Page 3 of 3
The L: What can we expect from the Rangers? Is a deep playoff run necessary to characterize the season as a success? And who do you see taking the cup? Will the Penguins establish another dynasty or was that a fluke?
Ratso: I think the Rangers will surprise all of the so-called hockey pundits who envision them on the outside looking in for a playoff berth. First of all, these morons don't even do their homework. They point at the alleged fragility of the Rangers new supersniper Marian Gaborik who missed a large portion of the last three seasons to injury. But the problem had been that Gaborik's hip ailment had been misdiagnosed and treated for two years as groin injuries so it wasn't until he had the hip surgery last year that he could look forward to a productive season. He came back after the proper procedure and scored at a goal a game pace last year. And this year he's tearing it up the first few games. The Rangers have also been drafting very adroitly the last few years and the organization's trees are bearing strong fruit indeed. Del Zotto, a nineteen-year-old defenseman, is already captaining a suddenly revitalized power play. Gilroy, the Hobey Baker winner (MVP of college hockey) adds another offensive element on the back line.
But the most important move was the firing of Coach Renney last year. Renney was a supercilious know-it-all who Tefloned himself from criticism by toadying up to the press corps. Renney's "system"-five in the picture-was a reactive defense-oriented approach that nullified the offensive instincts of among others, Jaromir Jagr, one of the greatest players of all time. Eventually this suffocating system prompted the team quitting on the preppy, "professorial" Renney, whose post-game press conferences could have been scripted by Casey Stengel for all the sense they made. Think Yogi Berra meets Frasier Crane. That being said, Sather went out and hired one of the best coaches ever, John Tortorella, a Boston native who had an all-too brief tenure as interim coach of the Rangers a few years back before he piloted Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup. Torts is the polar opposite of Renney-passionate, emotional, hard assed, disdainful to the press corps-and his go-go system of pressuring the puck and forechecking an opponent to distraction is already bearing fruit. Of course, a balls to the halfwall puck pressuring system can only succeed if you have a potential Vezina trophyist in goal and the Rangers have that in the stingy Swede, Henrik Lundqvist, who's on his way to breaking record after record in the few short years he's been between the Rangers pipes. There are some real good young Russians learning on the job in New York and a monster named Grachev interning in Hartford, as well as homebred youngsters like Dubinsky and Callahan and Staal and Girardi who are coming into their own this season, eating up the massive amounts of ice time they richly deserved but never got under the Renney regime, where "requisite experience" was the keyword, no matter how badly a veteran might stink up the ice.
Then you have Avery back who will go down in hockey history for single-handedly driving Devil's goalie Martin Brodeur to distraction and a quick exit the last time the two teams met in the playoffs. So I would be disappointed if the Rangers don't go deep into the playoffs this year. But at least, under Torts system, we'll be treated to an exciting 82-game regular season, not the snooze fest that Renney inflicted on us season after tedious season. And if the Rangers don't win the cup, there's always an early spring Yankee game. How much they charge for hotdogs at the new stadium?