Sunday, February 22, 2009

This Is Getting Old Folks. . .

It is indeed getting old folks. And not just the losses. No. I've been a Rangers fan long enough to see them lose plenty - plenty! - of games.

No. It's the way they are losing. The same way, over and over. With lifelessness. With an utter lack of intensity. With what appears to be an almost unbelievable inability to score goals. And with the same - same! - stale answers from the players and from the coaching stuff.

It's getting hard to take.

Hockey is a pretty fundamental game. To win, you must score goals. Note, no team has ever WON a game without scoring a goal (And for all those trying to prove me wrong, you inevitably have to net a goal in a shootout in order to win that too. Back when there were ties, it could be 0-0 forever, but well that is not a win either).

To score goals, you don't have to be fancy with the puck. But you do have to be decisive with it. You can be simple, but not so simple that the goalie has no problem whatsoever stopping the puck.

The Rangers, it seems, have lost all fundamentals, and the most basic of all is the prime example. The cannot score. And if they do, it's four goals in a game, and then right back to struggling mediocrity the next.

I didn't watch the game. Yet I can very easily imagine, based on the last ten or so, how it went down. Fell down 2-0 early. (Sound familiar?). Fell down 3-0. TV sets around the greater NY metro area turn off because all Rangers fans know there is a one in a million chance the Rangers will come back to tie. A one in a billion chance they will come back to win.

I have no major insight as to why they are so horrible. Why they can't do the one thing so fundamental to this game we all love. I don't. I do think it's beyond comprehension that an entire team of professionals - yes professionals - would all go dry at once. I do. For let's face it, it's not just been these last ten or so games. It's been the whole damn year. And the powerplay woes. The powerplay hasn't been good in three years now. Tell me that's not a drought of epic proportions, one that is probably close to rivaling all time worst status, for any team.

And yet, same stale team. Same stale response. Same stale answers.

Look, I'm not sure what else they are supposed to say, except stale responses. But it is so rare to get one of them - any one of them - save Mara and Hank to show some emotion post game.

I like Hank. Hank is an open book. He might give post game interviews that are easy to digest, but he is one of the - if not the - most intuitive about his own performance. I feel his answers, while not flashy, are extremely thoughtful. And at times when he is angry at himself- as I've seen more often this year than in the last three preceeding it - you can tell. You can look in his eyes, hear the tone in his voice, and tell. He's still professional. But you can tell.

I'm not even going to get into Renney's repetitively stale answers and why for that reason alone this guy should not be let within 20 feet of an interview room. Accountability? For the players? We all know how well that has gone. What about himself? What about accountability for himself and his staff? Are they fooling anyone into thinking they are actually trying to fix this team? Trying anything different? Trying anything at all?

I was a few weeks behind on HNIC and caught up a bit yesterday. Kelly Hrudey and PJ Stock brought up something very interesting in their now apparently weekly analysis of the Montreal team. (And parallels between here and there are sometimes very eerie).

They talked about how a goalie's body language can affect the rest of the team and how the personality of a player or two can carry over to the rest. They showed the sequence of the 7-2 pasting that Montreal got at the hands of the Oilers. Carey Price looks defeated. They showed his eyes. Wide, staring at his defensemen. Asking, what is going on here? Staring to the bench. Defeated. A man defeated. A team defeated.

Now, they used Price as the example. There is a lot more going on there than he, that's for sure. And I'm not even trying to parallel goalies here, although in that game in - wait for it - Montreal when Hank and Renney got into a little screaming match on the bench and Hank started screaming at Gomez, I could see a parallel. Hank (and Vali) this year have been let down by their entire team. Watching the Montreal D not do anything to stop Edmonton (literally standing there) was no different than watching the Rangers D against Dallas when Vali was in net in their 10-2 diabacle. Absolute statues.

Before I get too far from where I was going with this, I have thought and perhaps I have alluded, but I think now, more than ever, this team has taken on the personalities of each other.

Look perhaps Drury, Redden, and the crew were always softspoken men with out the ability to dazzle. Maybe on that we should not be shocked.

But surely Naslund had more life in his years in Vancouver. We've all seen Gomez with more life. Zherdev. Dubinsky. The list can go on and on.

This team admits they like each other - they really like each other. That's all fine and good. But...if they have fallen - as it desperately appears they have - into this hole of complacency, this world of free-fall of which there seems to be no cure, then it is not fine. It's NOT fine.

And the only thing that makes it worse is how every player (save a precious few), has taken the same exact nosedive. At the same exact time. In the same exact way.

One passionless player can affect a team. Look no further than whatever the heck was going on in Montreal with Alex Kovalev.

Kids on a team look to the leaders. Teammates on a team look to those that have done it before.

Maybe Gomez worked in NJ, because the team fed off personalities like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko. Perhaps Drury worked in Colorado because he had a team of big talent and everyone followed the Joe Sakic mold. (Goalie troubles understood, but that Colorado team is a shadow of it's former self without Sakic to look up to, I feel).

Then take those two players - Gomez and Drury - and throw them into a situation where they have to lead, they have to inspire. Look at what happens! There is no heart. There is no passion. It's a sad group of non-leaders leading this team right back into obscurity. I really feel the whole damn thing has been contagious. I really do. Not everyone can possibly be this bad.

And if it's not the teams "leaders" and their stale personalities that are poisoning this team, perhaps it is the other man in charge that let it get that way.

If this is the team you wanted, Tom Renney, congratulations. They keep doing the same thing over and over, and failing miserably at it. They keep displaying boring and vanilla to the point that it's become the norm. And to justify it, they keep throwing out the same stale worthless answers - "We've got to be better. I thought we played well. We need to get back to winning." - night after night.

Sound familiar coach? Don't tell me you haven't heard it before.

I have no more words than that. No more pressing thought that that. This team's troubles are at an all time worst, and there is no one - no one on this team right now - that can fix the personality crisis that is so obviously poisoning this team.

Gomez was right though, in what he said after the Dallas game earlier this month. That was not rock bottom.

The only thing sadder than that realization of truth: there is not that much further this team has room to fall.

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