I can think of one victory all season long that left me feeling good about the 2008-09 New York Rangers. That was a 4-1 victory on October 13, 2008 against the Devils. Henrik Lundqvist out dueled Marty Brodeur and Brandon Dubinsky had a 3 point night while the team played a crisp, confident, complete game that made you say to yourself “maybe these guys can get it together.”
That win aside, there wasn’t another game out of the other eighty eight that you could honestly tell yourself you were totally satisfied with. Not as a player, a coach, or a fan.
This team was a disappointment. This group was the least likable one of the post lockout era and more alarmingly then that it was the most under skilled and least capable of competing for the Stanley Cup. This is the team that was constructed by both GM Glen Sather (still in the midst of his 800 year contract) and former coach Tom Renney.
They were supposed to be a fast, well conditioned, skating team that would play a defensive system and rely on their goalie to occasionally bail them out. And that’s what they were- all except for the fast, well conditioned, skating team part. Night after night the defensive lapses piled up and most times Lundqvist was there- even if there were moments where the king looked the most frustrated and unmotivated he’s ever looked in his career on Broadway.
But when all was said and done this was a defensively flawed team that was too small, too slow, and just didn’t have a way to provide offense. According to coach John Tortorella- conditioning was a problem as well.
"I worry that some of the guys are tired now, and we played one round," Tortorella told Larry Brooks of the NY Post. "That's unacceptable. That concerns me."
Make no mistake this will be a completely different team when they reassemble for training camp later this year. Tortorella wasn’t being subtle.
"I don't think we have [enough] totally within our team and I don't think we got it totally from the people within our team," Tortorella said. "This is definitely going to be addressed.
"I think we need to grind more and need more size. We need to be in better condition. I struggle with some of the effort from some guys, and that's going to be addressed."
"I have a pretty good idea what's here now. I have a pretty good idea of who I'd like to keep and who I'd like to change, but I'm not the [GM], it's not that easy because of the cap and contracts that we have, but does Glen Sather want to change this team? "Damn right he does."
Change is coming in New York kiddies. I know that's not exactly a bold statement since this organization never goes a full 12 months without roster turn over, but with Tortorella influence maybe things will be a little different this time around. Maybe Sather isn’t going to try to jump start center Scott Gomez who had just a miserable season and playoffs by brining in one time Devils buddy and line mate Brian Gionta (who would certainly fit right in when it comes to being small and under skilled). Maybe they actually show the door to Nikolai Zherdev who strikes most people as one of these Russian enigmas who will just never quite get it together for a long enough period of time to be elite and obtain some draft picks. Maybe Sather finds a way to move one of the obnoxious salaries that have the team’s cap splattered against the ceiling and acquire an elite free agent who can be the finisher and the power play specialist this team so desperately needs. Maybe next year’s team will have more answers then question marks up and down the roster.
They'll begin looking for answers now. Now that the lockers up in Greenburgh are empty and the Capitals are preparing for the semi finals after being in a 3-1 series hole just a week ago. And as usual, blue shirts fans will watch a team other then their own hoists the most prized possession in hockey come June. Then as July 1st approaches they’ll wait around to see what their team’s management will do with a roster surrounded by uncertainty. Questions will have to get answered sooner then later and decisions will have to be made. My first question of the offseason is a simple one: Will they be the right decisions this time?