The month was October. The year was 2011. The Rangers kicked off the season 3-6, and every day on this blog many begged for the return of Sean Avery and the firing of John Tortorella. Dave, Chris, and I turned the page on Avery and preached patience with Torts and his systems. The Rangers then went on a 12-2 surge and eventually the Eastern Conference finals, their first appearance beyond round 2 since 1997. Avery finished the season working in advertising.
Fast forward two years later and the Rangers are standing on the edge of October with a 3-6 record. Though Avery is long gone, and his name only pops up when photos of him with Housewives star Andy Cohen circulate the internet, the complaints from this fan base are essentially the same. Too many fingers are being pointed at AV this early in the process. For us, the message remains the same as it did in 2011. Be patient.
Over the course of the next 10-15 games we’re going to get a better look at what this team can do. Nine of the next twelve games are at home, with one of those road games taking place at Nassau. I’m not expecting another run like they did in 2011, but seven or eight wins doesn’t seem too greedy.
Of course, in order to get those wins a few things have to fall into place. First, the Rangers need to find some consistency. Defensively they have looked better and the team is starting to get how to play the overload in the defensive zone, which is a complex system mixing zone and man-on-man defense. However, their offense is still a bit inconsistent.
Several key players are still struggling with when to dump the puck vs. when to enter the zone with speed, when to try to make an east/west play vs. a simple play on net, etc. This is still going to take some time to get sorted out, especially with Callahan, Hagelin, and Nash injured. Hopefully, Brass, Stepan, and Pouliot continue to step their games up a notch. I’m looking at those three specifically since they all have ample NHL experience and are being used in offensive roles.
I’d also like to see our defense get back to joining the rush a bit more and contributing on the offensive side of the puck. The first shift of the season Staal joined a 3-on-2 and nearly had a goal. Since then we really haven’t seen the defense give us any wow moments, save a few shifts here and there. MDZ, McDonagh, and Staal were all on pace for 35+ point seasons last year. They’ve got a ways to go if they want to meet similar projections.
The Rangers also need a little more accountability and they have to stay out of the box. The offensive zone penalties in Detroit almost wrecked a very good night for the Blueshirts. Right now they’re 2nd in the league in PIM/G. That’s not a good place to be if they want to do some damage this month. Dorsett is 2nd in the league in PIM and both Pyatt and Pouliot have taken some dumb penalties in these first nine games. These guys have to play smarter moving forward.
Tonight the Rangers can put a lot of fans at ease with a consistent effort, but it wont be easy. Despite being back at home it’s still going to be a battle. I feel like the officiating is always sub-par when Montreal comes to town. I’m not a conspiracy theorist at all, but there have been too many games against this team where I’ve left the building scratching my head. Still, if the Rangers can continue to battle hard, keep it simple and stay out of the box, we can get this thing turned around in no time.