NEW YORK – It’s becoming like sports déjà vu at Madison Square Garden as the Rangers are starting to look like another New York franchise.
With the Rangers continuing to collapse and seeking some sort of bailout, they may want to look to Queens for their answer. Because they have become the hockey version of the New York Mets, complete with a damning part of their game, a coach twisting in the wind, disinterested players, and an untouchable general manager.
Like the Mets, the games have become almost scripted with a pattern developing every night. Like the Mets frustration has set in, as Henrik Lundqvist has started to sound like David Wright did in September.
And like the Mets, they have their coach on a rope, with the team teetering on to keeping him or firing him and moving on.
The similarities are well…Amazin.
First, there’s the glaring hole in each team’s game. Whereas the Mets had their bullpen, the Rangers can’t solve their power play. It was almost comical last summer were no possible win was safe at Shea as the arsonists in the ‘pen, burned away every lead.
Defense actually isn’t the problem for these Rangers. It’s actually quite the opposite. Down two goals, then forget it, the game is over. If they do score, they tend to give it up very quickly. Then there’s the power play, and no, there’s no truth to the rumor that Glen Sather is trying to lobby the league to allow teams to decline penalties.
The lack of scoring has the Rangers 2-7-3 in their last 11 games, which has put Tom Renney on the firing line. Although the Rangers won’t publically acknowledge the coach’s status, Willie Watch has quickly morphed into Tom Watch over the past few weeks.
It’s gotten so bad Renney is starting to sound like Willie Randolph. “How well did you think we played tonight?,” Renney inquired back when he was asked about the team’s play. “I thought we played hard. Anything drastic is to go outside of what the team’s needs are right now. We are going to continue to play hard, stay the course and go after wins.”
Over his tenure, Renney has been more media friendly than Randolph, who treated press conferences like hostage negotiations. But the Rangers coach has become more defensive and is sounding more and more like a No. 12 is on his back.
And his status could change every day. The longer it takes, the deeper the hole for the club, although if Renney does get fired, it probably won’t happen at 3 a.m.
But if he is on the firing line, you have to wonder if the players are still on his side. Carlos Delgado started to hit after Randolph was fired. Will a new coach give life to say a Markus Naslund? That remains to be seen, but if the Mets are any indication, a new coach means a fresh start for some of the players. .
It may not relieve the frustration, though. Wright started to get chippy with reporters last September when asked about the collapse. You can see the same happening with Lundqvist, the Rangers good guy.
“It would be very strange if I didn’t feel frustration, I think everybody does,” Lundqvist said. “It’s all about winning and we are not winning. We are working hard and trying to do the right things. [Sigh]”
The Rangers still have a month and a half and things can change. Yet, they may not have the personnel to go very far this season. Like Omar Minaya, Sather gave large contracts to players, who probably didn’t deserve them. Wade Redden is the Rangers Luis Castillo, but with a worse contract. Scott Gomez was paid to be Joe Thornton, much like the Mets signed Carlos Beltran to be their Manny Ramirez. Gomez and Beltran are good players, but are paid to be Hall of Famers. And gamers like Wright and Lundqvist are just too little to carry their respective clubs.
The fault lies with the general managers, with Minaya and Sather taking the hits. Yet, both get rewarded for their futility. Minaya got a four year extension for two collapses, while Sather may have to pass away to leave the Ranger general manager’s position.
And that’s the problem. With the same construction, both teams have suffered, with the Rangers going through their own Met-like collapse right now. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done, because even if the Rangers do make the playoffs, it will probably be one and out for the team.
Anything else would be Amazin.