Part 2 of my 30 Thoughts. For part 1, click here.
11. John Tortorella did a great job coaching overall. He instilled and cultivated a "team-first" system and attitude that was evident on the ice. He got the entire team to buy into his defense-first, dump-and-chase, cycle-your-balls-off system. In 2010-11, countless goals found their way behind Lundqvist due to deflections from the Rangers' own sticks. The players learned to get into better position to block shots with their bodies, and not their sticks. And I don't care what anyone says, when the Rangers executed last season, it was fun to watch. It was frustrating to watch the growing pains in 2010-11, but last season you could see it all come together. Tortorella's hand guided the team's success.
12. Tortorella doesn't take always take responsibility for his actions. He holds his players accountable for "playing the right way," but doesn't do so himself. I think most reporters ask asinine questions. The in-game, on-the-bench interview is inappropriate. But to take part in those interview is a part of Tortorella's job, and he should hold himself to the same standards by which he holds his players. He does not.
13. Tortorella plays favorites. See: Stepan, Rupp, Bickel. See: Anisimov, Zuccarello, Erixon. He coaches the team, as a whole, far better than he does some individuals. It often seems as though he provides or denies certain players opportunties that aren't earned.
14. Mats Zuccarello earned a spot on the Rangers roster, but wasn't given one. Shame. Even more of a shame is that wIth Marian Gaborik out, he could have been useful in the top-6 this upcoming season. Best of luck to him, he deserved better. Side note, who gets Prucha'd next season?
15. I don't think Derek Stepan is as good a player as most people think. His rookie year, I felt that his line's production was driven by Zuccarello and Wolski. Last season, he played the majority of the season with the Rangers' best forward. Stepan hits the open man. He makes tape-to-tape passes, which is more than you could say for about half the Rangers last season. But, for a professional hockey player, I don't believe it is very difficult to hit an open man when your left winger (the best defensive forward on the team) constantly creates turnovers to spring the fastest player on the ice for an odd-man rush. It should not be difficult to hit an open man when he is the second best player in the league at getting himself open. When it came down to using what I've seen be touted as "elite" vision and playmaking, Stepan played timid. Afraid to make a play (or mistake), but would instead wait on someone else to make something happen. Atrocious on the power play, where there is more space to make a play. You know who's young, underrated, and has elite vision and playmaking? Jakub Voracek (see all 49 of his points here). I watched literally every point that Stepan earned on NHL.com. He doesn't make those kinds of plays.
16. When Gaborik returns, the Rangers will have the second best top-6 in the Atlantic division. Until then, I still give a slight edge to Philadelphia. Very slight, mainly because Giroux plays at a higher level than either Richards or Nash. Only slightly higher than Gaborik, in my opinion, and so that gets nullified upon Gaborik's return.
17. Pittsburgh lost Jordan Staal. They picked up a prototypical third line checking center in Brandon Sutter. He moves to a system where the motto is "attack." They also signed Tomas Vokoun, who could fight for a starting spot in Tampa, Florida, Toronto, and the Isles, to name a few. And they'll also likely have SIdney Crosby (the best player in the world) for more than 22 games, to play alongside the second-best player in the world. The Penguins were 1 point behind the Rangers, 1 win away from being the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Writing them off and automatically assigning the Rangers to repeat as tops in the Eastern Conference might be a little short-sighted.
18. Marc Staal is a fantastic defenseman. As good defensively as anyone in the league. Complete tunnel vision with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, but if he were good at every aspect of the game, his name would be Sidney Crosby. If I'm Marc Staal, at the end of the 2014-15 season, I sign with the Carolina Hurricanes to try to win a Cup with my brothers. Which will be great for him and his family, and suck balls for even the most casual of Rangers fans.
19. The Rangers should strongly consider trying to acquire John Carlson. And equitable offer might be Michael Del Zotto, and any one player under-25 not named Ryan McDonagh, Kreider, or Stepan (and only because the Rangers center depth is depleted). That includes Carl Hagelin (who I love, but whose role might be filled by Jesper Fast) or JT Miller, who I have come to like a lot more. Barring injuries, Del Zotto will never be a top-pairing defenseman for the Rangers. John Carlson already is a top-pairing defenseman, and importantly, is right-handed. Acquiring Carlson would allow Girardi to slide to the second pair (as exceptional as he's played the past few years, he might not be the ideal top pairing guy) and Stralman to slide to the third pair with protected minutes in mainly a power play specialist role. A top-4 of McDonagh- Carlson, Staal- Girardi would make the Rangers defense corps the best in the league, even if the Rangers iced two mirror-image Bickel clones on the third pair.
20. I would have had a hard time not voting for Jonathan Quick for the Vezina. As good as Henrik Lundqvist was, Quick may have been slightly better. Quick never faltered, and dragged his team into the playoffs with his performances. I wouldn't have faulted anyone for giving Quick the edge last season. Though, Lunqvist did dominate the Atlantic, which, along with the Central, was arguably the league's best division. It was his time, and as much as I hate awarding players for past performance... it's the King, bitches! I just convinced myself. Sorry Quickie.