When training camp opens up this fall, Tom Renney and his staff will have a big task on their hands.
After failing to advance past the second round for the second year in a row, Tom Renney must improve this postseason, or face the firing squad that is the New York sports fans.
This just might be the make-or-break year for Tom. You only need to look at recent events to realize this. Ron Wilson—who, like Tom Renney, is a quality coach—was fired from the San Jose Sharks after three straight second-round exits. Tom Renney and the Rangers are on number two.
While I'm no NHL coach, just a mites division coach, there are some things that I think we must see from Renney and the Rangers this year.:
The power play last year was just awful at times. In the playoffs, it was a key edge for Pittsburgh—and they took advantage of it.
The Rangers' inability to capitalize on PP chances at an acceptable rate would not only hurt them during the season, but it would spell their demise in the playoffs as well. While it was assistant coach Perry Pearn who ran the power play last season, Renney is still the head coach, and thus should be at least trying to taking care of it.
Last year's power play relied heavily on Jaromir Jagr, even when his numbers were falling. This year, Renney and his staff must come up with a solution—one that will use all the Rangers' offensive weapons to their fullest potential.
One can guarantee that Wade Redden will be quarterbacking the first unit. While he won't score 20 goals from the point, he is sure to be there, passing the puck off to everyone, and hopefully keeping the power play a lot less predictable then it has been in previous years.
They will also need a bigger body in front of the net, as well as flexible wingers who won't always be in the same spot.
The Rangers need to make sure that this year, they keep the enemy penalty kill guessing. Keep guys moving, don't bunch up, and don't stand still. If everyone is in a fixed position, it makes for an easier job on opposing penalty killers—one that doesn't make them tired.
But if the Rangers keep moving, so will their opponents, and a tired unit that's one man short is never a good thing—unless, of course, you are playing against them.
Last season, we saw the Rangers get off to a very slow start. Their 2-5-1 record out of the gate came at a time when there were huge expectations for them.
It seemed like a breaking point when, in those last two games in which they went 0-1-1, they did not score a goal. Henrik Lundqvist only let in one in the two games, but the team literally did could not give him any support. Even the injured Sean Avery wasn't scoring any hot celebs.
This year, things cannot repeat themselves if the Rangers are to be taken seriously. A guick start, maybe something like 7-2-1 in their first 10, would be good—but perhaps would be to much to ask with the European trip to start the year. If they come out of the game at around 6-4, then the trip might not have taken so much away from them.
They need to show that the games in Prague are not going to affect their season long-term. By coming out of the gate hard, or at least above average, they can easily make a big first impression on the rest of the league.
Eastern Conference Finals
Another second-round exit would be tough to deal with. Anything less would be a disaster.
Even with the loss of some key players, there are still great expectations that only get multiplied each time someone writes an article like this one. While this might not be a Cup-or-bust year for them, an improvement is necessary for Renney to stay off of the chopping block.
Home Ice Advantage
Just making the playoffs will not be acceptable. While finishing fifth again wouldn't be catastrophic, it might be key for the Rangers to finish in the top four.
An Atlantic Division title would be great, but there would be no shame in losing the division to Bettman's Baby Birds, the Penguins. Everyone else though, New York must beat.
We haven't seen a playoff series open in the Garden since 1996—but now it's about time to show that the Rangers won't be underdogs in a series