I try to read all of your comments, not only because I find them insightful, but also because there’s always a chance one of you is a wealthy long-lost relative who will offer to pay the rest of my mortgage.
In one sense, maybe we should be glad the Rangers are struggling to the extent that they are, since it gives us ample opportunity to analyze, debate, and lament the team’s myriad flaws. Compare that to a blog about the Buffalo Sabres, and we’d spend all our time talking about A) how the team shouldn’t change a thing because they’re awesome, and B) how much damn snow there is in Buffalo.
Anyway, I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to a couple of recurrent themes that have appeared here, and try to offer my take. I’m assuming some of you are going to disagree with me, and that’s good. If you don’t, then you’re just not paying attention.
Marcel Hossa. Despite what you may believe, the forward is not the worst player to ever lace up a pair of skates. Call me crazy, but I even think he deserves to be in the NHL. Now, that’s not to say the Rangers couldn’t find someone with perhaps a little more fire and offensive ability to take his spot in the lineup. But I have seen traces of a pretty effective checking forward in recent days, and if given more time to develop, that could come out even more. Does the team have that sort of patience? That’s a question for another day.
Toughness. I got into this a little last night, and some of you offered a pretty good response. My point: the Rangers definitely need to be more physical at both ends of the rink, but not at the expense of taking needless penalties that forces them to spend half a period short-handed. Your point: there is a middle ground where players can throw their body around with great effect, stick up for their teammates, but not end up in the box. Fine. If that’s the case, where do the Rangers sign up?
Jarkko Immonen and Ivan Baranka. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and with these two, it seems like the 100 miles between New York and Hartford have turned them both into Hall of Famers. To be sure, both were impressive in training camp, to the extent that I thought both had a chance to make the NHL this year. But with each gaffe by current Rangers, it’s as if Immonen and Baranka have turned into Mark Messier and Ray Bourque. Let’s be clear here: neither Immonen and Baranka could do much worse than some of the dead weight the Rangers are carrying now. And because they’re both young and their experience would sow seeds for the future, their time in New York would carry an extra benefit. But neither are exactly tearing up the American League right now, so if you think they’re the answers to the Rangers problems, guess again.
Tom Renney. At first I’d dismiss any call for the coach’s head by saying it’s far too early in the season. Then Ken Hitchcock gets fired in Philadelphia, and that argument pretty much gets tossed out the window. But what I will say is that whatever’s going on with this team right now, Renney deserves only a fraction of the blame. If you don’t like some of his lineup decisions, fine. I’m not crazy about some of them, either. But I also see a coach who is working deliberately for a reason. Maybe it’s because he wants to be sure about certain players before he makes a move one way or the other. Maybe it’s because he’s been given a mandate from above. But when you depict him as an inflexible coach beholden to veterans, you’re rushing to judgment. If this team is in the same state a few months from now, I still might not call for the coach’s head, but I would certainly be more critical. At this point in the season, though — especially after what this team did last year — the coach should be afforded more time.