NY Rangers: 4 Reasons to Panic for the 2013 Season
Us New Yorkers are, generally, quite pessimistic. The glass is always half empty, and it's no different with our sports teams.
So it's safe to say that the Rangers' rocky start has not gone over well with the fans, who, with reason, believed that this could be the year for the Blueshirts.
But that hasn't been the case and it's safe to say that panic has arrived in New York. And this time it isn't just a case of the fans being temperamental and jumping on and off the bandwagon. There is plenty to panic about.
For a team to be one year removed from an Eastern Conference Finals berth, you'd think they would pick up right where they left off, or at least be not far off the mark. But the truth is, this team looks absolutely lost and is lucky to have a 5-5-0 record.
John Tortorella really has a job on his hands, because in all honesty, there are so many issues right now he probably doesn't even know where to begin.
So we're going to go ahead and give him a head start. Here are the four reasons why Rangers fans have begun pounding on the panic button.
It's become a joke at this point. Except it's really not all that funny.
I'm not sure what more to panic about, the fact that the Rangers' top unit is stacked and still can't convert or the fact that John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan can't figure out what's wrong. Things are going to have to change, and fast, because I can guarantee you that no player on that top unit is going anywhere soon, and the same can be said for the coaches.
What's even more frustrating is that it's pretty obvious what's wrong.
This team likes to get real cute with the puck with the man advantage, yet what they should be doing is moving the puck quickly, taking shots when there are open lanes and getting to the front of the net for second chance opportunities.
It seems simple, right?
But it's almost like there are too many highly skilled players on the power play—basically too many guys who are looking for the perfect play. Instead of keeping it simple, like less skilled players would, guys like Richards, Nash and Stepan continually complicate things by either holding on to the puck for too long or by looking to make unnecessary passes.
Yeah, it's only 10 games in and things could change, but what are the chances of that? Under Tortorella and Sullivan, this team has only finished in the top half of the league in terms of the power play once. Fat chance of anything changing unless the players recognize their shortcomings and address them on their own.
This past offseason, Rangers GM Glen Sather did what he believed would make this team better. He let some of his depth go in order to bring in an offensive gamebreaker by the name of Rick Nash.
Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were the players swapped for Nash, but additional players like Brandon Prust, John Mitchell and Ruslan Fedotenko also left the club. Sather allowed these players to leave because they all had impressive seasons in 2011-12 and were seeking raises that the Rangers could not hand out.
The lowering of the cap, Nash's massive contract and the expiration of several key players' contracts in the coming years made it nearly impossible to sign the three players to the deals they desired.
Ten games into the season, we're seeing the toll these moves—or lack thereof—have had on the team. There's no secondary scoring, there's an apparent lack of depth at the center position and the penalty killing success has been a bit shaky.
Also, in a shortened season like this, where there was only a week of training camp and no preseason games, it's tough for a team to get accustomed to life without certain players while also welcoming in new players. Returning players know what they're getting with Tortorella, but the new guys who haven't had a "Torts Training Camp" have had trouble figuring out just what their coach wants from them.
This was not the season for a significant turnover. It's clear many of the players on this team don't know how to perform in a Tortorella system.
Everyone knows Rangers hockey.
Forecheck hard, get the cycle going, get the puck to the net; and in your own end, get in the passing lanes and block shots. That's what got the Rangers deep into the playoffs last season.
But we've seen basically none of that thus far in 2013.
The forecheck is nonexistent and the only offense this team seems to get is on the rush. If by chance the puck is carried into the zone in an attempt to set something up, it's quickly taken away and moved in the opposite direction.
And as for the shot-blocking, wow. The Rangers blocked so many shots last year it was ridiculous. This year, that facet of their game is nonexistent.
How can this team stray so far from the essentials that made them successful last season? There are a couple of reasons.
As was mentioned earlier, this team has a lot of new players who were not able to enjoy the benefits of a full Torts camp. But perhaps more importantly, maybe this isn't a meat and potatoes hockey team anymore.
Sather wanted to increase this team's skill, but his coach doesn't want to play a system that allows his players to flourish.
Richards, Gaborik, Nash, Kreider and Stepan are all very skilled hockey players. There's no reason they can't be successful in a puck possession system.
I fear Tortorella is too stubborn to change his team's style because of his own past successes with the current style. He needs to get all his players on the same page and allow them to play to their strengths, because they clearly don't know what their own identity is anymore.
Starting a game strong is so crucial for a team in the NHL to be successful these days. With such suffocating defensive systems, it's become more difficult for teams to claw back and win games after they've gone down early.
The Rangers, on the other hand, enjoy making things difficult for themselves. In the first 10 games of this season, the Rangers have allowed their opponents to score the first goal seven times. Furthermore, they've taken penalties in the first five minutes four times already, with penalties in the first minute of the game occurring twice.
Even a fool can tell that this is no way to set yourself up for success.
It continually takes them way too long to establish a forecheck. How many times do you think these guys have heard "take the game to your opponent, don't let them take it to you" over the course of their careers? It's just appalling that they continue to come out flat night in and night out.
They have the speed and they have the size; why can't they get on top of their opponents early?
Traditionally, these issues stem from poor mental and physical preparation. It could be the lack of training camp strikes again, but there are many teams around the league getting off to sensational starts, so the Rangers don't have an excuse if that's the case.
Again, I think a lack of centralized identity is the main issue. The turnover has killed them, and yeah, the short training camp has to have something to do with it.
Or maybe this is just a bad hockey team.