Fifty-seven games played. A 38-14-5 record has our New York Rangers not only standing atop the Atlantic Division, but leading the Eastern conference. Life is good, right? Actually, no, it’s not. Life is far from good for our beloved New York Rangers as we head into the final 25 games of the season. And the primary reason to be worried lies within our enigmatic head coach, John Tortorella. He has consistently mismanaged the personnel of this team from Day One. While he does have us playing “the right way,” err, #TheRightWay. it is certainly with the wrong players. Anything short of delivering a Stanley Cup to the Garden Faithful come June will be a complete disaster, and the fans will have to look no further then our very own Torts for who to blame.
As the trade deadline approaches and rumors continue to gain momentum, Brandon Dubinsky remains the flavor the week. As a loyal Ranger fan, I love this guy. He gives you 110% every night and you know exactly what you’re getting out of him. Of course, his major shortcoming this season has been his inability to put the biscuit in the basket. With only 6 goals on the year, Dubs has not performed up to his or our expectations. However, I think it is extremely important to look at who he has been forced to play with on a nightly basis. Paired with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust is not exactly an ideal situation. And that’s where Torts comes in. How can you expect anyone to start scoring playing third-line minutes on a grinder line with two other players who are not goal scorers? It makes zero sense, but to be fair, very little Torts has done this year makes sense—so at least he has been consistent about something. It is also worth mentioning that when Dubinsky was struggling to record his first goal (which did not happen until the 15th game of the season vs. Carolina), Torts had him buried on the fourth line with the likes of Christensen and Deveaux. That’s a solid strategy when you’re trying to get an important player out of a slump, right?
Let’s take a look at another pressing issue as we head down the stretch and into the playoffs: Scoring. Any knowledgeable Ranger fan will concede we have a scoring problem. After watching last night’s Columbus game in which the Rangers dominated from beginning to end, it took overtime to put the final dagger in the NHL-worst Blue Jackets. And why did it take so long? Well, the simple answer is that the Rangers could not score on the abundance of opportunities provided to them. So where does Torts fit in? Our 3rd and 4th lines consist of Dubinsky, Boyle, Prust, Rupp, Mitchell, and Bickel. If you do not see a problem with that then you should stop watching hockey or jump off a bridge (or both). Also, if you do not find those lines comical you clearly do not have a sense of humor. With the exception of Dubinsky, the other five players are fourth liners at best. (It is highly debatable if they could find employment anywhere else in the NHL) So, when the playoffs roll around and the Rangers find themselves battling the Bruins or the Penguins and are desperate for goal scoring, we are essentially relying on our top-six forwards to get the job done without the help from the bottom six. Do not get me wrong here. I like Prust, Boyle, and Feds (assuming he returns) and feel there is a place for them on this squad. But they are nothing more then fourth liners. Rupp and Bickel play 4 minutes a game and are utterly useless. Why not create a third line with the potential of scoring? We have plenty of players in our AHL affiliate perfectly capable of playing NHL minutes and scoring goals. (Zuccarello, JAM, Wolski, Wellman to name a few…) Of course to our head coach this is probably a crazy idea and has never even entered his psychotic, shallow mind. Instead, he continues to throw the Boyles, Feds, and Prusts of the world over the boards in all situations and does not understand when the postseason begins it will be a disaster if we do not acquire a goal-scorer or simply adjust our anemic lines.
With all of this being said, I really hope I am wrong. I hope Captain Cally is hoisting the cup come June in front of the Garden Faithful. But the journey to the Finals is a long and challenging one. I can say with confidence that if we fall short of our goal, it will be the inability to score pivotal goals in critical moments that dooms us. While the likes of Hags, Step, and Arty have come a long way since the beginning of the year, can they really be counted on to score consistent and important goals come June? Richards has been more of an enigma than Torts so what can we expect from him? We have so many uncertainties on offense that unless Torts changes his ways immediately, I fear that we are already doomed.