Monday, November 8, 2010

New York Rangers: A Model of Consistent Inconsistency

For the past few years the buzz word around the Rangers has been consistency as they seek to get consistent efforts, build a system of play and in turn get consistently good results.  The reality of the situation is no matter how long the good flashes might last for the only thing this team has been good consistent at is being inconsistent.  Part of that can be blamed on the level of talent that is in the room, but the majority of it still comes back to the players and the coaches.
I said before the year that this team probably misses the playoffs or at best fights for a 6-8 seed because I did not see them as significantly improved from last season.  The big moves they made were Frolov, Boogaard and Biron coming in with Redden being the biggest piece heading out.  Offensively I still didn’t see them having consistent scoring from more than one line and the blue-line where Del Zotto had to play top 4 defensive minutes was not going to cut it.

On some of those points I have been right and wrong through the first 1/6th of the season.  None of the moves coming in have really popped for the Rangers, though in two of his three games Biron has certainly been good enough as the backup to Lundqvist.  Frolov is this year’s capture lightning in a bottle shot with an enigmatic Russian after Zherdev two years ago and to a lesser extent Lisin/Kotalik (Czech) last season.  Instead of getting the up and downs of the talent mixed with the lack of effort the Rangers got from Z two years back they have gotten a guy who at times seems disinterested and at others the second coming of “Higgins on Broadway,” last year’s quickly cancelled production.  Boogaard was yet another attempt to replace what the Rangers already had two years ago in Colton Orr after last year’s debacle with Donald Brashear and once again on Boogaard they overpaid and he shows none of the natural inclinations to defend his teammates nor is he any sort of deterrent to Rangers getting run.

Where I was wrong was that a line other than Gaborik would not consistently score to take attention and pressure off Gaborik and the Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line certainly has done that through 14 games.  The problem is the consistency of the Rangers rears its ugly head that even when a different line pops as much as that one does they do it by themselves and no one supports them in it.  Avery no points in six games; Christensen 1G, 1A last eight games; Fedotenko preseason beast zero points last six, 1 goal all season; Frolov zero goals last eight and two fluke goals all season; Stepan no points last nine.  The only guy up front who has helped out with any even spotty regularity other than the Anisimov line has been Boyle and no offense to Brian Boyle but when he is your fourth best forward you have problems.

The reality with this team as has been said is they even when fully healthy are not talented enough to beat teams consistently without giving tremendous effort.  They can steal games here and there when Hank is amazing or Gabby goes off or say Dubinsky plays like he did versus New Jersey, but they will not get away with that long term.  To add to that it seems the more they win those types of games the less inclined they are to do the difficult parts of the game in the effort department the next time out.  The last two games for me are a perfect example of that because I thought the overall effort in NJ was very lacking as a half AHL team dominated possession and had way too easy a time cycling the puck on the Rangers, but Dubinsky and Lundqvist gave them a 3-0 win and no lesson seemed to be learned from the performance.  Last night against a better team Dubinsky and Co never got going and the rest of the team sat around waiting for it to happen instead of stepping up themselves to make something happen.  Every game this team is successful it is built off playing fundamental basic hockey in that you give effort, you fore-check, you cycle, you take the body, block shots and convert on special teams.

During last night’s game and especially after I saw calls the team to make trades and they don’t have talent and that’s why they can’t score yadda, yadda, yadda, but frankly that’s a copout.  In the next week they probably get Marian Gaborik back and within a month Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury will come as well which is a large influx of talent to the roster, but if the Rangers do not fix the consistency of effort problems they are having more and more right now the talent additions no matter how great will not fix this club.  What will happen instead is the rollercoaster will continue down the tracks with a win streak here, a losing streak here and basically a 500 club when all is said and done. 

The only consistent thing when it comes to Rangers hockey is the fan base and I say that is the sincerest form possible.  What you can always count on for the Rangers is the fans will pack the Garden no matter how bad the team plays at home (2-4-1 this year).  More accurately what you can always count on with the fans is that every game is a jumping experience in that they either jump to the edge of the cliff in a loss or jump back from it with a win.  As I have said earlier there is no middle ground, there is no calm reflection of what this team actually is, there is I either won tonight and can win the cup this year or I want it that way regardless of what it costs.  I understand the inclination and I certainly want a team that is capable of winning it all, but understand there is a building process taking place as well at the moment.  What bothers me more than the wait is that while I see player’s individually taking strides in their game and their own consistency I still do not see it team wide and I wonder who is responsible for that be it team leadership, coaching and/or management.  Until we answer that I think the consistently inconsistent results of the New York Rangers is here to stay for a while and the on ice product will continue to be littered with sprints for 8th.   

Have at it in the comments.