The on-ice issues plaguing the New York Rangers have truly come to a head, with the team playing listless hockey and getting blown out on a regular basis. Everyone knows why this is happening, and it’s useless to discuss it further. Once the dust settles on the impending sell-off, we’ll begin to assess what lies ahead.
Perhaps more concerning than the terrible hockey is the culture of the Rangers, which appears to be completely broken.
The Rangers are a stodgy, conservative organization which over-rewards loyalty and is terrible at self-evaluation. Even though I’ve not spent a day “in the room” with the players, coaching staff or management, the MSG broadcast is the perfect public representation of this hockey club. The commentary is never critical, asks few questions of any substance, and opens up no new pathways for intelligent discussion. It’s infuriating to watch, acting as state-sponsored TV for a flawed operation that is clearly trending in the wrong direction.
Now, the obvious counter-argument is: the MSG broadcast is state-sponsored TV. The same company that owns the Rangers owns the network (kind of). This is true, though it’s true of most sports teams nowadays. And yes, of course a home broadcast is going to be somewhat biased. But in the halls of 4 Penn Plaza, the Knicks also put on a local broadcast, which delivers a much more nuanced and balanced discussion of the team.
Here’s an example: on Friday night, the Knicks lost a heartbreaker to the Milwaukee Bucks, 92-90 on a last-second shot by Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the decisive play, the Knicks executed poorly on defense (sound familiar?), allowing the rangy forward to get to the rim for an easy lay-up. As soon as the post-game show began, Knicks analyst Alan Hahn laced into coach Jeff Hornacek, questioning why he had forward Lance Thomas on the bench in crunch time, since Thomas had ably defended Antetokounmpo earlier in the game. It was thoughtful and impassioned criticism, and it was wholly justified.
On the Ranger broadcast, these types of moments occur rarely, if at all. Of course, there are some positives: Steve Valiquette’s stats-based analysis is very insightful, John Giannone is a top-class reporter and Dave Maloney’s unvarnished takes are always welcome. Sam Rosen is an entertaining play-by-play announcer with incredible passion for the Rangers, but between him and Joe Micheletti, the rose-colored glasses are always on, lending each broadcast an air of absurdity given how bad the current team is.
Micheletti’s “analysis” is particularly useless. He never disagrees, or even bothers to question the decisions made by the coaches. His insight usually amounts to “the Rangers want to skate fast and play in the other team’s end”, but he is either unwilling or unable to explain why they fail to do that.
This era of Rangers hockey reached a low point when Cody McLeod made his debut on Thursday. On several occasions, Sam and Joe intimated that McLeod was providing value when, of course, he was not. With the Rangers trailing 4-0, Sam excitedly declared, “Cody McLeod leads the Rangers with five hits; that’s a big number!” Micheletti made the case that McLeod could bring intangible value, having been on a Nashville team that finished as an 8th seed and made a run to the Stanley Cup Final. Yes, as if the Rangers could achieve something similar, because of McLeod’s presence and experience. At that point, the Rangers were being run off the rink by the Maple Leafs (they really didn’t seem to care very much) and barely a negative word was said.
And then there’s Ron Duguay. Rather than rehash his thoughtless, sexist comments from a couple of weeks back, I’ll say just this about Duguay: he knows next to nothing about the sport he played professionally. He is unprepared for each broadcast, and can barely describe the nuts and bolts of a basic hockey play. Duguay is a prime example of the Rangers being overly loyal to former (and in many cases, current) players, and is living proof of the institutional rot which has set in across the entire operation.
There is also the larger issue of the current stable of beat reporters who cover the Rangers, a group made up predominantly of men, that either refuses to or doesn’t know how to ask the coach difficult questions. After Thursday night’s blowout, Alain Vigneault’s press conference lasted all of two minutes, which is par for the course. Would a coach in Montreal or Toronto escape so easily after his team had been thoroughly embarrassed?
The Rangers have shown no ability to properly evaluate themselves, and the media apparatus around them does a poor job of holding them accountable. What occurs instead is an echo-chamber effect, similar to what liberals experience when they watch MSNBC or conservatives Fox News. Nothing constructive; just the things you want to hear (and believe) fed back to you.
Of course, the MSG Network problem is a small one in the grand scheme of things. But it is indicative of the more serious cracks in the foundation of the Rangers. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this franchise – and not just the players – needs a total makeover."The MSG Broadcast Is Unwatchable (And It's Part of the Problem)",