Photo: AP

I started writing this when the Rangers were down 2 games to 1 to the Capitals but didn’t post it. Fast forward a month. I believe what I was trying to write several weeks ago – even as the Rangers were one good period away from the Stanley Cup final – still rings true so the opinion hasn’t changed. The Rangers are a great team, have a good roster and have some talent coming through the ranks but for me, there remains one major issue that needs addressing this summer.

This isn’t about skill and it isn’t about depth. It certainly isn’t about goaltending and with one of the best coaches in recent times, it’s not about the Head Coach either. No, the Rangers have a lot going for them even as they enter the offseason after a hugely disappointing end to their season (based on the expectations that had arisen). The Rangers are missing something much different. Ironically this team lacks a player – or two – in the Brandon Dubinsky mould.

This isn’t a knee jerk reaction to the Rangers end of season or a simple desire to bring back a former Ranger favourite. Despite being a good two-way player Dubinsky is significantly overpaid and his cap hit would be a problem to the Rangers. That said, throughout these playoffs the Rangers are missing a nasty player who’ll routinely go to the right areas and who will get under the skin of the opponents while playing at both ends effectively.

The Rangers made it too easy on Braden Holtby. Truth be known they didn’t make life too difficult on Marc Andre Fleury either but the Pens ran out of warm bodies and couldn’t keep up with the Rangers. In both series, and the games five and seven losses to the Lightning, the Rangers were kept to the outside far too easily. They couldn’t get traffic or generate rebounds, and again made life far too easy Ben Bishop as well. What makes it more frustrating is that the Rangers made Bishop look totally ordinary half the series but I digress.

For all their success, the Rangers haven’t got the balance right. In 2012 they were too similar to this year’s edition of the Washington Capitals and eventually lacked enough skill to go all the way. Meanwhile, last year they got closer to the required roster balance but were eventually outmuscled by the Kings in the Finals – particularly down the middle. Then there is this year’s team. This year’s edition are a finesse, speed based team who favour playing on the rush much more than they’re willing to take a hit in front of the net to get to a rebound.

In the past the Rangers were linked to Ryan Kesler and that type of player is what the Rangers now need. He antagonises opponents, he’ll happily go in straight lines to the net but he’s also a legitimate offensive threat. The Rangers, for all their legitimate talent down the middle of the ice, are too similar.

This isn’t a rip-it-up and start again situation. The Rangers have assembled a strong roster; deep, young and talented and with talent in all the right positions. But it does need refining. The roster needs tinkering, so with the likely departure of Marty St Louis and one or two others this summer, the Rangers need to find the right player to insert down the middle. The best pitchers in baseball boast different looks; a curveball or a knuckleball to complement their fastball. The Rangers don’t have a change-up as currently constructed.

The Rangers have struggled to overcome limited but effective players such as Brooks Orpik because they haven’t been able to match him physically. That needs to change. The Rangers haven’t been able to out work teams that have taken away the middle of the ice or who have prioritised slowing the Rangers down. There is no plan B. There is no different type of player who can be a plan B.

Kevin Hayes is a wonderful talent and did an increasingly admirable job at center as a rookie but maybe his future lies out on the wing. If he develops a snarl in his game maybe he can be a nasty, physical (yet talented) match-up center but he’s not what’s required right now. The Rangers have enough flexibility in their top nine that parts can be moved around to accommodate what they need. Now they just have to go and find it. The onus is now on Glen Sather and his team to try and improve a team that has had an almost unparalleled period of success in Rangers history. Easier said than done.

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