Five games are hardly enough of a sample size to evaluate much of anything — not the players, not the coaches, and not the system. With that said, I think we’ve seen enough by now to not have our heads in the sand with where this team is at physically and mentally. While I expected the Rangers to have some growing pains in the early goings, I never expected them to be this bad. Still, call me an optimist, but I think the Rangers are only going to get better from here.
As I said in last week’s post about AV’s system, it’s going to take time to make the transition from Tortorella’s system to what we’re trying to play now. A lot of the coverage fails we’re seeing are simply because the players are thinking about their decisions before they actually make them. When you have to take time to think about who you should be covering, when you should be pursuing vs. containing, or whether you should be passing, carrying, vs. dumping the puck, you’re opening yourself up to mistakes.
At the NHL level you don’t have time to think. The way you play has to be instinctual. Although the difference between a quick decision and a rushed decision may be small, the consequences of those decisions can be monumental.
And it’s not just the switch from playing a zone defense to more of a hybrid mix of zone and man-on-man. The players are also getting use to a different philosophy. AV is supposedly very hands off vs. Tortorella’s more direct way of dealing with players. We all remember Torts on 24/7 getting in Gaborik’s face and ‘asking’ him if he was going to stomp on a puck, or when he told Boyle not to “sh*t his pants” when defending Stamkos. AV isn’t going to push everyone’s buttons that way, if he’s even going to push buttons at all.
His philosophy is to rely on team leaders (e.g., Callahan, Richards, Staal, Hank, etc.) and his assistant coaches to push for more. The perfect example of this was during the Rangers recent blowout losses in San Jose and Anaheim. It was pretty routine to see Torts call timeouts in those situations and either let the team gather themselves or tell them what he thought, which was generally accompanied by f-bombs. AV isn’t gonna go there.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a complaint. There are many different paths up the mountain and we all have to be open-minded to a different approach. At the end of the day, the organization gave the players what they wanted. Now it’s everyone’s responsibility, even those of us who didn’t call for change, to see this through and not wave the white flag five games in.
In reality, what’s happening with our club isn’t much different from what the Capitals went through last season. Adam Oates came in with a different personality and a different system, and it took the players a while to adjust from the style of hockey they played under Dale Hunter.
If for some reason the Rangers don’t turn it around by the 20 game mark, then we can start talking about change. But don’t get it twisted. AV isn’t going anywhere this season. He’s too well-respected around the league to get canned midway through his first season. And while AV wasn’t my first choice, the organization would become a laughingstock again if they got rid of him this early in his contract. Instead, players may have to be traded, but let’s cross that bridge when the time comes.