by Steve Giacobello
Now that the 2002-03 NHL season is officially over, (congrats to the Devils and their fans), the time has come once again for the Rangers to sit back and spend the summer searching for answers to a long list of questions and to try and avoid missing the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
What questions do they face? Well, let’s start with the problems in goal…..Will Mike Richter return? Should Dan Blackburn stay with the team and serve as Mike Dunham’s back-up, or should he be sent to Hartford? Who would be a reliable back-up to Dunham in the event that Blackburn is sent to Hartford?
Then there’s the question of Pavel Bure….team doctors have said numerous times that they can find nothing significantly wrong with either of his knees, but Bure has not said if he will return for another season or retire. “We’ll have to wait and see” is the answer Bure has been throwing at reporters when asked of his future.
And what about Mark Messier? How many more years is the Captain going to continue playing for the Rangers and eating up valuable ice time that would be better suited to one of the younger players on the roster? It’s obvious Messier calls the shots and makes the decisions when it comes to his future.
Sorry, but the time has come for Sather to sit #11 down and make him understand that if he plans on returning, it’s in a reduced role, or nothing at all. Mess can still be of value to this team, but not as a #1 line center.
And last but not least, let us not forget the biggest question of all…..one that the Rangers are all to familiar with asking themselves every summer…..Who will coach this group of over-paid, underachieving millionaires?
I have news for you….it doesn’t matter who Sather decides to take over as coach of this team….the results will be the same because the problem is not who’s behind the bench………….the problem is who’s on the bench.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….this is an absolutely horribly built team.
There’s a reason why this team hasn’t made any noise in the league since 1994, and it’s not because of the numerous amount of coach’s and GM’s we’ve seen come and go. It’s because of the twisted way of thinking this franchise has when it comes to building a team and/or putting together a winning combination of players on the ice.
There’s not a coach in the world that can get winning results with this current roster.
Don’t get me wrong here…there’s a load of talent on this team…..but it’s individual talent. Pavel Bure, Alex Kovalev, Eric Lindros, Anson Carter, Petr Nedved, Bobby Holik are all big name talented players, but together as a unit they don’t work well together at all……never will.
All these players were brought to New York because of their success with their former clubs. They were successful elsewhere because they were surrounded with the right type and right blend of players, and they were given a specific role that they were held responsible for each and every night. They were successful because their former team had a system and a game plan that they stuck with each and every night. They each had regular line-mates that they played with every night and they were given the time and chance to build chemistry with each other.
Then they came to New York and became Rangers…..and everything changed for them.
They came to a team with no system or identity…they came to a team that tried to change their style of play….they came to a team that gave them different line-mates every night….they came to a team that surrounded them with all the wrong kinds of players….they came to a team that feels the way to build a Stanley Cup contender is by spending millions of dollars on players because of their name and not their style of play….in other words, the came to the Rangers.
Do you realize that the Rangers put 37 different players on the ice in 2002-03?
37!!!!!! It’s no wonder that there was not one pair of players that clicked or formed any type of chemistry with each other whatsoever this past season.
No matter how you size them up on offense, and no matter what combination of forwards you put together, it’s not going to work.
The Rangers are loaded with pure goal scorers but have no blue collar, grinding, lunch-pail type of players that are needed to do the dirty work in the corners and in front of the net to get the puck to the likes of Bure, Lindros, Carter, Kovalev etc….
How many nights have we all sat and watched three Rangers forwards standing all alone in the slot just waiting for someone to feed the puck to them? Is “infinity” a number?
Sorry folks, but Ted Donato, Matthew Barnaby and Sandy McCarthy aren’t the answer to getting Bure, Lindros and Kovalev back to where they were before pulling a Rangers sweater over their head.
The Rangers need to understand that the way to success is by drafting, trading and signing for players that will fill a certain hole or need within your teams system.
The Rangers look only to fill one thing….seats…..and until they change their way of thinking and decide to build properly, it will be seven years and counting before you know it.