By now, most Ranger fans that follow online sources have seen former Garden favorite, Sean Avery’s latest provoking quote. Via twitter, Avery called for coach John Tortorella to be fired. You can stop now and just say that Sean Avery is thinking like an average fan, combined with a guy who never saw eye-to-eye with John Tortorella. What’s the flipside? The team is talented, and is clearly failing to meet expectations. When there are premier players on a team that day in and day isn’t putting up premier results, it’s easy to look at the guy managing the day-to-day operations. What’s missing from this team? Some say chemistry, and there’s something to be said about that. Depth? Sure, this isn’t a deep team like last year’s. A sparkplug? Well, that’s where Avery knows a thing or two. A bodyguard? He can be that. Someone who fights when needed? You bet. Someone who draws penalties? Ditto.
Putting all motivations aside, it seems that Avery doesn’t see “himself” in this team. If this was a team that actually put the puck in the net, it wouldn’t be an issue. In that case he probably fumes about Tortorella internally, and if he actually says anything, he’s brushed off by pointing to the scoreboard. But Avery, while possibly missing on the fire Tortorella point, conjures up an accurate point, this team has no balls.
It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to get shown up. Teams have had their way with the Rangers. While a guy like Rick Nash can defend himself (not that he should have to), players like Richards and Gaborik should not have to worry about guys going after them. There should be an idea of: “if I take a shot at Gaborik, someone is going to make me pay.” Instead, hit a Ranger, and feel free to not have to answer it.
Last year, the answer was Brandon Prust. Take a cheap shot at Gaborik, take a shot in the face from Prust. A few years ago, it was Avery. Team needs a spark? Get underneath someones skin that they can’t help but fight you. Maybe even take a dive and draw a penalty. It was a type game that made you swallow your pride to be proud to win. This year, nobody on the team has that. The Rangers deemed 2.5 Million for Brandon Prust as simply too much for someone who despite all he does, is a role player. The issue is, the Rangers didn’t fill his shoes. The 2.5 Million was basically given to Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt. Asham has been in the division forever, so Ranger fans have seen him for a while. He clearly isn’t the replacement of Brandon Prust. To steal a term from baseball, Pyatt is a replacement player.
The Rangers made the right move in trading Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixon for Rick Nash. But they didn’t address the dirty part of the team. They basically built a Titanic, handed Edward Smith a gin and tonic, and told him to do laps around icebergs.
And now the Rangers approach the part of the season where the schedule is tough. They aren’t playing the bottom feeders, they’re playing the teams that are in the playoffs for the most part. Take a team like Pittsburgh that can fly around the ice, who on the Rangers is going to hack at Sidney Crosby or Jarome Iginla? Who’s going to throw sand in their gears and slow their game down, wear them down, throw them off their game, make them take bad penalties, get into their heads? I’m looking at the roster right now, and I don’t see that guy anywhere. I see prolific goal scorers and playmakers with no space to play. I see a Hall Of Fame goalie who gets regularly battered. I see a team that collectively makes the body of a great male athlete, but he’s got no balls.
So paging Esa Tikkanen, paging Jed Ortmeyer, paging Brandon Prust, paging Sean Avery. Please teach this team how to win a hockey game, because it takes a lot more than a few goal scorers to win a hockey game.