Archive for Rants
Imagine you’re sitting in a sports lounge on a chilly evening in November 2008, kicking back a few and watching your beloved Rangers play on several big screens. The crowd is good and the bar food is shamefully delicious. Early in the game, fan favorite Brandon Dubinsky fights with seasoned enforcer Dan Carcillo, and to you notice a 20-something girl in business casual screaming at the TV for Dubinsky to show his displeasure with Carcillo – except a bit more explicitly. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
If you’re anything like the lovely middle aged gentleman sitting to the table next to me on that night, it’s a mixture of terror and intrigue. The typical response to a female hockey (or any sport, really) fan is an assumption that you know nothing of the sport, you’re only watching to be cute for your boyfriend, you’re only watching to attract a boyfriend, you think player X is cute, or you really are a fan and that’s weird cause you should be out shopping for cute outfits. You know, for your boyfriend. Or to attract a boyfriend. Or player X. So what the heck is this girl doing screaming at the TV, right? She must have a thing for Dubi, she couldn’t possibly be a passionate fan…
If Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s epic 2008 crime drama “The Dark Knight” has taught us anything, its that as long as everything goes according to plan, everything is fine. Even if the plan is horrifying. When the Flames lose 50+ games this season, nobody panics. When franchise players are flipped for unknown prospects and picks, everything is fine. But when one little ol’ contender struggles, especially in New York, well, then everyone loses their minds.
This year’s New York Rangers club has fallen well short of expectations thus far. This team was supposed to be the cream that rose to the top of the less-than-stellar Metropolitan Division and carry Stanley Cup aspirations into the late spring months. Alain Vigneault was supposed to be the final piece of this puzzle, taking a team more offensive talented than the 2012 team that grinded their way to the Eastern Conference finals to the next level.
Clearly, the transition has been sandpaper smooth to this point. The team in general (but, especially the defense) have had a difficult time going from John Tortorella’s straight forward 2-1-2/low zone collapse to AV’s more complex, matchup oriented overload system. Henrik Lundqvist has been mortal to this point, and our beloved Blueshirts are clinging to playoff contention more as a result of the weak Eastern Conference and weaker Metropolitan Division than of the quality of their play. Read More→
As the Rangers struggle to mount any kind of offense or physicality, the team is being increasingly exposed for the obvious flaws that they have. We’ve discussed ad nauseam how the Rangers should turn to some of the prospects to help the ailing offense (Kristo) or the putrid levels of physicality (McIlrath). One player that hasn’t had much airtime is Marek Hrivik, at one stage a dark horse for a spot in the line-up to start the year. Hrivik could help both of the Rangers critical areas of concern.
While it may have gotten to the stage where veteran help (aka a trade) is what’s needed to mix it up, Hrivik has shown that he can control the puck, work the boards and use his body to good effect. He’s also a player with legitimate offensive upside. At 6’1 and 200 lbs Hrivik may not seem physically imposing on paper but in limited exposure he has shown he uses his entire skill set effectively. We can’t say that about the Pouliot’s and Pyatt’s of the NHL roster.
As is always the case when the Rangers are struggling, fans, players and the media alike are all searching for answers to the team’s woes. And though everything from bad puck luck to injuries has been a factor, coach Alain Vigneault hit the nail on the head yesterday when he put much of the blame for the team’s poor start on its underperforming core members.
“If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level, we need our top players to consistently play like top players,” Vigneault told Andrew Gross. “Not a period in, a period out. Not a game in, a game out. We need that core group, the leaders of this group, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis and on a game to game basis. Just look at our lineup, look at our core group and look at our key guys and there’s the answer.”
Vigneault couldn’t be more right in his assessment of the team 28 games into the year. Because as much as fans like to argue about what Michael Del Zotto might fetch in a trade or which youngster should play a handful of minutes a game in place of Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot, it’s highly unlikely that any such substitution would have a major impact on the team. Maybe J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Danny Kristo will re-join the Rangers this year and maybe not, but the Blueshirts certainly can’t count on any of the unproven prospects within the organization to arrive and turn the season around. The team has already gotten a surprise shot in the arm from Chris Kreider, and even that hasn’t been enough. Read More→
With apologies to Taylor Pyatt, the forward roster last night finally resembled the one Ranger fans were so excited about over the summer.
The lineup didn’t include J.T. Miller, but coach Alain Vigneault insisted yesterday that Miller would be back on the ice with the Blueshirts soon. But barring further injuries, the team’s top-six is clearly set, and Miller will likely be stuck with fourth-line minutes even when he does play.
In fact, Miller hasn’t played more than 9:14 in any of his last six games dating back to November 2, just after Carl Hagelin’s return. In the nine games before that, Miller had averaged 13:17, a pretty big number for a young player. But as Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, Dominic Moore and finally Rick Nash were reinserted into the lineup, Miller’s ice-time dipped lower and lower until he was finally sent to the press box. Read More→
Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial hockey rock, then you at least heard something about the Ray Emery/Braden Holtby incident from a few weeks back. For those of you who didn’t, here’s the short version: during a 7-0 drubbing of the Flyers at the hands of Washington, a scrum ensued down in the Caps’ end. Clearly frustrated, Ray Emery decided to skate the length of the ice and viciously pummel a clearly unwilling Braden Holtby. It was disgusting and deserved supplemental discipline. However, Brendan Shanahan was unable to cite authority in the rulebook granting him the right to impose further punishment on Sugar Ray.
Fast forward to last week, where it became known that the NHL powers-that-be were going to discuss the incident at the GM meetings in Toronto. The only hitch, they were talking about banning goalie fights. Wait, what?
Contrary to the title of this post, this piece actually has nothing to do with goalies. The only thing that makes goalies relevant to this discussion is that it’s the position Emery and Holtby happen to play, and the league is taking this ridiculous stance to solve the problem. So, let me get this straight: a willing combatant assaults a completely unwilling combatant, beats him senseless and the solution is, to ban goalie fighting? Read More→
You know the dogs days of hockey’s offseason are here when bloggers start grasping for proverbial straws with odd trade proposals and anxiety over the 2014 UFA list. This week I’ve already read three posts that made me want to delete my hockey bookmarks until at least preseason and it’s only Tuesday.
If you haven’t been following the latest happenings on Twitterd, a Flames blog has been kicking the tires on trading for Marc Staal, who they referred to as a “decent asset” and believe could be had for “pennies on the dollar.” Our friends at Bleacher Report think MZA could be one of the best players in the NHL if only he were bigger! For the record, sources say The Zoltar machine at Playland is still out-of-order. Bummer. I was looking forward to seeing MZA go toe-to-toe with Crosby and Ovie next season.
Anyway, last but not least, Brooksie is bemoaning Sather’s reluctance to re-sign Lundqvist and Cally to new deals, you know because July is right around the corner. Yup, it’s officially August.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, some members of the national media seem to be under the impression that Henrik Lundqvist has been a failure as a playoff goaltender.
I could understand that sentiment a little prior to last season, but a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 should have quashed any conversation about Lundqvist’s postseason struggles.
Instead, an ugly stat had been making the rounds – Lundqvist has allowed three or more goals in 29 of his 58 playoff starts – and a suspect goal off the stick of Jason Chimera in Game One brought some of Lundqvist’s old critics out of the woodwork. Read More→
The Rangers’ recent success has made Chris Kreider a forgotten man, but the handling of Kreider has been the most disappointing aspect of the 2013 season.
You can’t blame the 21-year-old for hitting a bump in the road, but the organization’s treatment of its prized winger has been a mess since the season-opener. Kreider got off to a miserable start with the
Connecticut Whale Hartford Wolf Pack, where Kreider was asked to begin learning the Rangers’ system at the sacrifice of his offense. He posted just five goals and seven assists in 34 games and was struggling on both ends of the ice.
But Kreider was still handed a job out of training camp because the Rangers were very short on forwards and because, in case you forgot, he scored five goals right out of college for the Blueshirts in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This raised so many eyebrows that Chad Kolarik was rumored to have requested a trade due to this decision.
Every once in a while, something happens in the hockey world that compels me to get up on my soapbox and rant about it. The last time this happened, it was the heated debate over the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller hit. That one helped get me a gig writing for BSB, so unfortunately for all of you, it has emboldened me to stand up on that box once again…
Goalies are getting in the way. Their entire existence is devoted to removing the most exciting play in hockey: the goal. Everyone wants more scoring; the league, the fans, the analysts. Casual fans get into 7-6 barn burners way more easily than 1-0, tightly checked, defense-first games. Ever since Lockout II in ‘04-‘05, the league has looked for ways to improve goal scoring to broaden hockey’s appeal.
They have toyed with wider, bowed-out nets, they have limited the goalie’s ability to play the puck, and implemented a wide range of physical limitations on the size of the equipment goalies wear. Most famously, limiting the width of leg pads from 12” to 11” (which, was a good thing). Not to mention the breathtakingly long list of proposed improvements that the NHL has not allowed for, and incremental disallowance of many commonly used protective features, which could, in theory*, give the goalie an undeserved advantage.