This Week in Rangers Hockey (Rock Bottom Edition)

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IFebruary 8, 2009

Let’s start with the quote of the week, by Chris Drury after Friday’s pounding: “There’s no way to sugarcoat it. It was embarrassing, it was humiliating, it was awful.” Good observation, Chris. The team just flat-out gave up. Has there ever been a team that can fall apart so quickly and so often?

How can a defensive-minded team give up 10 goals? After drinking myself into a stupor in the third period (I invented a new drinking game - every time Dallas scores a goal, you chug a beer), I realized what the Rangers problem is: They’re not Adam Graves-like enough.

With the retirement of Graves’ N. 9 fresh in everybody’s mind, it’s not hard to compare this year’s version of the Blueshirts to the team of Gravy’s era. The 2008-09 Rangers are the anti-Adam Graves. Graves was tough, gritty, passionate, did whatever it took to win games, and actually scored goals (Graves scored more goals in the 1993-94 season than the whole team will score this year).

The present Rangers are none of those things. They don’t pay the price and sacrifice their bodies to win battles for the puck. They rarely hit anybody (the whole team can win the Lady Byng trophy this year). They’re way too easy to play against. Do you think any team says, “Uh-oh, we have to play the Rangers tonight, that’s gonna be a battle”? Doubtful.

They play not to lose, instead of playing to win. They let the other team dictate how the game is going to go. They play without pride. They play without passion. They often just aimlessly skate around, occasionally poke-checking with their sticks. They’re often allergic to shooting - how many odd-man rushes have they had where they don’t even get a shot off? When they do shoot they miss the net half the time.

They rarely get mad. They say all the right things after a loss, but then go out and make the same mistakes over and over again. When they score it’s almost by accident (Nikolai Zherdev’s two goals vs. the Stars both came from behind the net). Should I go on?

This Rangers team just doesn’t know how to win. When they clamp down on defense, they can’t score. If they open up their game, they get creamed. They’re missing something - or maybe a lot of things. They’ve got way too much money tied up in Drury and Scott Gomez, who are both complementary players and not stars. Not to mention Wade Redden.

There’s rampant speculation that Sean Avery may be coming back. They can sure use his grit and toughness, but did he burn too many bridges when he left? How is Brandon Dubinsky or Steve Valiquette going to feel if he strolls back into the locker room? The team needs something, though.

So while Gomez contemplates the definition of rock bottom (he had plenty of time to think about it while sitting on the bench in the third period of Friday’s loss), let’s throw out this idea as a first step to turning around the Rangers: How about a new GM and coach? It’s time.

Second quote of the Week, Brian Leetch: “We always looked to Mark as our leader, and Mike was our most important player being the goalie, but [Adam Graves] was our foundation. He was our heart and soul.”

The 2008-09 Rangers don’t have any heart and soul. That’s for sure.