Please take time today to remember the people who sacrificed so much for us.
While you’re all grilling your burgers and chicken, I’ll be at break-up day, posting audio, maybe some video, later on. And I’ll tweet the big stuff, if there is any, as it breaks (@RangersReport).
The good news is that, even though the Rangers were eliminated on the exact same date as last spring, the off-season will be shorter. No lockout on the horizon.
Here’s my column from The Journal News and LoHud.com today:
By Rick Carpiniello
BOSTON — With a whimper, a handshake line and some soft-spoken soul-searching, the Rangers walked off into what is going to be a complicated summer.
So many questions. So many holes and flaws. So much mediocrity over 48 lockout-season games and 12 more in the playoffs.
They’re not that far off. They’re not that close, either.
You didn’t need to be a genius to figure that this season was going to be a lot more difficult than the previous one, in which the Rangers were a team nobody wanted to play, and thus a team that won so many games that could have gone either way. Those Rangers overachieved, yes; they were a young team that arrived earlier than expected in a dream season.
But that wasn’t going to happen again. Then the Rangers hit this season, and you didn’t need to be Scotty Bowman or Al Arbour to see the woes in the roster, suddenly not snarly at all. Their bottom six wasn’t nearly as good or effective. Worse, their top six fell apart when top-liners Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik didn’t produce.
So how can the Rangers fix everything, with Gaborik (traded) and Richards (to be bought out) both gone?
While the Rangers got deeper and a tad meaner around the trade deadline, they still lacked, in coach John Tortorella’s term, “stiffness” in the playoffs. They were bounced around by Boston. And they still had their scoring issues, which won’t go away, minus Gaborik and Richards.
In the Boston series, the Rangers scored 10 goals, which is as many as the Bruins’ defensemen and fourth-line center Gregory Campbell had by themselves. The Rangers scored four of those in one game, which included Carl Hagelin’s 2 mph gift goal on Tuukka Rask’s “buttstumble.”
The cap is going down. There aren’t many attractive first- or second-line options available in free agency. The Rangers are going to have to address their needs largely from within, which means Chris Kreider and maybe J.T. Miller or a couple of other kids are going to have to be impact players — a dangerous proposition.
Last season, the Rangers led the league in fights. This season, only six teams had fewer fights than their 18. Fighting isn’t necessarily needed, but guys who will drop the mitts now and again are generally the type of players who can play rugged, “stiff” playoff hockey.
The Rangers acquired Ryane Clowe at the deadline, but now he’s had two concussions, and he’s an unrestricted free agent. He could be a huge risk to re-sign, especially if he gets three- or four-year offers. Maybe the concussions will make him more affordable, but can he play his game with that history? And, again, why did a San Jose team that felt it could win deal Clowe, an alternate captain, for draft picks?
The Rangers got Derek Dorsett in the Gaborik deal, and he will be a fighter for them, but he has to be able to play, too. In the Boston series he fought and he played, and while he took penalties, Tortorella’s comment that “It’s much easier to have a player that way and try to tame him than to try to build a player (to play tougher)” was clearly aimed at his top, tame guys.
There were Rangers who played “stiff” — their top defensemen, forwards Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt, even Derick Brassard had some push-back, and of course Dorsett and the guys who went into the lineup late in the Boston series. There were some who did not, like Richards, who found himself not dressed for Games 4 and 5, like Rick Nash and his one goal in 12 games and Michael Del Zotto and his turnovers.
If you’re not going to play that way, the way some of the Rangers’ top offensive players didn’t, well, then you’d better kick in some goals. Now the Rangers also have to replace what Gaborik and Richards were supposed to be.
It’s not a complicated game, but it will be a complicated fix.