The Small Apple?

Take five years off, Hank. No big deal.

            John Buccigross is one of the few Sportscenter guys that truly know hockey and his weekly columns are usually good to get me through 10 to 15 minutes of some boring lecture at school. This week, though, he claimed that "New York teams need small-town mentality," and little did he know that I've been itching to write a bit about the Blueshirts. He goes on to explain how he grew up in a small town, that New York is a big city, and that the cap era of sports takes the financial advantages away from teams like the Rangers. He took at look at the Islanders and Devils first and saved the Rangers situation for last. The article got going here:

Out of the lockout, the Rangers went with an older team. The kind of team that was not championship caliber, while at the same time, not allowing the Rangers to get beat enough. If the Rangers had decided to strip their franchise and be terrible out of the lockout, they would have given themselves a chance to draft Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and/or Steven Stamkos. The talent at the top end of the past seven drafts has been stellar. Had the Rangers decided to start over, they would be in amazing shape right now.

I keep hearing over the years that you can't rebuild in New York. I've never, ever, understood this. If there is one place you can rebuild, it is here. The fans are smart and passionate. They would be able to see the picture. Their winter sports teams have been dreadfully bad or dreadfully boring. They have so much revenue from Madison Square Garden and are so insulated from Cablevision and the megalopolis that the Rangers are the easiest franchise to rebuild. And I think the fans would embrace a young, scrappy, up-and-coming team. I know they would.

            Ok, I can agree with all of that. Sounds good. The start of the next paragraph prompted the article you are reading:

And I would start that process now.

            Wait, what?    

            The rest of the article from that sentence:

And I would start that process now. I think this team is so far behind so many teams in the East, such as the Flyers, Penguins and Capitals, that they are better off taking the next five years off to rebuild. Hire a young, hungry, energetic front-office staff to accumulate young Canadian, American, Swedish and Russian talent that is being developed every year. Trade away the older assets they have and go young, then stay young until they are ready to strike. Add a young, star-A Ranger through and through.

But you know they won't as long as the current owner is involved. The temptation for the quick fix and the archaic view that money will make things better will continue to be their doom in this salary cap era. The standings say 4-2-1 and a couple of wins feel good, but is this roster going to be able to win a playoff series? Or two?

Yes, the way for this big city team to fix itself is with some small-town thinking and small-town players out there across the world. Grass roots. Patience. Smarts. Otherwise, the future of the Rangers and this season will finish like all of the others since 2000: Up in cigar smoke.

            John, I love your stuff, but this is a bit of a stretch. Let me explain why.

            Buccigross suggests starting a rebuild now, when the Rangers just added their first legitimate top-six forward in Alex Frolov to help out Gaborik with the lack of scoring. He also says that the Rangers should take the next five years off, which would put one of the best goalies in the game at age 33. While I agree with the rest of the first paragraph in principle (the go young aspect), the fact of the matter is (like he stated) until the Dolan/Sather duo are gone this will never fully happen. As much as us NYR fans bitch, moan, and throw together rally's, most likely nothing will happen to those two. And that sucks, because we still want to win every season.

            While he is absolutely right in my opinion about the playoff series, what's to say this hybrid model (staying competitive to the cap while drafting well) won't work? Hockey's Future, the respected site that keeps a tab on the next generation of NHL'ers, has the Rangers prospect pipeline ranked at #12 this season. While the NYR farm system may be behind the Capitals (#4), they play in the Southeast division; which is clearly the weakest in hockey and the Captials have shown the past couple of seasons that their roster is not built for May or June (even in a series against the Rangers). Also, for the record, Pittsburgh is ranked at #24 while Philadelphia is at #28. So while they may have the edge on the ice right now, what's to say the roles won't be reversed in two to three seasons, John? Remember, it's a cap league.

            Look, I can only speak for myself but I would rather have a competitive team that gives me a real reason to watch the games than one who intentionally tanks for a chance to land a future superstar. Most of us around here are from New York or know the New York mentality first hand; we wouldn't have the patience for that in the long run. So I say trust the system: lock up Henrik, draft well, and play to the cap. I'd much rather have consistent success and gradual improvement than four high years and 6 low ones. It makes business sense to me.

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