New York Rangers Stuck in No-Man's-Land

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IDecember 16, 2009

MONTREAL- OCTOBER 24: Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers scores a goal on Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game on October 24, 2009 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

If only the Rangers could play against themselves. They could finally score more than two goals, what with their defense as soft and holey as Swiss cheese. They wouldn’t have to worry about being manhandled, as there would be no hitting at all in the game.

The offense only occasionally crashes the net, so the defense wouldn’t have to contemplate clearing out the crease, which they never do anyway. It’s a win-win situation for the offense and defense. It would be a breezy, no-checking game, with the players not even working up a sweat.

Sure, the Rangers play a solid, hard-fought game once in a while, like they did on Monday against Atlanta, but the Thrashers aren’t exactly the Broad Street Bullies. They’re as soft as the Rangers. What we usually see is the Blueshirts getting outclassed, out-hit, and outplayed.

So where does that leave them? They’re stuck with the bad contracts of Chris Drury , Michal Rozsival , Wade Redden, and Donald Brashear , so there’s not much they can do to change the roster, is there? They can send Matt Gilroy down to the minors for some more seasoning while Rozsival gets away with murder, but not much else. A little tweaking and window dressing is about it.

They have Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist in the prime of their careers, with everybody else on either side of them—a batch of players still developing and another group with rigor mortis setting in. If they could dump their crusty veterans for some young offense and a banger on defense, they could go into a developing/rebuilding phase, which wouldn’t take years since they already have so many youngsters learning on the fly.

Or they could go the other way and package some youth for veterans that are actually useful and productive. Like Wayne Gretzky when he was here, Gaborik has no one to complement his talent (except for Vinny Prospal , but it takes more than one player).

Since it’s nearly impossible to get rid of the obvious highly paid dead weight, the Rangers are stuck. They’re capped out. They’re in no-man’s-land. Going with mainly youth isn’t an option. And they can’t go into win-now mode either.

It’s clear they don’t do anything well—score, defend, play hard, or hit anybody—so it’s difficult for this team to attain an identity. And it’s difficult to imagine the Rangers freeing themselves from this predicament anytime soon.

Sure, they could eke out the eighth spot in the playoffs, since the Eastern Conference, besides Pittsburgh, Washington, New Jersey and maybe Buffalo, is filled with other imperfect, weak teams, but they’re really not a contending team.

Thanks again, Glen Sather , you’ve constructed yet another flawed, overpaid team in your yearly makeover of the Rangers.