Friday, October 14, 2011

Rangers Not A Playoff Team?

Following the signing of Brad Richards many of the “experts” have written the New York Rangers are locks to make the playoffs and some have even said they could be threats to contend.  Rob Simpson obviously did not get that memo.  Simpson, writing at Hockey Buzz, wrote that the Rangers are still extremely flawed and his estimation are not even a playoff team this season.
And along those same lines, adding Brad Richards didn’t suddenly make the New York Rangers the fourth or fifth seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs. In fact, it’s highly questionable whether they’ll make it in at all.
Simpson went on to call the Rangers a one-line team, which is a complete fallacy by ignoring the skill and production of Dubinsy, Anisimov and Callahan as a group last season.  However, many of the questions he raises about the roster are absolutely true, and the Rangers will need to answer them on the ice instead of expecting anyone to hand them anything as the “experts” have done since the end of last season.   

The negatives and/or questions from Simpson…
For different reasons and to different degrees, here’s a list that includes those likely to be around: Wolski (desire), Anisimov (next step), Stepan (2nd year), Zuccarello (size), Boyle (consistency), Christensen (minutes), Staal (health), McDonagh (experience), Sauer (consistency), Del Zotto (see above), Erixon (opportunity).
On the positive side Simpson does look at what is working in the Rangers favor and that is exactly what everyone would expect it to be…
The Rangers have three important things running in their favor. 1) Goaltending. 2) Work ethic. 3) Team identity (related to number 2) and buy-in. Wait! Four things. 4) Plenty of weak brothers in the East, including Winnipeg, Florida and Ottawa that won’t contend for anything.
All of those items are absolutely working in New York’s favor as long as the team plays to that work ethic and identity they had last season instead of waiting for the skill of Richards and Gaborik to do the job for them.  The skill must complement the identity or the Rangers will lose the edge they had over their opposition on most nights.  Outworking teams is what made this team fun to watch and brought hope for the future as the skill was growing with the hard-work they were putting forth.  Even with Richards, Gaborik and improvements from players like Anisimov and Stepan, the Rangers are not going to be the most talented team on the ice against the upper echelon team’s in the league.  Work ethic can counter than on any given night and as long as the Rangers remember that part of it they can prove Simpson wrong and make the playoffs when all is said and done.