N.Y. Rangers: 5 Reasons Rookies Will Help Refocus Team
The Rangers are not playing up to coach John Tortorella's standards.
The 2013 season is now 10 games old, and while the season is still very young, 10 games is enough of a sample size to identify what needs to be improved.
The Rangers have a lot of areas that need improvement. The power play is still non-existent, opponents are still getting too many high-quality chances on goal and according to Torts, skaters are playing "scared and tentative."
So, what will fix what ails the Broadway Blueshirts?
Torts thinks that the play of two exciting rookies (and maybe more to come) will motivate the veterans to play less careful and take the necessary chances to win consistently in the NHL.
Can Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller really turn a middling Rangers team into an elite force in the Eastern Conference?
Can Kreider Become a Young Star?
Chris Kreider returned to the lineup after missing four games with a bone chip in his ankle and scored his first-ever regular season goal, to go along with his five postseason goals he earned over the summer.
Kreider still has the potential to become a star, and he started taking those necessary steps in Tuesday night's loss to the New Jersey Devils.
It probably helped J.T. Miller adjust to the NHL game by playing alongside a familiar face like Kreider.
Miller got over some early jitters as he and Kreider finished the losing effort against the Devils with a more-than-respectable plus-one rating.
Kreider has the higher expectations and his experience in the playoffs will be very valuable to him and Miller throughout the season.
The most obvious dimension that Kreider and Miller both bring to the Rangers is speed.
Speed can make up for a lack of skill and it can help correct mistakes.
With the addition of Miller, the Rangers have three very young, very fast skaters in Miller, Kreider and Carl Hagelin.
Hagelin might be the fastest and he is also the most experienced at the ripe age of 24.
Torts says the Rangers are playing scared and tentative, and if that's true, then it's true in practice as well. The easiest way to play harder is to skate harder, and it's up to Hagelin, Kreider and Miller to try to make everyone skate harder, both in games and in practice.
A lot of the veterans on the Rangers know they won't be able to keep up with the young speedsters.
So, if they aren't fast enough to keep up, that means they will have to use their wits and savvy to not be embarrassed by a couple of kids born in the 90s.
Speed can be contained but like any other skill, it requires practice. There are plenty of fast skaters in the NHL and the Rangers' veterans must take advantage of facing three of them each time they go out for practice.
By playing their hardest at all times, Kreider and Miller will help the entire team work harder and smarter.
When Torts proclaimed after the loss to the Devils that Kreider and Miller will "probably take some people's jobs," he was undoubtedly trying to motivate his veterans to work harder and be more forceful on the ice.
But with Torts, you don't know if this was just motivation or if he really is thinking of demoting or cutting certain players that aren't meeting his standards.
Odds are that the Rangers players don't know either.
Whether it was an empty or very real threat, it was good coaching. By pointing out that the young guys with the endless motor are playing the right way, he's boosting their confidence and also putting his veterans on notice.
Complacency happens in professional sports. What would you do if you were paid millions to play your favorite childhood game?
Good coaches identify and stop it before it hurts the team.
Young, hungry players are always good for a locker room. They remind the veterans of the enthusiasm and desire they felt when they first got their chance and that reminder can be very refocusing.
Miller and Kreider both have the skill and speed to make the Rangers a better team. The veterans need to embrace the challenge posed by Torts and these rookies and approach every practice as if they are fighting for their jobs.
Ultimately, it comes down to hunger.
Are Kreider and Miller hungry just for an NHL paycheck or do they want to be on a championship team?
Do the veterans think they can just flip a switch come playoff time or do they realize that success in the spring starts with hard work in the winter?
It's still early in the season, but we're all hungry for answers.