The New York Rangers started their 2013-14 campaign a little over two weeks ago, and if the opening act is an indication of anything, it’s proving this is going to be a very long and very painful season of Blueshirts hockey.
Granted, most long-time fans probably knew going into a nine-game road trip to begin the season wasn’t going to be great. There probably weren’t too many people truly disheartened by a 4-1 season-opening loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. And those same people probably weren’t too troubled by the 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings.
But then, there was a 9-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, a 6-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks (no longer Mighty, which is lame and stupid) and a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues; each of which was an absolute embarrassment.
Even though the Rangers were able to shut out the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Wednesday night, the losses they suffered earlier in the season make me wonder whether or not beating the Capitals was a fluke, or if the losing streak was just some bizzarre mediocrity spell.
But regardless of why that abysmal string of losses happened, it showed there are definitely issues that need to be addressed, and they’re beyond waiving a couple of players.
So now I ask the team this question: What the hell had (or has) gotten into you?
The only three players who have been playing as well as they should be at this point in the season are Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal. It was expected that Richards would make a comeback this season, Staal is coming back fit and eager to get back into the game after a series of nasty injuries and Callahan is as consistent as they come. But those are three players on a 20-man roster and that is nowhere near enough.
To be honest, what we’ve seen these past couple of weeks has only strengthened my belief that firing former Head Coach John Tortorella wasn’t the answer, and it never was. Sure, Tortorella wears teams down with his more than abrasive coaching style, but the problems the Rangers had last season and, as it would appear have carried on into this season, is all player-based.
While I understand the new style of defense that is being implemented by new Head Coach Alain Vigneault is going to take time to adjust to, defensemen Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh are playing some of the worst hockey of their careers. Girardi especially has looked two paces too slow and like he lost some of his bark.
I had thought McDonagh would have had a much stronger showing to begin the season. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are right around the corner, and McDonagh has a realistic shot of making that roster. However, that’s only if he plays well and he cements himself as one of the most formidable defenseman in the Eastern conference. That hasn’t happened yet, and it needs to happen soon.
And last but not least, there’s Del Zotto. The 24-year-old, who was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2008, has been far from spectacular not only this season, but the shortened season prior. It seems that since his first season with the Rangers, he’s seemed to have lost a sense of identity as a player and is having difficulty finding himself a niche on the team.
Which is why I am going to speak directly right now.
MDZ, I have liked you since the day the Rangers drafted you. You were touted as a power play quarterback with a knack for finding the back of the net with those quick hands of yours.
And dude, it’s there. Maybe you need it to get smacked into you (I would do it, but that’s weird and I’d probably get an assault charge), but it’s there.
You’re an offensive defenseman who could run a power play if he wanted to. I don’t know what is going to bring up your confidence, but I want you to so badly find it and run with it. You’re too lost in your own head and you need to find your way out of it.
I know it’s hard when your best defensemen are all stay-at-home heavy-hitters, but know your worth as a member of this team and put your skills to much-needed use.
I believe in you, MDZ. I’m just waiting on you to believe in yourself.