NEW YORK – I have been on the Rangers beat for five years now and for the last three, I had the pleasure of dealing with Chris Drury on a regular basis.
Now, Drury isn’t the best of quotes in the room, because he’s so reserved and many might say he can speak in clichés simply because of his guarded nature.
Yet, tonight was different, as the Ranger captain reached his boiling point with the team, after they were outplayed in their 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on home ice. Speaking with Drury, along with another reporter, when asked about what is the team’s problem, the center replied, “Immaturity, that’s what it’s been all year. Simple answer.”
And then I asked what can be done about it, Drury snapped, “Grow up real fast, in the last 12 or 13 games or whatever the hell we have left, or we will be watching playoff hockey.”
Then as the television cameras came over, the Ranger captain ended the interview.
Although he spoke for only about a minute, his words were as sharp as anytime during his three year tenure on Broadway. This team is very immature and is only in the playoff hunt because they have one of the top five goaltenders in the league.
This all starts from the top. If John Tortorella is to be believed from what he told the press today, then this team watches no video of the opponent and he doesn’t know the rules of the game off the top of his head.
If this is actually true, then Tortorella should be fired today. No modern coach can just wing it with an opponent by not watching video and of course he knows the rulebook, if he didn’t then he has no business standing behind a NHL bench.
We all know this isn’t the case. Rather, the Ranger coach continually dismisses questions from every reporter he doesn’t want to answer. Both questions were innocent enough (one was asked before the game and one after), but instead, Tortorella arrogantly and immaturely decides to blow off the reporters inquiries he doesn’t want to answer.
Frankly, if it wasn’t written into his contract, he probably wouldn’t talk to the press at all.
That sets the tone for the rest of the team. Under Tom Renney, the Ranger room was the easiest beat to ever work. Stories would write themselves as loquacious players would fill notebooks and tape recorders.
Now, things seem to have changed as many a Ranger picks and chooses his words carefully as not to tick off the guy in charge.
Yet, this is not the most damning statement about the team. Rather it’s the personnel decisions that Tortorella influenced on Glen Sather. If Renney was still the coach, both Blair Betts and Colton Orr would probably have been re-signed and Donald Brashear would be stealing someone else’s money.
Then there’s the defense, filled with either over the hill veterans and untested youngsters. There’s no shame in going with youth, but the system would have to augment the talent. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen on the Rangers, where too many mental errors occur on the blue line, causing too much strain on Henrik Lundqvist.
Plus you should have a mentoring program in place where the veterans teach the rookies. Unfortunately, both Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival are ill-equipped in that department, so Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy, and Marc Staal have to learn on the fly.
At forward, there are also problems as Ryan Callahan, and Brandon Dubinsky have not grown into top six forwards, some would say they have taken steps back this season. Too much early season reliance on Marian Gaborik has taken a toll on the Rangers leading scorer and none of the younger players have stepped up.
Now, Drury is not immune to any of this either. During large stretches this season the captain has vanished on the ice and his skills have eroded over the past two years. On a team filled with talent, the center probably would flourish, but as a main cog, he seems to struggle.
As captain, Drury seems to be a very quiet leader, which is not what this team seems to need, but it seems Mark Messier or Brendan Shanahan couldn’t get through to these guys now either.
The Rangers have 12 games left in the season and based on tonight’s loss there doesn’t seem to be an urgency on the ice. Each game now is a playoff game for this squad and if the Rangers don’t grow up, as Drury said, then the Garden will be dark come April.
And that would be a first in five years and a very disappoint first full year for Tortorella.[audio:https://www.nysportsday.com/wp-content/uploads/001_A_058_Joe-McDonald_2010_03_16.mp3]