Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Rant answers: Rangers fans struggle with slump, Red Wings fans calling for change
By Pierre LeBrun
Suddenly, Rangers fans are unhappy and Devils fans are rejoicing over their red-hot team. The hockey world has reversed from the first half of the season. There’s a few Red Wings fans that are grumpy, too. Let’s take a look:
danman9215: The Rangers have lost four straight and seem to be playing themselves out of the playoffs like they do every year. Our star player (Marian Gaborik) has 10 goals in four games and seven in the other 50-plus and when ever it seems we need him to step up he doesn’t. Why isn't he playing like the animal he was last year? Plus were finally getting healthy but still can't put the puck in the net every time I watch a Ranger game I think once the other team scores twice we've lost or whenever we go on the power play were not going to score. Come trade deadline time I’m sure we'll trade for some player that doesn’t end up helping us at all and will be useless and will just make us believe management tried something to help our playoff chances. Is there anything you can tell me that will make me believe this team is worth getting my hopes up for my Rangers?
My take: Dear Rangers fan, chin up, my friend! Things aren't that bad. Take a step back and ask yourself in true objectivity how you felt about this team last September when camp opened. If I were to tell you the Rangers would be seventh in the East come February, you would have probably taken it. It's important to keep perspective as a fan if at all possible. A lot of people picked the Rangers to miss the playoffs this season. They've overachieved most of the season and lately come back down to earth a little. The power play is brutal, as you pointed out. A true point man is needed. The Rangers should take a look at either Tomas Kaberle or Bryan McCabe and see if either one is available closer to the Feb. 28 trade deadline. But win or lose from here on out, I think Rangers fans have to look at the big picture -- homegrown players have taken big steps this year and are carrying this team into next season. It's been a long time since we've seen that in the Big Apple. There is no bona fide No. 1 center on this team, and that’s where you hope, as a Rangers fan, that Brad Richards gets a good enough offer come July 1 and buys into the reunion with John Tortorella. He might even be able to reignite Marian Gaborik.
GO_WINGS2009: Mike Babcock, this rant is for you. You came to us as a bright, young but experienced coach that knew how to get the most out of your players. However, ever since the 2008 cup team, our defense has not been anywhere near the top 5. We can't win the cup when we're 20th in goals against. Us Wings fans have lived through some of the most offensively dominant Wings teams from the 90s going down in flames in the playoffs. This team turns the puck over way too much and we don't have [Dominik] Hasek back there to erase the mistakes. [Jimmy] Howard is a serviceable goalie, not a superstar. We can't afford to make such blunders. I'd rather be a boring trap team that gives up no more than two goals a game and win with our transition game than have to sit and watch the crappy Senators light the lamp five times. It's getting ridiculous. Either get Ken Holland to trade for a better goalie or make this team play some defense. I know you can get this thing under control, but the players don't seem to think they have anything to worry about. I say bench the next guy that tries one of those stupid cross-ice passes from deep in our zone (ahem...[Niklas] Kronwall - who doesn't hit anymore). I'm going to throw up if I have to watch another subpar team put four-plus goals on us. This is not Red Wings hockey.
My take: OK, I understand the frustration of being shut out in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. But seriously, dude, you're second-guessing Mike Babcock? Guess that Stanley Cup ring, Olympic gold medal, men's world championship gold medal and world junior gold medal were all lucky breaks for him, and he had nothing to do with those achievements. Give your head a shake. Yes, the Wings have struggled over the last month, but they also had massive injuries. Don't second-guess one of the best coaches in the game.
wmryan96: Have you ever seen a reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner receive as little attention the following year as Henrik Sedin has and is this year? Don't give me the one or two blurbs you've written about him because it pales in comparison to the volume of press that players like [Alex] Ovechkin, [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin have received in recent years. It's not only quite pathetic, but embarrassing. What are the East people so afraid of? Repent!
My take: He's probably getting less attention because he's got two teammates on his own team with better Hart Trophy chances this year -- his brother Daniel and second-line center Ryan Kesler. Sedin Henrik has once again been outstanding this season, just not the most outstanding on the Canucks. So, obviously, that's going to hurt his Hart Trophy chances. And I did indeed spend four days in Vancouver, not sure if you noticed, and chronicled Kesler. Just like last year, I wrote a big story on Sedin Henrik for ESPN.com.
mapleleamjt: I've been suffering through yet another dismal Leafs season, and I find myself this morning waking up to the news that the team may be imploding. [Phil] Kessel doesn't really talk to Ron Wilson?? And Wilson acknowledges this, also suggesting Kessel doesn't want to work on his game in practice??? Please tell me that there is a solution to this mess (I've given up hope of managing to acquire a top center, a reliable D man, and a goalie who can be counted on to stop the puck in the next year or so). Is this the end for Ron Wilson? Is Kessel likely to leave at the end of his contract? Will Toronto ever be worth watching again?
My take: Pretty revealing stuff, isn't it? Obviously the coach and player aren't on the same page. GM Brian Burke is very tight with Wilson, going back to their Providence days, but I suspect he’s going to have to think long and hard in the offseason about a coaching change. And let me clear: I believe Wilson is an excellent coach. A year ago at this time, he was proving that again by bringing the underdog U.S. team to the Olympic gold medal final. And to Wilson's defense, he hasn’t been given the '80s Oilers roster to work with in Toronto. But despite his solid acumen and resume, the results in the end are what matter, and I think Burke, as much as it's going to hurt, will have to think long and hard about firing his friend after the season.
tmchorak: I hope I am not the first person to mention AWFUL OFFICIATING! There is my rant. If the hawks do not make it to the playoffs, I will be blaming it solely on the Vancouver game. Refs have screwed up many games this year due to stupidity.
My take: The Blackhawks definitely got the short end of the stick last Friday night in Vancouver. No one can argue against that. But let's be realistic here, and I know that's hard with some of you fans, over an 82-game season the breaks go both ways and usually even out. Every NHL head coach will tell you that. So no, if the Hawks miss the playoffs, you can't blame that one game. You can blame a team that over the course of an 82-game season massively underachieved in defending its Cup title. But I don't think that's going to happen. I see the Hawks making the playoffs.
jotade2: My post is to all those comparing [Peter] Forsberg coming back to the Brett Farve fiasco. First and foremost: Forsberg has never retired. Nor has he ever stated that he wanted to. As the NHL management goons would state, "lower body injuries" have plagued him his entire career. He's been frustrated and walked away several times. But unlike Fairweather Farve, he's never wanted to retire because he has the fire for the game. He, like so many others have stated, is a person you want on your team at 50 percent because he provides: passion, puck handling skills, leadership and just a grit that not too many other players even at 100 percent possess. Farve walked away, twice. Forsberg has never left the game. He's not going to leave the game until he's felt that he left everything on the ice. To live his life always stating, "what if." Go Avs.
My take: Good point. Indeed Forsberg never said he was done, even playing in the Olympics for Sweden a year ago this month. I don't blame him for trying this one last time so that he doesn't have to sit there years from now and wonder if he still had it in him but didn't give it a try. Good on him.
iwii3: Pierre, I was fortunate enough to watch Willie O'Ree play when he finished his pro career in San Diego, with the Gulls, Sharks, and Hawks. I got to meet him also, as I was starting to play hockey myself then and my dad worked at the arena so I got to hang out with the players. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Willie and his career. My beef is with the invisibility of Larry Kwong from the NHL history books. It just rubs me the wrong way when I'm watching the NHL Network and I see historical pieces about Willie breaking the color barrier in hockey. I know Larry only played one game in the NHL but it was ten years before Willie. Not to take anything away from Willie and what he did during his career, but is there anything you or the league can do to set the record straight?
My take: I passed this along to the NHL. Thanks.
SportsFanatic121979: Pierre, I feel the need to rant so I figured this was the appropriate forum to do that. Why is Mike Milbury even on the NHL on NBC? Being an avid Caps fan, I get so irritated with him bashing Ovechkin and the Capitals. When they were scoring goals last year, he was so focused on their defense. This year when their defense is vastly improved, he bashes on their offense. Now I'll admit, their offense is struggling but they are still a really good team. I don't know who's pocket he is in, but he shows no love for the Caps! Bottom line is Milbury is impossible to please!!! He needs to stop acting like he is a Hockey god. Last time I checked, he ran the Islanders into the ground. It has been more than 10 years since he has been there and the team has yet to dig out of the grave he put them in.
Lexington Park, MD
My take: Craig, there's only one way for the Caps to shut their critics up -- show up in the spring. They haven't done that yet. I picked them in September to go to the Cup finals because I felt this was finally their time, that they would learn from their past spring foibles. We'll see. No team has more pressure on it this season to perform come playoff time.
psimon82: Matt Cooke should be banned from the NHL! He's ruined [Marc] Savard's career and all he does is take cheap, dirty shots at players after games are already essentially decided. It's obvious to everyone that he's doing all this with the intent to injure! He's the filthiest player in the league, and he doesn't belong in it.
My take: I actually get along well with Cooke off the ice. He's always been a pleasant fellow to talk to. But I can't really defend him from what you're saying. Sticking his knee out Sunday on Ovechkin was uncalled for and adds to his rep.
Zacchariah: I'm a Flyer Fan and it was embarrassing to watch the 4-0 loss to the Lightning coming off the All-Star break. It seemed like it was turnover after turnover in the Neutral Zone/Tampa's Blue Line causing Odd-Man rushes going the other way. This year it has seemed like we've had no weakness but the same thing happened against Nashville. Turnovers at the opponents blue line. Is this the Flyers weakness, because once an offense is set up they are hard to stop but we're having more trouble carrying the puck into the opposition's zone then we are at actually scoring. It didn't hurt us against the Predators because we were just better than Nashville, but against scoring teams that have shooters (Tampa), it seems like it could really open us up. (I'm also saying this because Tampa is the only team we haven't beat this year which bugs me) But what do you think? Are turnovers a concern for the Flyers?
My take: My Lord, a Flyers fan ranting about this team? Guy, your team is leading the Eastern Conference! Chill out!