I love the readers of this blog. I really do. You guys have an amazing understanding of the game and what it takes for a franchise to be successful.
You recognize the importance of toughness and intimidation and how a big hit or a fight can change the momentum of a game on a dime. You know why having players such as Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Prust and Colton Orr are just as important as employing a Rich Nash, Jaromir Jagr and Marian Gaborik.
Winning teams have grinders willing to get into the dirty areas, so that the skill players can do their thing. You cannot win in this league on star power alone. This is not the NBA.
It’s why almost all of us on the blog refer to the 2011-12 Rangers squad on a consistent basis. It’s no coincidence that the Blueshirts most successful and beloved team since 1997 led the league in fighting majors. Those fights were more than just pre-meditated brawls between knuckle dragging Neanderthals. They had a purpose. Whether it was to stand up for a teammate or send a message, they helped bring the team together and build chemistry. This fight by Mike Rupp that season is the perfect example…
I know all of you appreciate the importance of a fight like that on and off the ice. It’s also the main reason why the current team has driven most of us, if we weren’t already, into alcoholism.
From their refusal to come to a teammate’s aid to their unwillingness to do the little things to get the job done. Frustratingly soft would be an understatement when describing this team.
It’s why I’ve joined all of you in expressing my disdain on a regular basis. But, over the course of the last two months I’ve come to the ugly realization that this roster is incapable of playing the way we all want. For whatever reason, Glen Sather felt a team that made it to within two games of the Stanley Cup finals on blood, sweat and tears needed to be swapped for one based on speed and finesse, and we all need to recognize this fact.
So, it makes zero sense for any of us to kill a team for their lack of toughness and guts, when they’re not built to be that way. This team WILL be outmuscled and banged around by more physically imposing teams, because they don’t have the size to respond. But, if they use their speed, forecheck relentlessly and drive to the net they have enough skill to overcome it.
Asking the 2013-14 Rangers to play a tough, physical game would be asking them to get away from what has made them successful the last two and a half months. The way the Blueshirts will beat the Bruins or the Flyers is not by matching them physically, because they can’t, it’ll be by putting them on their heels by outskating and outworking them.
As far as overcoming the marshmallow defense we’ve seen from this team recently, I look to one person…Henrik Lundqvist. He has taken backends led by Marek Malik and Michal Roszival to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, so I’m not worried about the lack of grit in this crew. Have you ever noticed the Rangers defense sucks when he sucks and is great when he’s great? That’s not a coincidence. Defense never has been and never will be the Rangers problem as long as he’s between the pipes. He’s getting paid $8.5 million per year for a reason.
Which is why I implore all of you to stop beating your head against the wall begging for things this Rangers roster isn’t capable of doing and start beating your head against the wall begging for things they can.
So, get furious when Derrick Brassard isn’t skating and throw your beer at the television when Rick Nash continues to play a perimeter game when everyone knows he can dominate by driving to the net. But don’t revoke your allegiance to the Blueshirts when Brad Richards doesn’t get back on defense or Brian Boyle refuses to impose his will physically, because you’re asking for the impossible.
With how weak the East is this season, the Rangers have just as good a chance as anyone to face the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals as long as they continue to implement Alain Vigneault’s game plan that has guided them to a 21-11-3 record since December 15th
Do I want the 2011-12 team back? You bet your ass I do, but asking for the current team to replicate how that squad went about their business would be a fools errand. Remember it’s not about doing things “The Right Way” anymore, it’s about “Grabbing it.”
And for those of you hoping Sather rebuilds the roster with size and grit this summer, do you really think he’s going to revert back to that style of hockey after he just completely turned it over?
This is the Rangers team we’ve been given, deal with it.