Every team makes deals before the trade deadline, but in the previous two seasons, the Rangers went into training camp at least looking like they had the pieces to be an immediate contender.
Two years ago they added Brendan Shanahan to a core that already included Henrik Lundqvist and Jaromir Jagr. Last season it was Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.
This season, the Rangers landed a handful of name players in Wade Redden, Markus Naslund, and Nikolai Zherdev, but given the questions surrounding those three, and the marquee players the team lost, you were never convinced that this would be the same team come March.
Sure, this “could be just a funk”:http://www.lohud.com/article/20081208/SPORTS01/812080365/-1/SPORTS for what is a fundamentally solid but perhaps unspectacular group, but what’s coming to light of late is that some of the team’s offseason bets have yet to pay off.
Among those bets was the belief that their core of young forwards would be able to make the next step and help fill the void by the likes of Jagr, Shanahan, and Martin Straka. So far that hasn’t been the case. Brandon Dubinsky was impressive early, but has since plateaued. Ryan Callahan has provided energy but not much offense. Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha have both regressed.
Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal if not for the fact that the players who were at least supposed to match last year’s production — i.e. Drury and Gomez — have been scarily quiet of late. In both cases, the sample size is big enough to at least expect them to pick up the slack before long. But as it is now, those players struggles are exacerbating everyone else’s.
Compare it to the current economy: one downturn quickly helps to feed another.
And this isn’t to excuse Tom Renney of blame, either. As much as the Rangers like to say they now have the sort of interchangeable parts that anyone can play with anyone else, the coach’s constant tinkering has stunted the development of any chemistry between players. Unless you count Colton Orr, Blair Betts, and Fred Sjostrom.
Of course, some perspective is still needed. It is only December, and the Rangers are still near the top of the standings as opposed to the bottom.
But the other side to consider is that it is only December, and if the team keeps playing the way it has the past few weeks, it won’t be in such a favorable position for long.