Disregard the obvious reasons for a moment— you know, that I’m a 160-pound forward of middling ability—and I’m still pretty sure I’m not what Tom Renney and the Rangers are looking for right now.
I was thinking about this around 10 o’clock last night, in the midst of my first skate of the year, when my occasional ventures into the defensive zone were merely to swoop in and collect a pass from a defenseman.
No, what this team needs is a player in the Jan Erixon mold. Remember him?
The left wing played close to 10 years for the Rangers, and for most of that time, he displayed as much touch around the net as someone wielding a fence post. But because he was so proficient at shutting down opposing forwards, Erixon was among the Rangers’ most valuable skaters.
There is a misconception about defensive forwards which says the reason they play that way is they’re not good enough to score goals. What I’m beginning to realize, though, is that playing defensive hockey is an art form all itself, and right now, it eludes most of the Rangers forwards.
Since I took some shots at the Rangers’ defense yesterday, I suppose it’s only fair to point out that there’s plenty of blame to go around. As Renney said at one point last week, every forward wants to play in the offensive zone because “they might read about it the next day.” But it’s the play everywhere else that will likely to dictate whether this team is a success or disappointment.
In that vein, “my story today”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061024/SPORTS01/610240375/1034/SPORTS discusses Nigel Dawes, the rookie who scored the first goal of his NHL career before a nationally televised audience in Toronto. With the puck, Dawes’ ability to play at this level are unquestioned. But he, like so many others on the Rangers, is still laboring to grasp his responsibilities everywhere else; and it may explain why his ice time has been limited thus far.
To be clear, Dawes isn’t the worst offender on this team. But he is perhaps the best example of how, right now, scoring goals isn’t the highest priority.