With the season over and the NHL Draft quickly approaching, I wanted to take this time to break down the pros and cons of the New York Rangers 2010-2011 season.
The first part will be about management and coaching. The second part will be about the defense and goalies, and the third part will be about the forwards.
I haven’t written anything since the offseason last year. I was extremely disappointed with whom the Rangers signed last year and I have to tell you, I totally lost interest.
What can I say? I guess I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired of hearing the same ol' things about how the Rangers were going to bring up the young guns and try to rebuild.
Then I had to see them go out and sign a washed up Alex Frolov and another 32-year-old veteran who was really never that good to begin with in Ruslan Fedotenko. And lets not forget Steve Eminger. On top of that I was listening to clueless Ranger fans being happy about the deals and talking about the playoffs.
I needed a break!
So I watched as Glen Sather stacked the salary cap to the point where someone had to get sent down to the minors. It was expected and was wished for on a daily basis. But who would of thought for one second that the cigar smoking GM would answer our prayers? Who in their right mind would pay a player $6 million to play hockey in the minors. Glen Sather would, and he sent Wade Redden down to Hartford. Two thumbs up Glen!
So I continued to sit and watch as the season started. They won a few and lost a few. But the difference between this season and last season was that most of the players actually looked good. Even when they lost, there were no blow outs, and the defense, for once, looked solid.
Even one of my most hated players, Michal Rozsival was having me say, "wow, nice game." It was a complete turn around for him from last year.
Don’t get confused, I still hate him!
Then out of nowhere, Sather answers another prayer. He trades Michal Rozsival to Phoenix for Wojtek Wolski. Sather amazes me sometimes with his trades.
With Rosy gone, it opened the door for another young defender to get a shot. As it should have been from the start.
I'm still ticked that Frolov and Fedotenko aren't doing anything, just like I said they wouldn't. What a waste of roster space!
The season was full of surprises for me however. The head coach whom I wanted and expected two seasons ago, finally showed up this past season.
I was really excited when John Tortorella was appointed head coach of the New York Rangers at the end of the 2008/09 season. After all, he took a losing team in Tampa and helped turn them around to win the Stanley cup. He's a tough coach who ran an even tougher camp.
But his first season was a disaster the way I look at it. He didn't let his lines establish any kind of chemistry, constantly changing it around; bringing up young players and not playing them but only a few minutes a game; not allowing them to show what they can really do for the team; not benching Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival no matter how poorly they played. It became the Tortorella show in MSG, and I quickly became his worse critic.
But this past season I have to tip my hat to the head coach. John Tortorella changed his whole approach this past season. He kept his lines together to build that missing chemistry that was needed. He let the young players play through their issues instead of benching them or sending them back down to the minors. He did the right thing with fan favorite Michael Del Zotto by sending him to the minors to work on his defense and allowing for the better defender Matt Gilroy to play.
The head coach did not use his players as a scapegoat for when the team played poorly, like he did the year prior, wrongly blaming Steven Valiquette, who was then sent down to minors and released in the offseason. He sent Matt Gilroy down instead of fan favorite Michael Del Zotto and benching Enver Lisin for almost an entire season and blaming it on his defensive play when really it was the defense that bombed that year.
He showed patience this past season. He showed just how good he can be as a head coach, as he took a team filled with injuries and defeated the odds by making it into the playoffs, allowing players to show that they belong at the greatest level of professional hockey.
He was doing such a great job, that even he was caught smiling behind the bench.
This was not a playoff ready team before the season started, as many may think it was. With only three players the previous year scoring 20-plus goals and starting this past season with only four, the playoffs should have never been mentioned.
But with good coaching and players who we never expected to rise to the occasion the way they did last season, the Rangers made it into the playoffs. The more ready and better teams moved on, whereas the Rangers were eliminated in the first round and needed to look at it as a learning experience. It was an overall positive season.
With the awesome moves Sather made last year, this team is heading in the right direction. If he can stay away from these old washed up players, this team has a chance to become a young dominating team.
This Rangers team is filled with potential, but potential is not good enough to win a cup, and thanks to Tortorella’s coaching this year, we finally had a good look at the players on this team and who they have waiting for a chance. If Tort continues to coach as he did this past season, that potential will change to greatness.
Here's to a great year for Sather as GM and an even better one by Tortorella, whom I feel is head coach of the year!