Just when I thought I was done following the Rangers’ season, they pulled me back in. Like I’m sure many of you experienced, the last several days I have felt a range of emotions with this club. Inspiration. Frustration. Consternation. Revelation? I don’t know. I’m running out of “ations”.
When I first learned of JD’s and Jeff Gorton’s untimely demise, I was shocked. They had been very communicative about their plan and everything seemed to be on track. Then I sat back and remembered, this is James friggan Dolan we are talking about. The guy goes through more executives than he probably does toilet paper, or perhaps seashells.
However, in the midst of the madness, I read Larry Brooks’ read of the situation with Dolan being concerned about the lack of will on the roster and I found myself nodding in agreement to that observation.
The Rangers do lack sandpaper. It’s something that has been missing with this club since the beginning of the AV era. And when I say sandpaper, I’m not talking about goons or having a Donald Brashear on the roster. Those days are over.
No, what I’m talking about is having gritty players who can hit, get in on the forecheck, block shots, occasionally fight (when necessary) and play top 9 minutes. The Rangers lack that in their forward corps and that has to change if we are going to play hockey in June. The lack of grit the Rangers need I thought was more or less due to life stage, but perhaps the previous regime just did not value it as much as Dolan does.
If you look at the clubs that have won Stanley Cups in the past decade, every single one of them had those types of players sprinkled throughout their lines. Tampa Bay had Ondrej Palat, Pat Maroon, Cedric Paquette, & Anthony Cirelli. St Louis had Brayden Schenn, Oskar Sundqvist, Pat Maroon (yea him again), and Ivan Barbashev.
Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, the Los Angeles Kings? Same story. Those were heavy teams that could beat you on transition with the fancy plays, but also in the crease, and most importantly, along the boards. Yet for some reason, despite the abundance of players like this hoisting the Cup every summer, all you ever hear from certain segments of this fan base is that skill should triumph over will in every roster spot. It baffles me.
Like where is this coming from? Do some fans not watch the playoffs when the Rangers aren’t in it? Did people not see the LA Kings bottom 6 steam roll us in 2014? Have you never watched Adam Graves play hockey?
The point is the pendulum with this team has swung a bit too far in the vanilla/skill direction. At some point there would have needed to be recalibrating anyway. Maybe Gorton & JD were onboard with this train of thought, maybe they weren’t. We’ll never really know.
What matters is, the Rangers are entering the offseason on the brink of the maturity stage. And like I said in my last post, the roster you rebuild with often isn’t the roster that you compete for Cups with.
If the Rangers need to trade one or two of their highly touted defensive prospects or one of their top 9 players to bring some meat and grit to the middle of this roster, I’m all for it.