By Jmacwilli (aka Say My Name)
Everyone who has played hockey knows that though the basic and standard metrics of hockey are useful in showing production that it's nothing more than lattice work. A winning team (or a winning game for that matter) is determined by so many other factors. Most of them are impossible to put into quantitative form, but they are arguably much more important than any stat available. How can one measure character, or toughness, or resolve? How do you attribute a score for heart, aggressiveness, or confidence? You can't. But it is certainly easy to identify when it is there…or when it is absent. Here are a few reasons why the New York Rangers are swimming in mediocrity:
1. Sather has created an Island of Misfit Toys
Who would want a train with square wheels, or a Charlie-in-the-box? Glen Sather would, for he is King Moonracer and the Rangers are his toys. How else to understand why the Rangers have a giant that can't fight, or that their team toughness is generated almost entirely from players under 5'10"? Or that anyone with size doesn't check and most with speed can't shoot? Someone should send a memo to Glen reminding him that while very few players are the complete package that it is important to make sure that the player's plus column isn't completely negated by his minus column (or at least largely offset) Speaking of which…
2. Nash is one of the "Stars" on this team
This is a problem. Nash is possibly the most overrated star in the NHL. He is magnificent…so long as he has open ice, the game is relatively mild, the defense is tired, or simply bad, etc… There is no debate here. It was his calling card on the Blue Jackets and it is the same here. He rarely appears in meaningful games. Please don't provide a sampling of one or two as evidence otherwise, this is not your little brother I am criticizing. It is what it is. Even when he does score he seldom, if ever, takes over a shift, let alone a period, or a game. Watching a 41 year old Jagr fight for the tough ice AND WIN IT while Nash was invisible crystallizes the problem perfectly. Jagr is forty-one and he is still a force! Nash is in his prime and is simply an empty stat machine. Given his contract and the ice-time he gets and the way in which he effects the tenor of the game vis-a-vis that ice time, I will state without pause that the Rangers will not win a Cup so long as he is here. Which brings me to…
3. Tilting the ice
Sure time of possession can be counted, but the show of force can't. The Rangers need more players that simply wear down the opponent. It is not just checks. It is not just toughness. It is that trite expression "compete level". We all remember that kid growing up, the one who played pond hockey with us. We all know that kid who just seemed to have no "off" switch. We were playing pond hockey and THAT kid was playing as if every single second it was game seven of the cup finals. What a pain in the ass he was. Well…that is what it takes to win games in the NHL. Every play, every inch, every second is contested as if it were game seven. The Rangers HAD Cally and that wasn't nearly enough. You need the majority of players on your team to be THAT guy. They don't show up on the scoresheet but they determine the game. Grinders. The Rangers don't have them. They are far too easy to play against.
4. Hank is the other "Star"
Buying Hank for seven years while you still have dozens of other problems is the equivalent of putting a 5000.00 hood ornament on your 1985 Dodge Omni. Still that aside, he is a GREAT goalie and that never hurts, right? Well, I wouldn't have paid him for the first reason, but there are other glaring problems with this guy's game. Hank's stick handling is atrocious and people seem to dismiss that as just a minor inconvenience. It's not. If you ever played hockey you know how big a problem this is and how it effects everything from time in your own end, players getting needlessly walloped dozens of times per game, the energy shift the result of that very same thing, etc… This is impossible to put a number on, but it is real and it is huge. To draw a baseball analogy, if you are going to break the bank for a player, particularly an older player who you are signing for many years, most GM's would make damned sure they were getting a FIVE-tool player. Trout, Wright, Pedroia, etc… Hank ain't that. Sorry. He is really good…maybe even great….but he is not worth the opportunity cost. Add on top of it the fact that he, like almost all Rangers, is far too meek while playing. If he can't use his stick on the puck, could he perhaps use it occasionally on the legs of those draped on top of him? No, that would be unsportsmanlike…
5. Team & Fight
If the Rangers were a nation, they would be France. (sorry for the horrible and unfair stereotype) What we as fans have come to applaud as sticking up for one's teammates is a sign of how disgraceful this has become. I am a big Boston fan too and make no mistake about it I think (and have said) that Shawn Thornton should possibly be brought up on CRIMINAL charges for what he just did to Orpik, but consider the motivation. This guy was SO incensed about liberties being taken with his teammates/friends during a stupid hockey game that he quite literally lost his mind and committed a criminal act to try and serve justice. The act….reprehensible and unforgivable, suitable to be punished in the most severe way possible. However, the motivation that set him on his way? The Rangers are simply bereft of it…and it shows.
I know that some of these views will be unpopular. Still, before you commit to throwing down the gloves for a difference of opinion, consider that for millions of dollars the Rangers won't even skate through contested ice for you. And……GO!
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