As long as I've taken time to clarify what I did in my last post, let's get back to the real hockey stuff, and back to the NYRs.
So on Wednesday I made my first trip to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Its pretty hard for me to believe - and perhaps for you as well - but I had just never had the opportunity to go. But I finally did.
The day after trade deadline day. On a day where so much shook my immediate hockey world as three Rangers departed, and two new Rangers made their debuts.
Oh and some guy named Sean Avery might have played too.
Before we get to the game, let me get this out of the way. Despite everyone - it seems - warning me for years of what a dump the Coliseum is, I did not think that was true. Despite traffic - both inside AND outside the arena - it was a great rink. The arena cooridors were horrific to navigate because everyone is walking the same narrow path. But this is no different to me than the old Brendan Byrne or the historic Spectrum. However, as those two buildings no longer house NHL teams I think that alone is a reason the Islanders definitely need a new arena. But we don't need to go there now.
Point is, I must say that the Colliseum might just have some of the best views of the ice that I've seen in my travels. I had marvelous seats, but it appeared that any seat would offer you an unobstructed view of the ice. I had no complaints whatsoever.
Now I am only admiting this in hopes of being the honest person I've always claimed to be here.
I had plans of going to the game before Sean Avery's return was anything more than a whisper, let alone a real and tangible actuality. But as the date drew closer this really became a big reason I wanted to go. To see this player - THE player's - greatly anticipated return. And after Wednesday's movement, perhaps one of my greatest reasons.
And again I only say that in a measure of my being honest. After my favorite player on the team was traded, I needed something, or someone, - especially at this early and most vulnerable stage - to root for.
Someone with a sense of passion.
Someone with intensity.
Someone else who knew what it meant to - Be a Ranger!
And someone who wore the sweater with pride.
Like him or not, you have to admit, that was definitely Sean. He bled blue.
He cared for this team and his teammates, in a way only he knew how.
Face it, they couldn't have been more different off the ice. But I think on those most basic and respectable levels Sean Avery and Petr Prucha shared some common ground.
Now some may have thought I'd be bitter given the events of Wednesday. Hell perhaps even I thought I might be. But I wasn't.
Now, I wasn't going to do cartwheels if Derek Morris was the first star of the game (wouldn't that have been a story?) or if Nik Antropov scored a hat trick.
But, I did want them to win the game.
Before I go into the who/what and why on that, the game was what it was. A game where the Rangers started slow and were in no way the better team for the beginning half of the game. But a game where, again, they woke up in the 3rd and got some key scoring. The powerplay - yeah, you know that thing the Rangers don't usually score on - came through with two. And for the most part it was a legit victory.
Sean Avery played probably as docile a game as one could expect him to, but he was not invisible. I tried to pay close attention to him, and I thought for a guy getting back to a game he hadn't played at this level in months, he did well for the first time out.
Reasons the game was a good one. The Rangers
a) beat the Islanders
b) scored four goals for the second game in a row
c) won for the 2nd game in a row
d) won a game on the road.
New Ranger Nik Antropov got an assist on the Drury PP goal, for his first point.
I didn't notice Derek Morris as much, admittedly.
Overall, important win, considering timing and who it was against. And because, face it guys, every game is going to count from now on. Every single one.
Rangers Trade Deadline Notes:
I don't think I need to express that I wasn't one of the people thrilled with the Morris deal.
Shocked, you are, I know.
And once you subtract the obvious reason why, I just have to look at it in its simplest way. The Rangers gave up 3 guys for one guy. One guy, who despite saying he was "excited" when the Rangers name came into play, I do not believe will be here next year. So three guys, two of which were the part of the promised youth of this franchise, for a guy who will play the remaining games, and if the Rangers make the playoffs, a few more.
Mathmatically, that doesn't add up.
BUT, if you like math - and chances are that trust me you'll know more than the guy I'm about to introduce - meet Glen Sather. He is, quite possibly, the worst mathemetician ever. Ever!
He thinks that paying four guys - three of which are not worth it - 49% of the team allotted salary pool is a smart business decision.
And sure as heck forget putting the word think in the same sentence with that man's name.
Dawes and Prucha were both RFA after this year. And Sather has no money to sign the young guys that actually WERE playing on the team. (Sad to say, but true). There's no way he was going to sign these guys as long as all the BIG money players remained.
I'm guessing no one wanted Redden, Drury, or Gomez at those nicely packaged, salary cap friendly contracts, now did they Glennie?
Shock of the year, right there.
So therefore, Pete and Dawes were sent away because there was no place and no money for them here.
No disrespect to Derek Morris - I saw him on After Hours ironically two weekends ago and he seemed a down to earth guy - but you send one of those players and Kalinin to get him. If that. But not Prucha and Dawes. Not Prucha AND Dawes.
Unless you have no choice.
And Glennie, well, the deck is not stacked in his favor.
Now again, he was given the deck, allowed to manipulate it as he wanted, and allowed to keep it, tucked away where no one can touch it, but it's still not stacked in his favor. Some people should just not play cards.
Or manage professional ice hockey clubs.
As for Nik Antropov, I guess the bloggers who had been pining for this guy for months knew more than I did. (Or Sather really does read the blogs. Stranger things, I'm sure). I have no problem with him. But while this is another guy that may help a team that can't score, score a little more than the nothing they had been (before the 2/28 breakout, mind you) he's just another guy that probably won't be around next year.
If that was the plan, rent away. I just still do not think this team has legs to take them beyond a round or two. I won't lie to myself and believe that much changed from what I've seen before my eyes all year long. ALL YEAR. Not just from the point many other people's blinders came off. But even back on game 5 of the season versus Buffalo, the things I was starting to realize.
A Look Ahead:
Rental players or no, sadness over a favorite player gone or no, there are three reasons I want the Rangers to make the playoffs. Three. (Besides the I'm a fan, rah, rah, rah, bs).
1) John Tortorella. While I didn't hate Tom Renney and while I appreciate what he did in the grand scheme, enough of his actions this year put serious doubts in my head that this guy should remain behind an NHL bench. The fact that Sather brought in a guy like John Tortorella was like an unbelievable moment that might only come once. And I think you have to try your best to embrace it. Tortorella, opposite of Renney, will light a fire. He will scream and yell. He will make players lives a living hell if they make his one. And I still think that's what the 75-80% of this team that didn't seem to care, needs. I want to see what he does with this team. Not even this year, but next year. And the first step to that process is this team making the playoffs. They built up their point lead - on boring, stale, vanilla play and shootouts! - back in the first two months of the season. I do not want a new coach, and a better coach in my mind, to miss this first important opportunity to make a statement that a new attitude - offense is not a sin, we can score more than 2 goals, our goalie is not perfect, so we shouldn't make him have to be every single freakin' night - will not ruin this team. It will make them better.
2) Sean Avery. I always hesitated to say I out and out defended Sean before, but you know what, I did. I stood by his ability to play hockey and I will continue to stand by my belief that he can be an effective player in this league again. I had it wrong in Dallas. We all had it wrong in Dallas. But he's getting an opportunity to come home again. A gift that many perhaps thought he did not deserve. Me, I'm still firmly holding true to the fact that Sean was being punished for having a big mouth and a less than keen sense of timing and that there are much, much, MUCH more harmful things going on -repeatedly - in this league that people should be concerned about. If Sean Avery re-born can be even half the Sean Avery that left the Rangers/Pittsburgh series with a bleeding spleen, I think any Rangers fan will take that. The guy is a battler. A bleed for your team guy. A guy that had intangibles, that with the exception of a few players(see below), were very much absent on this team. If Sean can bring that, I am all for it. And for Sean's story to be successful, at least chapter one of book two here, I think helping this team get back on track, and stay playoff bound, is of vital importance.
3) Some Gave All. Guys like Marc Staal (early and through most of the season), Ryan Callahan (every single night), Hank Lundqvist (not perfect but certainly blameless in this season's defeats) and Paul Mara (one of the best attitudes on the team) gave a lot to this team this year. They didn't take day's off. They understood what it meant to come to play and to want to win. They were the ones - namely in this case Hank and Mara - sounding angry and defeated in the locker room post-game. When Gomez was heckling John G for his wardrobe (funny the first dozen times) and while Drury was saying before the fans even had a chance to leave the building things like how he wasn't going to let yet another embarassing loss ruin his holidays, guys like Staal and Callahan brought their games, guys like Mara and Hank got visibly upset. I still believe no one - no one - cares more about this team and is harder on himself than Hank. And to see everyone else (and yes, I'm picking four names, there may have certainly been others that do not fall into the indifferent mold) seem to care so little, not only on the ice, but off of it, really upset me and definitely changed the way I viewed MY Rangers this year. And that fact makes me want the Rangers to make the playoffs even more. To reward the guys that night in, night out, made sacrifices of their bodies and promises to themselves to wear the sweater with pride. Those guys deserve it, especially after dragging 75% of the rest of their team this entire damn season.
Now, can the Rangers do this? Can they make the playoffs? Will the new guys help that much?
Probable. Possible. Eh.
I think if the Rangers play like the Rangers of 2/28 and 3/4, and can maintain that sense of energy against clubs better than the, um, well the two worst teams in the league, I think they can still make the playoffs.
But things got a heck of a lot harder Wednesday. Pittsburgh got much better. Buffalo got much better. Carolina won't go away either.
The Flyers are falling a little, and Montreal, sadly for Habs fans, are in a tailspin again.
If the Rangers do have a chance to make the playoffs, one of those teams has to stumble, and Montreal probably needs to continue to fall.
There's a bit of the season left, but not a lot. The Rangers December struggle that lasted through late February, may prove to be too much time taken for granted.
Time, it seems, will tell.