This is the last guest blogger entry. I will announce the winner next week.
Those were the infamous words of Rangers play by play annoucer Sam Rosen when the New York Rangers finally captured the Stanley Cup after a 54 year drought. I understand how special that Stanley Cup was to the New York Rangers, the fans, the city, and the NHL. But did Sam Rosen curse our New York Rangers by uttering those famous words? Only time will tell.
Since the 1994 Stanley Cup win, the Rangers have participated in 14 playoff series (if you really think about it, if the NHL didn't implement the Shootout, it's very likely that number would have been much lower since the Rangers have been one of the teams that have benefited from this new rule change). Out of those 14 series, the Rangers have only won 6, and only had home ice advantage once in 1996 against the Montreal Canadiens. During the past 17 years, they played in one Conference Final, but more importantly, no Stanley Cups. Not even an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
I have been reading Rangers blogs (this one daily), newspapers, web sites, and other sources to keep me updated on my beloved New York Rangers. Not only did I read the articles or blogs, I pay close attention to the comments sections where you get the true reaction from our passionate and loyal fan base. Based on the comments I have seen this summer, the majority of them have been really positive. I totally understand the excitement. They brought in a first line center in Brad Richards to run the power play which the team has needed for years. More importantly, we re-signed our core players such as Callahan, Dubinsky, Boyle, Anisimov, Sauer, and McDonough. I have even seen a lot of people praising Glen Sather. Yes, he has done a great job this summer. Yes, the Rangers are heading in the right direction. But haven't we seen this story before? Didn't we think that by adding Scott Gomez and Chris Drury back in the summer of 2007, these two were the missing piece to a Stanley Cup?
In 2008, we brought pretty much the same roster back, just substituting Nylander for Gomez. I know Nylander had success with Jagr, but Gomez was younger, faster, and can carry the puck better so most of us thought this was an upgrade at first line center. Would the Rangers have been better off signing one center and keeping Nylander? We will never know. But Nylander wasn't the same player after he left the Rangers, so most likely he wouldn't have contributed that much. Also, remember how excited we were with our young core going into that season? Our young core featured Tyutin, Staal, Girardi, Callahan, Dubinsky, Prucha, and Dawes. If it wasn't for Dubinsky we wouldn't have had a center on the roster that can play with Jagr.
So how do we know Brad Richards is going to be successful playing alongside Marion Gaborik? Is it because Tortarella coached him or because of the stats on the back of his hockey card? How do we know that someone like Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov, or Brandon Dubinsky isn't going to be called upon to get Marion Gaborik going. I am not saying it isn't going to work, but what I am saying is that it's not a homerun. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Richards doesn't work out here and by January the Rangers are on the outside of the playoff picture. Fans will be calling for Sather's head because this would be yet another free agent he signed that didn't pan out. I am sure Tortarella wouldn't be off the hook either, if he continues juggling his lines from game to game. This has been the reality for Rangers fans ever since Glenn Sather started running things.
Another thing we keep hearing about is the future of all these "awesome" prospects we have in our system. Didn't we think Grachev was going to be a 50 goal scorer for the Rangers someday? This guy couldn't even score 30 in Hartford and is now no longer part of the organization. How about guys like Jessiman, Montoya, Blackburn, Korpikoski, Lundmark, and Brendl pan out? We have no idea how guys like Erixon, Mcalrath, Thomas, Bourque, Krieder, Valentenko, Yogan, and Hagelin are going to be in the NHL. Some of them might not ever make it into the NHL or play for the Rangers. Yet, I keep hearing fans say these guys are going to be vital in a few years when the New York Rangers are contending for the Stanley Cup. Let's just hope that one of them has a strong camp and makes the team before we start saying these guys are going to be part of the core with the New York Rangers for years to come.
Let's be honest Rangers fans, besides Gaborik, Richards (who we haven't even seen play a game in a Rangers jersey yet), and Lundqvist, is there elite talent on this roster?
Staal, Girardi, Dubinsky, and Callahan are good players but not elite. Guys like Stepan, Zuccarello, Del Zotto, Anisimov, Sauer, and McDonough are too early to judge yet.
We are relying on Wolski to play on the top line with Gaborik and Richards. That's a reach for someone who has been very inconsistent in his short NHL Career. This is his third team at the age of 25 years old and we have already seen his inconsistencies last season. To me, it sounds like another Nikolai Zherdev all over again. If we have such a plethora of young talent, shouldn't we rely on a younger cheaper alternative to possibly fill that role?
I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but I want to see this team take the next step before I say that this team is going to win another Stanley Cup anytime soon. I want to see Richards play like an elite first line center which this team hasn't had since Mark Messier. How about a successful power play where we have someone on the point to run which the team hasn't had since Brian Leetch and Sergei Zubov. Is there even a power forward on this roster or coming up in the system that has the potential to score 52 goals like Adam Graves in the '93-'94 season? Ok, 52 is a stretch how about 40? Can we see Lundqvist carry this team deep into the playoffs before we start calling him the King? I am sorry, but a great goalie doesn't squander a 3-0 lead on home ice in a playoff game. More importantly, can we see this team get a top 4 seed (which they haven't done so since '96 as mentioned above) or win the Atlantic Division (which they haven't done since '94) before we talk about winning a Stanley Cup.
Yes the team works hard, and yes this team was fun to watch last season, but we need to develop elite talent if we are going to contend for a Stanley Cup. Battling for the final 3 spots in the Eastern Conference every year is becoming the standard around here and that has to change. Maybe it has changed, and we will finally see for ourselves this upcoming season. I understand the excitement and passion from our fan base, but the same guy we have been complaining about for the last 10 years, Glen Sather is still running things. All I am trying to say is, let's see this happen with our eyes open and not with our eyes closed dreaming about it. I don't know about you, but I thought this team was primed to win going into the 2007-2008 season, but I was wrong. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Unfortunately, the Rangers have fooled me many times since 1994, but they won't fool me this time.