The vast majority of New York Rangers fans have written off this season as a failure, and that they will not make the playoffs. I am part of that majority.
There can be a bright side to this, however, and that is all of us wanted a rebuild at some point in time and this season is close as anything to a rebuild that any New York team can accomplish. We got to see the development of Michael Del Zotto and Artem Anisimov, along with the further development of Marc Staal.
What needs to happen the rest of the way is as follows, and keep in mind I am not yet looking ahead to the off-season, just what I want to see accomplished in the remaining ten games.
1. Fire John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan. Both of their tenures with the Rangers can be classified as one thing- a joke. A complete and utter circus is what these two have been responsible for. Remember when Tom Renney was in charge, and Mike Pelino and Perry Pearn were his assistants? We knew clearly what everybody’s job was. Pearn ran the powerplay, Pelino ran the penalty kill.
What exactly does Mike Sullivan do? No one knows. Tortorella made it clear at the beginning of the season that he wanted only one assistant, and to paraphrase his own words, “Too many assistants yelling different things on the bench can be confusing to the players.” First of all, that is nonsense. I can’t think of a team in recent history to win a Cup with only one assistant. Even when Tortorella won the Cup in Tampa Bay, he had two assistants: Craig Ramsey and Jeff Reese. The real reason for only one assistant coach? Control. Tortorella wants complete control with no staff to question him. Sullivan has served no other purpose besides being an unthinking robot. That is exactly what Tortorella wants.
The biggest joke of all was when he finally gave in to have Jim Schoenfeld become that second assistant, but he doesn’t stay on the bench during games. Perfect sense, to have the only person in the organization with a brain when it comes to coaching stay away from the bench during games. I was one of the many people who lauded Tortorella’s hiring, but it’s over now. The players have been tuning him out for months, and after the last two efforts, there is no chance at recovery.
2. Jim Schoenfeld for interim coach; Graves and Leetch as assistants. Schoenfeld coached ten seasons in the NHL and only twice did he have a losing record. He was excellent with the kids when he coached Hartford for two seasons from 2005-2007, when he led the team to 48 and 47 wins, respectively. He would only be for the interim, and a replacement would be hired in the summer.
As for Graves and Leetch, I would not want them as part of the staff for a long period of time, but the remaining ten games this season would be a good oppurtunity for them to get their feet wet. They are at MSG for every home game anyway, so it would make sense to give them a shot at assistants. I think Graves would be the perfect assistant for any head coach, so who knows, maybe he would fit in with the next regime.
3. Rest Lundqvist. There is no sense in injuring Lundqvist in the last ten, meaningless games, so let him try to win his 30th game (to be the only goaltender in history to start his career with 30 wins for the first five years) and after that, sit him. Call up Chad Johnson and have him split time with Alex Auld.
4. Sit Redden and Rozsival. This will be everyone’s dream come true- a defensive corps comprised entirely of homegrown players. Even with their improved play of late, there is no reason to not call up a combination of Potter, Sanguinetti, and Heikkinen. Give them extended playing time and gradually phase out Dan Girardi as well.
5. Rest Gaborik. Even with all the excitement he provided us this season, Gaborik is obviously playing with some type of hindrance. Give him a few games to try and get 40 goals, then sit him to let him rest up for the off-season, or give him an early jump at a potential surgery, if he were to need one.
6. Call up Parenteau and Locke. It is more than likely that P.A Parenteau will not be returning next season because the Rangers have unfairly not given him a shot, when players like Voros and Shelley find themselves in the lineup. However, he hasn’t be brilliant either, so give him ten games in the top-six to show what he’s got. Maybe he is good after all, and would re-sign next season if the team could guarantee him some regularity on offense.
Corey Locke, meanwhile, has enjoyed tremendous success in his career in both the AHL and OHL. At 26 years old, and only one game of NHL experience, time is running out for this older rookie to get a spot in any NHL team’s lineup. With 29 goals and 49 assists this season in Hartford, this should be his chance to show he can perform at the NHL level.
7. Give Drury more minutes. The only way Drury can get traded is if he plays well. Granted, he has a no trade clause that he probably wouldn’t waive, but it’s worth a shot in putting him on the top line (or at least top two, with some consistency) and giving him max amount of minutes to try and put up points. It’s the only way he will be attractive to other teams, since he has such an egregiously bad salary.