Gotham City problems

Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

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.

So, who or what is to blame for this debacle of a start?  Did Glen Sather build a shaky roster?  Has he been at the helm too long?  Is AV too hands off to get what he needs from this group?  Was Mark Messier the answer after all?  Why don’t we have a Torey Krug to call up and make a huge difference?  Is our drafting and development model broken?  All of these concepts have been floated around not just our comments section, but all over the Ranger-related interwebs.

The all encompassing, so-simple-it-must-be-right-in-front-of-our-face answer has proved elusive.  The sports talk radio crowd has gotten louder than the objective analysts and fans are scrambling for a quick fix all solution.  Unfortunately, folks, its not that simple.

The Rangers have several holes, but these are compounded by poor performances by many of the team’s core players.  We know Rick Nash is a better hockey player than he has shown.  Ditto, Henrik Lundqvist.  If those guys were firing on all cylinders, Ryan Callahan was healthy and Dan Girardi wasn’t doing his best snow angel impression two or three times per shift, we’d probably be having a conversation about minor upgrades to solidify for a Cup run.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that when you read an article or a comment, think twice before letting overly-simplistic “back page” analysis skew or influence your opinion on a very complex problem.  There are multiple layers to the dysfunction of this year’s team.  It is impossible to explain it away with a “Fire Sather” rant or claiming Messier would have been the right call for the job.  We have no way of knowing how alternatives to the decisions affecting the team would have turned out had they gone in a different direction.

It’s really easy to say the alternative would have been more effective, simply because it can’t be disputed.  It’s possible that the Rangers would be even worse off under Messier or Sather’s replacement could have traded away a Datsyuk-ian prospect in a panic move to quiet the outraged fan base.

One thing we all have in common is that we love the Rangers.  We have statistical analysis, the eye test and other observational methods to evaluate the performance of this group.  Leading an angry mob with pitch forks when things don’t go according to plan isn’t helping the situation.  This summer, we believed the pieces were there for this team to do great things.  Underachievement and lack of meaningful transition to the new system are really the biggest difference between then and now.

This ended up being a little more of a rant than I set out to write, but I challenge our incredibly dedicated and intelligent readership to do better than the WFAN sites out there.  If you believe wholesale changes are necessary for this club, that Hank is already starting to decline, that simply replacing Sather would bring us to the promised land, then let’s hear a “why” instead of how the blame du jour tenuously connects to the disappointing results on the ice.

Show More
  • justin,

    you may rant on whenever you like sir. the problems with this team are very glaring 40+ games into this season. Is this the mediocrity we are expected to see from this team? If we finished at .500 and missed the playoffs it very well could be the highest pick since Mcillrath. this very well can be the last season we see G and or cally. I know a lot of people are against moving Cally, but here is my quick take. He took a hometown discount last time, he is going to command a salary and contract years that we can not afford. Too much for too long. Lets take a step back from the ledge as a fan base and see where this season leads us. Maybe a tough season will spark a big retooling of the lineup and lead up to building a team to succeed in AV’s system.

      • Dave,

        that is my point, he doesnt warrant that contract, he is only going to decline from here. Can we start to consider him injury prone? Will his body make another 8 years? I love Cally with all my heart, he defines everything you want as a hockey player, minus all world skill. Dustin Brown is a better hockey player with almost the same intangibles. Cally is the poor mans Brown and a broke mans Backes

      • Dave,

        that is my point, he doesnt warrant that contract, he is only going to decline from here. Can we start to consider him injury prone? Will his body make another 8 years? I love Cally with all my heart, he defines everything you want as a hockey player, minus all world skill. Dustin Brown is a better hockey player with almost the same intangibles. Cally is the poor mans Brown and a broke mans Backes

        • He does have a bad injury history, but the team does (usually) play better when he’s in the lineup.

          I don’t know if I’d give him 8 years, but I’d give him 5 at around that salary.

          • If the trend continues to stay on the steady decline, at what point should they shop Cally & G. Playoff team looking to add the grit and leadership, maybe wiling to part with some picks/prospects for rental players. this to me can be a very viable option if the season continues to stink

          • i agree we would need a RHD in return, id package him up with a pick/prospect to get a better return. the problem is that G just doesnt fit anymore

          • I would shop Staal…much healthier return for stall, Del Zotto for Gardiner or Franson

  • What do you expect when we knowingly change the concept to be more offensive without changing the pieces. Thats on Sather. The blue print was thrown away so this will take time. Its on AV to build small steps at a time. To me Torts was let go because his voice got stale, at least thats what we were told. Aside from that being a valid reason to make a coaching change Sather had this idea that somehow Torts was the reason the offense was lacking. Dah no! He hires Av like hes an offensive genius. Its ironic that we have a system suppose to bring all this offense but we have the same players and in the process we lost the in your face toughness which made it hard for opponents. So now we have less defense and still no offense. Brilliant!

    • Thing is they did add pieces that were supposed to be more offensive. Benoit Pouliot was one of the league leaders in P/60 last season, and Dom Moore was a 30 point guy two years ago.

      Bigger issue is the guys expected to score this year aren’t (Nash, Stepan, Hagelin, Cally).

  • This coming from a Mets fan, unlike the Yankees ownership that demands winning at all costs, the Ranger ownership isn’t as driven.

    Case in point, when Isiah Thomas inserted his foot in his mouth, and made sexual advances, how long did it take Dolan to respond, and rid the Knicks of Thomas. He was loyal to him, and no matter what, he stood by his side. We all love loyality, but this man takes it to the extreme.

    After what 15 years at the helm, Sather delivered nothing, ran an organization that missed the play-offs for some 7 years in a row, and yet still has a job? What ownership would tolerate this track record? None, and there lies the problem. If Dolan were anything like George was, Slats would have hit the pavement years ago. Hay he has a very loyal following, great fans who love this team to a fault, and he’s making money hands over fist, while still loosing, see the picture?

    As much as I dislike Ed Snyder, owner of the Flyers, he demands results, usually gets them, has had his team in the finals a half dozen times over the last 20 years or so, and is willing to push any button necessary to get the desired results…. The problem with them is they are stuck in a time capsual of 1973-4-5 time frame, and still want to play like the Broad Street Bullies!

    If we are to win anything in the near future, an entire overhaul has to be made at the top level, bring in JD as your new GM, and watch what happends. I have seen us win a total of one Stanly Cup my entire 67 years on this good earth, I’d really like to see another, won’t be around another 40 years!!!!!!!

    • While I don’t disagree with you about pre-lockout Slats (who probably should have been let go), post lockout Slats has done more than you think.

      He switched the culture, developed the farm system, and did a lot (i.e.: competing for playoffs every year) with very little early on (05-09 were pretty lucky in terms of results).

      That culture led to the home grown talent we see today. Sure, the team hasn’t gotten over the hump yet, and Slats is still prone to the UFA overpayment, but he’s been better than most GMs in the league post-lockout.

      • Dave

        Then how long are we to ride this pony??

        They need new blood, or ideas, and Slats isn’t the most creative guy out there, I don’t believe!

        Just look at what JD did in St Louis, in what maybe three years, and how he has taken over in Columbus, they are going to be good in the near future.

        Think back to my old friend Einstein, expecting different results, while doing the same old same old!

        Hay your the expert, I go by results, and Slats hasn’t had any. Until he delivers us a cup, he is a flunky!! Too damn bad Dolan doesn’t think along these lines as well.

  • No quick fix? Aww shucks, I was hoping for one too. A move away from Torts to an offensive minded coach seemed like a good idea. Did AV sell his ability to bring this town a cup based on the existing talent? I surely don’t know. Figuring the defense was fine and all the offense needed was a coaching change sounded like a good tactic; results show something different. Not sure blowing the team up is the answer either. I do believe that the future of the offense will be served by the youth that doesn’t get enough chances. Is JT so much worse than Pyatt or Asham or Poulin? Why not bring up another 2 or 3 kids and sit Nash, Stepan and Girardi? This team is not bad due to talent or coaching. It doesn’t show heart or feel motivated. Nothing motivates like a kick in the ass and a few games where you don’t dress.

    • It’s not that Miller is worse than Pyatt/Asham/Pouliot, it’s that the long term future success requires him to learn the game away from the puck. Getting big minutes in the AHL is better for him than 5 mins a game on the 4th line in the NHL (I’m ok with 10 mins a game).

      There are no other kids to bring up. No one is NHL ready. Not even Miller.

        • Not really disagreeing with you here. But Miller is best served getting top minutes in the AHL over 5 minutes at the NHL level.

      • AV thought Kreider wasn’t ready and sent him down. The extra 10 days in Hartford made him NHL-ready? All these kids have NHL talent. What they need is a hungry NHL attitude, that quite frankly, 10 of the players who dress every night do not currently have.
        IF AV isn’t making that message clear than someone needs to. Is the another coach, Ken G at Hartford (if he is still even there)? Someone needs a heart to heart with EVERY player and tell them what is needed and what they lack. Coach/teach/mentor/drive. Not quite sure we are doing all these, as I can only judge by the mediocre results.

        • Kreider said it himself: During that last stint in the AHL it finally clicked with him that he needed to slow his game down. Dude is lightning fast, but you need to slow the game down to survive.

  • I’ve been saying this for awhile now: this team doesn’t have the talent needed to compete for a Stanley Cup. Other than the goaltender, as an opposing team, who do you fear? Nash? He looks lost with this group. Richards? You serious!!!???? Its not just me saying this. AV, last week, said this team does not have the talent to play the offensive style that he wants. If that’s the case, and they truly are committed to AV, then changes will have to come. If not, then dump AV now, bring in someone who can work with the talent he has. This is not an easy fix. Bringing up a JT Miller or any number of our “stellar” prospects is not gonna’ get it done. This team needs a bona fide star, in his prime. Homegrown or imported young. Not some castoff or aging player looking for a payday. I cant see this mgmt. team fixing this anytime soon.

    • AV isn’t the problem. This team couldn’t score last year either. Problem is the personnel. As you said, these guys they brought in need to produce. They aren’t.

      But, they did just erase a pair of 2 goal deficits to get 3 points out of 4 this week. Let’s focus on the positives.

  • I guess the point of the article is to encourage more patience with the team’s transition under AV? Is that accurate?

    Cry me a river!

    The Pens basically put their AHL team + Crosby against us and we struggled mightily. The Pens are 10-1 their last 11 games you say? Exactly! They have a cohesive team, working off the same script; whose leader is fully on board with its coach; and whose coach has given the players every reason to believe they will succeed if they implement his objectives.

    Forget injuries and top guys not performing. This is the furthest thing from a cohesive team whose leadership is on board with its coach; and this coach has not earned the players’ trust. It shows in the inconsistency and lack of passion on the ice. You don’t think Stepan and Callahan don’t look at Pyatt and Pouliot and wonder “how is this guy messing up so badly but still getting 3rd line minutes or higher”?

    If the players don’t want to play for the coach, normally you’d think they would play for each other. Wait, Richards will be gone by next season and is showcasing himself for his next team; Girardi will be gone because it’s his last chance at a big contract and, besides, he thinks this coach is clueless defensively; and Callahan is a UFA who also may ring the register, and who will not be giving home team discounts this time around. Rick Nash? He’s a good guy but due to years of carrying the Columbus team, he kind of does his own thing; not really a “locker room” guy players are attracted to.

    Inevitably, there will be lots of motion with this organization; the team will be restructured; Sather will have retired; AV will have gotten some of “his” players on board and we’ll be at bottom end of playoff qualification. Lots of motion to give appearance of moving forward, yet it will be more of the steps backward or sideways action guys like Walt above have grown accustomed to over the decades.

    Wake up! Sather is a joke; AV, good guy/good coach but WRONG selection for this team – he’ll be going back to Canada prior to his 3rd year with this club.

    • Hay AD

      I was force fed the crap for decades, not that I was accustomed to, and accepted!

      Jerking the chain my friend, but your right on with your post.

      As posted above, if the ownership accepts, and supports these results, why would Sather give a sh*t!!!! He getting paid, showing no results, and we the fans are paying top dollar, to watch a team that can’t beat an AHL line up, in our home court! How sick is that?????

  • Bravo, everyone. This was my exact intention with this post. We are all frustrated and disappointed with this team, and we all have our theories as to why. I was hoping this would turn into a thread of intelligent, reasoned arguments about those theories, and that’s exactly what is happening here.

    Our readership is so much smarter than the screaming heads on talk radio, and I’m incredibly happy it’s starting to come out!

  • The Rangers are not getting bang for their buck from their top players. Other teams top players produce and earn their big salary, this is not the case in New York. Its like a retirement home where fading stars can enjoy the offerings of the city life and live in the limelight. If the coach is too tough on his players, we seen what happens. They must be pampered and their needs looked after. I work very hard and frankly I am getting sick of watching overpaid lazy prima donnas float around on the ice like their poop doesn’t stink. Bring me back me John Tortorella.

  • AV reminds me of Roger Neilson, you know, nice guy, great press conferences, lots of video training and X’s & o’s but what this team seems to be lacking is the ability to play loose, to be ready to play when the puck drops and to have fire throughout the lineup. It’s called MOTIVATION and all great coaches are able to instill it. I listen to AV & Ulfie & it’s like I’m watching the Perry Como’s of hockey(you young guys won’t get that). There is no fire there. Remember when Mess took over in “93 and said Neilson’s way won’t get it done. We won a Cup because he did that and fiery Keenan came in despite Smith not wanting him. Hockey is a spontaneous read & react game, you can’t be out there thinking all the time about where am I supposed to be. You got to be relaxed & freewheeling and as Mess used to say sometimes you have to go for the high risk/high reward play. X’s & O’s just don’t do it folks. That’s for football.

    • Ice hockey is played by the speed of light and plays are made by instinct. Chemistry is critical as players need to know where each other will be on the ice. Hockey is very much a team sport, players rely on each other everyone has to contribute. Which is why I get so pissed off when I see certain loafers out their not putting out 100%. I like Paulronty description, its not a game of x and o’s. Its actually a game IMO, that has to be played balls out.

  • If we can’t change the way the current 20 players play and AV is not going anywhere and Slats is a dinosaur living a happy life, I guess we should all just shut up and watch mediocre hockey.

    I see the light, oh wait, is that the LIRR? Can’t be, it’s on schedule.

  • Where does the dark side come from? I’ll bet it is the persistent memories of Norstrom for who, McSorley? Who else? I know Doug Weight and Tony Amonte had to go in order to gain the cup. Fine.

    But what were some other terrible moves made by Smith and then Sather after the sun had long since set on the ’94 cup team?

    As long as no future mortgaging moves are made out of desperation, this will be fine. Maybe not as the team is currently constructed, but the sick feeling of that ’98 to ’04 mess are not present.

    Today’s debates are much more constructive until/unless Sather panics.

    • Neil Smith’s biggest problem was leaving the farm system completely barren.

      I think his only four successful picks from ’94-’99 were Nik Sundstrom, Dan Cloutier, Marc Savard and Manny Malhotra.

      That’s a pretty awful return. Also, don’t forget he wiffed on two top ten picks in one year. Remember the dynamic duo of Jamie Lundmark (#9) and Pavel Brendl (#4)? It’s ok if you don’t, they were about as unforgettable a pair of top picks as you could find.

      As far as bad trades the biggest mistake I can remember was dealing future Hall of Fame D Sergei Zubov and a blossoming Petr Nedved for a washed up Ulf Samuelsson and Luc Robitaille. Please don’t forget one of the reasons they made that trade was the input from a certain captain of the Rangers at that time. He thought Nedved was soft and that Zubov smoked too many cigarettes. Nedved ended up having a few 90+ point seasons after the trade and Zubov was an All Star D for about 15 more seasons. Guess the cigs were his secret weapon!

  • AV’s coaching record speaks for itself. .632 winning percentage while in Vancouver. 2 President’s Trophies, and he would have a Cup if Luongo didn’t choke. I think he’s a couple of players away from getting to where we need to be, provided that Hank returns to form and Nash contributes some offense. It’s obvious that we would be higher in the standings if Hank played like vintage Hank from game 1 and our top guys generated offense on a regular basis.

  • Back to top button