First prize to the reader who can identify the source of the above quotation.
And speaking of character, the Rangers officially lost two popular locker room presences yesterday with the departures of Jason Strudwick (Edmonton) and Martin Straka (HC Plzen). Neither move was much of a surprise, and the argument could be made that both players needed to be cut loose for the sake ofÂ the team’s long-term growth.
Strudwick’s case is a little more complicated since he provided the Rangers a fairly effective seventh defenseman/13th forward option while also serving as one of the locker room’s calming influences. Moving forward there is the chance that seventh defenseman spot goes to a rookie, but in the interest of not letting a young player sit for too long, more likely is the team carries six defensemen and only summons a player from Hartford on a need basis. Needless to say, this also has benefits on the team’s precarious cap situation as well.
But back to my point: how much does character count? Do the Rangers miss the professionalism of guys like Straka and Strudwick, or are those elements easily replaced? And even if they’re not, does it really have an impact on wins and losses?
The short answer is that there is no substitute for talent, and even if you have 23 guys with the perfect attitude, it doesn’t mean you can’t finish in the cellar of the division. But the other part to consider is it’s a long season, with various influences potentially tearing at a team’s fabric. Players like Markus Naslund and Wade Redden will be expected to fill the leadership void left by Jaromir Jagr, Straka, and Brendan Shanahan, and we’ve been given little reason to think they won’t succeed.
But you never know until a team is in the throes of another mid-winter struggle.