Well, we’re back to square one…again. After promising wins over Montreal and Tampa Bay last week, the Rangers reverted to their old ways, getting blanked and beat up by Philadelphia on Thursday, then getting blasted by Les Canadiens at the Bell Centre last night.
Yes, the Eastern Conference is wide open and there’s still a decent chance the Rangers slip into the playoffs as a low seed. But we’ve been down this road before, and it’s essentially a dead end. Optimism is a wonderful thing, but if this organization thinks they're poised to make any noise in the postseason (if they even make it that far) they're sadly mistaken. Let me take it a step further: If management thinks the Rangers can legitimately contend for the Stanley Cup this year (and I have no idea why on earth they would think such a thing) they’re either: a) completely delusional; b) incredibly optimistic; or c) both A and B.
The Blueshirts have to do themselves and their staunch fans a favor and start shedding the dead weight (i.e. Redden, Brashear, Kotalik) by any means necessary, while keeping the core intact (i.e. Staal, Gaborik, Dubinsky, Callahan, Del Zotto, Lundqvist). If that means missing the playoffs this year, so be it.
I realize a lot can happen between now and March 3rd and a lot probably will happen with this wildly erratic team, but I’m already pleading with Sather and the Rangers to resist being "buyers" at the trade deadline.
Here are 5 reasons why the Rangers should be sellers:
1) There’s hope for the future. They’d almost certainly have to part with one of the following players in order to land a marquee player: Staal, Callahan, Dubinsky, or Anisimov. (Leave Del Zotto, Lundqvist and Gaborik out of the equation. They’re not going anywhere). Is it worth giving up a Marc Staal to get Ilya Kovalchuk? I say no way, not at this point. We all have our opinions on these younger players, but personally, I keep the youthful core in place, suck it up this year, then get to work during the off-season and attempt to further improve what we’ve already got. The nucleus is there and reinforcements will eventually come in the form of Grachev, Stepan, and Kreider. As critical as I’ve been towards Sather, I’d like to think he’s still shrewd enough to play the cards (that he’s ironically dealt himself) before pushing the panic button. Don’t risk further damage by trading away the future.
2) This team is going nowhere in the short-term. Let’s face it – the Rangers cannot realistically compete with teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, San Jose or Chicago right now. They simply don't have the personnel and this is no time to go for broke. If it was 1994 and they were a piece or two away from winning it all, yes, by all means pull the trigger if it makes sense. But make no mistake folks, this team couldn’t be any further from 1994.
3) This group needs stability. Give the young players time to play together and become a cohesive unit. This organization has been in a constant state of flux for as long as I can remember. They have to continue building for the long haul, instead of reverting back to the "win now" mentality. Easier said than done. I realize it's New York. Everyone wants instant gratification. But one Cup in 70 years proves that philosophy doesn’t work.
4) They have too many needs to address. A big, tough, defensive-minded defenseman, a la Brooks Orpik. A true #1 play-making center. A second line that provides consistent and timely scoring. A feared enforcer that can take a regular shift (and regular punishment) and be willing to stand up for his teammates night in and night out. The Rangers possess none of those. Only one need has potentially been addressed, and it only became an issue because of Steve Valiquette’s early-season implosion. It appears Chad Johnson could be the answer to the Valiquette problem. All other deficiencies? Much work to be done.
5) They're currently carrying too many players that have to be shown the door. We’ve talked about this ad nauseum. Redden, Roszival, Kotalik, and Brashear have to go. Housecleaning ought to be the first order of business. Again, easier said than done. Attempting to trade Wade Redden at this point is akin to listing your 15-year old defective Sylvania VCR on EBay - nobody’s going to be the least bit interested, and they’re certainly not going to offer you anything substantial in return.
I won’t rip into Roszival too much because he’s done some good things during his tenure in NY, but his time in the Big Apple is clearly up. He still has a modicum of trade value. Insert Ilkka Heikkinen into his spot and I don’t think you lose much. You gain youth, and you save a lot of money in the process. Get something for him if/while you can.
At this stage of the game, Kotalik’s generous contract and generally dismal play have made him all but immovable. If the Rangers can find a willing buyer, I’d gladly take a 4th rounder to unload that baggage.
The Brashear signing was a disaster from day 1. This one left most Ranger fans scratching their heads (and many others infuriated). He’s 37, he can’t fight anymore (on skates anyway), he can’t score, he’s been injured a good part of the year…so he’s essentially just taking up space, physically and cap-wise. But to his credit, he’s a millionaire. Good for him. Now please retire.