Wednesday, October 24, 2007


New York Ranger$ Can't Buy Success

Not too long ago, the New York Rangers were a team full of high-priced superstars that lacked cohesion and a work ethic and continually missed the playoffs. Ah, those were the days.

Thanks in large part to Mark Messier's ego and need to play 18-minute a night when he was clearly outmatched, the Rangers never did collectively perform to the level of each individual player's ability added up. Lesser squads did far more with less talent, while the Rangers simply tried to fix problems by throwing more money in the fire.

After the lockout, the Rangers seemed to 'get it'. They let some of their young kids, such as Tyutin, Prucha, and Ortmeyer, get some key ice time. The Rangers used their money to sign 'smart' free agents, such as Marek Malik, and Brendan Shanahan, to fairly cheap deals. We saw the Rangers actually *gasp* make the playoffs and look like a pretty competitive team.

Then, the salary cap was raised, and suddenly the Rangers reverted back to form. We saw the Rangers sign some expensive contracts, some of the awful variety. Clearly, Glen Sather, free of some financial restraints, did not learn from his past mistakes.

Aaron Ward - $5.5mil over 2 seasons
Matt Cullen - $11.2mil for 4 seasons, and then they send him back to the Canes.
Scott Gomez - $51.5mil over 7 seasons.
Chris Drury - $35.25mil over 5 seasons.

The Rangers figured they could steal some karma from the Canes after the magical Raleigh run. While signing Ward wasn't a horrible deal, signing a 3-year line forward, as Cullen was, to that sort of deal with just nutso.

Figuring they ought to get some prime talent, instead, the Rangers spent a lot of money on a hard-to-coach playmaking centerman and a dearly overrated 2nd-line pivot, instead of re-signing Michael Nylander, a player who clearly meshed with the hard-to-please Jaromir Jagr.

The entire result of this has been a drought of African proportions. After last night's 1-0 loss to the Penguins, a team that has troubles stopping goals, the Rangers now find themselves having gone 2 games without a goal, and struggling with just 13 goals for in 8 games, by far the worst such totals in the league.

Yes, the Rangers can't even get 2 goals a game, despite having more talent, up front, than many other teams.

Let's assess the damage
Jaromir Jagr: 8GP 1-7-8
Chris Drury: 8GP 1-5-6
Scott Gomez: 8GP 2-1-3 (just 1 assist?)
Martin Straka: 7GP 2-1-3
Brendan Shanahan: 8GP 1-1-2 (WTF?)
Petr Prucha: 8GP 1-0-1

So, despite the fact that evil Swede Henrik Lundqvist is doing a great job in the nets (92.7SV%), the Rangers are 2-5-1 and generate just 21 shots on goal per game.

If I had to theorize as to what is wrong with the Rangers, it appears that they have a lot of finesse and little grit on their scoring lines. Clearly, there are a lot of egos to be stroked and few are willing to pay the physical price to get 'er done.

One weird stat that pops out is that Shanahan has 50 shots on goal in his 8 games, so he's clearly getting his chances. Of all of the players that should bounce back, he ought to be the one.

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Gomez and Drury aren't Fleury, Lindros, Ozolinsh, or Messier pt.2. They are two players the Rangers will look to build around once Jagr and Shanahan hit the golf course at the retirement home. Nylander simply wanted too much for too long. It was a smart decision to let him go, because would anybody want to be stuck with Nylander, a guy who was good for 20 goals and 35 assists without Jagr, for years after Jagr is gone?

It's eight games into the season and people are freaking out. The Rangers spent the short pre-season trying to figure out which Wolf Pack players would make the team instead of putting Hossa/Gomez/Jagr and Avery/Drury/Shanahan out there every night and letting them build some chemistry. It's just going to take some time.

Everything Jagr says indicates that he his happy in New York. He's getting old and he wants one more cup. I don't think he's sitting in his room kissing a portrait of The Swedish Wayne Gretzky and sobbing.

The fact is that the Rangers outplayed Pittsburgh last night and the bounces just didn't go their way. They've got a five-game home stand coming up, and I think the offense is going to break out.
I think the Rangers, unfortunately, will be more or less okay. They paid way too much for a guy who's scored 15 goals just once and another guy who's never broken 70 points, but they'll come around to some sort of decent play.

That said, I think they'll go exactly as far as Lundquist can carry them and not a step farther...
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