Identity is something the Rangers have lacked not only this year, but in years prior to this one. There is no indication of the Broadway Blueshirts being a great defensive team, an up-tempo offensive club, or a rough and tough squad that will out-muscle you night in and night out. There is nothing to identify this team with other than the fact that they are eliminated within the first two rounds of the playoffs each year. Unlike most team in the league, the Rangers do not have a set style of play that they are known for--an identity.
Take the New Jersey Devils for example. For as long as I can remember they have been a team in which concentrates their game on defense. Because of this, they have built up a reputation around the league for their efforts in their own zone, leading them to several Stanley Cup Championships over the years.
Then you have the Philadelphia Flyers who, as we are well aware, have always been the intimidators on the ice, or the team that uses strength and effort more than anything else to get the job done. For this, they have developed the nickname "Broadstreet Bullies". Granted Philly has undergone some drastic changes and are now a more skilled team than they once were, but that grit and toughness remains in the lineup and will always be associated with that franchise.
So now you look at the Rangers. Well, what are they known for? What are they best at? Quite honestly, I do not have an answer to either of those questions. I do know, however, that head coach John Tortorella wants a team that plays an up-tempo, high pressure, offensive style. The problem is wanting and having are two totally different things, and right now Torts is only dreaming because the players he coaches are far from fitting the profile that he desires.
The offense is inconsistent in the way they play. Chances come in small bunches and in spurts. There is never sustained pressure from the Rangers which makes them an easy team to defend. The effort on the forecheck is minute compared to some of the other teams in this league and for the most part, they are only getting scoring from their top line. That does not make them an up-tempo offensive force by any means, and they look a lot like the club we saw coached by Tom Renney, one that cannot score goals.
Put an "X" in the offensive column.
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The defense is simply lost. The positioning is horrible, they cannot clear the zone, and their fundamentals are off. There is no use in singling out specific players right now because I am viewing the defense as a whole and they are all a part of the disgusting product we see take the ice each and every night.
More often than not when I see a team that is constantly out of position and getting caught I blame the coaching staff. At this point, send the offense home, bring the defense into a room and go over video for an hour. Show them their mistakes over and over and over again until they are sick and tired of viewing themselves falling into the same trap five, ten, fifteen times. As a hockey player myself I can tell you this; when you are taken aside and shown your mistakes in a visual, and are then corrected and told what to do, almost every time you go to make that same mistake you hear the coach's voice in your head and you remember the correct position and move you are supposed to make.
That being said, the coach also needs his players to meet him halfway by giving some effort. Some players just seem like they are out there to collect their paycheck and that is all. Make an effort to better position yourself, make an effort to use the body more often, make an effort to better execute the outlet pass. I mean, it really is not all that hard to turn yourself around. Sure you are going to make mistakes, but you can try. So far I haven't seen that sort of mentality displayed from the Ranger Blueline and it has made them look like Swiss cheese.
Put an "X" in the defensive column.
Another problem with this roster that many of you continue to bring up in comments is the lack of grit or the "softness" of the Blueshirts. Donald Brashear was brought in here to make this club a bit tougher. Fighting every so often and losing those fights does not help this team, nor does taking stupid penalties at key times. Then there is Aaron Voros who has the will power to be a physical player but fails for lack of a better term. If I were Sather, I would bring up Dane Byers because he is more capable in all aspects of the game when comparing him to these two wastes of space.
Softness is not only an issue on offense, as the defense is pushed around a whole lot. My personal favorite moments is when the opposition plants a player in front of OUR net, and that player pushes and shoves OUR defenseman out of the way. Are you serious? Have the guts to protect our all-star goaltender and not get shoved around in your own crease. That is simply pathetic.
Put an "X" in the tough and gritty column.
So that brings us back to the question I presented earlier. What is this team good at? Offense? No. Defense? No. Physicality? No. A team that wants to find their game and improve needs an identity before they can take any progressive steps. It is like this team is trying to solve a puzzle that has no solution whatsoever, and it has haunted us fans for many years now. They have the goaltending in Lundqvist, but nothing much beyond that. They simply do not have an identity.