The Key To The Season

The majority of the so called "analysts" have written off the Rangers as pretenders for their respective pre-season predictions. They all seem to be forgetting that the Rangers have a certain Cup worthy Swede in goal who when he finally gets a real defense in front of him will be a lock for his first Vezina trophy. Henrik Lundqvist alone makes the Rangers playoff contenders. He single handedly brought a team of smoke and mirrors into the playoffs two years ago and brought the Ovechkin led Capitals to the brink of elimination in a seven game series. Add in a revamped offense and a defense that has ridded itself of its single biggest liability and one cannot help but think the Rangers are a significantly improved team. They now finally have legitimate secondary scoring in Alex Frolov and are looking for contributions on the third line from Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedetanko. The defense has another year of maturity as Michael Del Zotto enters his sophomore season with the keys to the power play in tow. Granted there are the usual question marks such as will Marian Gaborik's groin explode in catastrophic fashion, will the defense once again be listless, and who the heck is going to be the first line center? But even a down in the toilet pessimist such as myself has to like the Rangers chances to crack the playoffs and make some noise.

People can talk about the various problems the Rangers may face all they want, but if there is one single aspect of their game that must be improved upon in order to make the post-season it's leadership. Who is going to grab the bull by the horns and be the voice within that locker room when the proverbial brown substance hits the fan? Not to discredit Chris Drury who I think is class act and a great hockey player, but he is not the voice the Rangers need. He would be an exceptional captain on a veteran team that knows how to win. But sadly, the Rangers are not that team. They are combination of youth and veterans who have yet to be champions. They need the occasional kick in the ass and that is just not a part of Chris Drury's makeup.

Arguably the Rangers most profound problem last season was they were unable to overcome adversity. They were far too easy to play against and took far too many periods off. Their play was inconsistent and there were one too many embarrassing instances where the Rangers refused to stand their ground and fight for each other (the Marian Gaborik fiasco at the Wachovia Center Wells Fargo Center comes to mind). They need a voice that in between periods will have a good old fashioned vein popping rant to make this team believe in themselves. The Rangers youth need to take charge and not be afraid to be heard. Ryan Callahan needs to forget about stepping on Chris Drury's toes and not only lead by example but match words with his actions. Younger guys such as Derek Stepan and Michael Del Zotto also need to take charge in the locker room and make their stamp on the club. The Rangers have too many players who have a quiet, vanilla demeanor. They need a fiery presence amongst themselves and if they are going to realize their potential this season and become playoff contenders someone must step into that role.