Fire John Tortorella. Trade Marian Gaborik. Buyout Brad Richards. Release Stu Bickel into the world of Avatar. These are suggestions I've heard a ridiculous number of times from the Rangers fan base. Although it is a ridiculous number of times, it doesn't mean the suggestions are not good ones. Bickel probably wouldn't survive in the avatar world, but that's an article Dig Deep would be better at writing.
The Rangers are in the playoff race for a reason, but they're also not playing as well as expected for a reason. There are good reasons for everything that has happened this season, so let's discuss those reasons one by one.
John Tortorella: Let me say this straight off the bat. I do not want the Rangers to fire John Tortorella. I know this has little to do with the reasoning behind firing Tortorella, but his off the ice comments are something I support, not hate. When Tortorella keeps reporters out of the loop it allows for confusion from other teams, such as who will be playing and who is injured.
One of my least favorite parts of sports is reporters being close to the action. I like John Giannone ever since I found out he reads Blueshirt Banter, but he should not be standing where he stands for multiple reasons. First of all, coaches should be coaching all 60 minutes and breaks, not answering reporters questions. Secondly, another story for another time, a reporter will get injured, and I mean really injured. It's bound to happen.
Back to Tortorella. On the ice, his coaching confuses the hell out of me. Benching one of the best strength and defensive forwards on the team in Brian Boyle for Stu Bickel is an indefensible move. Putting Gaborik at left wing has proven not to work. Punishing Gaborik and putting Micheal Haley in more is another ridiculous move.
Still, Tortorella brought the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. I don't see many positives coming from him lately, but let's give him some time.
Time: Speaking of time, time is another factor that's hurting the Rangers. More teams are in the mix than ever, as what would normally be time for teams to break out and start separating from the pack is now playoff time. With less games, the Rangers have less time to find their identity as a team, and linemates have less time to learn how to play with each other.
Depth: By far the largest issue. I can't really add more than Moshe wrote, so I'm going to quote him. I edited the stats to be updated to after the Florida game.
While this team has enough forwards, they lack scoring in the bottom of their lineup. It’s why I was worried to see Artie go, and why I advocate bringing in Zucs right now. Past our top 6, our offense is practically nonexistent. Pyatt, Miller, Boyle, Halpern, Powe, Asham make up our bottom 6, I think that is at least something we can all agree on. Seriously, here are some ugly numbers.
- Pyatt: 6 points in 30 games.
- Boyle: 2 points in 26 games.
- Miller: 4 points in 22 games.
- Halpern: 1 point in 30 games.
- Powe/Rupp: 0 points in 27 games.
- Asham/Mashinter/Haley: 1 point in 25 games.
Yeah, that’s ugly. Reaaaallly ugly. 14 combined points all season for our current bottom 6.
Wow. The extra load on Gaborik/Richards/Nash in a shortened season is a horrible scenario, that cannot seem to be fixed, as there are few teams that are willing to trade, considering 95% of the NHL is still in the playoff race.
Defense: The Rangers still have no Michael Sauer, and now Marc Staal is out for who knows how long. Michael Del Zotto is playing the most minutes of any Ranger, and as all of you know I am a huge Del Zotto fan, but he's not ready to carry the defensive load. While Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi have been solid, the back end of the defense is just like the back end of the offense. Weak, lacking depth.
Strength: No, I am not listing a strength here. This is a negative post. Turn that smile upside down. The Rangers lack of strength in front of the net is appalling. Henrik Lundqvist even called out his own teammates over it. There's a better chance of finding bigfoot than there is finding a Ranger knocking home a rebound in front of the goalie. I don't know who's in charge of fixing that, but it needs to be fixed. Just like the....
Powerplay: Beaten to death subject. It's putrid, horrible, ghastly, disgusting, pitiful, even personally offensive. I find the Rangers powerplay more offensive than if someone insults me. It's that bad.
This could be an even longer season than we can imagine if the Rangers can't find a way to fix these problems.