It’s no secret, hockey is a war of attrition. Come playoff time, games are usually settled in dirty areas of the ice by close scores. The Rangers style of play has certainly changed since they last made a run in 2012 where they pretty much embodied my last sentence. This season we’ve begun to learn what we don’t have and that’s grit.
To date we have seen mostly inconsistent play where either we’re putting away 4-5 goals or we’re giving up 4-5 goals. This isn’t a good sign for long-term success. And while I certainly appreciate some of the skilled plays we are seeing, we all know how hard it is to maintain that style consistently over the course of a long season, or a 7 game series. The Rangers need to address this before the deadline because hockey isn’t just a war of attrition, but also a game of matchups.
Pouliot, Pyatt, hell even Brassard and Richie may not provide AV with great matchups against more balanced squads like the Bruins, Caps, Wings, and Penguins. Those teams look very solid and all of them have players that not only can generate something out of nothing offensively, but they also have players who thrive below the dots. The Rangers have really only shown us one way to win hockey games so far and they haven’t shown us that way very often.
In my opinion, when the skill plays dry up, you need to rely on forwards who can bring offense through grit, an ability to physically impose you defensively, or forecheck the defense hard in their end zone. We are missing that right now. What we need is a third line with size who can bring a hard forecheck in the offensive zone and can make you pay our side of the blueline. Someone who could alleviate some of Dorsett’s ‘enforcing’ responsibilities or even a 4th line agitator would surely be an extra bonus.
When push comes to shove, it is going to be interesting to see if Sather will look to trade some of these mediocre finesse players who comprise our roster for more physicality. Ultimately, we need grit because offense derived from grit tends to be more consistent than pond hockey.
If the Senators continue to slip, perhaps Chris Neil ($1.9M cap hit) would be available. Or maybe you go a little younger and take shot at another Ottawa guy like Zach Smith ($1.9M) who hits, fights, wins face-offs, and can pop a few goals. The Sabres shouldn’t need Steve Ott ($2.9M) if they’re going into a full scale rebuild. David Jones ($4M) in Calgary is also another guy who brings size, grit, and offense. There are a lot of possibilities here.
While you may not be enamored with the aforementioned names, I think it’s about time we at least had this conversation. I know other sites are usually quick to crap on acquiring players with more jam. And those of us who appreciate intimidating players are always accused of being Neanderthals. But make no mistake. Whether you like it or not, this is the world the league created, that the refs execute, and that we have to live in. Right now, we’re not built for their world.