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Before we get into the review, take a few minutes to read this article, it is well worth your time. Why is it worth your time? Because the only reason we aren’t talking about the Rangers drafting in the top 5 next Friday is because of Henrik Lundqvist. Somehow idiots out there, time and again, call Henrik overrated, or soft, or what have you. But I stand by my assertion that no NHL goalie today faces the barrage that Henrik has to deal with on a nightly basis. You watch our game and see our team, if they are having a great night, get 2 high quality odd man rush opportunities in a game. You routinely see the opposition get 5, 10, even 15 such opportunities per game basically without fail. You see the opposing teams have all the time in the world to pick corners on our goalie, and people wonder why he can’t stop those shots. Any goalie, if you have the opportunity to pick a corner and hit it, is going to get scored on, I don’t care if he is Patrick Roy or Vladislav Tretiak. When you constantly face the kind of pressure that Lundqvist has to face, eventually you are going to show cracks in your superhuman armor. And you know what? Sometimes this season, Henrik did look merely mortal. Pardon me for excusing 5 or 6 human performances when a guy has to put up about 65 other ridiculous performances for this team to barely squeak through into the playoffs.

And that’s what this season really was all about. A Rangers team, riding the coattails of their goalie, barely squeezing through to make it to the playoffs, only to have a collapse once Henrik could no longer stand up to the barrage the opposition gave him. Now, I am probably getting a bit ahead of myself starting at the end of the season, but I am doing it for a very specific reason. So that you guys keep in mind that despite all that I am going to go into, through all the B.S. that went on this season, we still were able to get into the playoffs thanks to a herculean effort by 1 man, and 1 man alone.

So where did this season start? Well, to be totally honest it started with an absolute bang. The Rangers had a dramatic comeback against Metallurg Magnitogorsk to win the Victoria cup (which looked like something you find in one of the junk aisles at Walmart by the way) and started playing like a team that might just make some noise this season. However as the wins continued to mount, and the Rangers getting off to their best start in franchise history, it quickly became glaringly obvious that this team was doing it with smoke and mirrors. There really was no sane way that this team would keep winning games despite not scoring at a decent rate, and giving up a ridiculous amount of quality chances against. And yet they did, they had a superb start to their schedule.
They even had a few memorable games as the season wore on, including one last second goal by Nikolai Zherdev (then a messiah, now a pariah) which sent Madison Square Garden into bedlam as the Rangers pulled off a miraculous win against the eventual Stanley Cup Champions (does that phrase bother anyone else?)

However, the season began to wear on, and the smoke and mirrors began to disappear, and the Rangers showed themselves for who they truly were, a completely mediocre team riding the shoulders of one of the greatest goaltenders on this planet. They also started to tire of their coaches stupidity as he continually dressed guys like Patrick Rissmiller and Aaron Voros, 2 fools incapable of playing the NHL game, while continually scratching Petr Prucha, a former 30 and 20 goal scorer. Tom Renney showed a complete lack of understanding on what the correct way to manage his team was, often showing a soft hand when a stern hand was needed, and vice versa. Renney admitted to choosing this team, and felt that this team was one that could win. The team was an absolute joke on the powerplay nearly shattering the record for short handed goals allowed, while being dead last in terms of power play percentage. However they were able to produce a tremendous penalty kill, which I personally feel is far more of a result of the man between the pipes (notice a trend here?) than the coach, the coaching style, or the players in front of him.

However, the team turned its back on its coach as they unceremoniously plummeted down the standings to being on the brink of being out of the playoffs despite leading the conference when the season started.

Eventually Glen Sather wised up and fired the defensive minded coach who was unable to get his team to actually play defensive, or offensive hockey, and miraculously hired exactly the right man for the job. With the hiring of John Tortorella, one of the leagues most brilliant hockey minds who understands the way to manufacture offense and how to win with up tempo hockey, Glen Sather sent a clear message, this is how we need to play hockey. He also augmented bringing in this perfect coach by bringing in near perfect players to compliment the coach, bringing back Sean Avery to the home he never should have left, bringing in Derek Morris, a significant upgrade to Dimitri Kalinin, and bringing in Nik Antropov, a gigantic (literally) improvement over both Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha.

It was remarkable to watch as the team eventually learned how to play John Tortorella hockey, as they started to score some goals. While the offense remained quite poor, it started to score at least at a tolerable level. However the Rangers were eventually undone by the thing that will likely haunt them for a very long time.

Talent.

In signing Wade Redden, Chris Drury, and Scott Gomez to ludicrous contracts unbefitting players of their level of talent, Sather has hamstrung this organization for years to come. The Rangers were ridiculously outplayed by the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Green, etc while Henrik Lundqvist single handedly nearly won the series for his team.

So there you have it, a summation of what more or less happened this season with a little bit of my thoughts in there. This offseason will likely be the defining moment of this franchise for the foreseeable future. Here is a cold hard fact folks. Henrik Lundqvist has, at most 10 superstar years left in him. If the Rangers are going to be tied to Scott Gomez, Wade Redden and Chris Drury for the next 3 season, and Gomez and Redden for the 3 seasons after that, then you can guarantee…GUARANTEE that we will not win a Stanley Cup during those 6 years. You can not win with these fools at the helm. They simply aren’t good enough, and do not have the leadership to bring this team to the promise land. If the Rangers can find a way to get out of 1 of these contracts, and bring in a substantial player, like Gaborik, Heatley, Kovalchuk or Marian Hossa, then they may have a small chance, because of the guy between the pipes. However, if they are able to get rid of 2 of these players and bring in 2 substantial players, then all bets are off. And if by some miracle of all miracles they are able to get all 3 and replace all 3 with legit superstars, then you can probably start engraving the cup with Lundqvists name right now.

This is do or die time for Glen Sather. Mid next week I will do my off season game plan post where I spell out what I feel needs to be done in the draft, and beyond to get this team from joke of the NHL, to legitimate powerhouse. I think it can be done in 1 season, but it will take a lot of work, and a little bit of luck.


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