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Rangers Need Skill, Not Skilled Blockers

May 11, 2011, by

I like a lot of what John Tortorella has done as coach of the New York Rangers. I like his commitment to youth. What I do have an issue with however is something that I have also read from other Rangers bloggers in recent days –something that Tortorella is guilty of. An elite, finesse player is an elite, finesse player. To get the best out of players such as Marian Gaborik you have to put them in the position to succeed. Not expect them to block every shot, dump and chase or play the boards with enthusiasm. You play them to their strengths. How can Gaborik use his shot when he’s thrown the puck in the corner or is in the corner himself? Far too often we have seen the Rangers few skill players tow the company line and play the grinding game. Wrong move.

A few bloggers around Ranger Land have recently been wondering why Gaborik isn’t blocking shots with reckless abandon, why a Jagr or (insert skilled free agent acquisition here) wouldn’t play ala Ryan Callahan. Well I’ll tell you this; personally I’d sure as hell be annoyed if Gaborik and Jagr threw themselves in front of shots, risking injury. What Ryan Callahan does (including his shot blocking) is what makes him a special player but even he has proven to be far from invincible. I guarantee most Rangers fans would rather he blocked a shot or two less and play 82 games a season. Goals and saves win games not blocked shots. Look at the stats and not many of the league’s leading shot blocking teams made the playoffs. Yes, this Rangers team is a blue collar bunch but it needs an infusion of skill not necessarily more work ethic.

The point here is this: the Rangers will very likely upgrade their skill level this offseason whether it’s by bringing in Brad Richards, a (short term) reunion with a guy like Jaromir Jagr or a trade to bring in another skilled veteran. When they do, they better play them as their skill sets suggest and not play them like the ‘foot soldiers’. The Rangers lost in the playoffs for a few reasons; they couldn’t win face offs, they couldn’t score on the power play and they lacked skill in comparison to the Capitals – they were often a step behind. So many of those reasons for the five game defeat come back to skill and not playing a grinding game. The Rangers have laid a great foundation for future success. There is a core in place that plays with passion, plays a strong grinding game and is a core that has some skill. This core is predominantly home grown and will be the basis of any Rangers success in the future. Now they need help. If and when the cavalry (aka the skill) gets here let’s let them do their thing shall we?


  1. Hoggo says:

    Exactly. Gaborik didn’t score 3+ goals this year because he was asked to do something that didn’t suit his game. When you have an elite player, you put him in situations in which he can be successful. As good as Tortorella was at getting the team to play the grinding style, it didn’t work for Gaborik.

    How can you explain a near point-per-game player suddenly not being as productive? It wasn’t injury, it wasn’t alack of focus. He was being asked to do something that didn’t suit him. It suited the less talented players, but did nothing for Gaborik. Or Zuccarello. You can’t tell me that a player of his stature should be playing that grinding/forecheck game… and then expect him to be successful.

    Tortorella needs to do better next season. Coach to every player’s strengths, not the team’s weaknesses.

  2. The Suit says:

    They can still play the 2-1-2, be aggressive down low, and have Gaborik/Zukes do their thang. I mean that’s how most elite teams function. Everyone plays their role within a team concept.

    I don’t disagree with the main point of acquiring a skill player. Getting one would draw coverage towards that player and away from Gaborik. Problem is, I just don’t see any available…other than Richards.

  3. Rarely block shots says:

    Now the question becomes a) can management make similiar deductions and correct, such as bringing in a large left winger who can move bodies out of the way and set up gaborik and richards or b)trading gaborik for a more rough and tumble replacement who might be applicable as in ______??

  4. Chris says:

    I have to say Suit, the more I think about it the more I like adding Laich and his big game to the LW, in addition to Richards – if they can clear room for both.

    Laich plays the Rangers way and adds a scoring touch, while helping resolve the issue I discussed above – freeing up the skill players to play their way.

  5. Mikeyyyy says:

    So now I’m confused.

    We went to a defensive system cause Hank was getting scored on. Too many 2 on 1s. Too many second chances.

    Hank is great but not an elite goaltender. The team has had to become defensive to cover his flaws. Even in the playoffs he looked shaky.

    We sacrificed health of players to block shots so Hank would not have to face them. We let gabby get stuck in a defensive system because Hank needed help.

    From looking at these things. One can logically assume the problem lies in goaltending.

    Take away the defensive system and Hank would be middle of the pack in stats. Even Tom renney knew that.

    I think at this point we have to consider even moving Hank.

    This isn’t because I think he sucks, but he’s no mike richter. He’s just not worth 7.75 million per year. For that money I expect my goaltender to stand on his head to block a shot. Can’t stop the 2 on 1, gives up softies, plays well positionally, too deep in the net and can’t stop a rebound shot. Hence the defensive system to make sure those don’t happen. Renney knew it, torts discovered it. Warner can correct it.

    So we need to seriously consider all sides of where the team needs to go. If you want torts not to employ the torts trap. Then you need to seriously consider a tender that can play that system as well.

    This team will not and has not gone deep into the playoffs with him. We need to seriously look at all angles here. When torts said we need an infusion oof talent he meant at all positions.

    • Section 121 says:


    • Section 121 says:

      Mike Richter
      2.89 GAA, .904 SV% only won more the 30 games a season twice in his career

      Henrik Lundqvist
      2.32 GAA, .918 SV% has won 30 or more games every season of his career with 5 out of 6 at 35 or more wins

      yes, Richter was a cat and had remarkable reflexes and work ethic but come on, Lundqvist is the best goalie the Rangers have ever had

      other than that comparison, who in the league today qualifies as elite?

    • James says:

      #Comment Fail go back to whatever hole you’ve been putting your head in. “The King’s” arguably the best goaltender in the league. Same with Richter in his prime… top 5 goalie in the league. If you throw either one of them on a consistently elite team (think swapping Richter and Brodeur back in say 1996) both would be considered hall of fame locks, and multiple champions.

      Hank’s won olympic gold. Richter won the ’94 cup and single-handedly won the ’96 world championship.

  6. The Suit says:

    If you think Hank isn’t an elite goaltender than you clearly don’t know hockey.

    What makes Hank great is the fact that he does stop odd man rushes, quality shots, shootouts, shorthanded attempts, etc. The quality of plays he faces and delivers IS what makes him great.

    • Mikeyyyy says:

      It makes him great but not elite. His positioning is fabulous. But his reaction and fluidity is not elite. How many redirects go by him. Or rebound stuff ins.

      I never said he sucks but maybe his good stats are modified by the defensive system.

      I just don’t see us winning a cup with him.