The National Hockey League has resumed play this weekend after a 3 month lockout. However, I do not think the Rangers knew the season started from how they have played this weekend. What are some words to describe the Ranger’s performance thus far. Diabolical, horrible, lazy, un-organized, un-prepared and the list can go on and on. The Rangers dropped the opening game to the Bruins in Boston on saturday night by a 3-1 score. It should have been a lot worse if it weren’t for Henrik Lundqvist keeping them in the game. After that game the Rangers proved how un-prepared they were for this shortened season. I said after the game against Boston that the Rangers would get blown out by Pittsburgh the next day, losing 5-2. I was two goals off. The Rangers looked flat as a pancake (again) against the red-hot Penguins. Why the slow start? This same team went to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and supposedly got better when they added Rick Nash? How could this same team look like they have taken 10 steps backward in the beginning of this shortened season? Well, unfortunately Ranger fans, this is not the same Ranger team. I said that the Rangers would get off to a slow start this year and I was extremely worried about the lack of role/character players on the team. Boy did I nail it. The Rangers are missing all of those “character” guys and “role” players. They really really really really (and again) really miss Dubinsky, Prust, Feds, and Anisimov. The Rangers took for granted how valuable those key guys were. Now with that said I still make the Nash trade any day of the week and I do not re-sign Prust for the money he wanted. But the Rangers thought it would be easy to replace those guys with Halpern, Pyatt, and Asham. They may fill those shoes one day but so far they haven’t. The Rangers miss that grittiness and energy these role players spark. Perfect example, in the game against Pittsburgh the Rangers were down 4-1. The Garden was dead and the energy amongst the team was dead. Last year’s Rangers would have had Prust start a fight or Dubinsky deliver a big hit. Those guys would just play simple hockey by dumping and chasing. They would get to the front of the net, clutch and scrap to give the team life. It was a spark that they would bring to the team. What Ranger has done that so far in either game? No one. Not to mention they would constantly win battles in the corners for the puck. Has any Ranger won a “battle” in the corner yet? Has any Ranger even went into the corner yet?! The Rangers are desperately missing these role players that they had a season ago. The Rangers look exactly like they were when I first became a fan in the early 2000’s. An over-payed, over-hyped team with no system and all superstars. Now will they continue to be this bad? Probably not. Will they turn things around? They probably will. And are there reasons why they have started so poorly? Of course. But from what we have seen so far, obviously it has been terrible. The most alarming thing from what I have noticed so far is the lack of energy, the lack of grittiness, the lack of Tort’s typical hard-working system, and the absence of a spark. The Rangers desperately need to figure things out. I still believe they will. I believe Lundqvist will rebound from a rough game against Pittsburgh. I believe the dreadful defensive play will be corrected. I believe that the offense will pick up a lot more. What I don’t believe is if this team has the role players to fill the shoes they have lost last year. If the team wants to win the cup, the 3rd and 4th liners need to realize who they are replacing. They also need to realize how valuable they really are.