MusingsState of the Rangers

Reader Q&A: Gabby benching, Torts’ pressers, & more

It’s Thursday, which is usually Chris’s day to do his Musings, but unfortunately he’s “busy flirting with middle-aged women in hopes to earn more beer money,” so you’re all stuck with me. Yes, that was his email to me this morning. Love it.

Anyway, I can’t match his British wit, so instead I decided to take questions and hot topics about the Rangers from Twitter, email, and down in the comments section.

What did Marian Gaborik do to get benched for the first half of the second period? Is Torts going overboard?

I don’t think there is a definitive right or wrong answer when it comes to benching players or decreasing their icetime.  The fact of the matter is we’re not on the bench, in the locker room, or at practice. We just don’t have a 360 degree view.

With that said, in my not so humble opinion, I think Gaborik deserved to be benched. He was playing passive and wasn’t sticking to the game plan. His role is to attack the puck and the slot in the OZ. In the defensive zone, he wasn’t sticking with his man or trying to win battles along the wall. He just wasn’t getting it done and others were playing better than he was.

PS – Dave Maloney also brought up similar points during the radio intermission on 1050.

As far as Torts going overboard, I disagree with what others are saying. If Gabby is doing the things I just outlined, how do you not bench him? What kind of message does that send if Torts benches others, but not their star player? Not a very good one. Tortorella has been consistent in this regard all season. You can’t change your philosophy now. Players will tune you out.

What do you make of the moaning coming from the media about Tortorella’s press conferences? Some have suggested a walk out or asking the league to get involved.

Tortorella has the media taking shots at him and not his players, job well done. Nick Monte at Rangers Tribune said it best. “Media complaining about not being able to do their job because of Torts is absurd. I don’t get quotes from the coach, yet still produce better material.”

What do the Rangers have to do to clear the zone better?

This is kind of a multi-part problem. Their defense needs to do a better job of making outlet passes. Stralman and Girardi had some difficulty getting the puck north in Game 2. However, it’s not all on them. You’re behind the 8 ball when you lose key faceoffs in the defensive zone.

The Rangers also need to maintain their two-three man forecheck. We saw spurts in Game 1 and Game 2 where we were on the aggressive and we were pinning the Devils in their zone. They are not that good in their own zone, so we have to counter with similar tactics more consistently.

Would you rather see the Rangers block shots or switch to more of an aggressive strategy and play the points?

Typically speaking, I’d prefer playing the points as a strategy. I think you have a better chance at creating counter rushes if your high forwards are challenging their blueline.

With that said, the Rangers aren’t built in that fashion. They are still young and growing up defensively. My fear of this roster having a more aggressive strategy is we’d end up leaving Hank out to dry. I don’t know what you guys think about all this, but I saw enough of that in Hank’s first few years in the league and we never got passed the second round.

Do you think Tim Erixon should replace Bickel in the lineup?

I haven’t followed Erixon much since he was sent to Hartford. If the reports are accurate, he struggled with defensive zone coverage. If he struggled against AHL forecheckers, I can’t imagine him playing well against NHL forechecking, during the playoffs no less. I think Sully’s hands are tied here with the defense. Eminger has basically zero playoff experience and hasn’t played in weeks. John Scott (nice trade Sather!) is supposedly out of shape. It’s Bickel by default.

That’s my take folks. What do you got?

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  • Can you explain to me why Torts takes timeouts after an icing that occurs after an extended shift? I don’t get it. -Average reporter at a Torts presser

    • Good question. I think so. Dubi took 40 draws in the first series and won half of them. Faceoffs are definitely an issue. Boyle, Artie, and Stepan are all sub 47%. Not good.

      • Gotta also think they miss using him in defensive ploys. He could be used to stop Kovalchuk’s or Elias’ line.

        Not to mention last night, Boyle took a penalty and Stepan had to go kill it off. The PK misses Dubi.

        People are kind of down on Dubi right now, but I guarantee next
        year he bounces back like Gaborik did. Or he just needs a change of scenery. But If he were playing right now, he’d be helping the team.

  • First, let me just say, I completely agree with everything you’ve written here.

    Gaborik had to be benched, I don’t care that it’s a 1 goal game. It’s early enough in the series to send this message. If it were game 7, third period, down by a goal, I think Torts plays Gaborik. But not last night, as was the right call.

    The Tortorella evisceration in the media cracks me up. He’s there to coach and to win. Not to answer ignorant questions. Not to reveal his strategy, line-ups, personnel decisions and planned adjustments. He’s made his “rules” very clear, yet the same questions keep coming. He’s protecting his players, keeping the focus on himself rather than the team, and conversely not giving up any revelations that could make DeBoers’ job a bit easier.

    People just need something to talk about, and Torts is an easy target. Steven A. Smith today was being his usual bombastic self, saying that he’ll never question Tortorella the coach, but these press conferences have led him to question Tortorella the man. Ya gotta’ be kidding me, Steven A. Smith epitomizes the caricature of the blow-hard radio personality, time and time again shouting down callers in his usual condescending self and he has the audacity to question “Torts the man” because he doesn’t want to reveal information about his team during a possible Cup run? What a joke.

    • Agreed. And Smith is one of many members of the media making the same type of statements. Though most question Torts the coach too.

      We don’t want to constantly sound like we’re waving pom poms for the guy, but we just continue to see the BS in all the negative coverage surrounding the guy and feel a need to challenge it.

      • In a nutshell…. the media likes to create stories when they are not there…and Torts does not play that game. SIMPLE.

          • Torts is a decent guy, as evidenced by HBO 24/7. And, he’s candid enough to actual offer quotes of substance, just not immediately following a game.

            That’s his style, that’s his strategy. He’s not going to give you much from the games, and he’s going to protect his players.

  • The move by Torts was a good one!

    Gabby got the message, as did the rest of the team. We will win, and Gabby will be a factor.

  • Just checking in… Suit, I’d not have emailed that if I knew you’re level of discretion! 😉 people don’t need to realise the hussy I am…..

    Valentenko won’t be missed.

  • Torts is an excellent coach but it wouldn’t hurt if he acted less grumpy and out of sorts at press conferences. Yes, many of the questions are simplistic, often demonstrating that the writers asking them are clueless about hockey. And even some of the hockey addicted writers, like the maven, Stan Fishler, can sound dumb at times. He was the one who asked Torts why he called a time-out after the Rangers iced the puck in the first game. They were tired, said Torts. But hockey is a sport, it’s entertainment, and it’s a coaches obligation to sometimes cater to the needs of those who write about it, whose audience are the fans that read their columns or blogs. Torts need not reveal strategy, etc., but he should be more forthcoming and not, through his gestures, body language, and abrupt non-answers, telegraph the message that he can’t stand them. A little pleasantness would go a long way to bridging the gap between him and the press. I don’t see how he is protecting his players by demeaning the third estate — not that they don’t sometimes deserve his contempt. But he need not show his contempt so obviously. It’s not good public relations to say the least and it will hurt him and the team in the long run.

    • They don’t know enough to comment on the game, so they’ve created a story that can fill all their air time and copy space.

    • JW, I haven’t seen or heard anyone go that far and I’d be surprised if anyone sitting in the room with Torts would say something so sophmoric. I mean, there is a place for constructive criticism, but that clearly isn’t it.

      Ultimately, if people are going to hurl 5th grade terms around to describe a coach, chances are they’re giving you 5th grade analysis. Stick to us for your Rangers coverage.

  • Good comment on the “clearing the zone” question. This is really a matter of how quickly the D get the puck up to the forwards, and in what position. The D are consistently just chipping pucks up the near wall, and the Devils are overloading that side. Id like to see the NYR D keep the puck moving to the *far* side, where there is more space, and less offensive pressure. The Rangers O need to be willing to give the D more options. Watch, conversely, how the Devils leave (and Caps left) the zone – they chip puck to the far wall, and have a 2nd O man supporting up the middle. All the O man on the wall needs to do is chip the puck towards the middle, and *away* from the pinching D man and muck along the boards. The NYR, conversely, seem willing to let the Devils crowd the puck.

    Similarly, on plays where the NYR are not as pressured, they need to move the puck out of the zone quicker and with more . There have been numerous times in the 2 games where the NYR d set up a breakout – – one D behind the net, one D in corner behind goal line. The Devils are putting a forechecker on each…and none of the O are giving the NYR an outlet on the far side.

    Movement, quick short passes instead of chips, and skating, will open ice.

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