Tom Poti

Too Many Ifs To Get Excited

by Steve Giacobello

With the exception of the 1994 season, never before has a season of hockey here in New York been so anxiously anticipated…….and with good reason. Need some reasons to be excited about the 2002-03 season here in N.Y.? How about….. the signings of Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparaitis. ….an all new coaching staff, starting with rookie head coach Bryan Trottier, and his assistants Jim Schoenfeld and Terry O’Reilly. ….a full season of Pavel Bure and Tom Poti. ….the re-signing of Mike Richter as our top goaltender. ….team toughness!!! Never before have the Rangers had a solid core of hard hitting, gritty, tough players like they do today with players such as; Barnaby, Oliwa, McCarthy, Lindros, Kasparaitis, Purinton, Kloucek, Holik, and Messier. (Let’s also not forget that we have Sean Gagnon waiting for a shot…he put up over 200PIM’s last year in Hartford). ….plus, youngsters such as Jamie Lundmark. Kloucek, and Dan Blackburn (just to name a few), should all get their share of quality ice time, ending a frustrating streak of rosters Ranger fans were forced to watch that were packed with to many “aging veterans” and not enough “fresh blood”. Put all these things together, and it’s hard to imagine how one couldn’t be excited as a Rangers fan, to start the season, especially after suffering thru 5 seasons of no post-season play.

But unfortunately, this is the Rangers, and there’s always two sides the coin. To make a prediction, or to get to overly excited about this years Rangers team would be pre-mature at this point in time. There’s just to many “what ifs” that need to be answered before we can really get an idea as to what to expect from the “NEW” New York Rangers. Can this team make the playoffs this season, and make a serious run at The Stanley Cup? Maybe…..but only IF; ….Lindros stays healthy all season and throughout the playoffs. ….Richter is given the proper rest during the regular season, and is healthy and well rested for a playoff run. ….Messier, if he returns, knows, understands, and accepts his role as a 3rd or 4th line center with reduced ice time. ….Trottier and staff come into camp with a strict game plan, and a set type of system that the players buy into, and stick with all season. ….Bure is allowed to play his style of game that has made him the offensive threat that he still is today, and is not criticized or pressured to concentrate or improve his defensive flaws. (NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see if playing an entire season on the all to famous, “Garden Ice” will take away or slow down Bure’s game at all….just a
thought.)

….the defense dramatically improves.
….Nedved and Dvorak produce.
….Sather adds more depth to the line-up.
….they get help along the wings.
….they are able to roll 4 solid lines that are a threat to score. 

The Rangers are still weak in some very important areas; leadership, depth, and defense. When Messier went down with his injury last season not a single player stepped in and took charge or provided any type of leadership at critical times down the stretch. With the possibility of Messier not returning, this should be a major concern to Trottier and co. Also a concern is the fact that after the top two lines…there really is nothing to fear from this team offensively, especially if Nedved and Dvorak continue their dissappointing play from last year. As far as the defense goes…Kaspar will help, but this current group of D-men are not nearly big enough, tough enough or mean enough to survive a long, hard hitting 7 game series.

In my opinion, there are just still to many holes to be filled to consider this team a threat in the East or to consider them a serious Cup contender. The Rangers are a team finally headed in the right direction after years of “ghost riding” through season after season. But right now…there’s just too many “Ifs”.

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