Sad, but true. That is about the absolute highest possible point the Rangers will likely reach this season. With the addition of Alexander Frolov this past Tuesday the belief is that the Blueshirts will have a better chance at making a run at the playoffs in 2010-11. If I were a betting man I would have bet against them even coming close to the playoffs until Frolov was added, and even so I am still skeptical. Once again general manager Glen Sather has worked his magic and done his best to put together a mediocre squad that possibly will sneak into the postseason. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is the same approach we have witnessed ever since the lockout.
Now I have no problem with this as long as the following holds true: Sather was completely, and I mean without a single doubt, sure that none of New York's prospects were ready to make the jump to the National Hockey League. If Frolov is just a stop-gap for this year until youngsters are ready next year, that is fine by me. But if a young player in juniors or the AHL is ready and has to stay down because of Frolov, then that aggravates me.
Sather eventually has to commit to whether he wants to build a playoff team or a Stanley Cup team and yes, there is a difference. The difference is much greater than many believe, actually, and it all has to do with depth and role players. The Rangers have stars in Marian Gaborik, Marc Staal, and Henrik Lundqvist. On their way to stardom are Artem Anisimov and Michael Del Zotto. Other than that, the team is not all that impressive.
More after the jump......
Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky are secondary scorers but can be very streaky. Sean Avery and Chris Drury score once in a blue moon even though the effort is always there. Besides the players that I listed in the "star" or "on their way to stardom" categories, there is no, and will not be any consistency on this team.
Frolov should help chip in a few here and there but based on what he produced last year I have not placed my expectations too high. The defensive squad as a whole is unreliable and by all means you cannot count on the offense to bury the needed goal. This squad is
not built to make it past the first round playoffs, and just making it there would be considered luck.
Look at the Blackhawks, look at the Flyers, look at the Penguins. There are all built in layers looking sort of like this:
Role Players / Gritty Players
I know it feels like Middle School social studies class with the social pyramid here but that is the best way of explaining it. The stars are the most important but the least abundant. Secondary scoring comes next and is a little more dense than the stars. Following them are your role players or gritty players. It is a nice even distribution that will give you a shot at Lord Stanley's Cup.
The Rangers' problem is that the middle group - secondary scoring - is completely missing from their pyramid. Or if it is in fact there, it is extremely weak and unstable, eventually causing the top level - stars - to collapse from the lack of support from the lower level. That is just about the m
ost precise way of describing the New York Rangers and their struggles.
"True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed."
~American Novelist Tom Robbins
That is another problem of the Blueshirts'; they do not have the ability to adjust. While I partly blame the coaching staff for that, the personnel does not help much either. The skill is not there to adjust their game, make changes for each opponent. The Rangers can only play one variation of hockey and if the opponent can stop it, there are no other options. Remember back to the Sunday afternoon game where it was do or die for the Rangers against the Boston Bruins? New York lost that game because of their inability to adjust. That contest is a perfect example.
All of this factors in when you want to make a run at the Stanley Cup. You need stability on all levels, you need to be able to make changes, and most of all consistency is key. Without all of those, the highest point you are chasing is the eighth seed, just like our New York Rangers.