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Apr
15

Being tough to play against doesn’t mean fighting

April 15, 2018, by

scott stevens

One of the major storylines surrounding the Rangers under Alain Vigneault was that the club was soft, vanilla, and easy to play against. It led to creating a false need for guys like Tanner Glass, Cody McLeod, and other face punchers that couldn’t do much else. The false need was created by the incorrect assessment that being tough to play against means fighting.

Let’s unpack this a bit. Yes, there is a need for physical play. It’s hockey, after all. However the term “tough to play against” has evolved. It goes beyond traditional fighting and hitting. This makes logical sense, since the game itself has evolved.

Being tough to play against nowadays is about controlling the game. It’s about owning the puck and limiting the opposition’s chances. The most infuriating games to watch the past few years were the ones where the Rangers couldn’t get anything going. It had nothing to do with the Rangers, it had to do with teams like Tampa shutting them down completely.

For the Blueshirts, becoming tough to play against is less about fighting and hitting and more about becoming a cohesive team again. A team that remembers how to play team defense. A team that isn’t one and done in the offensive zone. A team that actually plays hockey.

It all starts with the new coaching staff. Larry Brooks pointed out that Scott Stevens may be on the radar. If he’s a coach that will re-establish defensive play, then I’m all for him on the staff. That said, looking at Stevens because he would throw an elbow when the refs aren’t looking isn’t the right reason.

I’m intrigued to see where this goes for the Rangers, but a shift in mentality at the upper levels is needed for the club to get back on track. They may not be good next year, but being tough to play against is a step in the right direction.

"Being tough to play against doesn't mean fighting", 5 out of 5 based on 15 ratings.

35 comments

  1. Spozo says:

    You know what is tough to play against? Elite talent. We sent our best skater to Tampa and he became their 4th best skater. This team needs elite talent.

    Chytil is a start but if he has the skills to take over a game, we are likely years away from seeing it.

    And I’m not sure any of the prospects they acquired this season will become elite either.

    • Mintgecko says:

      This is why it’s healthy to talk about stuff that is within your realm. I’m starting off with the top 6 centers on this team. I believe in them which could have been 50% of the missing pieces of this team. They already make our special teams so much better and gives this team a double headed sword on the PP. Chytil will help with that but he shouldn’t be expected to be a top 6 center, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. The best bet is to maximize Mika and Hayes down skills the middle. Get a reliable 4th line to help out and make sure the 3rd line is going to be as good as they were in the past like in 14,15 and 17.

      If you’re still crying for a elite player than going after JT this summer is the way to go. You move Zib at wing and load up the top 6 with the idea of still having another amazing 3rd line. Kovie and JT would be worth adding to a core of Buch, Kreider and Hayes and Zib. The PP’s now get that much better and Kovie makes the PK that much more dangerous. Then JG could still move up in the draft and he could flip those picks with trades from Spooner, Vesey and Names which should load up the AHL in one scoop.

      • Spozo says:

        I’m all for going for JT. You just don’t find that type of talent growing on trees. And for the record I don’t think it happens. I give it a 10% chance he is a Ranger next season and that may be generous.

  2. Ranger17 says:

    Would like to see SS as a D men coach but not as a HC .What have the Rangers done with LR is he gone with the others or still in the mix

    • DAVID k says:

      That would be a lateral move for him. He wouldn’t leave except if it was for HC.

  3. Flatbush says:

    100 % with Stevens as new D coach

  4. joe cafardo says:

    Agree with Spozo….Talent does it make it hard. But heart snd grit and developing a notion of TEAM matters as well. JT Miller was hitting everything last night and playing with a spirit AV simply sequestered. And in the Maple Leafs-Bruins match up…heck…Rick Nash…NASH…was hitting Komarov around and when Rusk got sprayed ..5 Bruins surrounded and knocked around Bozak. That just does not happen….did not happen with the Rangers. I am not into fighting for fighting…I AM into you hit one of us you get 3 back. So….if SS brings that…I am in.

    • Spozo says:

      I agree that the two qualities (elite talent and “toughness”)are not mutually exclusive. Of course I would love a 23 year old non injury prone Peter Forsberg on this team hitting everything in sight and lighting the lamp every night. I just think that at the end of the day, talent usually wins out.

      The Black and Blueshirts proved that no matter how tough and hard to play against you are, you still need the talent to put the puck in the net. That team was tough as nails, but had a hard time scoring 2 goals a game once the playoffs started.

      I’m not saying that we don’t need those types of qualities. Just that cup winning teams have elite talent, something the Rangers have lacked outside of Lundqvist for about a decade.

    • Rich S says:

      I get sick to my stomach when ever I watch Jt Miller play …….for tampa….
      Just like I got when i watched Rick Middleton play for Boston…….
      and strallman for tampa……
      and hagelin and his 21 playoff goals for the crosbys…….
      We dont need players, we had them, we just keep giving them away……
      WHAT we do need is an YZERMAN type Gm….when is his contract up???????????????
      Our Bozo gm, gorton just gave away our best young player…..INDEFENSIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BRAINLESS MOVE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Mintgecko says:

        They could have made JT and Hayes a strong duo who takes care of 2nd line offense, 2nd PP and PK1. No coincidence that he had his best full season next to Hayes last year. AV took him off the PK after one bad shift when they were in 2 months of the season. I thought all they needed was a sniper or a possession player who can hunt down pucks and make a play with it afterwards. You can call me bias because I’m a Hayes fan but the best times that JT looked good in a uniform was when he had him as his center. To be fair he never played well with Kreider on the same line and he’s never looked good on the PP1 when someone would go down. Center never looked good on him and I feel that was his down fall to why he became expandable. JG radio called basically admitted that the quietly shopping rumors from last year were true and that the club made their decision back then when the two had break out years.

  5. Leatherneck says:

    Tell that to the fast Leafs who are being dominated by a less talented team…tell that to the Kings and Knights….tell that to the Jets who are much heavier

    nah….you need toughness and skill…skill alone isn’t enough….the Penguins everyone wants to point to as fast….has skill and toughness….this year their grit is somewhat diminished….let’s see how far they go…I predict a Flyers win in that series

  6. Walt says:

    As a player I despised Stevens, but if he came to us as our head coach, or even as an assistant, I’d love that. Scott Stevens learned from probably the best d-man I ever saw play the game, Larry Robinson, and I’d bet he would be a great teacher. He also would bring back accountability, something lacking for some five years!!!

    Toughness to me is someone who hits cleanly, but hard, and will come to the defense of any team mate. All this talk about elite players is garbage, just look at Nashville, who on that team is elite? I suspect that the cup winner this year will be either the Jets, or Preds. All the Ice Capades teams will be eliminated in the first round……..

    • Rich S says:

      Walt,
      It doesn’t matter who the head coach is, nor who the players are…..success starts at the top…….and when you have a GM constantly giving away or trading away the teams best players [ strallman, hagelin, miller, mcdonagh, nash, grabner, talbot…..we wont ever get any better…….
      Want to know why their are 5 ex-rangers on tampa…..because Yzerman is light years smarter than Gorton and Sather…..and why they are one of the favorites to win a cup……..
      1/4 of tampa’s team are ex rangers………what does that tell you???????

      • Walt says:

        It tells me that some of the decisions made were poor at times, but the vast majority were made with that idiot Sather running the show.

        I am a big fan of JT, but we needed to trade him because if true, that the decision to let AV go was made the last week of the season, he was misused by the clown of a coach. As for Stevey Y, he is outstanding as a GM, but I wouldn’t cut JG short, he is still under the thumb of Sather!!!!!!!!

      • Bobby B says:

        Rich S, JT Miller will become a premiere power forward now that he is used properly. Under AV he was seen as a 4th line player. How can every analyst and writer be wrong, the so called throw in ( Miller) on the Mcdonagh trade was a major steal for Tampa. Watch The Rangers trade Kreider next, for draft picks, which most likely be European type players who are more fitted for ballet than NHL hockey. Team has always had an identity crisis when it comes to hard nose hockey.

        • Rich S says:

          yup, kreider will be next …he weighs over 200 lbs…cant have that here…….look at these names of guys we gave away….and their size and production…… Eric stall, strallman, hagelin, miller, mcdonagh, nash, grabner, talbot…
          How do guys defend rangers gm’s???????????Clueless….

      • Chris A says:

        Tampa, as far as I know, still hasn’t won anything. Under Yzerman they have accomplished just as much as the Sather/Gorton Rangers, except the Rangers didn’t have the benefit of a #1 overall pick.

  7. tanto says:

    This won’t be a popular comment, but if I’m looking for cohesive “hard to play against” defensive play out of my YOUNG team then I’m more apt to go with someone like Tippett who has a pretty good track record considering the ages of his teams and the budgets he was given to work with …

    • Reenavipul says:

      Dave Tippett has a young team in PHX for 4 years after their conference final run and he couldn’t win a bingo game in that time.

      • Mintgecko says:

        Fans would jump down his throat after watch his dump and chase method game after game. Kreider would probably be apart of the few who could benefit Tipps system but after the first week he would be in his dog house for being so nonchalant in his end and the NZ. Maybe if it was 2013 and if they didn’t trade for Nash than Tippett would have made sense.

      • tanto says:

        What he had was a BAD team with inconsistent goaltending and a management team that didn’t want to spend a dime (literally a DIME) over the cap. I didn’t suggest he could work miracles, but with the right tools he’s a good no nonsense coach that has the ability to work with younger players.

        Also the Tippett comment was related to the hire Stevens idea, I would rather get Tippett than Stevens if that’s the direction they want to go in … I’m actually much more in with a Sheldon Keefe type (or a Quinn). I would prefer management get ahead of the curve for once and take a risk on someone young who doesn’t have NHL experience.

        • Reenavipul says:

          When the Coyotes reset, they never got any better after that payoff run. In Dallas, they never got better after year 1.

          And that’s what you want in New York?

  8. tanto says:

    Am I the only one here who thinks that overall team conditioning has declined a bit year after year since the departure of Torts and the arrival of AV? Say what you will about his coaching style, but his teams always seemed to be a step ahead in the conditioning department — something that served them well late in games. The negative there though is that he tended to burn players out come playoff time (especially after the 1st round) — that said, it wouldn’t be that hard a fix to adjust recuperation times for the workhorses on the team.

    • DaRev says:

      This! It wasn’t until the trades and bringing up some kids that we had some bodies actually working and really fighting, yeah they weren’t always where they belonged, but the losing games were more tolerable in many ways then playing our best and always looking 2-3 steps behind.

  9. James1090 says:

    Toughness to me is exemplified in the Bruins. They play with an edge and some nastiness and have no problem fighting if the opportunity arises. However they are very skilled. Look at there top line players. That’s the type of team you want to emulate.

  10. pas44 says:

    Players have to have skill to play in this league, thats a given and it’s the first line of any players resume. Even elite players, Malkin, Crosby, Stamkos…, they rather play and steel clear of tough play, but push comers to shove they aren’t restrained by the coaches whistle to whistle demands. Young players had it even harder with
    AV’s ice time policies for after the whistle stuff.

    Stevens is a defensive minded hitter, just that along should be a welcomed addition to this club.

  11. gene4240 says:

    A good friend of mine was the Strength Conditioning coach on the 2000 NJ Devil team. My friend said to me, it was amazing to watch Stevens coach up the players in the locker room every night, The two best leaders in the locker my friend said in his coaching experience in the NHL was Mike Keene when he was Coaching with Colorado and Stevens with the Devils.

    • Reenavipul says:

      And where AV had the right idea was to let the guys in the Room did things like that.

      The problem was he couldn’t recognize he didn’t have guys like that.

  12. Larry says:

    Scott Stevens was an assistant coach and then interim “co-head coaches” with NJ Devils a few years ago, but Devils let him go and not retaining him, after that he has no NHL jobs, that shows enough NOT to consider Stevens as a coaching candidate for the Rangers.
    .