In today's NY Post, Larry Brooks talks about the Rangers lacking a soul, and an identity.
A few of the highlights:
There is no identity, no matter how hard John Tortorella attempts to stamp his own on this stoic group.
Other than Henrik Lundqvist, who has had a very good season but has been unable to elevate his game down the stretch, there isn't a big-money player here who has even come close to meeting that obligation.
Larry makes good points here, but I think this leads to bigger questions:
Where does the soul of your team come from? The first and most obvious choice is the Captain and his Alternates. Was there any question in the mid 90's that the heart and soul of the Rangers was Messier, Graves, and Leetch? Those three players were proud to wear the sweater, and demanded nothing less from those around them.
When Jaromir Jagr was a Ranger, how many times did he put the team on his back, and provide the lift that was needed? That's what a Captain does. In the time he was with the Rangers, Jagr made the Rangers relevant again, like Messier did in 1991 when he took the "C".
When the Captain steps on the ice, there should be a "presence" around him. When the Captain steps on the ice, you want to believe he is going to make something happen, to give the team the lift it needs when they are flat, or be a calming presence when things get hectic.
Now all of this is not meant to be a knock on Chris Drury. But when I look at him, I just don't see a "Captain". I don't see a guy who is going to step on the ice and go 15 rounds with the other teams heavyweight if the Rangers need a spark. I don't see a guy who is going to step on the ice, and will this team to win. It hasn't happened in almost two full seasons, I think it's safe to say it's not going to at this point. Chris Drury is a nice player, but to me he's not a "Captain".
Maybe its the pressure of playing in NY, he certainly wouldn't be the first to feel it.
There is hope for the future though. Young players like Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Marc Staal strike me as guys capable of giving this team a true identity in the years to come.
Ok, so moving on, Larry then talks about Sean Avery:
Excuse me, but Milan Lucic sticks out his leg and injures a defenseless Nik Antropov by going knee-on-knee midway through the second period on Saturday, and it's Sean Avery who should be suspended for kind of stupidly using his stick to tap Tim Thomas on the back of his helmet during a TV timeout?
The absence of context is the crux of the issue here, just as always. Headhunters such as Chris Pronger and Gary Roberts, who historically injure opponents, are routinely deified, notably by the sanctimonious brigade north of the border, but Avery, who has never hurt anyone but himself, must be banned for the good of the sport?
For all his faults, I'd still rather have Avery than not. I think it's funny how hated he is around the league, and how even most Ranger fans will say, "Well he's a jackass, but I'm sure glad he's our jackass"