Bear in mind this post doesn’t come with any source backing it up. It’s based on pure speculation on my part. When I look up and down the New York Rangers roster, I see a team first and foremost. Not a few individuals trying to blend into their character counterparts. I see a clearly defined TEAM playing not just within themselves but also above and beyond at times. It’s no surprise because the team’s captain Ryan Callahan embodies that last sentence: he may be the definition of extraordinary.
On the other hand, when I comb through the Rangers roster as its currently constructed I see one fundamental flaw that I believe GM Glen Sather and the organization will diligently pursue to fix on February 27. With the Blueshirts magical season still unfolding, to not attempt to improve would be an oversight.
Follow after the jump for more.
One of the story lines coming into this season was, with Brad Richards now in the mix, would Marian Gaborik have a bounce-back season? The answer has been an undoubted yes. However, not by Richards doing at all.
Head coach John Tortorella made a season-defining decision early in the year to split up the Brad Richards/Marian Gaborik duo because, to him, he felt the team would be better off with them split up. To this point, he’s been dead-on as Gaborik has gone on to a fantastic season of 26 goals and 17 assists. As for Richards, it hasn’t been a overly successful first season on Broadway.
Which leads to the biggest issue with the way the Rangers are currently constructed: there isn’t a quality scorer to play with Richards. Take a look at the lines used by Tortorella at today’s practice (courtesy of Andrew Gross):
New #NYR lines at practice: Anisimov-Stepan-Gaborik, Dubinsky-Richards-Prust, Fedotenko-Boyle-Callahan, Rupp-Mitchell-Hagelin
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) February 6, 2012
For several weeks, in an attempt to shake Richards from his slump, Tortorella has woven his “grinders” in and out of Richards line to get him to work in the dirty areas and jump start him. It was successful for the two in their time in Tampa Bay as Stanley Cup champions. So far in New York, that tactic has yet to produce anything meaningful. Whether it be Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Dubinsky and even Ryan Callahan, Richards has yet to find any consistent chemistry with his new teammates.
Fortunately, the Rangers have won despite their prized free agent signing only scoring 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) through 50 games. The only reason a search for a finisher to play with Richards is so expedited is due to the rapid development of the Rangers into Stanley Cup contenders. No, that sentence is not a misprint: the New York Rangers have a shot at winning a championship THIS season.
Will it be easy to find a player who can click with Richards the rest of the season at the deadline? Absolutely. Will it be even tougher to find that player without giving up too much in young talent and/or draft picks, or at worse a quality player from the NHL roster? Without question. To get something of value, you have to give up something of value. Unless you’re dealing with Bob Gainey, that is. All kidding aside, your season cannot progress with your number one center playing with 3rd/4th line wingers.
I don’t believe a player like Bobby Ryan will be available at the deadline. Rumors are Rick Nash can be had, but not during the season. However, for either of those players, you’ll mortgage the future to acquire their services. But if a Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, Teemu Selanne or some other player less costly becomes available, the Rangers must do their part and consider: their remarkable season thus far at least warrants it.