From the desk of: RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS
NEW YORK RANGERS: The Real Struggle Begins Now.
A new coach, plus new players in the locker room, plus a new division configuration, equals the same old off-Broadway melodrama.
This has less to do with losing to the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night, and more about the Penguins leading the stupid Metropolitan Division with 92, points, and even more about the Rangers being in 2nd place with 74 points - while running neck and neck with Columbus (73), Philly (73), New Jersey (71), and Washington (70). One slip, and the Rangers are swimming in the Wild Card pool.
In a broad sense, the Rangers are reverting into what they used to be prior to playing for John Tortorella - a slightly above average, to average team, playing for Tom Renny, that more often than not, needed to scratch like cats in a microwave in order to secure a 6th, 7th, or 8th playoff spot.
In the end, they relegate themselves to selecting mid-level draft picks in the process. Of course, that's a multilevel indictment against Glen Sather, as the draft needn't bother him now. The Rangers are already shy two picks heading into the next draft, and relinquished their #1 pick for the following year as well.
The standings currently say the Rangers are a fairly good team. My problem is, I still do not know who they are. What I do feel with certainty, is that they are ill equipped to get by Boston or Pittsburgh in the playoffs. These Rangers are not physical enough, and despite Sather's roster moves, that has not changed. Once teams take the game in that direction, the Rangers veer off ice.
Under Coach Vigneault, the power play is no doubt a considerably better unit. The Rangers currently rank 11th in the league - heights unheard of under Torts. But, the fact they only score 2.54 goals (19th NHL, 11th Eastern Conf.) per game sends a mixed message, doesn't it? Among other things, it tells me the new forwards have not changed much to improve even strength scoring.
In the Eastern Conference alone, Boston, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Toronto, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa, Washington, the Islanders, and Detroit, all generate more offense than the Rangers.
With 16 games left in the regular season, the Rangers have but one 20-goal scorer, Rick Nash. In his defense, Nash missed considerable time last Fall due to another concussion. Brad Richards leads the team with 45 points, and has 16 goals, and leads in ice time. Derek Stepan leads the Rangers with 33 assists.
Martin St. Louis was brought here to help ignite more offense. He has 29 goals, and 33 assists this season His 62 points rank 15th in the league. His goals scored rank 11th.
Of the Rangers 16 remaining games, they will have one shot each, to fend off Columbus, Philadelphia and New Jersey, two games against Ottawa they can't afford to lose, and one game to keep pace with Montreal. They need to capitalize on all of them, because half of their remaining schedule is against Western Conference teams. Making matters more difficult, 10 of their remaining games are on the road.
Let the struggle begin.