You can understand if New York Rangers fans are banging their foreheads against the wall right now.
The Rangers have scored 82 goals this season, the fewest in the NHL. Despite superb talent on paper, the Rangers are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The young and hungry New York Islanders charged past them into eighth place after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 5-2.
General manager Glen Sather is not about to stand still with the trade deadline looming. With an eye toward giving the dormant New York offense a lift, the Rangers acquired Ryane Clowe from the San Jose Sharks (source: NHL.com).
Imagine that trade was announced in front of an audience at a Broadway Theater. The announcement would be met with complete silence.
The Rangers paid a fairly sizable price—two second-round picks and a third-rounder. Clowe will be a free agent at the end of the season. He is in the final season of a four-year, $14.5 million deal.
While the two Eastern Conference powers picked up future Hall of Famers who excel at putting the puck in the net, Clowe has not scored a goal this year for the Sharks.
Clowe has taken 65 shots and not one of them has gone in the net. He has 11 assists and 79 penalty minutes.
That's the real story of this deal. Sather is not a stupid hockey man. He can read a stat line as well as any fan. He is well aware of the fact that Clowe—a two-time 20-plus goal scorer—has not put the puck in the net this year.
Clowe certainly can get out of his slump at some point. He does know how to score. However, what he can do for the Rangers is give them more of an edge. He can go into the corner, win the battle and come out with a puck.
He can take an elbow, deliver one of his own and then make a play.
He plays with the kind of nastiness that the team has been lacking much of the season.
That's been one of the downfalls for the Rangers this season. Given head coach John Tortorella's personality, most NHL observers expected that they would play with a snarl.
That certainly was the case last year when the Rangers finished first in the Eastern Conference during the regular season and won the first two rounds in the postseason before they were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils.
That win propelled the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Rangers were missing clutch goal scoring last year, and Sather thought that need was addressed when Rick Nash was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But the Rangers lost quite a bit of grit in the offseason. They lost Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and Tim Erixon in the trade with Columbus for Nash.
They also lost feisty Brandon Prust to the Montreal Canadiens. Prust is not the kind of player who is going to fill up the stat sheet, but he has a lot of positive intangible characteristics. Prust had 17 points last year for the Rangers, but he also had 156 penalty minutes. That willingness to battle and compete is what coaches want to see from their players.
Prust has nine points and 81 penalty minutes for the shockingly effective Montreal Canadiens this year. It's no coincidence that Prust was a key role player for the Rangers last year when they finished first in the Eastern Conference, and that he's doing the same thing for the Canadiens and they are near the top as well.
That's what the Rangers hope they get from Clowe. A battle level. A willingness to take a hard hit so he can make a play.
Perhaps that rubs off on his teammates.
Perhaps he scores a goal or two.
The Rangers are not thinking about regular-season achievements this year. They want to get to the tournament and see if they can find their game. Clowe won't help them light up the scoreboard, but he may give them a spark.
Rangers fans can stop hitting their heads against the wall.
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