Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lessons From the Road

Since I spend most of my time covering the New York Ranger prospects then it is only when the Rangers come out west that I look at them as if I do any of the prospects. What I saw over the last 3 games should concern Ranger fans but sadly not all of the concern is about the team itself.

Whether you liked the trade for Ollie Jokinen and Brandon Prust or not; the bigger concern was how quickly Ranger fans started thinking of ways to have Glen Sather trade forIlya Kovalchuk. Not even 24 hours after the Jokinen deal was finished and now the Kovalchuk rumors are heating up.

Here is the question that I would like to ask those who are wanting Glen Sather to make a trade for Kovalchuk: Did you watch any of the games the Rangers played on this road trip?

You know the road trip that the Rangers went 1-2 on and did any of you even bother to wonder what cost the Rangers the games they lost? This constant fixation on the team needing offense is once again hiding the true hole on the Rangers.

It is the same hole that has been on the Rangers since Jeff Beukeboom was forced to retire in 1999 and that is a defensive stopper. Heck let us be honest and acknowledge that the Rangers could have a dozen of top flight scorers but if nobody can play defense then not even 12 great scorers will make a difference.

Against the Los Angeles Kings, that John Tortorella could not find even one defenseman to put on the ice for the power play cost them. To see him say because Michael Del Zotto was in the penalty box that he went with 5 forwards is an indictment of the entire blueline corp.

Last I checked Michael Rozsival, Wade Redden, Matt Gilroy, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal were all dressed and in the lineup for the Rangers. Yet none of those 5 have the confidence of their coach to be out on the ice when the King's Anze Kopitar was able to breakaway and score a shorthanded goal.

That alone should be telling people that no more adding scorers until the problems on the blueline are addressed at both ends of the ice. If none of the 5 were good enough to put out there then get rid of them even if it is an unpopular move with the fans.

If that is not the case then John Tortorella made one heck of a boneheaded choice to send out 5 forwards including one (Ollie Jokinen) who he knew so little about. Yet there was Drury and Jokinen on the point which was one very dumb idea that rightfully cost the Rangers.

Nothing is more frustrating that to see Ranger fans wanting more offense when defense has been a problem for so long. If you can not dump Redden or Rozsival on someone then waive them to Hartford.

If neither Staal or Girardi can play on the power play then think long and hard about re-signing the restricted free agents. Really what good is spending a lot of money on players who are not getting the job done?

Then there is this mindset that "If Ollie does not work out then there is 5 million to spend" that so many have. Sure let us give Glen Sather 5 million dollars to spend on the next Ales Kotalik, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury or Wade Redden.

Oh wait you forgot who was going to be spending that money? Maybe what is really needed is someone who takes away the checkbook from Sather and forces him to make do with what he has.

Maybe the best thing for the Rangers is for them to fall down to 14th in the conference and deny the Dolans that playoff money. Maybe just maybe someone is going to come along and show the Dolans that in today's NHL if you stink then rebuild you can make even more money cause your salary costs will be way lower.

Ranger fans will still attend games, they will still watch them on TV and if the Rangers can find a way to draft in the top 5 then they will get a real franchise player (unless Sather trades the pick).
Draft a Nino Neiderriter and Ranger fans will have their merchandise maker.

Heck give them any of Taylor Hall, Tyler Sequin, Cam Fowler or Neiderreiter and fans will flock to the Garden when you toss in what is coming down the pipe.

But if you still want to see Glen Sather spend money or make trades then perhaps what someone needs to do is instead of writing a book called "100 Ranger Greats" (excellent book you should get a copy) that someone writes "100 Ranger Mistakes".

Go ahead and guess how many of those 100 mistakes would be credited to the Glen Sather era? Maybe if fans saw in black and white all these mistakes that they might realize how it is time to stop this madness.

One of these days Ranger fans will realize that the only way to fix things is to stop the spending and endure the rebuild once and for all.

Enough with the just "making the playoffs" which is what you kept hearing that the Jokinen deal would do. How about Ranger fans start demanding that the goal is to win the Stanley Cup not first or second round exits.

The best way to build towards tomorrow is to stop spending today.


Roman Horak (2009 5th) was the only Ranger prospect in action on Tuesday evening and it was funny trying to watch 2 games at the same time. While the Rangers were losing to the Kings 2-1; Horak and his Bruins were just whipping the Lethbridge Hurricanes 9-2.

Watching Horak play is a nice dessert after a bad meal as Horak is a solid 2 way player who is the best face-off prospect we have ever seen. Horak in the games I have gotten to watch has won no less than 75% of his faceoffs.

Horak against the Hurricanes had his 21st assist of the season as part of a 4 goal Chilliwack outburst in the first period. Horak wound up with a +2 for the evening as he is not wearing down as many a first year European prospect will do.

Our friend Victor Fernandes of Shootout passed us the word that Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) got some good news from the doctors on Tuesday as he has no structural damage to his elbow and will only miss 2 weeks. For Gaulton it is good news as this was the same elbow that he had "Tommy John Surgery" on.

Even better news came from Kingston where Ethan Werek (2009 2nd) showed his stuff at the All-Star Skills Competition. Werek was matched up against Taylor Hall in the Individual Puck Handling Skills competition and beat him.

Werek in case you did not realize it beat the guy expected to be the first overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft; the same guy who was Team Canada's captain on the WJC. As soon as we can find media on it we will post it as this is one of the reasons why Werek is leading the Ranger prospects in just about everything.

(Tortorella courtesy of the Rangers)

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