Last season, when the New York Rangers were the best in the Eastern Conference and almost made it to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, it was not necessarily their scoring and finesse that led them there. It was their gritty style of play that head coach John Tortorella preaches because he had the players that could perform on the ice.
General Manager Glen Sather seemed to forget that recipe in the offseason when he decided to let Brandon Prust leave during free agency and trade depth for top forward Rick Nash. The problem is that while getting Nash, Sather gave up Tortorella-style players Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erickson along with this year’s first-round pick in the draft.
It may be safe to say that most fans would not have made that trade. The reality is that in order to make that lineup change, Tortorella would have had to adjust his coaching methods and anyone that knows him understands that is not an option.
Each of the players the Rangers lost last offseason were key cogs in the wheel who use the gritty, bang on the boards style hockey that Tortorella teaches. Nash can not fill that role. Brian Boyle looks lost without Prust, and the Rangers are not the same team they were in 2012.
With yesterday’s addition of LW Ryane Clowe from the San Jose Sharks, the Rangers do not necessarily add instant scoring strength, but they install a very gritty player that is not adverse to banging the boards and dropping the gloves. In trading disappointing forward Marian Gaborik today to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Rangers receive three players, C Derick Brassard, RW Derek Dorsett and D John Moore, that will add depth to their lines and provide additional grit.
Dorsett is currently injured with a broken collarbone and should be ready for the playoffs if the Rangers happen to make it that far. All of these players will allow Tortorella the opportunity to play a more aggressive style and hopefully bring back some magic that we saw in last year’s run.
Sather recently added Mats Zuccarello, who joined the team this past Thursday, after being acquired from the Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL in Russia. All of these moves assume that if the Rangers can become more physical, then the offense will soon open up for players such as Nash, Brad Richards, Boyle and Carl Hagelin.
Without a full training camp, playing a shortened season will always be tough on any roster that has turned over as much as the Rangers have. However, the talent on this team clearly has not risen to the occasion and goals have been scarce while the power play has been putrid.
Hopefully the infusion of new players will add a new dimension to the Rangers style. Without grit, determination and more opportunistic scoring, this team will not even make the playoffs, let alone make a run to the finals.