One word comes to mind every time I look at the Rangers depth chart going into tonight's dance with the Penguins, and that would be depth. The Rangers, no matter which way you spin it, can run three lines of offense and defense, and most likely be damn good while doing it. The great part about the Rangers having depth this year is that generally in Hockey depth prevails over most talent, as the momentum of a game can change during any shift or situation. The bad part about depth is that at the NHL level you could argue that almost every team has depth so the game will once again boil down to talent.
This, in a nutshell, is the Ranger situation this season, if you ask me. Do our Blueshirts have the potential to be great? Yes. Do our Blueshirts have the potential to be brutal? Absolutely. Of all the wins the Rangers will accumulate this season, 98 percent of those will come in a full-on team-effort style (the other 2% is Hank, and we all know it). As of today, there are twenty-two men who represent the Rangers as a chain. Each man is a link, and the way this team is built if one player weakens for even a game then the chain might break as a whole. If Avery can't open up space for Gaborik, he will not score as often. If Gaborik can't hit the net one night, then Drury won't get the assists. What I think John Tortorella is trying to preach to this squad is the fact that everyone needs to be firing on all-cylinders to make this happen, and it will be interesting to see if it works out.
From what I have read about this Rangers team so far leading up to today, the league and most Ranger fans are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the defense. To me, most Ranger fans slightly over-rate the defense, while the league under-rates it. Individually, the Rangers defense is above-average because with the exception of Staal (who still has some to learn), I think the Rangers have a handful of second-pair d-men. Gilroy and Del Zotto, while they may have a higher potential, have a lot to prove; so we will see where they sit in twenty games or so. It's also easy for Ranger fans, especially after last year, to fall back on team defensive numbers such as Penalty Kill when it was the majority of Henrik Lundqvist's doing.
On the flip side, I think the league and Ranger fans don't really know what to expect when it comes to the offense this year. Everyone, and I really do mean everyone, is basing their predictions of what this Ranger offense can accomplish as a whole based on the type of year Marion Gaborik has. This is absolutely warranted, as Gaborik is essentially expected to pop fifty goals in and take the frustrating pressure off other forwards to score. At the same time, it is really unfair to say one player will save the offense, as it is capable on its own. The key will be, in my mind, is that the forwards must execute John Tortorella's game-plan of constant offensive pressure to relieve the defense.
That's the beauty of this Rangers squad that makes me optimistic, is that we have a coach who wants to simplify the game to the point where if the Rangers are in the other teams zone for the majority of the game; they will most likely win that game. No traps, little line matching, and constant pressure is what us Blueshirt fans will see if the players roll like they are supposed to. With the exception of a couple forwards, the group itself is above-average on talent but in general a determined and well-skating bunch. Sounds like the perfect gang to execute Torts' plan, no? One can only hope.
The fact of the matter is this, the Rangers are a complete curveball this season. One person says they are the breakout team of the east (Matthew Barnaby), another says they won't even make the playoffs (James Mirtle), and everyone else says they are still a middle of the pack team. I myself am optimistic about the club, but I find predictions pointless because anything can truly happen. The only thing I know for certain right now on October 2nd is that if the Rangers are in the playoffs seven months from now it will be because of the team buying into coach John Tortorella's system and making it work with what they got.