As a Ranger fan, I am used to disappointment. We have memories of 1997-2004 that I am still trying to repress, but now in 2008, here is the situation that the Rangers are in:
1.) Inconsistency [the facts]
2.) The blame game [the frustration]
3.) Possible solutions [the realism]
The Rangers have had both mini and large streaks, be it the abysmal beginning, the impressive 9-1 follow-up, a four game win streak and now the four game losing streak. Tom Renney has used many combinations in the lineup, be it Dubinsky centering Jagr, Gomez doing the same, and even Drury at one point.
The Rangers have also been plagued with injuries. Bad-Boy Sean Avery has only played 21 games, so he's missed about 1/4 of the season.. the same Sean Avery that is necessary to give the Rangers that needed spark. Avery will be gone another week or possibly more, but in the time he has played, he has posted 2 goals and 10 assist (and a -1 if you think that stat is useful).. Assuming he played the rest of the season, he'd be on pace for 6 goals and 29 assists.. not awful, but seems reasonable.
Shanahan has also had some difficulty this season. The guy is getting up there in age, but he's a trooper and a half. I feel that he should have rested because we need a 100% Shanny come (hopefully) playoff time.
Straka has been out with a broken finger (Thanks, Chara grr) and now a concussion.. he is Jagr's catalyst.
Jagr has been fluctuating from the point of absolute domination to invisibility.
Lundqvist had an amazing start, but lately has been faltering. This may be attributed to his father's recent brain surgery and slow recovery.. Lundqvist has told the press his father is often on his mind, and who can blame him? My father is no longer alive, and he's constantly on my mind.. imagine being a professional athlete, but your close relative is miles away and not doing so well...
On the plus side, Gomez is leading in points and Drury has come through in the clutch on several occasions, but has also proven himself a worthy two way player, often killing penalties taken by common offenders Malik, Hollweg, Avery and Rozsival.
Unfortunately, as a whole, the Rangers have not been giving 60 minute efforts, instead they fall asleep for the second period, and maybe show up for half of the third period.. that is simply not enough!
The Blame Game
The fans are not helping. Malik is booed whenever he touches the puck.. I'm not a fan of the guy either, but I'm not going to boo him on home ice. The Rangers' bulletin board is filled with posts of "rebuild", "trade Jagr", "fire Renney" after each loss, but "the kids are awesome", "Jagr is the best player in the world" and "Renney is a genius" after each, albeit rare, victory.
Every blog out there, be it from the NY Post, NY Daily News, Blueshirt Bulletin, etc is filled with bi-polar Ranger fans' comments that I'm sure some people in the organization are aware of.
We, the fans, are not helping the cause. We need to be patient. This team was built to win, but they need breathing room. Let Gomez and Jagr do their thing.. I know we are plagued with injuries to Straka, Shanny and Avery, but there are still 40 games left.. and an 80 possible points!
There are many things that could turn this season around. It could be a trade, perhaps? Last year, the Rangers traded Ward to LA for Avery, and that turned our entire season around.. along with Lunqvist's Vezina-worthy performance in the second half of the season.
Is it smart to trade anyone now?
I'm sure Malik, Hossa, Hollweg, Prucha and Montoya are names running through your mind.. but you also have to ask yourself, have the fans ruined any potential trade?
It's no secret that a majority of Ranger fans hate Malik, Hollweg and Hossa (just to name the top three), and it's also no secret that the rest of the league knows this. If fans are getting on someone's case so often, on home ice mind you, don't you think that diminishes the trade value just a bit?
So again, just calm down. Let Sather do what he does, and that is manage the team.
Does Renney need to be fired?
The moment we lose or put the fourth line out with 5 minutes left in the game when we're down a goal... yes.. but if you think about it.. who would replace him?
After the embarrassing 97-04 years, Renney has made the Rangers a playoff team.. and the performances were better each year.. that has to count for something, right?
So let's be realistic. The first half of the season has been scary, but it was the same last year, and look what happened?
I am glad that Gomez and Drury have at least meshed well in their roles.. they are leaders, both on the scoreboard and off.
The main concern for Ranger fans is consistency, but you have to be patient. These are all professional athletes that will earn their paycheck sooner or later.
Speaking of contracts, I think that the priority at the moment is re-signing Henrik Lundqvist to a long-term deal because he is the future of the organization. No offense to Drury or Gomez, but I will take a franchise goalie over anyone.
Once Lundqvist is signed, perhaps then we can have some kind of closure and a much-needed sigh of relief.
Remember, though, that playoff spots were not handed out in January of 2007 and it is the same for January of 2008.