The New York Rangers Need Volchenkov to Help Their Troubled Defense!

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The New York Rangers Need Volchenkov to Help Their Troubled Defense!
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

 

I cannot help but find it amazing how Rangers fans are all over the place when it comes to what is needed to make this team successful next year . It really makes me think about how many fans really watch the damn games, and how many just go through the motions of wanting to be a fan, but have no clue as to what they are talking about.

Everyone was so happy when Glen Sather traded Gomez last year. I, too, was happy, but not for the same reasons as most. I was happy because Sather managed to free up seven million dollars plus in cap.

However, many were happy because they felt Gomez did not do anything for the Rangers, which is so far from the truth. Scotty Gomez did exactly what he did when he was with New Jersey. Nothing more, nothing less.

For some unknown reason, Rangers fans expected more. Why? Because Sather opened up the checkbook and gave out some outlandish amount of money for a second-line center, who was portrayed to be better then he is?

The real issue there was that the wrong guy was traded. Chris Drury was the player that should have been traded and Gomez should have stayed. Now we are stuck with a player that again, had a record-breaking, low-scoring year.

For the last past five years, the Rangers have been riding on the back of their star goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. This past year was also Henrik's worst year, with a career-high 27 losses. Only two percent of those games were Hank's fault, the other 98 percent being the defense's fault.

Steve Valiquette felt the effects of the Rangers' poor defense, as the head coach failed to blame the defense, but placed blame on Vally, who ended up being sent down to Hartford. Again, Vally has proven time and time again that he was a sufficient backup for Hank. But last year, the defense totally abandoned him.

Forget plus-minus, that is all BS anyway.

You have guys like Wade Redden, who was a plus eight, and Michal Rozsival, who was a plus three. Well of course they were–they played mostly on Marian Gaborik’s line, a man who totaled 86 points on the season by himself, so sure they should have a plus on the season.

So does that mean they as individuals played well? No it does not!

How many times was there a goal scored and Redden did not even touch the puck or play any part in the goal being scored, but because he was on the ice when the goal was scored, he got a plus. Give me a break; I for one, do not pay attention to plus-minus–it tells no truth to how good a player really is.

The free agency signing is approaching us quickly. There are several good players, but really only three truly stand out: Illya Kovalchuk, Tomas Plekanec, and Anton Volchenkov.

Now anyone who knows anything about hockey and Ilya Kovalchuk knows exactly what he would bring to the Rangers. But he is out of the loop for the blue shirts. As longtime head coach John Tortorella continues to baby Michal Rozsival and play him 20 plus minutes a game, he will not be going any where soon. Never mind his salary that no one with half a brain would want.

Then you have Chris Drury, with his huge contract that no one in their right mind would touch. Wade "The Bum" Redden will not be traded any time soon, and what team would want him and his six million a-year contract.

So as far as the Rangers obtaining Kovalchuk goes, Rangers fans can forget about it; it's just not going to happen. Glen Sather would have to pull a rabbit out of his ass to make that go through, and I do not see it happening.

The other issue with this situation is John Tortorella. I hate to bring up old news, but it needs to be said.

With the defense being as bad as it was last year, Tortorella failed to bench Redden and try out new defenseman from Hartford. Yes, he did bench Redden for four games, but he never gave the young defensemen a real chance of playing. Three minutes a game is in no way giving a player a chance to prove himself. Redden saw that his position was secure and when he returned to the lineup, his play did not change for the better.

Michal Rozsival made more COSTLY mistakes then anyone on the team. For a player with 11 years of experience, this clown played like he was in little league. But again, Tortorella did nothing. Tortorella added to the embarrassment by not only continuing to play Rosy, but also increasing his ice time to 20 plus minutes a game.

The Rangers had and still have a troubled defense and they had the perfect opportunity to use the young players from Hartford and help them progress to the next level, but it did not happen.

In fact, John Tortorella did not even mention once that his team was in trouble defensively–it was always the offense. The Blue Shirts lose 7-6 and Tort talked about needing more offense. How about improving your defense to the point where other teams cannot score seven goals against one of the best goalies in the league? Tortorella has his priorities in the wrong places.

With that being said, the first free agent the Blue Shirts need to go after is Anton Volchenkov. You will not see fancy moves from him like you do from Del Zotto or Gilroy. You might not even see him score a goal.

But what you will get is a very solid, defensive player who checks hard and clears the front of his own net with authority, which in returns helps out the goalie. He has over 1,000 blocked shots in his career as well. Will he help the Rangers and Henrik? You can bet your life on it.

Forget the stats and the goals against–that does not show you how badly the defense played. The stats only shows you how well your goalie played, because Henrik had no help from his D-MEN. Lundquist stole the show last year. Now you get him some help, sign Volchenkov, and the Rangers do not need to score seven goals to win a game.

Never mind that the hardest hitter on the team is 5’11", 185-pound Ryan Callahan. Anton is 6’1" and 226 pounds, and he is a true defenseman. You add him to the mix and now Tortorella can use Del Zotto in the offensive zone like he did in the beginning of the year, when DEL scored consistently for eight games.

The team would have confidence, knowing that Anton is back playing defense, and would stop a break away, something that Rosy, Redden, Girardi, and Marc Staal could not do.

The Rangers defense was horrible last year. They lacked toughness, they failed to score goals, and worst of all, they did not protect their goalie or teammates. Glen Sather said he will look within the system this year and this is something I hope he does when it comes to his defense, which needs to be bigger and tougher.

There are several guys I would like to see play next year. There is 6’4" 226-pound Nigel Williams, a hard hitter and tough guy. Brent Henley is 6’7" and 250 pounds. Imagine getting hit by this guy! Tysen Dowzak is 6’5" and 226 pounds. Michael Sauer is 6’3" and 215 pounds, and we seen a little bit of him already.

There is nothing wrong with having extra guys in the lineup that you can rotate, but this is something head coach John Tortorella does not like to do. Then he says he is limited on options. Well, seems to me that is a choice he made himself.

Dan Girardi did nothing positive last year. He is your average defenseman that can easily be replaced. I say, do not resign him this year and open up that defensive spot for the younger guys.

Marc Staal was another defenseman that was a disappointment last year; he's had better years. But he is young and if he sticks to defense, he can be better next year.

If you have the correct pairing, your defense can be a very dangerous matchup for any team. One big, tough, hard hitter and one scoring threat has worked from the very beginning. You pair up Anton Volchenkov with Del Zotto, Marc Staal with Matt Gilroy, and Sauer with anyone I mentioned from Hartford, and you have a solid young core of defenders. Plus, they will come cheaper than if you resigned Girardi, who will give you nothing.

Even if this does not work, if a player just cannot cut it, he needs to be sent back down. Who cares, the player is on a two-way contract; he can be sent down with no problems or risk of any team grabbing him and you move on to another player.

The thing here is that the Rangers have a very deep core of defensemen down in Hartford. This gives you as a head coach options on who you want to play. So what if you bring up a few defensemen and have them in the lineup; is Tortorella incapable of coaching more than who he will have on the ice? How else will these kids and young players get the experience they need to move up in the system?

Another issue the Rangers had was at center. Although small in size, Tomas Plekanec can fit right in. At 5‘10" and 191 pounds, he will go well playing with Gabby. I liked the chemistry between Christensen and Gabby last year and I hope to see that again next year.

But if it does not work, Plekanec can step in. He has speed, and he has proven he has what it takes to be in the NHL. WE CANNOT SIT AND WAIT for Mr. Predictable to come around.

Let's face it, Brandon Dubinsky is not the answer to our prayers and he will never be the player that Sather is expecting him to be. He is a third-line center and nothing more. You have to look at the lineup. Chris Drury and Brian Boyle are useless and will remain that way next year.

Brian Boyle is 250 pounds and afraid to use his size to his advantage. He was my biggest disappointment last year, but I must say, I was forewarned by some of my readers. They were right. But I was hoping he would be a physical presence on the ice after listening to what Tortorella said about him. It never happened, so let's move on with better players that will be a presence on the ice.

Tomas Plekanec is that guy. He has scored 20 plus goals in his last four years of playing. For those that look at the plus-minus stats, he was a plus in every year except the 2008-09 season.

There is really no comparison when you look at Dubinsky and Plekanec. Dubs had Jagr, Shannahan, Zherdev, Gaborik, Drury, and Gomez, and still until last year, failed to score 20 goals or make a significant difference to this Rangers team. Whereas Tomas Plekanec did not have the quality of super stars Brandon had, but yet still managed to have better numbers then Dubs.

Most of Dubinsky's goals were garbage goals, with the exception of some sweet ones outside the slot. Plekanec has a quicker release though; he is a faster skater and a more accurate shot. Where Plekanec is weak, Dubs is stronger, and that would be his physical play.

But just how physical Dubinsky was last year may surprise all of you. Dubs only totaled 129 hits last year. He was eighth on the team. Compare that to the 2008-09 season, where he had 251 hits and was second on the team in physical play. At 6’1" and 205 pounds, and as someone known to be a physical player, last year was not impressive.

The reason I compare the two is because of both of their numbers, and because Dubs seems to be one of the Rangers fans' favorites. But when you want to look at the numbers, Dubinsky’s best year equals Plekanec’s worst. Who would you rather have?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying get rid of Dubs. But then again, would it hurt? I don’t think so! After all, lets take a look at what Sather could have had, if he would have traded Dubs last year:

Ottawa wanted Dubs in a trade for Dany Heatley. Heatley is an average 80 point a-season player. Sather declined. Last year, Dany had 82 points, with 39 goals and 43 assists. Dubs had 44 points, 20 goals, and 24 assists.

It does not stop there. The Boston Bruins wanted Dubinsky included in a trade for Phil Kessel. Kessel played 70 games last year for Toronto and he scored 30 goals with 25 assists. Both Kessel and Heatley are a force to be reckoned with and they put an offensive fear in every team out there, whereas Dubinsky does not scare any one.

So would it hurt to trade a guy that is one of the most predictable players in hockey? I don’t think so! Going into his fourth year, Dubs is just not what everyone expected and he never will be. Get rid of Dubs!

The whole reason of having a minor league team is to help players develop into NHL players and to build a solid core from within your own system. This alleviates running into salary cap issues and problems with players that do not produce, two main issues the Rangers have had for many, many years now.

The other main issue is having players with these terrible contacts that no one will touch. The constant mistakes by Sather continue to hurt this team and will continue for many years to come. We have to hope that Sather has learned a lesson, and will not sign washed-up players or hand out these kinds of contracts to players just because they have had one good year.

The bottom line is this and it is pretty simple: The Rangers have a great goalie, but even the great ones need help from their defensive players.

Just as it takes goals to win games, it also takes a solid, physical defense to win games. Last year, the Rangers went through a period of not scoring. Then they turned around and scored seven goals and six goals. So they can score when the lineups are done correctly.

However, all of last year, they have had problems with keeping goals out of their own net. They are missing one or two players offensively to make a solid impact in the league. But they are missing at least three defenders to protect their own zone.

The physical play and toughness has been missing for years. With that, we have been getting the same thing year after year: losing seasons. The Blue Shirts need defense before anything else. Size does make a difference but if that defender is not a physical player, then his size means nothing.

Henrik Lundqvist has had to be a lone star for this team, and this cannot be the case. They have tried everything else to have a winning team, except what I have said. Defense makes the difference, it’s a fact, and the Rangers do not have a defense. Until they do, they will continue to lose. Say what you will, but until anyone can prove me wrong, which means Sather and Tort will indeed fix the defense, you will not be able to do win.

I mean, let's look at this from a whole new perspective. Year after year, Sather and whomever the coach of the day is, chase players that they assume will help them score goals.

With the exception of Gabby, everyone else failed to do so. Not only did they go after washed-up players that were already on a downward spiral before coming to New York, but they locked up the cap with crazy salaries. In the end, it all came back to hurt this team.

Not once has Sather gone out and signed a true defenseman, never mind even had a few big and physical defensive groups to help out the goalie.

From Mike Richter to Henrik Lundqvist, it has always been goal scorers. Mr. Injury himself Erik Lindros, Pavel Bure, Mark Messier, after his time has come and gone, Theo Fluery, Chris Drury, ect. The list goes on and on.

The only two true-blue defensemen that the Rangers had were Jeff Beukeboom and Ulf Samuelson, and that was over a decade ago. But one pairing that was always successful was the big defender Beukeboom and Brian Leetch.

Look at last year's games and you cannot deny that every team that played the Rangers physically won the game. The Rangers could not match up in toughness. Philly demolished the Rangers 6-0, San Jose destroyed the Rangers 7-3; Vancouver and Calgary also did the same. That is just mentioning a few games.

Take a look at the last two games of the season against Philly. The Flyers did not play a physical game, and the Rangers did not pursue one. It was the last thing they wanted and therefore, the games were close.

Say what you will, but last year, the eighth-seeded team made it to the playoffs because they were more physical and outplayed their opponents. How can you argue the facts? The Rangers need to become a physical team, a bigger team, and a defensively sound team if they ever want to make it to the Stanley Cup! That is the bottom line!

 

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