The Rangers will hopefully only get better from here

October 14, 2013, by
Bill Boyce/AP

Bill Boyce/AP

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.

Hold fast.


  1. Bob says:

    I appreciate the positive outlook, but how come the Canucks arent going through the same struggles? Even in losses they’ve looked pretty good. They had to do a 180 also.

    • Dave says:

      Different teams, different styles of play. Apples and oranges.

      • Chris F says:

        Well, to be fair, Dave, the teams exchanged coaches/systems, so they are going through an identical “degree” of adjustment. One team is going from Torts to AV, the other from AV to Torts.

        One could argue it’s more difficult to transition from Torts to AV than from AV to Torts.

        Or, it may just be that Torts is better at implementing his system short-term.

        Who knows? But there is certainly a measure of comparison.

        • The Suit says:

          Yea Torts’ system isn’t an easy one to learn either and I know comparisons between these two teams are inevitable, but unfortunately I don’t have all the answers. We’ll see how they net out in the long term.

      • AD says:

        That is a cop-out; there is no reason why the Rangers’ struggles have to be this bad; there are factors beyond the transition to a new system causing their play to suffer so much.

        In my view, part of it is AV is simply not as good a coach as Tortorella; he has mishandled the transition by expecting too much too soon, and his personnel decisions have been questionable. When Tortorella took over this team, it had less talent, yet there was never a drop-off in performance of anything close to this magnitude. As Ken Danyenko recently stated, AV needs to simplify his system for the players and integrate it gradually.

        Part of it may also be due to the players really not buying into AV and his approach to the game — as difficult as it was the past three seasons some players (including key ones) may actually believe it was the right path to success! They invested everything they had the past 3 seasons and may feel Sather took liberty with some player comments and prematurely fired a coach who challenged him on key decisions.

        To say it is an apples-to-oranges comparison between the Rangers and Canucks relative transitions is being overly protective and kind to AV — let’s keep it real here.

        • The Suit says:

          Come on man, you sound like all the Torts haters I had to deal with the last four years.

          You may end up being right AD, but I don’t think we can throw AV under the bus 5 games in. Let’s give the guy a season at least before we go there.

          • AD says:

            To suggest AV is part to blame for the dramatic drop in on-ice performance, or that he may not be as good a coach as Tortorella, is not at all “throwing him under the bus.” Those are fair and reasonable critiques; others may have a different view but they are fair comments. Not attributing any responsibility to the coaches for the player performance is short-sighted, in my view.

            And, for the record, I’ve felt all along hiring AV was a poor decision. I simply view him as an average coach that had well above average talent in Vancouver. We’ll see as the year progresses; I hope he proves me wrong.

            • zubov says:

              It has been 5 games. I mean can we please relax.

              Stepan put himself 2-3 weeks behind with his stupid hold out.

              Callahan is no where near his level yet.

              Hagelin is out

              Nash is out

              I dont know ANY teams in the NHL that can succeed when 4 of your top 9 (probably top 6 in our case) forwards are either injured or not up to their level yet.

              With that said, I am baffled by how we have our top 7 d and best goalies healthy and they look like they have forgotten how to play hockey. However, I am not about to make a judgement on a team 5 games into the season and having played a gauntlet of a schedule on the road.

              Torts has the luxury of a team that is fully healthy and he has forwards who have played with each other for almost 10 years. It is a huge luxury not having to teach a PP when you have the sedin twins and you can get goals from there. With that said, they are playing .500 hockey and have played 4 games at home, so not like they are amazing either.

              Either way, can we please have some patience. I would rather us be awful early and figure it out. I am not making a judgement on this team until january. Lets not forget that 2 years ago we had an awful start to the year and then made the ECF.

          • Centerman21 says:

            I was a huge fan of Torts & I defended him for a long time. I was never a big AV fan but feel with all the 2 way talent & skating ability on this team, he should be a good fit. I feel he needs to pick his spots with the man coverage though. NHL players are just too quick & creative to stay with them man for man. You can’t hold at all anymore. And the Rangers are playing a zone on the PK and that has been pretty good. The results like everything else haven’t been great but they seem comfortable. Maybe AV could lighten the load a bit and add 2 zone positions guarding the scoring area like 2 in slot stacked. Position one in front of the net and another at the hash marks. The other 3 work the walls and up hight when the puck comes out. AV is gonna preach staying with his system I’m sure but it’s a thought

      • bitterzen says:

        That is a load. Losing Nash will kill us. Did someone say Lindros 🙁

  2. Chris F says:

    How much of the current defensive zone system is by design of Samuelsson, or is he merely implenting AV’s system?

    • The Suit says:

      Wish I knew man. Hopefully AV does that show Behind the Bench on MSG. Thought it was a very insightful program and it gave me a better understanding of what Torts was trying to accomplish here.

  3. Chris F says:

    Also, Suit, do you really feel that firing Torts was giving the players what they wanted?

    • The Suit says:

      This is opening a can of worms…but yes I do believe some of the players had something to do with it.

      A reporter in Vancouver asked Torts why he was fired and he said he was told by Sather that he lost the team. Then he took a dig at the players for going behind his back and not approaching him face to face during exit interviews.

      Not hard to connect the dots here.

      • Chris F says:

        Well, to hear Cally speak, seems he’s pining for a return to Tortorella style play. I wonder if there was open dissention among the players over Torts. Such a divide could have caused some conflict that is affecting the cohesion of the team under AV.

        • The Suit says:

          It’s possible I suppose, but I don’t think we’ll ever know who went to Glen and who didn’t. I’d be surprised if Cally were involved though given their close relationship. It will be interesting to see who eventually gets traded or walks during free agency.

          • Chris F says:

            No, I don’t think Callahan was involved at all. I’m suggesting actually that perhaps some of the other players “revolted” and may be clashing with some of the guys from the Torts camp, e.g. the leaders, Callahan, Staal, Richards. Pure speculation.

            But, if there was a divide, I could see there being some bad blood carrying over and affecting this season.

  4. Walt says:

    The Rangers are only going to get better!!!!

    I hope the hell so, they can’t get any worse. With them playing the Caps next, after a few days at home, eating momma’s cooking, lets see some sort of life, improvement, whatever, to give us some hope.

    On the bright side of the page, the PP looks one heck of a lot better so far, something possitive!

    • The Suit says:

      Agreed. The PP does look better. Reminds me, I was suppose to break that down today wasn’t I? Next week!

  5. KennyJ says:

    PP not the only thing that looks better, take a look at the guy we were all writing off – Richards. Plus: the Captain is back, Step is rounding into shape, our D will learn the system and stop thinking too much, mom’s home cooking can’t hurt and, let’s face it, the King will reign again!
    Better days ahead!

  6. The Suit says:

    What’s with all of the mom’s home cooking comments? My old man makes a pretty good meatball.

    • Centerman21 says:

      Is there a difference in the way NYR D covers on the rush with AV? I thought that was basic stuff. So why did Steen go unmolested right to the net around Staal. How come Mac let Perry go round him? I’d think that’s one thing they’d be good at.

      • The Suit says:

        Yea it’s the same issue as defending zone pressure. Torts had one defensemen protecting the slot and one going hard after the puck carrier with the center supporting just off the puck (http://blueseatblogs.com/2013/05/08/understanding-defensive-zone-coverage/)

        With AV it seems he wants both d-men going hard on the strong side (hence the whole overload theme) and the center protecting the slot. It’s not a traditional way of playing defense which I think is part of the problem, the other being atrocious puck management.

  7. Bloomer says:

    The Rangers will get better simply because they can’t play any worst. I think one has to use caution when pumping up AV’s system. I have watched many Canuck games and under his system the Canucks had nights where they couldn’t score. Also, way too often players were left open in the wheelhouse and countless odd man rushes on their keepers Louogo and Snedier

    • Dave says:

      Well that’s one way of looking at it. They really can’t play any worse.

      As for nights where they couldn’t score/nights with odd man rushes, that happens to every team. Some nights, you just don’t have it.

  8. Bloomer says:

    The Rangers will get better simply because they can’t play any worst. I think one has to use caution when pumping up AV’s system. Having watched many Canuck games and under his system the Canucks too had nights where they couldn’t score. Also, way too often players were left open in the wheelhouse and there was countless odd man rushes. The Canucks goalkeepers Roberto Louongo and Cory Schnieder are world class and kept them in games they had no business being in. The Rangers aren’t quite there in completely adapting to AV’s hockey system, but they are getting close. How do you like it so far?

  9. Walt says:

    Come on Suit, dad can’t cook like momma. Sure miss my mom, but after 43 years with my wife, she does a great job!!!!!

  10. TxRanger says:

    I just don’t get posts like this. You guys use so many advanced metrics here on this blog to validate your claims, but then you guys also make posts like this. Obviously this is a Rangers-biased blog, but most of this article is just unfounded, and the rest just speculative. You cannot just say that they will only get better from here, because they will only get better.

    I get that there are growing pains with a coaching switch, but this team is making mistake that transcend adjusting to a new coach. So far, Hank looks awful. You think now he’s just going to find his game? Maybe he has the goalie’s equivalent to Brad Richards’ season last year. The defense looks, as someone said on here, like an ECHL team’s. Maybe they really were as good as they’ve been because of Torts’ coaching, and AV will not be able to get them back to that form. The Rangers are so bad, they even suck on NHL ’14.

    I love this blog, I check it everyday, but these kind of article just really shoot your credibility in the foot. I hope you guys are right, though.

    Either way, let’s go Rangers!

    • Dave says:

      Advanced stats show how they perform over time. Small sample sizes right now. They show how bad they’ve been and how the only place to go is up.

      • The Suit says:

        Apologies for hurting the credibility of this blog. I hope Dave will afford me more opportunities to contribute here in the futures.

        • Dave says:

          You’re fired. Leave the ties.

          • The Suit says:

            Exit interview question: Are there advanced stats for my optimism? If so, please forward to Tx.

            Thanks for nothing,


            • TxRanger says:

              optimism, smoptimism…

              the team is playing bad, hasn’t shown any promise, but you expect us to believe that they’re gonna turn it around from here on out because you think they will? gimme a break. this blog usually post some great material, but this is bullshit.

              • Dave says:

                Well clearly if you don’t agree with what we say, it’s bullshit and we should never write about it.

              • VinceR says:

                Ah, opinions are wrong for these guys to post. Nevermind the fact that they played the best teams in league just starting a season with a new coach and missing key pieces in each game. Never mind they looked great vs. LA (yes LA helped a little, but the Blueshirts were buzzing all game), or much better as the game went on in St. Lou (nevermind Biron).

                There is no reason for optimism because all of a sudden these guys suck completely and will lose every game by 5+ goals and will not compete for the season. This is how it will go the whole season period.

                We should all give up and these guys should just write articles about how much this team sucks. That’s what I want to read!!!

                Ok, gotta go, my season tix just came in the mail, gotta go burn ’em.

              • Walt says:

                VinceR said it all!! Hes right, let’s see a few more games before we jump ship.

  11. Bloomer says:

    The question should be asked are the Rangers players having difficulties adjusting to AV’s run and gun style simply because they don’t all have the skills and skating ability to do so. Some players do better under different coaches and with different styles of plays. I think roster changes will have to come eventually. Not all hockey players have been brought up playing pond hockey.

    • Chris F says:

      I haven’t seen anything remotely resembling run-and-gun. I don’t think that the AV system suggests that’s his style.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      It just seems like run and gun with the way the defense has played. AV’s teams in Vancouver have consistently been in the top third of teams in (fewest) goals allowed in the league.

      Tort’s style is more skating intensive than AV’s system anyway.

  12. branted says:

    next change to be made should be the GM. Sather has no vision or plan of any kind, it’s amazing he’s been at the position for this long.

  13. TheDude90 says:

    I never thought hiring AV was a good decision. As someone else stated, he had a lot of talent on that team and never won. This won’t happen – but I’d rather have Laviolette now that he’s free and probably wants to stay in the area.