It's good to get some time to write again! I've been extremely busy at work, thank G-d. Anyway, just a few thoughts from the last few weeks.
1. Sean Avery. For those of us, myself included, who argued against Avery's off-season antics, there is no denying his mid-season value. The Rangers are a different team when Avery is in the lineup. If the guy can manage to stay out of his own way, he may very well have found a long term home in New York.
2. Henrik Lundqvist. We knew that he would have to carry the team early. We didn't know he'd have to single handedly carry them! Lundqvist has been extraordinary for much of the season. That's good news for the Rangers. The bad news is that when he's been human, the Rangers have lost.
3. 0ffense. I actually spelled it with a zero, not an "o"! Need I say more?
4. Marc Staal. Wow! The kid is incredible. The kid plays like a veteran. A good veteran! I think he's the best defenseman on the team. I can't even imagine how good he's going to be once he fills out a little bit and gains some more experience.
5. Brandon Dubinsky. Another wow! In the off-season, I wanted the Rangers to sign Peca. I'm thrilled that they didn't! Dubinsky is an excellent hockey player. He's got great hands, excellent instincts, great size and phenomenal fore-checking ability.
6. The 4th Line. Kudos to Tom Renney & Co. They managed to turn these guys into a reliable line. Betts, Hollweg and Orr have earned the Coaches trust. These guys have effectively reduced the amount of time that older players like Jagr, Shanny and Straka have to play. That should pay some dividends as the season progresses. It also forces opponents to play their fourth lines or run the risk of getting tired as games near their end.
7. Tom Renney. After reading item #6, you might be surprised by what I'm about to write. I don't think Renney is the right guy for the job. He's too nice and he's too soft on his players. He was the perfect coach to help the franchise turn the corner towards becoming a playoff club. I don't think, however, that he's got what it takes to lead the team to real and meaningful success.
Renney is the ultimate "player's coach". He understands each players unique strengths and weaknesses and he tries, to the best of his ability, to put each player in their optimal circumstances. He protects his players from the media and from public scrutiny in general. He is careful not to bruise the delicate egos of his athletes, especially those of his super-stars. Don't get me wrong, these are all virtues and admirable ones at that.
So what's the problem? The Rangers (like most if not all other teams) suffer from mental lapses. They'll play exceptionally well for significant stretches of time and then they'll abandon the things that made them successful. In response, Renney plays the role of the exceedingly patient, loving and all knowing Daddy. He believes in his kids and knows that eventually they'll learn from their mistakes. He doesn't punish them, he doesn't even lose his cool and he will certainly NEVER "call out" his older boys for setting bad examples for their younger siblings.
The truth is that over the long haul, that approach probably makes the most sense. Especially with the Rangers. They are, after all, a veteran club with very capable leaders in the locker room. They are a mature and proud bunch who will, if given the time, correct their own mistakes without the need for loud reminders.
So again, what's the problem? Time. Sports are a microcosm of life, yet they are different. In life, you have a lifetime to find yourself (which G-d willing means a very happy long time!). In sports you don't. You have a relatively short regular season and an even shorter playoff tournament. If the Rangers get derailed when it counts, they will not have three or four games to "find themselves". They'll be playing golf by then!
G-d gave us two hands. Jewish mysticism (also known as Kaballah) teaches that the right hand represents kindness while the left represents severity. We have been given both of them for a reason. Sometimes you have to be kind and patient. Other times you have to crack the whip. Renney is a very powerful "righty". Most great coaches are ambidextrous!