Wednesday, April 10, 2013
NEW BLOOD BLEEDS BLUE?
I meant to post this type of article a few days ago but my computer ate it. After a debate on Twitter last night it seems to be appropriate to revisit as 140 characters are just not enough to explain this (and there's no room for fluff). I'm talking about the changes in the NY Rangers roster that have had quite a positive effect on the teams results.
Let's go back to the off season. I have said many times that given the NY Rangers cap situation, Sather had no choice but to NOT match the offer tendered to Brandon Prust by Montreal. The Rodent has documented the Cap woes that Sather faces in the next two years and it's going down, not up next year. The Prust signing affected the team in two ways, we lost what he brought and the Habs gained it. Ouch. Brandon has had a definite impact in the turnaround in Montreal. In addition, The Nash trade meant that Dubi and Artie were no longer available to kill penalties like Brandon did and all three are big bodies with only Artie not very physical. John Mitchell and Ruslan Fedotenko played key roles as well on a team that was two wins away from a Stanley Cup series.
Feds is a big game guy, has a history with Torts (and Richards) and did all the little things a team needs to win even though it might not show up on a score sheet. Mitchell and Dubi took faceoffs and when you boil it down, last season's team was a real pain in the ass to play against. Dubinsky was second only to Prust with 110 penalty minutes. The gritty, in your face style of play was a welcomed sight for most Rangers fans and MSG was no longer a fun stop on opponents road trip.
To have all five of these guys leave meant that Glen Sather had to back fill. Of course the Nash trade was a win but the players that replaced the five who left changed the team's personality. The record speaks for itself. Watching games this season (until recently) had become painful to watch as not only were they losing, they were out worked and out played. This team who lead the entire NHL in fighting majors last season has been reduced to a tie for 26th place (this season). If that doesn't tell you that Slats had a tough off season, nothing will. The players brought in did not adequately replace what was lost. Arron Asham was hurt for so long I'm not quite sure what he means to this team just yet. Pyatt is a big body but hardly noticeable. Powe has been a good penalty killer but he's also been a healthy scratch. Again, the record kinda speaks for itself, no?
So that is the past and here we are after a trade deadline that in my opinion has given coach Tortorella the players he needs to get back to the gritty, hard working team that not only wins but is once again fun to watch and root for. The last few games have had much more of an edge, much more nastiness and frankly, much more entertaining. Based on everything I've been able to read, the new players have not just fit in and helped win, they enjoy being Rangers (who wouldn't?). Based on my time playing I can read the body language and all the players have a bit more swagger, a bit more of a sandpaper attitude. It is infectious after all. Players play a little "bigger" when a teammate shows up with some big hits and perhaps wins a fight in support of another guy.
So while my opinion that Sather had a tough off season was challenged, I believe there is enough evidence to back it up. I'm also complimenting him for making the necessary corrections. I'm just hoping it's not too little too late. Fighting for a playoff spot with 20 days left in the season is not what I expected at the open and many pundits had the Rangers in the top 5 of the league. I believe they can make it (The Rodent's berthwatch has then at a 65.3% chance as of this post) and once the playoffs begin, anything can happen as we saw from Los Angeles last season. I am predicting an all out push for the cup next season but it's not out of the question that this team gets hot and rides Lundqvist on a long run. It CAN happen.
Don't agree with me? Leave a comment below.
Tonight the Rangers take on Toronto in the worlds most famous arena (still can't believe I got to say that on that sound system and in that building). One would hope the Rangers avoid the quick goal against that's haunted them in the past and of course the two points on the line are HUGE.
Follow me on twitter @hockeyangrybird for real time commentary although you should be following @HockeyRodent as he schools 1994 Cup winner Neil Smith (and the rest of us) on the NHL.