The Rangers practiced today without Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, and Colton Orr — all of whom were being treated for assorted undisclosed ailments — so it was difficult for the team to practice in any real lines.
But chances are if everyone was healthy, the lines still would have looked different than they did last night, just as the lines from last night looked different from the game before.
Does it matter that Tom Renney keeps switching up his combinations? The players I asked today mostly said no, that none of the combinations have been effective enough to merit having to stay together. But the other part to consider is that those lines aren’t given a chance to be effective when they keep getting jumbled.
Call it a chicken-or-the-egg argument. Even Renney said last night that the fact that the lines keep getting switched prevents the team having things like line meetings, or even just developing some intrinsic chemistry.
On whole, lines in hockey are overrated. I love writing about them in my blog because they’re interesting and shed at least some light on team’s strategy. But it is the rare team that doesn’t mix up its lines on a fairly consistent basis.
Still, this season has been an extreme, which is probably a byproduct of the team’s personnel overhaul over the summer. Whereas last year the team had truly unique players in Jaromir Jagr and even Brendan Shanahan who couldn’t play with everyone, this year’s Rangers are more interchangeable, which allows Renney the flexibility to move players around like chess pieces. But at some point, a team can benefit from consistency, which Chris Drury acknowledged.
“I think the goal of every player is to get on a line and stick there and have all four lines rolling and never have any changes,” Drury said. “But the reality is they do change. You just have to be able to roll with it. Instead of coming to the rink and saying, ‘I’m a center or a right wing or a left wing. You just come to the rink and say, ‘I’m a hockey player.’ And where they put you, they put you. You just have to play.”
<li>Scott Gomez said he’s healthy enough to play, although he did acknowledge he’s nicked up.
The conversation today elicited memories of his classic line from last spring, “If you’re completely healthy at this time of year, there’s something wrong with you,” he said then. “That was one of my Gomerisms,” he said today.
Either way, none of the players out today are expected to miss any time.
<li>And speaking of missing time, the Rangers will be facing the Devils without Martin Brodeur for the first since Nov. 5, 2005, a streak that goes back 30 games. Prior to that, the last time Brodeur missed a game against the Rangers was Dec. 5, 1993. I believe Brandon Dubinsky was still in diapers.
But now Brodeur’s loss is Kevin Weekes’ gain.
“He’s a good goalie,” Renney said. “He’s worthy of a starting job in this league. He did a good job for us under some tough circumstances.”
<li>Regarding players reportedly bailing out of the locker room after the game last night, it’s true many this season have often been in a rush to retire to the players-only areas after games. But that’s been the case after wins, and it’s true of young players as well as veterans.
The problem isn’t necessarily players looking to dodge the media since every request I’ve had to speak to a player has been met. The problem may just be a lack of the same type of commanding personalities, most notably Jagr and Shanahan, that dominated this team in the past. Drury always talks because that’s his job as captain, and others such as Markus Naslund, Henrik Lundqvist, and Brandon Dubinsky have been accessible as well.
But there are others, including Gomez and Wade Redden, who have been more elusive. A lot of that has to do with the fact that, like I mentioned, both are nicked up and are often receiving treatment after games. But on whole, there seems to be a desire by some players to try to fly under the radar.
Again, if you ask for a player, you’re going to be able to talk to him. The Rangers have always been good about that (the reclusive general manager is a different story). But it’s not like they’re going out of their way to court the media, either.
Updated, 3:36 p.m.: From Chuck Gormley in South Jersey, it sounds like “Brendan Shanahan is close to signing”:http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20081111/SPORTS04/811110341/1002/SPORTS, and the Flyers remain a front-runner.
“Is Philadelphia a serious contender?” Rick Curran said Monday from his home in Devon, Pa. “Absolutely. There are people Brendan needs to talk to before he has all the information to make a decision.”