I would like to start by saying that I am not writing this piece just because the New York Rangers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but more because of the fact that fans are getting fed up with watching the same struggling team suffer from the same problems year after year, including this one, while teams around them are making moves to improve the franchise in the long run. F0r the first time in 16 years of being a Ranger fan, this is the first time I am seeing people that have followed the organization for a while now willing to see the team go through the rebuilding process, sacrifice the usual playoff spot, and work towards building this team into a powerhouse.
For example, the Conference leading Washington Capitals, if you recall, were a team that were sellers a few years back. By sellers I mean a team that was willing to dump their large salary and veteran players in order to gain key draft picks and future prospects. The Blueshirts actually benefitted from this by acquiring star winger Jaromir Jagr for Anson Carter- an obvious cap clearing move by the Caps. Washington then went on to be a cellar dweller in the East before drafting Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Niklas Bakstrom, Mike Green, all of which have become high caliber players in the National Hockey League, helping to propel their Capitals back into the contending picture. Now you fast forward to present time, and they are a favorite to enter the Stanley Cup Finals this season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, defending Stanley Cup Champions, went from an organization which had fans that did not even care if their team was moved out of the city, to a team that sells out every night, has one of the more dedicated fan bases in the nation, and has made it to the finals two years, not just one, but two years in a row, one in which they captured hockey’s most valued prize. After the Lemieux/Jagr era, the Pens were the laughingstock of the NHL, but now are a squad lead by homegrown talent in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and other such players that have excelled at the professional level. Again, another example of a team that has went from rock bottom to king of the hill.
The Philadelphia Flyers, granted they hit a rough patch earlier this season, are yet another organization that has brought themselves from the bottom to the very top. Where does this all begin? Again, with homegrown talent and draft picks. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are two of the most dominant youngsters in the East, and continue to lead their club to conference championships, division leads, and what have you. Just three years ago, the Flyers were a team that you would expect a win against even when heading into the Wachovia Center to take them on in front of their hometown fans. Not the case anymore.
And finally, while many of you will not want to admit it, the Rangers intrastate rivals in the New York Islanders are on course to accomplish the exact same goals the three teams I listed above have. The Isles were a team, much like us, that were in the middle for a while. A borderline team with veterans such as Alexei Yashin and Mike Peca that brought them to the playoffs every so often, but they never managed to go very far. Since then, they have cleaned house, drafted and developed youth, and if it weren’t for some goaltending fiascos along the way, might have been a bit better than 30th the past few years. Sure, the fans out on Long Island have suffered, no question, but once this team gets players like Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey scoring like the big boys in the league, they will be an offensive threat, and then with the right moves, will be able to acquire a stable blueline as well.
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The New York Rangers. Right now, that name does not have much meaning other than the fact that they play in the World’s Most Famous Arena. They are a team that is trapped in a mediocrity filled batch of quick-sand which will take a real strong effort to pick themselves out of. Since the team has made the playoffs every year after the lockout, they have disguised themselves to be a contender. However, as us fans know, they are simply a group of players that are thrown together each and every year, struggle on defense, cannot score goals, and would go nowhere if it were not for their world class goaltender. The solution? There are several, but General Manager Glen Sather seems to think that blowing up the roster every summer will fix all of the team’s problems in a blink of an eye. That approach has not worked the past five years, but hey, he keeps trying.
I think the best thing for this franchise right now would be to miss the eighth and final playoff spot this year, and to add insult to injury, to be beat out for that spot by the Islanders. That would be nothing short of an absolute embarrassment not only to the fans, but to the coaching staff, the players, management, and ownership. It will take some drastic events like that to turn things around here in New York, but until then, we will continue to see other teams in the division improve, while our New York Hockey Rangers are stuck in that quick sand and are unable to get out.
That is until either one of two things happen, of course. Either Glen Sather realizes that the team’s overall success is more important than his pride, or Slats is sent packing and we bring in a new front office. A front office willing do whatever they must to rid themselves of Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival, realize that trading for Vincent Lecavalier or Ilya Kovalchuk is not the answer right now, and will also introduce Derek Stepan, Ryan Bourque and other star bound prospects to the NHL. That is the only way in which this team will get things turned around anytime soon. Right now, the product that is sent out onto the ice is a disgrace, and is unfair to the people that call themselves fans.