Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tom Must Go

Last night, the Rangers lost to the Atlanta Thrashers on Adam Graves night. If I wasn’t so angry at New York for yesterday’s effort, I would probably discuss the last Ranger to wear #9 in more detail, but that must be saved for a later time.

Tom Renney must go.

Because I am not stupid. And the 19,000 people who fill MSG night in and night out, rooting for New York’s home team are not stupid either.

We see this lifeless team. This team with no drive, no personality, no attitude. It makes Rangers games dull and boring. It creates the quietest atmosphere at Madison Square Garden that I have ever seen or heard. It tears at the heart of fans who want excitement.

Where are you, though, Coach? You’re team looks lifeless out there, night in and night out. Oh, wait... You want them that way.

Tom Renney has managed to take any unique individualism and squash it in effort to create good defensive soldiers. He has damaged the confidence of his youth and forced these mindless drones into thinking that defense is the only way to play hockey.

Although, we have the best penalty kill, of course. Renney doesn’t stand for goals-allowed.

Here, here. I’m not trying to say defense isn’t important, or that a team shouldn’t play good team defense. However, a team has to be able to score, too. And this is a department in which the Rangers greatly lack.

Is it personnel, or is strategy? In some cases, personnel can really hinder a team from scoring goals; some teams just don’t have fire power. And in the Ranger’s defense, this team is lacking a sniper. A “go-to” guy. But don’t tell me, as Gomez plugs away with first unit powerplay time night in and night out, that his first powerplay goal of the season should have been only two weeks ago. Do not tell me that this is acceptable.

The powerplay, in general, is not acceptable. The powerplay does have to do with personnel, as well, however a lot of times a good strategy can override a team’s difficulty in scoring powerplay goals. For starters, members of a powerplay unit should MOVE.

This is elementary, Tom Renney.

And this powerplay also boasts the league leading shorthanded goals, with 13. I suppose the Rangers are aiming to break records this season.

Would a good coach allow 8 Two Many Men penalties to be called on their team in one season?

Although maybe the players would have a better time remembering their linemates if Renney didn’t create 31 different line combinations in the first 30 games. The Rangers managed fourteen separate combinations when they lost to the Boston Bruins a couple days ago… and that was only in the third period.

The Rangers have been guilty of “Not Enough Men” this season. How, you wonder? In December against the Calgary Flames, the Rangers played almost a full 30 seconds shorthanded during even strength. No one realized they were missing a player.

It’s mind blowing, really.

The Rangers attempt the same style of play game in and game out despite poor results. They do their best to prevent the other team from scoring, rather than try to score themselves. They send one player up to forecheck while the rest hang back to play solid D. They play “five in a picture” hockey. Amazingly, the Rangers still manage defensive breakdowns. It makes you wonder why Glen Sather signed offensive defensemen like Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin if his coach was looking for better defense, instead.

Do you know Ranger games are really boring? I haven’t found a better remedy for my own restlessness at night!

Nothing. Happens. For a full two periods, nothing happens, and I’m a personal fan of defensemen. Nothing thrills me more than watching future-Norris-winner Marc Staal take a man off the puck. However, watch the Ranger forwards dump the puck and change when they could be putting aggressive pressure on a goaltender kills me.

No wonder the Rangers make backups look like Vezina candidates.

I have long said I would rather my team lose than play like the Devils do. And I stand by that statement, as the Rangers become increasingly like their Jersey neighbors.

Without a doubt, I believe the defensive strategy that Renney employs is not only boring, but shortsighted and will not succeed in the playoffs. Renney plays for the shootout; and it just so happens that the Rangers boast a league-best eight shootout wins. After that 1-0 loss in Boston, Renney said during his postgame “with any luck, we’d still be playing.”

No, Mr. Renney. With any luck, your team wouldn’t have been shut out. With any luck, you’d have won the game in regulation.

Over the summer, the Rangers traded for Nik Zherdev. An enigmatic forward, Zherdev has cutesy moves and serious skills with the puck. And while Zherdev should play a responsible game, Ranger fans are collectively beginning to feel like Z has more to offer us. However, when Zherdev does get fancy, he finds himself benched for a shift or two.

He’s not the only one. Brandon Dubinsky has found himself in a serious scoring slump his sophomore year. When asked about it, Brandon said he needs to focus more on his defensive game and the offensive game will come. (I almost choked after hearing that statement.) But this statement comes after Dubinsky found himself benched during a game in which he “did not backcheck properly.”

The way I remember October, the Rangers were fun and Dubinsky and Zherdev found themselves on fire. When they scored, they jumped all over eachother and celebrated in a way AO would be proud of. That was, you know. Back when the Rangers were hot and won and won and led the conference.

But now? This team is lifeless, and they’ve brought Dubi and Niky down with them. And they’ve only been playing .500 hockey since.

This is not limited to this year. There are questions as to why Jaromir Jagr’s production fell off so severely, and to why Fedor Tyutin is enjoying much more success with the Bluejackets then he did with the Rangers.

On December 29th, the Rangers defeated the New York Islanders 5-4 at MSG on Versus, televised nationally. Fans everywhere across the United States got to see the game, and got to hear the message Ranger fans chanted over and over again throughout the third period.

“Pet-r Pruch-a.”

He was cheered for because he scored a goal. He was cheered for because he played with effort and emotion and hit guys twice his size again and again. This kid created something every single shift.

You know him. Petr Prucha.

Not ringing a bell?

Petr Prucha scored thirty goals his rookie season with the Rangers in 2005. Maybe you were all a big preoccupied with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin to have noticed, but the Czech quickly became a fan favorite in New York despite his small size because of his work ethic, his smile, and his willingness to go to the net.

But Prucha doesn’t spend too much time on the ice anymore. The only player, with the exception of Henrik Lundqvist, to be cheered with a standing ovation this season, is a consistent healthy scratch.

Nothing that Tom Renney has done has hurt me personally, except for his treatment of Petr Prucha. It’s unwarranted. It’s not acceptable. And I worry Petr Prucha, my favorite hockey player, will find his way back to the Czech Republic during this offseason. After all, which one of your teams will want a smallish, single digit goal scorer?

Petr Prucha is so much more than that. Petr Prucha is energy. Petr Prucha is strength. Petr Prucha is heart. Petr Prucha draws penalties like no one else on the Ranger’s squad. And Petr Prucha could score goals, if Tom Renney ever gave him so decent ice time or some powerplay time.

Not like changing up the powerplay could hurt at all.

Yesterday, before the game that took the Rangers only 58 minutes to score in, right after a game in which the Rangers were shut out, Tom Renney had this to say about the former thirty goal scorer.

“With a guy like Pruch, it’s a matter of him getting in and being able to sustain it,” Renney said. “He’s not a big guy. For our needs, at least, a guy like Petr is good for a while and then it seems to dry up on him. Then I can get him back in again. The bottom line is it’s his size. It’s getting banged around, and then because of that, not being able to sustain what he can deliver over the period of more than four or five games. And that’s the dilemma that I have. And it’s too bad, because he’s a helluva guy.”

Firstly, this is the first time I have ever heard about Petr having a difficultly sustaining anything. In September, Renney told the world it was Prucha who was in the best condition. “First Pete needs opportunity, and he’s work hard enough and deserves the look,” Renney said. “He’s in phenomenal condition. One of the highest scorers ever (on the conditioning test). As a matter of fact, since I’ve been here this is the best testing of a Ranger team, and Pete’s at the top.” I have a hard time understanding how a guy who is in such good condition wears and tears so easily.

Secondly, I’ve seen all but one Ranger game this season. And Prucha is noticeable in every single game he plays, so I’m not sure how he’s not sustaining. He's certainly more noticeable than, say, Aaron Voros, except when Voros take a bad penalty (or four) a game.

Finally, this is a player who scored 50 NHL goals in his first two seasons in the NHL, with him suffering from a huge decrease in powerplay time and general ice time going into his second season.

The injustice to Prucha merits its own post. Actually, it merits its own blog, and I think I’ve essentially turned the blog I share with Lucky13 into Petr Prucha’s own cheerleading section.

I enjoy Prucha. He’s the most fun to watch play. He gives it his all. But at the end of the day, I want the Rangers to win.

And why is it so hard for Renney to see that Prucha helps this team win?

When Ranger fans chanted for Petr Prucha that night against the Islanders, they were saying something else, other than just that Prucha deserves a spot in the on that bench, not the pressbox, every single night.

They were saying that Tom Renney doesn’t deserve a spot behind that bench any longer.

The best thing I read regarding Prucha's... interesting... fourth NHL season came right after he scored his first goal, on December 3rd, against the Penguins, to force the team into overtime. The entire bench erupted like it was the greatest, most inspired goal that ever was scored. I'm not sure who said it, and I hope I'm not completely ripping someone off, but the statement just rang through me as the painful truth.

"Seems like the people on the bench have way more confidence in Prucha than the ones standing behind it."

Tom Renney needs to go.

Because of his questionable personnel treatment and confidence-killing decisions that has left Prucha saying “"I feel like I need points to stay in. The coach probably doesn't have much confidence in me to keep me in the lineup." Because I can’t stand to see that happen to a talent like Zherdev or Dubinsky or Artem Anisimov, who made his Rangers debut last night.

Because youth is held accountable while veterans get a free ride.

Because of the inability of the powerplay to score, or even create scoring chances.

Because of the number of shorthanded goals allowed and two many men on the ice penalties.

Because of the “play for the shootout” mentality.

Because of the defense-first system that sucks the life out of the Garden and creates mindless zombies out of hockey players.

On Friday, December 12th, 2008, as the Rangers approached signing Mats Sundin (lol, right?) it was pretty clear that Prucha would be the one to be waived or traded to make room for the Swede. The Hockey Rodent wrote a wonderfully sorrowful piece on Petr Prucha, for those of us who appreciated the chance to see him skate on Broadway. In his rant, Requiem (which means “a prayer for the souls departed”), he makes several good points about Prucha and his bench boss.

I watch the game for the entertainment. And when it stops being entertainment... then this becomes just another job. Prucha is entertaining. Nikolai Zherdev has the potential to be entertaining if only Renney would let the guy off his backchecking leash and allow a bit of cherry picking.

I just hate how he's so thoroughly sterilized this club and how he's converted virtuosos into robots. He's blanded the brand so much I feel as if I've crossed the Hudson River.

Prucha was a reliable break from the meat and potatoes. Admittedly dreadful on the backcheck. Yet his anarchistic attack dared give this club a modicum of personality. But no. Tom couldn't have too much of that.

Renney killed Prucha. And now he's killing Zherdev as well. And "yes". I'm angry.

I’m angry, too. I want my team back. My team with character. My team with personality. My team who actually seemed to care.

Fire Tom Renney.

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