One of the major storylines surrounding the Rangers under Alain Vigneault was that the club was soft, vanilla, and easy to play against. It led to creating a false need for guys like Tanner Glass, Cody McLeod, and other face punchers that couldn’t do much else. The false need was created by the incorrect assessment that being tough to play against means fighting.
Let’s unpack this a bit. Yes, there is a need for physical play. It’s hockey, after all. However the term “tough to play against” has evolved. It goes beyond traditional fighting and hitting. This makes logical sense, since the game itself has evolved.
Being tough to play against nowadays is about controlling the game. It’s about owning the puck and limiting the opposition’s chances. The most infuriating games to watch the past few years were the ones where the Rangers couldn’t get anything going. It had nothing to do with the Rangers, it had to do with teams like Tampa shutting them down completely.
For the Blueshirts, becoming tough to play against is less about fighting and hitting and more about becoming a cohesive team again. A team that remembers how to play team defense. A team that isn’t one and done in the offensive zone. A team that actually plays hockey.
It all starts with the new coaching staff. Larry Brooks pointed out that Scott Stevens may be on the radar. If he’s a coach that will re-establish defensive play, then I’m all for him on the staff. That said, looking at Stevens because he would throw an elbow when the refs aren’t looking isn’t the right reason.
I’m intrigued to see where this goes for the Rangers, but a shift in mentality at the upper levels is needed for the club to get back on track. They may not be good next year, but being tough to play against is a step in the right direction."Being tough to play against doesn't mean fighting",