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Monday, February 9, 2009

Broadway Black and Blue

The Rangers are currently falling as fast as A-Rod’s Hall of Fame support. Since the All-Star Break, they are 1-5 and have 8 goals over 6 games. Some things need to be changed and here are the king sized problems that need to be addressed.

Power play

Problem: The Rangers’ offense is bad enough as a unit. There is no one player on the ice that truly scares you when he is on the ice. Chris Drury used to have that aura around him when on the Buffalo Sabres. He used to have a nose for the puck in the offensive zone and was a threat to score when the puck was on his stick. Now instead of having that killer instinct, he is settling for average. The closest threat that the Rangers have to a scorer is Nikolai Zherdev. He is a one man show though and while many of his fancy moves get by one or even two defenders, getting by the other three is a tall task all alone. What teams who lack bona fide goal scorers must do when facing this dilemma is return to the fundamentals. This is most important with the man advantage.

Solution: SHOOT THE PUCK!!! I realize video games do not represent real life sports. I know this because in NHL2k8, I had a 326 point season with Scott Gomez on Hall of Fame mode. Clearly this will never ever happen in real life. But there are a couple of concepts that apply to both. The video game concept that rings truest is shooting the puck on net as many times as possible produces results. As the Great One Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The Rangers on the power play never shoot the puck. This is why their PP% is a paltry 14.9%. I know what I am about to say is about as remedial as it gets, but you cannot score if you don’t shoot the puck.

I blame many people for this stat. I blame Michal Rozsival who doesn’t like shooting the puck straight on and only likes shooting at an angle, henceforth bypassing shots on net with traffic in front. I blame Gomez for trying to thread more needles than a seamstress rather than shooting the puck and hoping for a rebound. I blame Drury for not playing in front of the net any more and smashing the rebounds home. I blame Wade Redden for leaving his slap shot in Canada.

The best way to fix this is to put people on the power play who are willing to shoot the puck and crash the net. One unit should be Brandon Dubinsky, Drury, and Ryan Callahan, with Zherdev, and Marc Staal at the point. These are the guys who enjoy shooting and enjoy rushing the net like a hit batsman likes rushing the mound. The other should be Gomez, Marcus Naslund, and Petr Prucha with Paul Mara and Redden at the point. No more Roszival, no more Aaron Voros. These lines have to be better that the garbage that is out there now.


Problem: The Rangers lack blue liners who specialize in offense or defense. Staal and Dan Girardi are by far the two best defenders. Redden and Erik Reitz are adequate. Redden is supposed to be able to generate goals but that hasn’t come yet. Thus far from what I have seen, Reitz can get the job done but brings nothing special to the table. Mara and Roszival on the other hand do not deserve their weekly salaries. Both skate like they have refrigerators strapped to their backs and cement in their skates as opposing forwards blow by them. Neither can stop a crossing pass and neither can keep a puck in the offensive zone. The larger problem here that Tom Renney must take into constant consideration is does he ruin one defensive pairing or 2? If you put them both out there together, you are inviting the other team to shoot at will on Hank. If you break them up, then two lines have a chink in the armor. There is no good way to play it.

Solution: As we all know, the trade deadline is approaching. While they do not have favorable cap figures, if Glenn Sather can move either one of them, I would implore him to do so. Call up Bobby Sanguinetti who has the ability to move the puck and trade one of them to anyone willing to take them. If not, cut them both in the offseason and start anew. Either way this tandem has to go.


Problem: It is nearly impossible to develop any chemistry with Renney changing the lines nightly. Prucha and Nigel Dawes and Lauri Korpikoski are in and out constantly. I’m pretty sure Renney pulls a name out of the hat and adjusts his lines accordingly.

Solution: Pick four lines and stick with them already. Pick two power play lines and don’t change them. Put together three defensive pairs and let them be. Put Duby between Zherdev and Callahan and let that be the “Energy” line. Let Gomez center Drury and Naslund and let that be the “Better in video games than real life” line. Let Korpikoski be with Prucha and Dawes on the “Napoleon complex” line. Finally, putt Blair Betts with Voros and Fredrik Sjostrom as the “We needed to find a way to stay under the salary cap” line.

Glenn Sather to do list

Get back Sean Avery: This team needs a jump start and all the fans in NY know how important he was to the team the last year and a half.

Trade away defense: There has to be some team out there dumb enough to take Roszival or Mara or Redden or Dmitri Kalinin. The Isles and Coyotes are teams that come to mind for making awful moves and the Penguins have a hoard of defenseman to trade for when Sergei Gonchar gets back. Get whatever you can and don’t look back.

Find a way to trade for Tomas Kaberle: As mentioned earlier, the PP needs a kick in the pants and who better than Tomas to do so. Everyone aside from Zherdev, Drury, Hank, and Staal should be on the table. Make it happen.

Otherwise this team may not survive this free fall and can miss the playoffs.


ZFiSH said...

While the Rangers are sliding, and so is A-Rod's public perception, I think both will ultimately get where they want. I'll leave the hockey analysis to you, but there's no way Rodriguez doesn't get into the HOF.

Gopher said...

I personally agree about A'Rods HOF status as well, but then again I'm a Yankees fan and am stuck with him over the next 9 years. Him using steroids prior to them being illegal, while morally wrong, did not break any written rule. The key is if the HOF voters think him breaking an unwritten rule is paramount to the gaudy stats.

ZFiSH said...

Gopher said...
"...The key is if the HOF voters think him breaking an unwritten rule is paramount to the gaudy stats."

Agreed, and it is his consistency that should convince the voters that he is HOF worthy (11 consecutive seasons with both 35+ HRs and 100+ RBIs is impressive, even if you take out the years he was in Texas). He has also won 2 Gold Gloves and at least one clean MVP award but, most importantly, has all the years remaining on his contract to prove his worth in the eyes of the voters.

The good thing that comes out of this is that if A-Rod ends up being the career HR leader nobody has to make up reasons for why he isn't one of the best players of all-time. He'll be in the Hall but will not be mentioned in the same breath as the real greats - probably not even with Bonds.

Brett said...

If you don't mind me taking a very broad approach and offering my own opinions, the Rangers' biggest problems would appear to be a) the absurdly high cap hits of Rozsival, Redden, Gomez, and Drury, as well as b) the fact that the team appears to have given up on Tom Renney.