We're about to witness the sixth consecutive NHL season without a playoff
appearance by the New York Rangers. Ponder for a moment how much has
happened since the last time the Rangers made the playoffs. We've been
through two presidents, seen the economy wither and die, and watched the
Stanley Cup hoisted five times while Mark Messier and company worked on
their golf games.
Eric Lindros was still considered to be a dominant player back in those
days, not an overly-concussed crybaby. The New York Islanders have made
the playoffs more recently than the Rangers have, the ultimate slap in the
face for any self-respecting Blueshirts fan. The last time the Rangers
made the playoffs, I was still in middle school. I'm a sophomore in
college now. Something is dreadfully wrong here.
In the same six season period, what should be one of the proudest
franchises in the NHL has lost all sense of accountability. Glen Sather
apparently has more lives than all of the members of Motley Crue combined,
because he has dodged more bullets than any other NHL general manager ever
Sather has assembled the largest collection of mismatched parts in the
history of the NHL, but even that is not the issue. The New York Rangers
have the talent to win the Stanley Cup, but they do not have the heart to
even be competitive in the AHL.
Take a look at the last few games on the schedule. At this point in the
season, every single point is critical, yet the team couldn't seem to
muster a consistent effort. They were beat soundly by Pittsburgh, minus
Mario Lemieux. Against the Thrashers, they earned one point for the
overtime loss, which unfortunately isn't good enough at this stage of the
season. Then against the Islanders, they didn't show up to play. They were
soundly beat, and it took a late goal to even earn one point. That is
As legendary as Mark Messier is, even his leadership can't motivate
this bunch. Players phone in games regularly, and decide to turn it on
only when it is absolutely necessary. The game against the Islanders was a
microcosm of the entire season: too little, too late. Even with their
backs against the wall, they couldn't seem to motivate themselves to turn
in 60 solid minutes of hockey.
With the exceptions of Matthew Barnaby, Anson Carter, Brian Leetch, and
Mike Dunham, none of the New York Rangers deserve to make the playoffs.
Eric Lindros has been a joke this season. Watching his lackluster play,
one can't help but wonder if he should have hung up his skates years ago,
after Scott Stevens knocked his lights out. Mark Messier has chipped in an
occasional big goal, but that's not enough. On most nights, he plays like
what he is: a 42-year-old. Darius Kasparitis and Bobby Holik have reminded
us why a blank-check philosophy towards building a hockey team is destined
to fail. There are plenty of other Rangers that deserve to be called out
for their uninspired play, but most of them have been so invisible that
they're not even worth mentioning.
The 2002-2003 season is a lost cause for the New York Rangers. Even if
by some miracle they make the playoffs, it will be yet another epic
disaster. They will find themselves down three games to none against the
Senators before they decide that they feel like playing hockey. Almost all
of the Blueshirts look out for themselves and themselves alone. It's truly
pitiful to watch this once proud franchise take the ice and disgrace the
uniforms that they wear every night.
For the time being, Rangers fans must pray for a day when Eric Lindros
is long gone, Dan Blackburn is an All-Star goalie, and Jamie Lundmark is a
35 goal scorer. By then, Glen Sather will be chomping on a cigar somewhere
in Canada, watching his former employer putting together a scrappy young
squad that isn't the most talented, but hungry enough to win.
But for now, the one thing that is clear is that such a time is far
off. Glen Sather will probably be here for a long time. In fact, when the
world ends, the only two human beings alive will probably be Glen Sather
and Keith Richards. But the blame can't be placed squarely on Sather's
shoulders. As bad a job as he's done, it does not change the fact that his
players aren't giving their all. There's an attitude and desire that
winning franchises have. The New York Rangers just don't understand that.
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