delight, states that the reason is because he was protecting the team’s youth and he professes over and over again throughout the off season (continuing what he said during the season) that “younger, stronger, faster” is what this team must become. After all this, most New York Rangers fans, even those with more of a “win now” attitude, begin to settle in to a comfort zone. It seems obvious that Sather is going to build this organization the old-fashioned way…with patience, gathering and nurturing his young players and using vets like Messier, Leetch and Richter to teach the young ones how to win. It had to be, right? I mean, the guy made a very weak attempt to get the greatest player in the planet, who expressed his desire to play in New York. What other reason could there be except that Slats was being honest in his desire to reshape the direction and the culture of this organization away from the “quick fix for youth” mistakes of the past?

Well, without going into too many gory details, isn’t it obvious why most Rangers fans feel betrayed, negative and pessimistic about this upcoming season? Slats had no intention of saving the youth in this organization….he refused to give them up in a trade for the greatest player in the world, but had every intention of dealing them for a 6-time concussed player instead…giving up our brightest goal-scoring prospect as if he was a throw-in in a garage sale. To add insult to injury, the Flyers (who are a much better team and have more talent than the Rangers) manage to find a spot for Brendl on their top 3 lines. While he was with the Rangers, he was insulted and put down by Sather and his minions (except Maloney) on a constant basis. It was leaked over and over again that they were unhappy with his defense. Not to his face, mind you, but to the press. Brendl reads this and spends the year trying to improve his defense, even requesting to be put in the 4th line to help him improve that area. He comes to camp intent on showing the club that he can be a well-rounded player, that he can play defense. What was his reward? The brass complains that he isn’t scoring goals and sends him back to Juniors. After being traded, Brendl stated that the Rangers brass barely spoke to him, barely gave him any input to what they wanted from him. And now he’s playing on the 3rd line for the Flyers after lighting it up in preseason. Just great!!

Then we get Zdeno Ciger, Johansson, Karpa, Ulanov, Van Impe. Oh great, now there goes the “younger, stronger, faster” mantra right out the window. How ’bout older, slower and dumber? We all know quite well that these guys were handed their roster spots regardless of their performance. Yeah, Ciger had a good camp scoring-wise. So what? Did that have to mean that Malhotra not get one chance to play on Messier’s line again? Did it mean that Malhotra had to be banished to the 4th line for the entire preseason with out a chance to play with any of the top talent on the team? And after saying that Malhotra’s future was as a left wing, Low makes him play center!! What do we think Ciger would have done if he had been put on a line with McKenna and Scott and given 7-10 minutes of ice time? What happened to Sather and Low saying that there would be an open competition for jobs and may the best men win? Huh? Where did it go? How can it be a fair competition when the playing field is not a level one? Now, Mottau and Martin Richter have been sent down despite the fact that both Ulanov and Karpa had mediocre camps, often displaying their historic tendencies to take bad penalties and get out of position.

Then there is Bryan Berard, who is probably a good pickup by Sather. But will it mean that Karpa or Van Impe get waived or sent down to Hartford? Nope! Time to send another young guy to Hartford. And what happens when Klouchek gets back? Take a wild guess! Mine is that Smrek will go down, not Van Impe or Karpa (Ulanov is a lock because he is an “Edmonton boy”).

This team is actually older than it was at the end of last season! We have a #1 center who has had 6 concussions and seems to have a bulls eye on his cranium, due largely to all the ill-will he has built up around the league with his history of mean, dirty hits. And he hasn’t played in over a year. Our #1 RW is coming off substance-abuse problems and hasn’t played in 8 months. Our #1 goalie has two reconstructed knees. Our newest top 2 defenseman is legally blind in one eye and hasn’t played in 18 months. Sather has proved to be totally insincere and untrustworthy in the way he deals with Rangers fans. He strung us along, fed us a bill of goods and has not delivered a team that fits with the vision he outlined to us and made us believe. But, I and others who are experiencing similar feelings are supposed to stop whining and get on the preseason optimism bandwagon that says we are tied for first place with every other team and all things are possible. Well, sorry for disturbing all you pollyannas, but we’ve got 4 years of history to back us up and a Rangers’ management team that does not believe that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. To expect anyone to be optimistic with all that has transpired since July 1st is simply unjustifiable and unrealistic. Signing old, borderline UFA vets and castoffs as a bridge to the future, while not giving young players a fair chance? Been there, done that! It doesn’t work! You can’t put parts together and expect them to meld into a finely oiled machine. It doesn’t work that way. Ask Neil Smith!!

So yeah, we’ll root like hell for our Rangers, but unless they win consistently and show signs of playing a consistent, cohesive system of play, is there any reason to believe that we’ve simply been handed anything other than more of the same old failed formula? I hope like hell I’m proved wrong, but I most certainly not optimistic. Why should I be? 


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