I’m not going to talk much about last nights disgraceful performance. I know that’s what you expect, but that’s not what you’re going to get. What you are going to get is a rant, a rant that has been a long time coming, a rant against Tom Renney. Renney supporters, look away now. Don’t bother reading this. It will just hurt your feelings, possibly make you cry, suck your thumb and sit in a corner rocking yourself to sleep saying “it’s not true, it’s not true”
This team has been playing like absolute crap for just about this entire season. Very few people will argue with this statement. They have played 3 superb games, against the Lightning in games 1 and 2, and against the Devils (the first time). Outside of those 3 games, they have been anywhere between mediocre, and out and out horrific. But, if you really look at this team, ask yourself, have they played good hockey during Tom Renneys tenure at all? I mean, seriously, ask yourself, how many players come here, and actually overperform, or improve on their career numbers? Scotty Gomez, down year, Chris Drury, down year, Markus Naslund, down year, etc etc etc. Really, outside of Jaromir Jagr during his first season, how many players actually put up numbers better than their career averages (not counting rookies who have no base line to compare to)? Even Sean Avery just basically put up the same totals he has always had, and everyone really thought he was flourishing here.
Can anyone answer this? How is it just about every single player that comes here sees their production go down. Does anyone even bother to ask themselves this anymore? Why is it ok to simply look at the win-loss record, and say, well, we must be a good team.
That is bullshit, plain and simple. We have been a winning team because of 2 reasons, and 2 reasons only. Jaromir Jagr, and Henrik Lundqvist. Both have been superhuman. Not superstar, not elite, damn near God-like in their performances here. We used to be a 2-man team, now, we are a 1-man team. Great.
“But Inferno, your stars should play like your stars, that’s how hockey works!” That is what I am sure some of the nay sayers are saying to themselves. But ask yourself this, shouldn’t a good coach be able to get SOME improvement from the other players in his lineup? Shouldn’t he be able to improve even 1 non superstar player? The fact of the matter is, every single player that has joined this club since Tom Renney took over, has seen their offensive production, as a whole, drop significantly during their tenure here. Gomez, Drury, Naslund, even Jagr when looked at a whole, Shanahan…literally every single player has had their production go down. And that is the mark of a bad coach. Or more specifically, a coach who is woefully mismanaging his talent set.
So that is really what this entire story is about isn’t it? Maximizing the talent set. Putting square pegs in square holes, putting round pegs in round holes, etc should be the way any NHL franchise is run. But not the New York Rangers, oh no, not by a long shot. What do the New York Rangers do? They have Glen Sather announce to the world that they want to get younger, faster, more up tempo, to mimic the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Detroit Red Wings, the Buffalo Sabres, and the Ottawa Senators. You have Glen Sather pick up Wade Redden, Marcus Naslund, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Frtische, to augment with players like Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, Lauri Korpikoski, Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan… in short, all players who are either good outlet passers, or good skaters, picture perfect to play an up tempo 2-1-2 style of hockey. You have Tom Renney tell everyone he is open to changing up the team, to making them a little bit more wide open, and you see it beautifully executed in 2 games against the Tampa Bay Lightning where the Rangers were swarming like locusts, pressuring the hell out of the puck, causing turnovers all over the ice, forcing the puck to the high quality scoring areas with reckless abandon, and a team willing to take chances with the knowledge they have an all-world goaltender between the pipes. And then, they came back home, and everything changed.
Tom Renney, old reliable, went back to what he does best. Playing New Jersey Devils hockey. He has a team built, from top to bottom, to push the puck, and instead he has one of the smallest, fastest, weakest teams in the NHL play a 1-2-2 system, where the midgets never get a chance to push the puck up the ice, are always forced to dump, chase and cycle, whose lack of size and strength clearly show as the opposition effortlessly blasts our midgets into the boards, recover the puck, and push it back down our throats.
In order to play Tom Renney hockey, what you need is a Tom Renney team. A team of Blair Betts and Colton Orrs, a team with very little offensive creativity, but strength, and defensive responsibility, and who can play the cycle game. This is why the most consistent, best line out there game in and game out is the 4th line. Why? Because THAT is Tom Renney hockey. Boring, methodical, completely devoid of skill, encapsulated by bigger, stronger, players fighting through checks, getting the pucks to the net, and scoring garbage goals.
It sounds good in theory, but why the hell is the roster built this way then? Clearly there is a break down between what Glen Sather envisions this club, and what Tom Renney envisions this club. One sees it as an up tempo, Buffalo Sabres style club, the other sees it as a defensive, grinding New Jersey Devils style club. There is a massive disconnect, and it is clearly showing in the quality of play that is being shown to us on a nightly basis. The only player holding up his end of the bargain in this ballet of idiocy is Henrik Lundqvist, a player who is single handedly willing his team to victory. And when he wasn’t able to do so last night, a slaughter ensued.
A mark of a good coach is being able to see the roster he has, and to adjust HIMSELF to what he is given. If you are given a small team with speed and skill, you don’t play a 1-2-2, you play a 2-1-2. If you are given a slow lumbering team with a lot of strength, then you play the 1-2-2 to protect yourself from odd man rushers, and take advantage of your superior size and strength with a cycle game. Tom Renney, through 3+ years of coaching, has clearly shown he has zero creativity, and zero ability to adapt to his players.
Is he a players player coach? Sure. Do the players love the guy, and buy into his system? Absolutely. Is he the best man for the job? Until he is willing to realize the idiocy behind playing a defensive hockey style with speed skaters, the answer is unabashedly, NO.