Desperation in the desert


Granted, expectations weren’t as high in Phoenix as they are here, but the Rangers apparently aren’t the only team reeling early. Look at their opponent tomorrow. The Coyotes needed the influx of a couple of minor league call-ups to win their third game of the season (though it WAS against last year’s Western Conference champion Oilers), and there is already “a small movement to have Wayne Gretzky resign as head coach”:

Amazing. If nothing else, it proves why Gretzky could never coach in Canada. Revered as he is north of the border, the Great One could go 0-82 behind the bench and he would still be staunchly defended by the masses. Put him in hockey irrelevant Arizona, and he’s just another ex-athlete who isn’t delivering behind the bench.

Anyway, the slow-starting Coyotes would seem to be an opportunity for the Rangers.

Or maybe it goes down as their most demoralizing loss of the season. I suppose there’s always that, too….


Both Brendan Shanahan and Jason Ward skated today a day after sitting out practice.

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  1. What does Gretzky know about coaching anyway? His last few seasons were spent under terrible coaches like Muckler and Campbell. He never coached in AHL, nor was he an assistant coach under any good coach, so what are his qualifications?

  2. Sam, any word on whether Thomas Pock will play tomorrow night?
    I really want to see him in the lineup.

  3. It’s funny, Renney acknowledged that the Rangers could have used Pock in the lineup against Florida. But when I asked him if we’re going to see Pock out west, he said he wasn’t going to commit one way or the other. I don’t get it.

  4. How accessible is it for you to get an Interview with Slats? I feel as if understanding what he’s thinking about roster flexibility is really impacting Renney’s decision-making.

    The big problem with having Renney, Maloney and Slats on the same page is that the coach starts to factor in player trade value into his day-to-day decisions. The potential positive though, is that when coaches and GM’s are not on the same page, you have no choice but to win now. As in the 94 Rangers and how they sacrificed so much future for on year.

    Maloney and Slats are probably lobbying to keep certain struggling players in the line-up as a showcase or at the very least in the hopes of turning things around. The quicker Renney can turn the ship around with the players currently here, the more opportunities there will be down the road to improve.

    While I am very quick to point out what’s wrong with individual players, i do think the ball is in Renney’s court to find combos and a system that utilizes these players strengths. Dumping guys like Malik and Kaspar and Rachunek is not advisable, not with cap considerations and hurting value. Addition by Subtraction is a bit of an overused concept sometimes. That said, Benchings, meetings, conditional stints are the long term friendly solutions.

  5. The desire that Gretzky expressed to be a coach never made sense to me. The only explanation could be that he wanted to be close to the players again. Of course, that is usually the blueprint for an unsuccessful coach. As a team president, good choice. As a league official, sure. NHL GM or coach, I don’t think so. The sooner he gets out of that job, the better IMO. Perhaps he can stick around long enough to trade us Doan for Malik??????

  6. “It’s funny, Renney acknowledged that the Rangers could have used Pock in the lineup against Florida. But when I asked him if we’re going to see Pock out west, he said he wasn’t going to commit one way or the other. I don’t get it.”

    Renney is a double talking, lying hyppocritical slime

  7. Vinny, what’s with the constant personal attacks on Renney? You seem to harbor an awful lot of hatred towards a man I’m 99.999% sure you’ve never met. Am I the only one reminded of Robert De Niro’s character in “The Fan” when reading Vinny’s posts? Seriously dude, chill out. You’ll get a lot farther in getting your point across if you back off on the name calling.

  8. Exactly as I said last night, Vinny.

    the smooth-talking salesman-ship has run aground. only the most gullible fans are still buying the manure he’s spreading.

  9. Sam, ultimately, as far as i know, who makes the club, and who plays goes solely on Toms shoulders. If this is the case then the fact that we are playing 1 person out of position as a center rather than calling up immonen is a head scratcher. Arguably our best defenseman in the first few games this year was Thomas Pock, of course he is riding the bench. Marcel Hossa, while he has played a pretty decent game, doesnt play a role this team needs. We dont need guys who basically play 5 minutes a night and do nothing to spark the team, whereas playing a guy like Orr could only help the team. Look he may be a lumbering enforcer, but I do not believe he would still be with the team if that is all the rangers see in him. I have to believe they think he can and will be an NHL 4th liner. Well, heres a thought, why not PLAY the guy as an NHL 4th liner and let him learn the game. I would much rather have Colton Orr out there learning to be a future part of this team, AND serving a purpose as the resident enforcer, than to have Marcel Hossa out there for 5 minutes of basically what amounts to as neutral zone hockey.

    Also, Nigel Dawes. On about 90% of the teams out there Nigel would be playing at least 8-10 minutes a game. CLEARLY he has the skill to score at this level, so why on earth does he play so few minutes? Lets be real here fellas, if this is in fact a rebuild, the kids should actually be playing.

    Ivan Baranka. This one absolutely has me stumped. In the preseason i would say Baranka was our best defenseman, hands down. Im not saying that hes going to tear up the league, or that he will even play better than the nimrods we have now, but i would be far more willing to accept mistakes by Ivan, than by Rozsival or Malik.

    Back to Colton Orr, does anyone remember back when having a fight would actually re-energize a team that was flat? Why on earth do the rangers not know this part of the game is still there. You dont necessarily have to go out and shove a stick through a guys cranium, but when the rangers are down 3-1 why not have Colton go out there, and pick a fight with one of the other teams tough guys. These are strategies that help turn teams around.

    Sam, these personell decisions, which appear to be renneys call, have most of us scratching our heads (no, not head lice mr wiseguy). Renney is a decent coach, but I would love to hear some answers to these questions/statements/assessments.

  10. Neil says,”Dumping guys like Malik and Kaspar and Rachunek is not advisable, not with cap considerations and hurting value.”

    Neil, if they are sent to the minors, they do not count against the cap. Just as Lou did last year with McGillis. And “hurting value”. WHAT value? with their high salaries and poor play, no one wants them.

    I would rather see 3 kids playing and developing in NY, and those 3 playing in Hartford.

  11. I agree, Inferno. And what most people are not understanding is the fact that a couple brawls does more to help team bonding and togetherness than all the rafting and blindfolded excursions in the world.

    Last night the Coyotes had a couple of brawling dustups with Edmonton, and guess what? they came out of their slump, and pasted the Oilers 6-2. And the Coyotes of course face the Rangers tomorrow night.

  12. 4Rangers…

    I did make sure to throw in the caveat about the conditiong stint. Kaspar is ripe for that. Malik would probably make it through waivers and get to the minors because i believe he has another year after this on his contract, so i would buy your argument there, but Rachunek ought to stay.

    Before we start shedding vets on D, think about this… Kaspar and Malik were arguably our 2 best stay at home D last season. Before you dump them, you need to think about how those roles can be replaced or upgraded. Only Ward is a true stay at home.

    Tyutin, Rachunek, Pock, Roszival – none are prototypical stay at homes. Baranka or even Richter are not a stay at home either. In fact, unless LIffiton or Taylor can prove some NHL potential, the Rangers have to wait for Sauer and Staal or make a trade or we will be plagued by soft, out of position D, for years to come. So, it’s not like you can just dump Malik and Kaspar. A smarter choice would be get them healthy, simplify their roles further and/or motivate them. A stint in the minors may help both. Kaspar probably needs a few months off. (I hope he’s not done: it amazes me that physical players don’t deteriorate gradually, they seem to have a tipping point and then they’re just done – see Gravey)

    This discussion leads us to a few conclusions we can probably agree on:
    1) The players we have here are not entirely suited to fill the roles they are being asked to fill. e.g. Malik is only a stay at home defenseman because he has no wheels. He is not very physical and seems to have gotten weaker on the puck. Don’t get me started on the forwards and their roles.
    2) The farm system for the upcoming year at least is set only to replace the imbalance we already have up here.
    3) Immo and Baranka’s development has reached it’s conclusion at the American League level, they need the opportunity to sink or swim. Everyone else down there can benefit from ice time.

  13. No, Neil. Rachunek is the worst of the 3. He is mister minus. The other 2 gave the Rangers some good moments last year. Raccoon-neck has had 2 stints here, and has never given the Rangers anything. I am not talking about conditioning stints, I am talking about youthful replacements.

    But the real point is I am writing off the “no back-czech, no body-czech, big pay-czech” regime.

    I am tired of it. I want to see the youth rebuild they promised almost 3 years ago.

    I would have no problem with Ward-Baranka, Girardi-Tyutin, and Taylor-Pock as the current pairs until others are ready next year like Staal and Sauer and maybe Sanguinetti.

    the Sather-Renney home for Euro-vet pensioners must end.

  14. Inferno,

    Re: Colton Orr. I like him. He’s a nice guy. But he is not on this team for much more than to occasionally counter whatever enforcer the the other team is going with. That he can play without being a total liability is a bonus, but he isn’t bringing much beyond that.

    One of you mentioned Cam Janssen. Now, that’s a different player. A good enough skater to be an effective forechecker, and someone who can persistently get under other players’ skins. Yes, the Rangers the could use a player like that. Problem is, there aren’t many to go around.

  15. Thanks for the response, Sam! A lot of out here are pulling for Pock!! Him sitting out games is not helping him at all right now.

  16. 4Rangers –

    I agree with this main point wholeheartedly… “But the real point is I am writing off the “no back-czech, no body-czech, big pay-czechâ€? regime.”

    The worst part about the current team makeup is that no one can be sent anywhere without passing through waivers. Only Dawes. Unless, Renney and Co are willing to take a risk on losing a player or two for nothing in return then nothing will change. Sather can’t do much about trades right now. You can’t get youth or picks until the deadline usually, so I recommend some nice hobbies until march.

    4Rangers, I hear you… but dismantling whatever plan they’ve had all summer long 9 games into the season is just not in the cards. Dolan won’t be doing any mid-season firings and nor will Sather unless this thing really goes south. The only way this team sees a heavy infustion of youth before the deadline is injuries. I don’t disagree with you, but I find if I don’t accept some semblance of reality, it’s too frustrating to dwell on.

  17. Neil, I know only too well, and have posted several times, that it won’t happen. Sather-Renney have a clueless buddy in Dolan, so nothing will change.

    But, THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT SHOULDN’T. And fans should continue to complain and push for the youth rebuild that was promised at the ’04 trade deadline when Leetch, Kovalev, etc. were traded.

    Now, almost 3 years after that promise, more over-the-hill vets dominate the roster. The deck chairs have been re-arranged, but they are too rickety to hold up.

    Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to you that 3 years after a promise to dump vets and go with youth, that the Rangers are right back in the same boat?(the Titanic)

  18. Hey Sam,

    Great to see a beat writer who is so committed to being close and having high interactions with both the players and the fans. Nice work. Living in the Hudson Valley, I appreciate your articles.

    Anyways, I have to echo what others have said. It is downright frustrating that the Rangers coaching are not showing accountability by failing to sit some of the d-men who have really slacked thus far. Both Pock and Baranka (from what he showed in pre-season) can step in nicely to fill in. I also think we are in desperate need of a #1 or #2 d-man. In my mind, Kaspar, Malik, Rosvisal, Rachunek have all been huge disappointments thus far and something needs to be changed up.

    Just as important as that is what I see as team defense. Last year the forwards were much more committed in back checking and playing hard on the defensive end. This has not really happened yet this year. The offense is fine and will be more potent as Jagr continues to increase his health. But that doesn’t matter with the defense right now. And some soft goals allowed by the goaltending as well.

  19. 4Rangers…

    You are right, cept in this way… 3 seasons ago, the cupboard was slim pickens, cept for Lundquist, Prucha, D Moore, Hollweg and Orts. (unless you want to count Lundmark as well, yikes!) We have a lot more youth with actual NHL potential in this organization.

    We do have too many veteran defensemen right now, pock and baranka should be with the big club. Immonen should be here, but that’s it. Moore, Dubinsky, Korpi, Falardeau, Jessiman all need work in the minors. (maybe Girardi is ready too)

    In order for just these 3 players from the minors to come up here’s what would need to happen: We need to remove 3 d-men from the current roster. We have 8. We’ve already talked about the likely suspects… By removing 3 d, you open up a second forward spot next to Orr, that is Immo.

    Point is, the rangers youth should be brought up appropriately. I much rather them learn from Scheonfeld and Gernander etc, in the minors. Bringing players up too fast often stunts them offensively, d responsibilities, the speed in the pro game, the physicality, etc all need time to get used to. Premature callups lead to confidence busting. Heck look at what Colby Armstrong is turning into in Pitt.

    So, if you want to argue that a guy like Cullen is taking a spot he shouldn’t have i would agree. But not Hossa. Hossa is still young and has enought tools to develop him, but we also should be clear about him. He would not be a big loss. He does not appear to have that Knuble thing going on.

    Truth is, Jagr, Straka, Nylander, Shanny… they’re all stop gaps. And i’m okay with that. The delusion that we could win the cup is just that. The good news is that a guy like straka could be a nice deadline trade option. Maybe even Shanny will go somewhere to win a cup at year’s end.

    Point is, we are in better position now and with some filtering, we could be exactly where we need to be by season’s end. Did we sign too many vets over the summer? Sure seems like it.

  20. Cullen is a way better player than Hossa. 25G, 24A, 49 points, 9 PP goals, a 52.7% faceoff, and a Stanley Cup.

    Compare that to a pointless, useless, Euro-softie.

    Cullen is being mis-used by Renney. He should be playing the point on the PP as he did in Carolina. But, because he’s not one of Jagr’s posse, Jagr’s buddy Rozsival gets to play there because he will patty cake the puck over and over again to Jagr on the side boards. Cullen will shoot, and Jagr doesn’t want that.

    And that cupboard was bare because Smith and then Sather spent years signing vets and ignoring youth, the same policy that exists today.

  21. 1)What are Baranka, Pock and Immonen’s situations past this year? Are they under contract? Can we lose them for nothing?

    2) How many times can Baranka and Immo go back and forth before having to go through waivers?

    3) And, if Immo and Baranka are up here this season is there a rule about number of games played in the NHL which would force them to go through waivers next season? Or is it just pro hockey experience in general?

    The point is, what are the long term plans for these guys? What are the advantages to keeping them on the farm? What are the disadvantages? And, if we don’t bring these guys up soon, won’t we run into a problem whereby other kids start knocking on the door, before these guys have had their shot? Can you say glut?!

    This is a serious problem facing the team. If they don’t bring these guys up it creates a situation next year where you’re suddenly looking at bringing in 5 or 6 rookies or risk stunting the younger kids growth. A real problem. In a very real sense, Immo, Pock and Baranka’s window with this club is closing fast. If they don’t find their way to the nhl by season’s end. Either they are screwed or someone like G Moore or Dubinsky gets screwed in a year or two, especially as the B Ryans, Cliches, Staals, Sauers, Zaborskies and Pyatts arrive.

  22. that’s right. that is why I am saying write off this season, play the kids, let them make mistakes, lose games, learn and develop, just like the Pens did last year. But now the young Pens are turning it around, and next season the Rangers could be starting to field a young team that would be a solid playoff candidate for years to come. Put a team on the ice that you drafted, who care about the Rangers, not a bunch of over-the-hill mercenaries who should be called the NY Strangers.

  23. Cullen is a better player than Hossa, no doubt. But if my sloppy writing made it sound like I was comparing the two i apologize. The thought was that Cullen being signed to begin with is bringing in a vet who now has a contract you can’t move until late next season. That hurts the kids more than giving a 25 year old Hossa 40 games to find his identity. The choice is more about team direction than comparing apples and oranges as players.

    And two, If you plan on sighting Cullen’s stats from last year with Carolina, then I’d refer to Bobby Holik’s stats in Jersey.

  24. the fact that players do better on other teams is a clear indication that something is rotten in Denmark.

    The Rangers added 4 guys who I like, and they should have helped make the Rangers a better team, by giving them the North American grit that was missing.

    BUT, Renney and Jagr’s posse have negated that by insisting that THEY won’t change, that THEY will continue to play the east-west Euro-shinny, and that makes the 4 new guys square pegs in a round hole.

    Instead, Renney should, by benchings, and youth callups, insist that the Euro-circlers start playing the north-south, quick-strike, backchecking, bang and crash style, or get out of town.

  25. Not many bangers around, Sam? You’re telling me all of these guys are untouchable, and we’re better off with Hossa and our sissy-soft defense? These aren’t even goons. These are players that play every night. Avery, Neil, Fedoruk, Witt, SIMON, Janssen, Belak, Josh Gratton, McGratton, Peters, Gaustad, Boynton, Jovanovski, Souray, Staois, O’Donnell, HORDICHUK, Erskine, Laraque, Brashear, Bell, Morrow, McCabe, Mayers, Brad Norton, Tootoo, Tucker.. Should I go on?
    If Orr can’t cut it, there’s plenty of other bangers who can. This team has no one that takes the body other than Hollweg. It is a giant group of European ladies. Teams like Anaheim, San Jose, and Buffalo, are having a tremendous amount of success with a combination of toughness, physical play, and finesse. This Ranger team is strictly finess, and it will continue taking its toll, and will probably eventually lead to a major injury to a major player like Jagr, as he and the Rangers get slammed each and every night. You don’t need a good in the NoHitLeague, but some toughness doesn’t hurt. And I’m sick of hearing this “Team Toughness” B.S. phrase the last few years. Ok, you can play with team toughness, IF there’s anybody on the team that’s actually tough. Sorry, Jagr, Nylander, Straka, and Rozival going after the other team as a collective group with their purses isn’t team toughness. It’s a b.s. phrase coach’s use for fans they take as morons.
    I like how attendance is way down at NHL rinks. It’s sending a message. Bettman’s ruined the games, and the fans are leaving. Take notice. 8,000 at the Malasseum? There’s AHL teams, which features a ton of banging, hitting, fighting, and scoring that draw nearly that. I hope the fans keep leaving in droves. When the Rangers were in Toronto, half the ice level seats were empty. The sport has become a boring, giant power play. 19 minors a game. Shootouts. 2 referees. It’s insane, and I’m glad the fans are finally leaving.

  26. Take Fedoruk off that list, his face was shattered by Boogaard tonight. How much I’d like to have a guy like that on this team. Oh yeah, if you see highlights of the tilt, check out the fan reaction. They sure seem to not like fighting. NOT. There’s more excitement in a 30 second fight in Minnesota than all of the excitement the Rangers have tried to provide all year.

  27. A couple bangers provide energy. A fight provides a spark. You know what this team needs? A spark.
    You can’t rely on Hollweg to do all the banging for this team and you need someone to hold other teams accountable that toy with the Rangers, particularly Jagr, who takes quite a beating especially for a 100 point vital superstar coming off shoulder dislocation. I don’t know, maybe some people like watching things like Tucker slam him around, get in his face, and get him off his game, i.e. in Toronto the other night.
    P.S. I hate Avery by the way. It’s guys like him that injure players by their reckless, unaccountable play, due to the forced retirement of the enforcer.

  28. I think fighting is mostly stupid and useless. If you want to send a message then throw hard hits. I would take Avery or Janssens over any goon like Boogard or McGratton. Let me rephrase that: I like fighting when it was based on emotions like anger, hate, etc.(yes I am talking about full scale melee skirmishes maybe with goalies involved, but I hate those boring routine goon on goon hugfests. And the only time you get the former is when there is a LOT of hitting, basically it will never happen under Renney.

  29. Renney, is that you?

    What I mean by “team toughness” is not having a goon bodyguard around, but instead having more players that can “repay” a dirty hit with a dirty hit of their own. BAsically punish the opposition for their cheapshots. And when they are playing us very physical, I want us to play them even more physical.

  30. Having Boogaard, Jannssen, Tucker up front with Jagr, Nylander, Shanahan, Prucha, and the rest of the Euro’s and a guy like Dion Phaneuf on D would be a dream. Now that’s a team I’d be excited about watching.

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