Monday, July 02, 2007

To be fair-

I just had a look at the pre-thunderbolt roster of the New York Rangers and they were kinda weak at center.

Before tearing the hearts out of Devils and Sabres fans around the country, the Rangers had the following guys playing center:

Michael Nylander- The fact that this guy is your number one center is a problem. He's good but nowhere near great. He's also gone. I'm guessing Washington.

Marty Straka- Capable of flashes of brilliance, but injury prone and kinda soft.

Matt Cullen and Blair Betts- good hockey players, character guys and good for a team, but certainly not dominant. If either of these guys shake out because of this move, another team could snap up a great role player.

Petr Prucha- Showed huge promise his rookie year, then fell off. A question mark at best.

So it makes sense for the Rangers to go after some centers, and ostensibly, with the cap, anybody had a shot, right? But the only sticky issue for me is- Over the past two seasons, the New York Rangers have had something they had missed for seven years: chemistry.

After winning their cup in 1994, the Rangers adopted a policy of signing practically every high profile free agent they could get their hands on, which hurt both the Rangers and the league as a whole. From Lindros to Gretzky to Holik to Bure to Jagr, if a team's leading scorer was on the market, the Rangers were buying. They proceeded to strip mine the league and had absolutely zero in the way of team identity.

Until a few years ago.

Two seasons ago, they rebuilt from the bottom up, and figured they couldn't do anything about Jagr's contract, so why not build around him? They did so, with a nice circle of Czech players and a great young Swedish goaltender, who is still the primary reason to take the Rangers seriously. They made the playoffs for the first time in years, and over the course of the season incorporated the European tradition of raising their sticks as a salute to the fans, one of the greater things to happen to hockey in many years.

Hockey is a game of tradition, and any player or team that can establish one deserves some respect.

The next season they started strong, stumbled, then signed Paul Mara and Sean Avery, and the chemistry came back. They swept their first round playoff opponent and did far better than anyone expected against an under performing Buffalo Sabres team.

OK- Stan Fischler expected more,
but c'mon.

They did well, and looked better.

Now with two new free agents in Drury and Gomez, the same old question is haunting the Rangers.

When everybody is a superstar, who leads the Rangers?

You take it way from Jagr, and he pouts. But with Drury in the room, and Gomez no slouch, what are you saying to your team? How do you fit Avery and Hollweg, two guys that add fire into that mix?

Who knows.

The fact is, The New York Rangers just got a lot richer, talent-wise. But we've seen them do that before.

It'd be a shame that if- in their haste to grab the newest and shiniest free agents on the shelf- they lost the spirit of the team they worked so hard to build over the last two years.

We'll see.

No comments: