No matter what you read about the Rangers as the season gets closer, everyone seems to have a little bit of worry that the door is indeed closing. Many haven’t written the team off in regards to being a playoff team but most won’t actually label them contenders. The reasons? There’s a list. The most popular one seems to be the defense is apparently bad. But you’ve also got the forwards, goaltending and coaching to blame, depending on who you ask.
Personally, none of that is why I’m worried about this years’ team. I’m worried about chemistry and coehesiveness.
I’m not talking about chemistry in regards to lines and linemates. I’m referring to team chemisty, something that is imperative for teams to win.
The 2011-12 team had it in spades. That’s the only reason they got as far as they did. They were best friends on and off the ice and showed it by how they played for each other every night. 2013-14 was the same until March 5. Then Brad Richards became the glue, an almost super glue if you will, determined to hold that team together. (And of course you had the situation in the beginning of May that absolutely pushed them to the Final.)
2015-16 seemed different from the start. Something seemed off. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was but then saw a quote like this discussing last years’ team:
“We never got in sync,” McDonagh said of last season’s Rangers. “We never had everybody pulling really hard for one another, and that’s a hard thing to find.”
Excuse me? That used to be the motto of this team, their bond was how they were known. Everyone would say “they aren’t the most talented team but they play for each other each and every night”. How did that just disappear? Especially when the leadership group is similar to the one it was for those prior teams.
And that’s why I’m worried. A teams’ bond starts with it’s leaders. This is on Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and whoever else stands up and talks in that locker room. But it starts with those four. They need to create that bond and make sure it is in place at all times. That’s part of their responsibilty in wearing letters.
Why do I think they aren’t doing this? It’s September 8th. Other than as an afterthought in a tweet yesterday, have you heard anything about informal skates in New York? There hasn’t been a peep. Yes, I understand there has been a lot of overhaul with the beat writers but a few are still around and should be back to work by now. And yes I realize McDonagh and Stepan are currently with Team USA for the World Cup. But these skates usually start in August and those two are always the last to show up (another issue that has always bothered me a little bit). In the past, others have set these up instead. No one seems to have done that this year.
Is it possible they’ve been skating together and we don’t know? Sure. But Girardi was skating in Buffalo with Sabres players last week. Kevin Hayes was still in Boston this past weekend (where they’ve been talking about informal team skates for a week now). You’ve heard nothing from the new guys about coming to New York. It’s complete silence around the team with training camp starting in roughly two weeks. It’s not normal and to me, it’s not a good sign.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everyone (or almost everyone) but McDonagh, Stepan, Henrik Lundqvist, Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller have been working out together and we just don’t know about it. I guess it’s possible. But I’m not buying it. Instead, once the season starts, I’ll be listening closely to every practice and post game interview. They won’t outright say it but there’s hints when there are issues. I hope I hear nothing and am completely wrong about this. But for the moment, I’m worried.
(Photo: Melissa Andus)