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Yesterday I was really giving it some thought. Why are the Rangers not performing (by and large) like I expected them. I picked them to be a top 5 team because of their combination of great coaching, great goaltending, youth, and goal scoring. I figured they wouldn’t be as good as the Penguins and Capitals of the NHL, but after the elite top teams, they should be among the best of the rest. So far, they are barely hanging on to the final playoff spot, and only because of their current 4 game winning streak against what we would generally agree has been inferior opposition.

The conclusion I came to was a combination of Glen Sather, Talent, John Tortorella, and TOI.

I know, that’s a pretty strange combination of factors, but hear me out.

How would you define the Rangers team when this season was set to start? To me, I would consider it a team with 1 superstar forward, and a bunch of 2nd and 3rd line players that could make it fun to roll out line after line after line of guys who could score goals. There is talent here, but the problem is, that’s not really how our coach…well…coaches. John Tortorellas mantra forever has been to play your best players. He likes to ride his horses and have them win his team some games. The problem is, the Rangers have 2 horses, 1 in net, and Gaborik. Other than that, we have a bunch of really nice players that can come in waves, but need regular shifts to get into the flow of the game.

From John Tortorellas perspective, the ideal team would have a MINIMUM of 3 superstar forwards, preferably 4. 2 very promising young kids who can play with said superstars, a competent defense, a 3rd line that can bring energy, and a 4th line that can pound the shit out of the opposition, with either their bodies, or their fists. You’d want to see something like…

Kovalchuk – Prospal – (Marian) Hossa
Higgins – Dubinsky – Gaborik
Avery – Anisimov – Callahan
Smashmouth Left Winger – Betts – Fighter

and then on D you’d go young with
Staal Girardi
Gilroy Del Zotto
Rozsival Sauer


(in case you were wondering, yes this works, and you have 4+ million dollars to add some backup players, and give the raises to Staal, Del Zotto, etc.
* Ilya Kovalchuk ($7.500m) / Marian Gaborik ($7.500m) / * Marian Hossa ($7.000m)
Ryan Callahan ($2.300m) / * Chris Higgins ($2.250m) / Sean Avery ($1.938m)
Brandon Dubinsky ($1.850m) / * Vaclav Prospal ($1.150m) / Artem Anisimov ($0.822m)
* Blair Betts ($0.750m) / * Fighter ($0.750m) / * Dane Byers ($0.500m)
Michal Rozsival ($5.000m) / Matt Gilroy ($1.750m)
* Daniel Girardi ($1.550m) / Michael Del Zotto ($1.087m)
* Mike Sauer ($0.846m) / * Marc Staal ($0.826m)
Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875m) / Chad Johnson ($0.850m)
ROSTER: 20; PAYROLL: $53.094m; CAP ROOM: $4.089m BONUSES: $0.383m )

Basically you’d have your top 2 lines average somewhere in the 21-23 minute range, your 3rd line get about 12-14 minutes, and your 4th line get whatever is left over, maybe like 2-3 minutes. The theory here is that for about 60% of the game you have at least 1 or 2 superstars on the ice controlling the flow of play.

The problem here is that John Tortorella does not have that kind of team, he has the kind of team where you need to spread the ice time out a bit more evenly. Go with about 18-19 minutes on the top line, 16-17 on the 2nd line, 15-16 on the 3rd, and about 8-11 minutes for the 4th line. It’s the only way to get these kinda of players into the flow of the game, and to have them be effective. They need to get their minutes otherwise they are just going to play as if their 5-10 minutes of ice time is all about them playing strong defense. IE, how, in theory, Torts’ fictitious 3rd line would be in the previous scenario. So part of the problem here lies at the feet of Torts, for running a team that needs to be rolled out constantly as if it was a superstar led team, and part of the problem here is Glen Sather for giving his coach a team that doesn’t have the parts needed to run John Tortorella hockey.

Believe me, if you gave Torts that lineup I mentioned, that team would be scoring goals with reckless abandon, winning games 6-3 on a nightly basis. The problem of course is that we have guys like Drury, Redden, Kotalik, etc eating up salary on the cap that could have been put towards Hossa last offseason, Kovalchuk next offseason, and other players of that ilk when/if they became available.

Now, yes it’s true that both Drury and Kotalik played great the last few games, the fact of the matter is, they are still grossly overpaid and don’t bring near enough to the team to justify them being here.

So, how do we fix it? Honestly, I’d say the only true way to do it is to get rid of Glen Sather and bring in a GM who is on the same page as his coach. The only other option, which is what we saw tonight, is for the head coach to adjust his coaching to fit his team. If you look at the time on the ice for the guys, they were spread out fairly evenly. Everyone got good minutes, and the team responded by playing fresh, “wave after wave” type hockey with each line bringing energy and a different look. The flip side of course is that you will have a much harder time playing puck possession spreading the ice time out like that since, to truly play puck possession, you need puck possession type players, IE, superstars. You don’t generally see 3rd line players playing puck possession hockey and generating a ton of scoring chances, they usually play smash mouth hockey, cause turnovers, and outwork the opposition.

We all know for sure that Chris Drury will have a great holiday, win or lose, so I suggest you all do the same. Catch you on Wednesday night.

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