Guest post: Rangers lack starpower


I’m fortunate today to be able to introduce a rare guest post by my friend and colleague Sam Borden, who despite being a former goalie, is actually a pretty sharp guy. Sam laments something many of you have noted as well this year — the conspicuous absence of a go-to-guy on the Rangers’ roster.

Check it out. Then check out the debate he and Rick Carpiniello are having on the Rangers at “their Faceoff blog”:


Sitting and watching the Rangers the other night, something felt weird to me (and it wasn’t just that they were wearing white on the road – which still seems odd, even though they’ve been doing it for five years now).

As I was sitting there, I realized that there wasn’t any one skater I was constantly snapping to attention to watch. There was no one who demanded attention all the time, simply because of the potential he had for doing something special. And that’s a big change for the Rangers – it hasn’t been that way for about 20 years.

Think about it: Over the past two decades, there has always been either Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier or Brian Leetch on the Rangers. If you  want to count Mike Gartner as a star – and he scored 11 goals in 12 games after being traded to New York, then had 49 the next year – in 1989-90, you certainly can. In some ways, it’s been even longer – Marcel Dionne was a big-time player and the Rangers got him after 85-86.

My point is this: The Rangers don’t have a player like that right now. Henrik Lundqvist is absolutely a star, but he’s not someone who makes you feel comfortable that, on a power-play late in the game, he’s going to find a way to get you a winner. He’s not the kind of player who can take over a game by himself and turn a deficit into a lead. Only a skater can do that.

Is the lack of a go-to scorer the only reason the Rangers have been so inconsistent this year? Hardly. Stars don’t guarantee Cups, and the fact that the Rangers have only won one during these 20 years is proof enough of that. But I do think it’s a factor. And it’s something that puts even more pressure on Lundqvist and the defense to stand up every night.

Some might say that Nikolai Zherdev could someday become one of those types of players, and that’s fair. Maybe he will. He just isn’t right now. No one is. And for the Rangers, that’s pretty unusual.

Three questions:
1. Do you think the lack of a star is a factor in the Rangers’ inconsistency this season?
2. Do you think the Rangers currently have a star-in-the-making on their roster?
3. What do you think the Rangers are right now? Legit contender? Letdown-in-the-making? Come check out the debate that former hockey writer Rick Carpiniello (an absolute superstar) and I are having at our FACEOFF blog and join in with your opinion.


Thanks to Sam for chiming in. I’ll have more from practice in a bit…

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  1. I agree to a point. Jagr, even when not scoring, did things with the puck and demanded attention.

  2. I agree in the sense that other teams can roll their lines without having to match up against any of ours.

    There’s a positive in there that we don’t have 1 talented line, then fall off from there.

    But the freedom it allows the opposition is something we cannot counter without having that “star”. A disadvantage before they even drop the puck.

  3. Adding a Ovechin would certainly upgrade the seasonal points total, but there is a trap here. That is, a star player can masquerade the fact that, overall, a team is not that good. Washington, with its star player but mediocre overall team, is the perfect example. All teams need to fill-in a good supporting cast to contend for the Cup. One star player cannot put a team with holes all over the place over the top.

  4. Look at a team like Detroit and how many stars they have. The Rangers would kill for one of those freaking stars (Franzen, Hossa, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, etc.) and Detroit could arguably withstand losing one of those stars and still win another Cup!

    Proof that our managerial decisions including draft choices over the years (ex-Staal, DZ?, Sanguinetti?) have been truly pathetic.

  5. The point of this team being built this way was exactly that. A score by committee. We all, for the most part, were OK with Jagr walking (at the time)… having hopes of Gomez/Drury running this team their way. Young guns getting time… Zherdev getting a chance to shine etc.

    We (including Sather and Renney) had visions of a PP that wasn’t Jagr holding the puck in the corner for 1:30… we didn’t know that as it turns out, that 1:30 was 1:30 where the defending team couldn’t score a shorty!

    It all falls in the category of best laid plans of mice and men.

    The question now that it has failed is…

    What can be done about it?

  6. This team has three third lines and a fourth line. It’s no secret that there’s nobody on the Rangers people have to watch out for.

    Cakewalk – beyond Ovechkin the Caps have Backstrom, Semin (slapfighting aside, he’s an offensive threat), Green, Kozlov, and Laich. Ovechkin’s the clear-cut winner but the Caps have more scoring depth than the Rangers at this point.

  7. bob punches like Semin on

    Cakewalk. I don’t think the Caps are a mediocre team.
    AO, Semin, Green, they way they are playing right now they are more of a contender than we are, by a long shot. Remember they came back and beat us 5-4 two weeks ago at home then went on and found a way to beat us again

  8. Depends what you define as a star. Winning teams tend to be those who are committed to the system put in place by the coaching staff. Sure Detroit is loaded with fantastic forwards, but above all else they play a team game.

    This team is heading in the right direction. Untimely giveaways in their own zone and neutral zone to go along with poor special teams play are things that can be (hopefully) corrected.

    What this team needs is a legit, puck moving defenceman. A Tomas Kaberle would fit in nicely I think. Wade Redden is what he is…a slightly above average dman. He hasn’t been an impact player for several seasons.

  9. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Great post. That all falls back on Glen Sather who has been unable to both sign a star OR draft one either.

    Every other team in the league has AT LEAST developed a star and they didn’t need a top 5 draft pick to do it. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in Philly. Parise in NJ. Dustin Brown, Kopitar and Sullivan in LA. Mike Green in Was. The closest we have to that is Marc Staal, who’s clarly more of a defensive D-man than Brian Leetch type, despite budding ability.

    You can’t win without A star. And, I’d argue that Henrik is a very good goalie, but not a star; heck, he’s not even an All-Star (at least yet). He’s a LONG ways from being a Martin Brodeur or a Mike Richter or a Patrick Roy. Those were special goalies. They didn’t have nights like last night, and when they did, they found ways to battle back. He’s not in the same breath as them.

    Glen and his ego has been the problem since day one. He’s had all the resources with the lure of NY and made all the wrong decisions.

    The RIGHT decisions he’s made, he’s followed up with getting rid of said players …. Jagr, Avery, Shanny, etc.

    He wants a team with NO star so we can say, “look when glen contstructed; he built something from nothing.”

    What a DISGRACE!

  10. noonan those are valid points about Detroit (the team we are trying to model…haha!) But the defensive system of Renney is wearing thin on me. Caps, Canadians, Sabres, and dare I even say the Devils now are exciting teams to watch. I am seriously bored watching the Rangers some nights.

  11. For those of you that are interested in the KHL all star game it will be on channel 162 Time Warner Cable in NYC. I am sure they will replay the game later in the day as well.

  12. Biff,

    Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Hossa and Lidstrom are A-List STAR players.

    You can talk about buying in all you want but those guys are first line SUPER STARS, point period.

    Gomez, Drury… they’re B-listers, at best.

  13. Staal Wart,

    Any team with Vanek or Ovechkin is fun to watch.

    The Canadians did not impress last night.

  14. I don’t think the star power thing is the reason for the team’s woes. I do think it changes the way other teams approach us though. Jagr was that kind of dominating player. He could rush, pass, cycle and it seemed he’d be able to control the puck until he decided it was time. The lack of star power argument is an interesting one, especially in light of the huge free agent signings we’ve made in recent history with Drury, Gomez and Redden. None of them have lived up to expectations. Or maybe Drury and Gomez have, since the numbers they put up last year are on par with their career averages, and we just expect too much from them. But the difference between Jagr and Gomez/Drury is that Jagr was a contant, legitimate scoring threat, and because of it, opposition would adjust their game. If the opposition double teamed him, he’d get mugged mercilessly all game, only to dish the puck to an open man and create a scoring chance. Play him one on one, he’d embarrass even good defensemen and take the shot himself. He could score from all over; on the rush, from sharp angles, even a couple onetimers from the slot. VERY few players in the game get that kind of respect from opposition. Gomez and Drury simply can’t compare. Gomez is a playmaker, and has a fabulous ability to gain the zone, but when it comes down to it, 90% of the time he’s going to pass. He doesn’t have a great shot. Drury is the leader, the clutch scorer, the work horse, but he lacks the skill set of the elite level player. The shame of it: both players are making elite money, with little chance of ever playing up to their salaries.

    Historically, big name players have come to NY only to underachieve and disappoint. Home grown talent has been few and far between. Cally has been a pleasant surprise, as has Dawes and Dubi in spite of his slump. Prucha will be fine. My only explanation for the predicament is coaching. There have been persistent problems with the team for several years, and now without Jagr to make chicken soup out of chicken crap, everything is magnified. I think the Rangers need to change their game, and a new coach could breathe new life into this team. The Cup can be achieved with a team of one, and not a team of ones.

  15. The Devils won a few cups with one star, and that being Brodeur. We have one star, Hank, but when he plays unstarlike we get buttraped like a scence from Oz. This Rangers team can’t play good defensive hockey like those Devils teams did. We also don’t have a Stevenlike player who makes other players think twice. We need to just open it up a bit more and go for it in games. Take some chances. Throw some shit to the wall and see what sticks. A college teacher once said to me, “It is one thing to eat shit, but it is another thing to be fed shit and told it is chocolate candy.” We have been doing and getting the latter for a while now.

  16. doodie machetto on

    Brandon, agree with most of your points except this one:

    “Martin Brodeur or a Mike Richter or a Patrick Roy. Those were special goalies. ”

    Richter doesn’t belong in that phrase. He had one stellar season (94) and was pretty average the rest of the way. Two guys are first ballot HOFers, one will never get in. Doesn’t work.

    Nasty, you mentioned the star that the Devs had besides Brodeur: Scott Stevens. Best pure shutdown defenseman of the last 20 years, possibly ever.

  17. brandon,

    agreed those are star players. without a doubt. a team like detroit creates matchup problems defensively and can kill you with speed and skill. no doubt, the best team in the nhl with apologies to another great team in san jose. building a roster like that in today’s salary cap era is next to impossible however and let’s not forget about their issues in net.

    that said, bringing in a star player who can score goals to ny will not solve this team’s glaring weakness. it’s on the back end and it’s being responsible in their own end and making smart decisions. most importantly, not leaving your star goaltender hung out to dry.

  18. I think saying Brodeur was the only star on those Devils teams is a bit of a disservice to Stevens and Niedermayer. They might not have made the highlight reels but they kept the position players on those teams working in the right direction and provided inspirational players (i.e. Stevens nailing anyone with their head down crossing into the Devils zone).

    I had a similar discussion with a friend the other day about how this season reveals how much Jagr was worth to the team. I think most of the fans lamented last year when he seemed to take entire weeks off, but the last 15 or so games of the season and the playoffs he carried this team like he did in the season after the lockout. I would have thought that he could have been a good 1 year stopgap to await Cherepanov to come to the US or when a new crop of FA’s opened up this year but obviously those $ were committed to the likes of Redden/Voros/Fritsche/Rissmiller. So I agree with these comments that the Rangers have no one on that team that warrants a strict match up or a double coverage.

    I was at the game last night and they seemed to be doing many of the little things well in the first 40 minutes. Putting more pressure than usual on Montreal in their own end and cutting off their flow in the neutral zone (extremely important knowing how much they love to wheel and deal up the ice and into their attack zone). The penalties certainly side-tracked the team although I liked how they got one of the goals back. It was one of those rare nights though that you could probably put more fault on Henrik than on the team in front of him. 11 goals against in 2 games vs the Habs, maybe Vally gets the next start vs them?

  19. Most certainly they do not have such a guy.

    Let’s say (for example) a Rick Nash type suddenly appeared in the locker room.

    HOw soon would it be before the miasma that emanates from this clubhouse, overwhelms him and neutralizes any power speed and agressivness that he displays,…as it has done with just about every player they’ve gotten their hooks into.)

    Renney and his people have a different mindset than any other team in this league. They do everything contrary to established norms. They worship at the alter of a defense
    posture at all costs, and look at the offensive game as something that you undertake when all the t’s are crossed and the I’s dotted.

    They stifle the individualism of the gifted, and instead of allowing his personal strengths to be utilized, they shift him down to simply become a cog within a machine, they they themseves have concocted, but failed to assemble properly.
    Renney belongs on a prep school rink somewhere in Ivy league nirvana where he can let his theoretical nonsense
    hold forth without question or accountability.

    He emasculates every type of individualistic effort while worshiping at the altar of defense at all costs – offense

    Why else does this team stick to the perimeters, and hustle back into their zone ( leaving forecheckers high and dry), at the slightest hint that the puck is changing sides?

    I dare say that almost any other coach in this league could take over THIS TEAM of Rangers and be far more successful than Renney is.

  20. great post TheFlynn….

    Brandon, you crack me up:

    “They didn’t have nights like last night, and when they did, they found ways to battle back.”


  21. 1. Yes I do. I think a team can take some pressure off their shoulders if they look down the bench and think “We’ve got this guy, we should be ok” and play their game with more confidence.

    2. Star in the making- Marc Stall could be an allstar, it still surprises me that he’s shown so little offensively.

    3. The rangers are so inconsistent you can’t guauge them, at best their a goaltending fist team, solid defensively, and timely scoring from several playes sort of by committee approach. At worst, we’re one of those categories and the other two are missing.

  22. Why do the Rangers need “star power”? What has all this “star power” the past couple of decades or so lead to?? One cup in 68 years! Perhaps “star power” is not the answer?? Maybe it’s high time this organization shed it’s “big city”, “glamour” marquee?? I mean, what has it delivered since 1941? Maybe this team finally needs to promote from within and suffer the growing pains until it clicks? I mean, can it be any worse then watching overpriced players fail? No, it would be tolerable at least knowing there might be a bright future. Promote from within, go with lunch pail, blue collar players, fill in with a “star” if you feel the need and roll the dice. At least it will be exciting and worth watching. I’d rather watch a bunch of kids and hard workers compete every night rather then a bunch of over-priced hacks fail at every turn. Remember the Rangers of the late 70’s? Young, exciting, hard working and fun? A team the city fell in love with. A team that rewarded the city with a trip to the finals in 1979? I’d like to see that again. And, there was no real “star” power on those teams. Unless you count a past his prime Esposito and the oft-injured Swedes. No to star power as far as I’m concerned. Enough is enough!

  23. Jeez,if this observation is correct then why don’t they just tank this year to draft a stud in the next draft? Oh, wait, this is the Rangers. That means we’d probably pick a dud. Or Renney wouldn’t think he’d be “ready” and he’d rot in the minors. If we drafted Ovechkin, he’d still be in Hartford for crissakes.

    The real problem with this team is the coach can’t get the best potential out of these guys. He has them hanging back and they have no killer instinct.

  24. A-1) Only to an extent. I don’t think the players that deserve the most ice time get it on a consistent basis to allow them to become the next broadway star. The inconsistent play is what it is. It’s team wide with few exceptions… They ARE getting back to the style they were playing at the start of the season tho, and I like that. They need to be a more puck possessive team and spend less time messing with the puck in their own zone… Goals happen when you’re hungry to score. Focus on getting the puck in the net as opposed to keeping it out of our own. Should be out shooting the other team on a nightly basis and at the beginning of the season they did that… Success on the PP will happen naturally because of that.

    A-2) Offensively, Zherdev can and has been that guy. When the score became 4-2 last night I said out loud, come on Zherdev… my eyes were on him and they should’ve been… a key face off win… Zherdev got it down low, found a little room and made a BRILLIANT pass to Roszival… The kid is an allstar and if he’s treated as one… if Renney made him feel like this teams go to guy, I fully believe he’d rise to the challenge.

    Defensively, Staal is the best player we have. Just like Zherdev if he was made to feel that way he can and has kept the best players in the league at bay. (last night he got beat pretty badly, but…) I think next year (or end of this year) he’s going to show us that he can be a little more physical force out there… as well as an offensive threat especially on the 4 on 4

    A-3) They’re some where in between. They’re not a legit contender because I think they need to replace a guy like Kalinin with an upgrade… Even if that upgrade were Potter… I don’t know because he hasn’t spent enough time up here to say for sure, but… Trade deadline is coming…. Only a few pieces off from truly being a legit playoff team anyway…

    Certainly not a let down because they weren’t suppose to go anywhere with the loss of the Star you’re talking about Jagr (and Shanny for that matter)…

  25. Look at the top teams:

    Bruins: Kessel, Savard, Chara, Lucic
    Caps: OV, Semin, Green
    Wings: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom
    Sharks: Thornton, Cheechoo
    Flyers: Carter, Richards

    That’s without even mentioning the Pens…you need stars to win in this league. Doesn’t matter whether you draft or trade for them. Rangers don’t have anyone on their roster or in their system that are in the same class as the above guys.

  26. The team always had stars that never produced here. BillD hit the nail on the head.

    Where did having all the big-name talent get us?

    ANSWER: One cup in 68 years.

  27. keith – your right the Rangers don’t have a player who right now is in the same league as the guys you mentioned. Their lack of a pure scorer is going to keep them from advancing past the first round of the playoffs in my opinion. if you look at their farm system, there really isn’t a forward right now that stands out and make you think wow, this kid is going to be a fantastic player. sather made a huge mistake this summer, he locked up so much cap space during a summer with a relatively weak free agent class.

    Rangers fans, check out my blog

  28. Naslund Drury Zherdev? they’re not in the same category as Kessel? Savard? Semin? Carter? Richards? I’m sorry, when Naslund was in Vancouver… I would consider him as big a star as anyone… Drury is very well known around the league and Zherdev has more raw talent then just about any of those guys on the list keith gave with few exceptions… No one’s A.O….

    Just because our guys are under preforming doesn’t mean that they’re not capable. Is Kovelov not a star because he’s under preforming this season?

  29. prucha i’m not quite that old but at least 1/2 of those 68 yrs was due to different factors than the rangers going for faded stars. there was no free agency, no draft until mid 60’s, mtl and tor had 1st dibs on players in their area.

    DM – richter had more than 94′ look at int’l play. look at 97 playoffs.

    UES Blue – jj wanted 3 yrs he would never have signed for 1

    cwg – the last thing this team needs is avery. read about all the problems he causes – for his own team. just do some internet searches

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