Rangers Nothing More Than an Extremely Expensive Question Mark

Laugh all you want Manhattan, laugh about how you have another “Mr. New Jersey Devil”. How you stole another Devils franchise player… Go ahead and add Bobby Holik the list that already includes Bruce Driver and John MacLean. Get a good laugh about how you AGAIN lured “big name” free agents by offering more money than anyone else could even imagine. Laugh now before the season starts, because it may be yet another VERY long offseaon with no Rangers playoffs games in Madison Square Garden for the sixth consecutive year.

The New York Rangers are absolutely nothing more than a big time question mark. Have there been upgrades to their roster? Yes. You can listen to GM Glen $ather all you want to about how the grossly overpaid additions of Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparaitis add the grit and muscle that the team terribly missed for the past few years. About how Holik and Messier will be able to provide the leadership and accountability that New York has been missing for years now. The bottom line is, the Rangers 2002-2003 roster still lacking LOTS of depth that make an NHL franchise successful.

Lets start with the forwards. Some big time names come to mind; Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, Bobby Holik, Mark Messiser and… Um… Lets see here, Rem Murray? I don’t think so! The fact of the matter is, this team has a gaping hole when it comes to their wingers. Gone from last years wing corps is Theo Fleruy and Mike York. Two players that made up one of the major reason the Rangers were winner before December of last season, the FLY line (Fleury, Lindros, York). The left side of the Rangers is the most troubling. The number one left winger on this team is Matt Barnaby, oh but don’t worry, number two is (another former Devil) Krzystof Oliwa, and number three Nils Ekman. Hmmm. Sounds more like a boxing match at MSG not a hockey roster. The centers on the Rangers seem scary on paper, but they are make or break. Eric Lindros is not the player everyone wants him to be. His health will be a question for the rest of his career, if he goes down the Rangers could follow. Holik is maybe one of the best two-way centers on earth. But lets be honest, this guy has never scored 30 goals or 65 points. He may help out with face-offs and grit but is that kind of player worth $9 million dollars per season?!?!? Mark Messier should be on social security not playing hockey. He would have been better off taking an assistant coaching job with the Rangers than trying to be a #3 center who gets more days on the injured reserve list than he does score points. Petr Nedved’s scoring woo’s continue. Rangers management and fans are fed up with him. New Yorkers would boo louder at a picture of Nedved than they would of Osama bin Laden on MSG’s jumbotron. He’s nothing more than trade bait, but wait… Who is trade for this guy so they can pay a NUMBER FOUR CENTER 4 MILLION BUCK!!! If the Rangers plan on moving Nedved, they will have to pick up at least half of his salery. The right wings aren’t anything special beyond Pavel Bure. Bure will score buckets of goals, but will play no defense, he was a distraction in the Panthers locker room, his former teammates were thrilled to see him traded to the Rangers because of his selfish play and attitude. With the Rangers badly needing help in their own zone if Bure doesn’t drop this “I’m the world” attitude, he will do as much bad as good for this team. Radek Dvorak has never been the same since his Czech buddy Jan Hlavch was dealt to Philly as part of the Lindros trade, and he just had very major knee surgery this offseaon. Who knows if he can put the pieces back together. Counting on Jamie Lundmark to be a solid #3 right winger is optimistic at best, he’s played well for Hartford in the AHL but has really shown no evidence that he can be an NHL regular. Same goes for Rico Fata on the right side. Lets not forget Sandy McCarthy to add to the possible New York goon show on Broadway.

Defense, Defense, Defense. What wins campionships?? That’s right DEFENSE! Why have the rangers missed the playoffs for 5 years in a row? Well, having an overpaid blueline of a array of #5 defenseman sure didn’t help any. Brian Leetch is still around. He will be the key. Everyone knows that Leetch can change a game jumping into the play scoring critical points, but that’s not going to get the Rangers to far. Leetch must set an example to the other offensive minded players like Tom Poti and Vladimir Malakhov that defense is what is going to get the team points, not pinching on the blueline when there is no need to. Kasparaitis will help, but he can hit and that’s about it. He defensive skill are about par for the course. Hanging hopes on Sylvain Lefebvre, Tomas Kloucek, and Dale Purinton is not a way to sure up the defenseman on this team.

Ah goalies. The Rangers didn’t really want Mike Richter back. They dealt his right to the Oilers about 3 hours before he became an unrestricted free agent because the Rangers thought they could land Curtis Joseph. Cujo wanted to play on a team that can win so he went to Detroit in hopes that the can step in where Dominik Hasek left off. The Rangers also made a pitch for Eddie Belfour, but he ended up with Toronto. That left the Rangers to settle for Mike Richter. At least GM Glen Sather got him to take a pay cut. Lets be honest though, rubber knees Richter is not the goalie that he once was when he won a cup in 94 for the Rangers or when he won a world cup for Team USA in 98. His inconsistent health is his new trademark, and you can be assured he’ll still be seeing plenty of odd man rushes game in and game out. If Richter falters, 19 year old Dan Blackburn will be thrown into the fire. He played okay last season when he took over at seasons end when Richter went down, but this is not yet a goalie that can lift New York into the playoffs.

Coaching is going to be possibly the biggest question mark of all. Bryan Trottier has never been in charge of an NHL bench. Now he must get the Rangers into the post season. Can he get this team to play defense? It doesn’t seem as though he even wants them to! He says he wants to employ an very offensive style of play that has failed former Rangers coaches! He must be crazy! If he has a master plan of an up-tempo, Goals! Goals! Goals! Approach this team is doomed.

So go ahead Manhattan laugh all you want, the reality of this years NHL season is that the closest place where you might be watching hockey playoff action is a quick drive through the Holland Tunnel, at Continental Airlines Area. Go Devils!

Have a nice week,

-MattNJD