Coming into this season as Stantley Cup favorites in many eyes, the New York Rangers have been a disappointment thus far. Are they just in a funk? Are they not as good as we thought? Was last season just a tease? What are they missing?
Offense - Check: well... at least on paper. With Richards, Nash, Gaborik, Callahan, and Del Zotto from the point, things look solid, add in depth scorers like Hagelin and Stepan, then offense shouldn't be an issue, yet, it is.
Defense - Check: this D corps is as deep as any and they haven't been the issue, they take care of their own zone and block a lot of shots which has resulted in a low team GAA. No big issues here.
Goaltending - Check: Henrik Lundqvist is an elite goaltender, arguably the best. Though he hasn't been great this year, he certainly hasn't been awful.
Coaching - Check: I still have faith in Tortorella as a coach, although he does deserve some of the blame, I don't believe he is the main issue.
So what is it? Things look good on paper. The offense isn't producing, is that all they need? What is gonna get them going? What was it about last year's team that seem to give them an edge.......
Character - ...... Lacking: I am a strong believer that character and heart is the biggest single piece to building a champion, after the offseason, I am not so sure Glen Sather sees it the same way. Don't get me wrong, the Rangers made themselves a lot better with the Nash trade, but beyond that, the offseason was a failure.
In - Nash, Pyatt, Halpern, and Asham. Looks pretty good, the obvious good being Nash. The rest are decent depth moves. I am a big Taylor Pyatt fan, he brings size and a solid work ethic. They other two, meh. Halpern, though a good face-off man, hasn't been effective in this league for a few years, this year: 18gp 0g 1a -4. Aaron Asham plays on the edge but too often crosses over to being undiscipline, give it time Rangers fans, he will start taking PIMs that will cost you. These additions, beyond Nash, don't replace what they lost or needed.
Out - Prust, Anisimov, Dubinsky, Mitchell, Fedotenko, and Rupp. I will give the Rangers the wash out with Anisimov and Dubinsky for their part in the Nash deal. John Mitchell is a solid 4th line center, they like him in Colorado now, and Halpern has not effectively replaced him. Ruslan Fedotenko is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, if you are making a run for the cup, why wouldn't you keep this guy?! How could a guy with multiple cup rings not be resigned if you are serious about the cup, his experience is invaluable. Mike Rupp, I was shocked that Sather didn't bring him back, did anyone watch 24/7 or the Winter Classic? This guy is beloved by teammates. Yes, he plays few minutes as a role player, but its not what they he does on the ice for his team, its off the ice. This is a guy you want on your bench and in your room. Why? Character. Oh yeah, and he has a cup ring. I was shocked when they didn't resign Rupp, even more so when they didn't lock up Brandon Prust. If there was an x-factor player on the Rangers last year, outside of Lundqvist, it was Prust. His stat line doesn't suggest yet, but when watching the Rangers last year, I didn't see anyone else spark that team like Prust did. Whether it be through a hit or a fight or just a hard working, blue collar shift, he fed his team energy. This is also another beloved by teammates and they love him in Montreal.
On paper, the Rangers look great, but the Cup isn't won on paper, it is won with heart and character, and the Rangers failed to recognize that this offseason. This is something that needs to be addressed by the trade deadline, or they will not reach their goal. Last year, the Rangers were a team built for Tortorella, this offseason they let go of some important pieces to his system. The Rangers will make the playoffs, but they will not make the playoffs unless they add some character, grit, and heart.