Forward Acquisitions Aren’t The Answer (Or The Problem)
I missed enough of the Rangers loss to the Islanders last night that I couldn't, in good faith, do any type of notes story. So rather than that, we’ll do this.
Here’s something that’s been bugging me for a while: The idea of the Rangers trading for a rental at the deadline.
Here’s something that bugs me even more: The Rangers doing so for a forward.
As usual, Larry Brooks has led the conversation here, suggesting the Rangers add Alexandre Burrows for some of the below reasons:
But as the long and winding season has worn on, the kids appear to have worn down due to a sheer lack of physical strength as opposed to any issues related to talent or work ethic. The Rangers have two very good young ones here, but neither may be ready for a lead position for the grind of a long playoff run.
So what if, in actuality, the Blueshirts only have five legitimate top-six forwards as they approach the tournament as a Stanley Cup hopeful whose chances may depend on their draw?
This “grit and toughness” mentality refuses to die. It’s hilarious (I think) that one can be called negative to state that the team doesn’t have a good enough defense to be considered real contenders (because of the Rangers’ record), but apparently you’re not negative to assume they’re too soft to be real contenders.
The Rangers problem is not up front, but that aside, the idea the Rangers are too fancy (as insinuated in the column) doesn’t seem to stop them from scoring. A lot.
Pavel Buchnevich sat against the Islanders. Brandon Pirri hasn’t played in 2017. Matt Puempel sat for 11 days before playing last night.
This team is talented up front. They are sitting players who — ironically enough -- could force Vancouver to put Mr. Burrows on the bench if they wanted to dress their best lineup. Burrows might add some “flare” and “snarl” and whatever else you think he brings, sure. Except those things don’t matter much in the playoffs.
Do you really think Pittsburgh wouldn’t have scored so much if they had to “answer” for running up the score? If you answered yes to this question, remember that Tanner Glass was in the lineup and that didn’t stop anything. You can make a case it actually made it worse.
If you’ve forgotten, the Rangers are going to have to out-pace their defensive issues. There’s a part of me (I really am an optimist at heart) who believes this group can do that. Mika Zibanejad is snakebitten and when he starts scoring the floodgates will open. Buchnevich will do great things with more ice time. Jimmy Vesey seems to be starting to get a second wind. Henrik Lundqvist is Henrik Lundqvist. The defense has shored up a little, at least for now. That doesn’t even include all the positives that have become so consistent they’re almost normal.
There’s holes in this ship. Holes big enough that you should be concerned about running into the same team seven times in the playoffs because the Rangers do have flaws that to this point have been easily exposed by better teams.
A forward doesn’t help change that. Especially a rental, fourth-line forward who is worse than who the Rangers have sitting because they can’t get into the lineup with all the skill jammed in there already.
What’s worse is what Brooks would be willing to give up:
Good question, but the Rangers are going to have to give up something. A third-rounder probably wouldn’t get it done. One of their seconds next year, when they also own Ottawa’s No. 2? Oscar Lindberg, if the Blueshirts believe that Marek Hrivik could center the fourth line off his impressive 16-game audition earlier this winter?
The Rangers cannot keep going all in. They 100% cannot spend a precious second round pick AND Oscar Lindberg for a guy who won’t be around next year. I take my bets with Lindberg to be a longer term (and better) help for the Rangers.
The point, as always, is sometimes nothing is better than something. Last year Jeff Gorton saw fit to bring in Eric Staal for a problem he didn’t have. It didn’t work. It failed spectacularly; akin to a new race car spurting off the road and exploding an eighth of a mile down the track.
Forwards are not the problem. The defense is.
If you’re not going to fix the latter then do nothing. Because the former doesn’t have to be fixed.