I spend most of my posts talking about the Rangers’ prospects, but one thing has been eating me alive for the last year and a half. After being blessed by an incredible 2014 team, the New York Rangers seemed poised to become a Stanley Cup contender for the next few years. While I question some decisions made, that 2014 team still had a great 2015 campaign.
But then, all of a sudden, it all just seemed off. There was and still is something missing while watching our boys in blue. For a team that became one of the more successful teams of the decade –with much of it’s core playing more playoff games than most other teams– they seem to be lacking a certain oomph that makes organizations successful. This applies to both the players and the management, for all of the success these men have seen they still seem to have not learned from their experience.
Killer instinct has become sort of a diluted term that has been thrown around like the word intangibles. A lot of that can be attributed to us all having different definitions. In terms of management it is manipulation, it is using your resources to know exactly what you can and should do because you have been around the block before. The Rangers’ front office staff have been bounty hunters when looking at NCAA prospects, but over the last few years their trades reek of desperation and they have been punished by it.
When defense was an issue last year, the Rangers traded a bounty of assets for Eric Staal. We talked about it multiple times last year, it would’ve been a good trade if the Rangers supplanted it with more blue line depth because at that moment Staal didn’t push the needle. The organization missed earlier opportunities with the Cam Talbot and the Carl Hagelin trades. Now we wait on Brendan Smith. The Rangers paid a lot for him, but if they don’t plan on re-signing him then we are out a pair of pretty high picks again.
Management seems to be going through the motions. Where is the plan? Where is the checklist that Jim Rutherford talked about in his Players Tribune article? The Rangers seem to fix one hole, but not the others.
Regarding players, I think we all know an easy reference. With a boot on the Habs’ throats, they let up with less than 18 seconds remaining. This is a team that has been through hell and back and they can’t close out a playoff game like that?
It’s not just that game either. “The Stat” is almost all but a memory at this point. How many times have we seen them let in a last minute goal? How many times did we watch them sit back after getting the lead and watch it bite them in the ass?
That 2014 team kept pressing with the lead. They were relentless. THAT is Rangers hockey. It’s not just speed it is using your speed to make your opponent never catch a break. It is using your speed to not only prevent the other team from setting up in your zone, but then to immediately catch them flat footed.
It wasn’t just getting shots either, something we’ve lamented on here for a while. The Rangers showed that they not only wanted to win but that they needed to win. They got to dirty areas, they forced the play to high danger areas. There was no complaining that a team clogged the neutral zone or a team had an aggressive penalty kill unit. The Rangers took the play to them. They got to the front of the net, they opened a lane that wasn’t there by attacking the offensive zone in multiple ways. It wasn’t just a “hey I will drop pass to the guy before the blue line and he will come in through the left side for the 20th time, that will work this time for sure.”
If you just want to be embarrassed just look at the shot locations of the Rangers in Game 3. This is absolutely pathetic, you can take the puck to the net you don’t have to just wait for the lanes to open up.
To read this, the darker the orange/red, the more volume of shots in that location for the Rangers. See how little there is, especially around the net? Meanwhile compare that to Montreal, with the darker blue representing higher shot volume in front of the net. It’s pathetic.
The players need to take matters into their own hands. They are pros and they have the skill it is time to show us that they aren’t dead in the water and their head is in the right place. With all of that said, it is important to remember that this team really does have too much skill to be playing this poorly. The coach has to do something and at the moment he hasn’t. The window is closing with AV at the helm, there are no adjustments being made and this is not the play of a team you expect from a coach that has been to the Cup Final twice.
Let us hope that something snaps for them because this is simply terrible for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. There needs to be passion, there needs to be a push for victory and success from the head of the organization down to the bottom because it has gotten increasingly difficult to watch the Rangers swim through the motions. The Dark Years may have been worse but at least they didn’t have such high expectations and talent.