OK, we’re way past April. Way past May. On the way to July. And still no post-season report card. WTB?
I started doing report cards multpile times when the season ended, and each time I stopped and balled up whatever scratch paper I was using for notes, and winged it into the trash. And I deleted every post I began with the list of names on the Rangers roster when the season ended.
I’ll tell you why. Too many guys on the team would have gotten decent grades for a team that finished ninth in an awful conference. That’s just a fact, and it tells you all you need to know about the team you love. A good portion of the roster played as well as it is going to play. This, as currently constituted, is as good as it can get.
Understand? The elite goalie was pretty darn good for 82, and especially so in Game 82. The mega-scorer, whose only question was health, was pretty healthy and scored about as much as could be expected. The rookie D-man was sensational for a teen. The young veteran defenseman who is supposedly going to be a stud got better and better as the season went on. The young center did just fine, as did another rookie defenseman.
The fourth line, as it was at the end, exceeded all expectations and got tons of ice time (again: indictment on the roster). The waiver pickup played on the first line and quite well at times. Get the drift?
We all know what’s wrong with the roster. It’s bottom heavy. If the fourth and third lines remain intact going into next season, that’ll be just fine. If the No. 1 line and No. 2 line remain as those, without upgrade, then you can expect more mediocrity, perhaps another run at a playoff berth, and nothing more.
I asked John Tortorella on breakup day how careful the organization needs to be when evaluating the whole season, careful not to get too wound up in what happened the last few weeks rather than what happened the first 70 games or so.
“You’ve got to be careful here,” he said. “When you lose, you don’t just blow everything up and cause more problems for yourself. I have a number of things that I think we need to fix here. I think people (in the organization) are going to ask me about a number of other things to fix that I’m going to fight because I just don’t think they need to be fixed. I think you can cause more problems for yourself when you don’t get in and you say, ‘We’ve got to change this, we’ve got to change that.’ Sometimes it’s just execution.”
But the top needs to be fixed, obviously, and that might not be entirely possible this summer given the cap restrictions.
Going back to the non-report card, obviously some players had sub-par to awful seasons. You know the names. Redden, Jokinen will almost surely be gone by opening night (Jokinen sooner). Some of the junk was already tossed: Higgins, Brashear, Kotalik. I don’t know if Lisin gets another chance, but I doubt it. I don’t know if Prospal comes back. Or even Christensen.
We know, barring a big trade, that Dubinsky and Callahan, Staal and Girardi all will be back, and all got better as the season went on. Drury, if his contract was a third of what it is, is a good player and a decent captain. They like Rozsival more than their fans do. A lot more. Avery didn’t know which end was up, and that’s not entirely his fault.
So, yeah, most of the team, on a player-to-player basis, did just fine. But as a whole, it was mostly lousy. There just weren’t enough top-line players. And we’ve said that all along. For years, actually.
I disagree with the coach about it being just execution, though the execution of system — of forecheck, and of D-zone play, especially — could certainly stand improvement. The coach’s grade, by the way, would be in the group with Drury and those who weren’t good enough. I agree with him, that a lot of the players they had should come back. I agree they need to find some character players to add. And more youth.
But I don’t think this year a lot is going to change.
What do you think?
For those of you who need hockey, who need Rangers hockey, and who need winning Rangers hockey … tonight’s MSG “Countdown” is “Rangers Game-winning goals.” Should be nothing but good news, right? The ends of good (maybe great) games. Should be a good watch. It’s on at 8 p.m.