Wednesday, April 17, 2013

You can't beat ghosts

John Tortorella (New York Rangers)
I had a prior engagement which kept me from watching the New York Rangers/Philadelphia Flyer's game live on Tuesday night so I set up the DVR and even turned off the cell phone to make sure that the outcome wasn't spoiled. Still in the time it took for the Flyers to dust off the Kate Smith recording of "God Bless America", I knew the outcome was not going to be pretty.

Now people I am sure will think I am crazy but trust me the Rangers on a night when they needed a win had no chance against a ghost. Towards the end of the 1970's when the Flyers were known as the Broad St. Bullies, any time they needed a big win they would trot out Kate Smith to sing "God Bless America."

It was a weapon that the Rangers could never seem to find an answer for just like they could never solve the Montreal Canadians on a Saturday night with Roger Doucet singing "Oh Canada" in the 1960's. You may not believe in ghosts and I don't blame you but I went out of my way to avoid any mention of the game until I got home.

Yet in the time it takes to sing an anthem which at 2:17 was 1:39 longer than John Tortorella's postgame press conference, I knew the Rangers were in trouble. If you like I can always pull out the "in the key games, the Rangers can't find ways to win" argument or the "they play down to the level of their opposition"

When I was in school history was always my favorite subject in large part because I once had a history teacher by the name of Milt Madden and Madden opened my eyes to how the theory of history repeating itself actually was a valid theory.

The saying "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it," does fit the New York Rangers in several ways. For starters, the overpayment of draft picks for Ryan Clowe was a tactic desperate Ranger general managers used to try to end the curse of 1940 or in Neil Smith's case, trying to buy a 2nd Cup win.

I believe history is repeating itself with John Tortorella as I question whether he truly has the support of the Ranger locker room anymore. Please don't repeat what the players say in public because you are just kidding yourself on that point.

There isn't a player on the current Ranger roster who will tell the world that Tortorella is the problem that only happens when your name is Mark Messier and you wear as many Stanley Cup rings as he did when he spoke out against Roger Neilson.

It is ironic how the "too nice a guy" Tom Renney walked this same path with the Rangers, Renney had the team on the verge of something one season only to fall apart in the next. Can you see the same thing is happening with John Tortorella (except Renney never ducked out of facing the media)?

The Rangers have 6 games left and not a single one is against a team holding a playoff spot yet these are the teams that the Rangers have the most trouble beating. 2 games against a Florida team that was spanked by the Islanders and happens to be the leading contenders in the Seth Jones/Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes.

2 games against the New Jersey Devils who are in the middle of a 10 game losing streak with both games on national television including the season finale at the Garden. Toss in a game each with Carolina and Buffalo and if you aren't nervous then my hat is off to you.

If I am John Tortorella then I don't want the season to come down to the game on the 27th as lose that one and Glen Sather will have no choice but to fire you. That would be one very ugly scene played out on national television a Ranger crowd reacting to missing the playoffs.

Ruining a good thing

Leave it to the NHL to take the one really good idea like the Winter Classic and screw it up by holding 6 outdoor games next season. If it was a once a year event then yes you would want to attend a game in Yankee Stadium in the middle of winter because you won't know if you will ever get a second chance to do so.

But really during Super Bowl week, there will be a game on Sunday against the Islanders and then a 2nd game on Wednesday against the Devils. It is the Gary Bettman way of doing business in the NHL; take something special and dilute it with overkill.

I seriously wonder if anyone in the NHL office went up to the Bronx during the middle of the winter and stood outside for the roughly 3 hours it would take the play the game in? What a shame to see the Winter Classic turned into a watered down event.

But one can say the same about a 30 team NHL thanks to expansion.

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