The 89th Season of
New York Rangers Hockey
New York Rangers
Home of the Cup
I'll be forthright about this. I'm still pissed off.
My disgust hasn't waned. May 29th seems like yesterday.
Neither Torts' loss to the Devils, or the Rangers loss to the Kings inspired this much anger. The last time I got consumed by such madness came during the Mario Lemieux/Adam Graves fiasco of 1992.
That said, of the four major sports teams I root for, I'm by far most forgiving of the Blueshirts.
Sometimes, however, I just can't move on unless I vent.
I don't care which players' feet you chose putting to the fire. Blame Rick Nash's lack of scoring, Kreider's lack of discipline, etc., or blame Hillary Clinton, my old high school coach, Ricky Ricardo, Godzilla, Han Solo, or the Dali Lama for all I care. It makes no difference to me. All this year's returning Rangers bear their share of responsibility; some more than others.
However, outside of personal skill, individual effort, and competency, players are generally told what to do. Therefore, I still maintain the Rangers lost last season's Eastern Conference final to the Tampa Bay Bolts due to a philosophical (physical) miscalculation on the part of Alain Vigneault.
As far as I'm concerned, there are reasons why he was fired in Montreal, and Vancouver, etc. As it also relates to the Rangers, we've learned there are limits as to how far his system can and will go in the absence of a friggin' backbone.
There! I said it.
President trophies are just big boy participation awards.
His Canucks couldn't outlast a tougher Bruins team in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, nor could his Rangers defeat a tougher, more resilient Kings team in 2014.
Vigneault's insistence on proving his system right against the Tampa Bay Lightning arguably cost the Rangers a trip to the finals, I think.
The Rangers physical play was the decisive factor in games Four and Six. Coach then ponderously turned his back on physicality in Game Seven, opting instead for what previously failed particularly in games Two and Five.
They played soft, plain and simple. Alain Vigneault calls it playing the right way. That's just pillow talk to me.
I certainly wasn't napping when a few select teams stocked up on physical type players this past off-season headlined by Milan Lucic's relocation to Los Angeles. In fact, the Pacific Division is shaping up to be a rumble royal, with Anaheim, San Jose, and the aforementioned Kings all loaded up with beef.
Columbus, St. Louis, and maybe even Winnipeg will be some of the more tougher teams this season.
The trend has been swaying away from the traditional northeast cities for some time now, towards the Western Conference.
If you remember, the reason why Vancouver fired Vigneault and hired John Tortorella in the first place was to get tougher.
Completely laughable is the only way I can explain Alain Vigneault's audacity with regards to his call for more physicality.
Dylan McIlrath will finally start the season off-Broadway, on paper at least. He earned a roster spot as the 7th defenseman, but despite turning in a fine physical performance during their last tune-up against the Bruins, he will be a healthy scratch for Wednesday night's opener against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Even before the Rangers drop the puck on their 89th season, McIlrath is already their most punishing blue liner. However, he previously remained someone Alain Vigneault found little use for these last two seasons. In truth, his future under Vigneault remains no less uncertain.
The addition of winger Viktor Stalberg should help. He's 29-yrs old, owns a Stanley Cup ring and understands the role physicality plays on the ice. He'll team with Oscar Lindberg and J.T. Miller to form the third line.
Lindberg is a smart playing 23-year old, whom impressed enough in camp to win a spot on the third line over veteran Dominic Moore. At first glance it would appear J.T. Miller got screwed out of a spot on the 2nd line. Line combinations, however, are very transient situations this early in the season.
Look, Alain Vigneault is a good coach - a damn good one. He may still pull off a Cup victory before this is through.
But if it takes pissing in his morning Cheerios to alter his thinking, then allow me to be the first in line.
And so concludes my unapologetic opening rant.
The 2015-2016 regular season starts, now!