Spare me the cries of overreaction on what will be game nine of the New York Rangers’ season tomorrow afternoon at home against the Ottawa Senators. The bottom-line is, the Rangers have not played one complete game all season long, and blew a chance to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, after they began the game flying in the offensive zone. As usual, they did not end the game as they began, with the order of good and bad play shifting around from previous games. Coach John Tortorella, out of desperation (or maybe compulsion, I have not yet decided) keeps on changing the lines in his eternal quest to find offensive chemistry, something his team has never had, dating back to when he inherited a misfit team from Tom Renney three years ago. He had an excuse then, though, as he was not working with who he wanted. Well, he got who he wanted this off-season, and has done nothing but make everyone’s head spin with his nonsensical line switches that seem to occur on a shift-by-shift basis, rather than a more understandable game-by-game.
Tomorrow’s top two lines, who they will field against a weak assemblage from Ottawa, who, by the way, have played better than the Rangers, are as follows:
1) Wojtek Wolski- Erik Christensen- Marian Gaborik
2) Brandon Dubinsky- Brad Richards- Ryan Callahan
As I said just said days ago, the sheer brilliance of John Tortorella here is so strong, it will blind you and knock you out of your chair. Brad Richards is not being paid nearly $7 million to skate between two offensive hacks, who have combined for two goals and three assists in 16 games. Brandon Dubinsky, who may have qualified for the Dumbest Ranger award, after the last game, continues to take stupid penalties at inopportune times, while waltzing irrelevantly through all three zones as a non-factor, with zero goals in eight games. Fresh off a contract that is paying him $4.2 million, he is now showing his true colors, one of yet another overpaid homegrown “star” who fans love, that has never really accomplished anything. Ryan Callahan, meanwhile, has been just a step better, if only because he has not spent an entire two periods worth of penalty minutes in the sin bin. The fact that Richards is between the two is just more proof of Tortorella’s disillusionment. He is the only marquee playmaker this team has had since the lockout, except for Michael Nylander, and that is who he has to work with? Where is Marian Gaborik, who he actually played well with in the first few games of the season? Oh yeah, stuck on the wing with Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski, two players who have played a combined nine games without a point between them. Remember, this is the Rangers. Here 2 + 2 = 5.
If Tortorella wants to keep up the juggling act, which would have even Barnum and Bailey fainting from dizziness, at least he could not insult the fan base and those that shell out the money that helps to pay for some of these contracts, and actually keep Gaborik and Richards together. The clock is ticking, and while the season may still be young, if the Rangers continue to play like this, we will not have to worry about the season much longer. So far, they have been a disgrace, and I do not care what their record is. This is a franchise that prides itself on being just good enough to get to the playoffs. How long is it before they push it a little bit further and not settle for a berth that more than half the teams in the league also make? It is harder to miss the playoffs than make them, and while this was the year that the Rangers were actually going to get out of the first round and make a serious push, I think we can now consider it a major accomplishment if they make it through the month of November with a winning record. This team needs a wake-up call, and while I am not yet ready to have Tortorella on the chopping block, I would say he is very close. The only problem is who would replace him. Who is out there? Mike Keenan (who was an analyst on MSG last season, prompting me to think he was in waiting), Bob Hartley, and Ted Nolan come to mind, but the Rangers also need to make trades, in offense and defense. This all adds up to a major problem, and a New York Rangers’ season would not be one without one, as you damn well know if you have been watching them as long as I have, and beyond.
Comments on the Home Opener Festivities
I could not help but cringe during the Rangers’ extended “Blue Carpet” pre-game show, where they interviewed disinterested celebrities who just happened to be at the game because they got free tickets, not because they are actually hockey fans. Gianonne kept floating the same boring, basic questions that plague his real hockey coverage, while the star-power present was strong enough to have powered a low-budget C-level horror movie. Then came the actual pre-game ceremony, one which was nothing special (which I don’t mind), but it also lacked a memorial for Derek Boogaard, who passed away this off-season. While he was remembered during a TV timeout, a video or something needed to be done while still on the broadcast, so it could be seen as special, and not crammed into a thirty-second money-making time-slot. If their reason is because they did not want to sadden the mood of a home opener, and not because a ceremony is coming later in the season, then shame on MSG.
One more thing, and this is in regard to those dolts who unfurled the “We Want Avery” banner and yelled the chants that could be heard on television. Let me ask you: do you really think he would make a difference? His famous spark was gone, and he was just as useless as Dubinsky or Wolski during the pre-season. I know there are many with an undying affection for him, but would he help the team score goals? Would he help them be more disciplined? Would he help the defense clear the zone? The answer to all three questions is no, so please, just leave it alone and stick to reality here. I may want him more than Christensen too, but he sure as hell would not have made the outcomes of these miserable games any different.