Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Target within Range-RS

Post #36 (this time I mean it) Topic: You’ll shoot your eye out!

As always, all good things must come to an end, or in this case a beginning. My 1 month vacation ended today as I resumed school… with 4 classes, which is the same amount I attended my entire senior year of college (that good ole’ Orange Education). Just got back from Florida. Had an amazing time, drank and ate to my heart’s content, relaxed in the sun and returned nice and tan, visited some cool places (Mexico, Caymans, Miami) 2 of which I had never previously visited, and generally feel good. Oh, and I met some supremely interesting characters (eh that Vinny Scallopine kid ain’t got squadush on me… what about it?).

To my dismay, when I got back to reality/misery, I noticed that my beloved Rangers were at the back end of a 1-5 stretch over which they fell from 2nd in the atlantic to last, and to 9th in the Eastern Conference leaving them currently out of playoff position.

If the Calgary flames lose 5 games in a row, the only noticeable impact is the immediate reduction in cheery mullets, which are replaced by the less popular, less-cheery mullet (the business starts creeping towards the back and the fun begins to hibernate). In the big rotten Apple, if the Rangers lose 5 games in a row, HEADS MUST ROLL… GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Now I understand that there is a lot on the line for a team that signed 2 #1 centers in the off-season, neither of which has developed any chemistry with the team’s captain and supposed star. Instead, these two guys have been relegated to a majority 2nd and 3rd line duty, amongst intermittent “chemistry” experiments in trying to force a Drury/Jagr or Gomez/Jagr goal manufacturing facility. Truthfully, the Rangers should be winning. They’ve got the offensive talent, a quickly improving, young, physical, heady defensive core, and one of the league’s best goaltenders. What they don’t have are the points to show for it.

Logically, the conclusion that many journalists have reached is that Jaromir Jagr must be traded (or as they would say in Boston (BTW, my prediction of the Celtics winning 71 games was looking great until this week) Yoggaaaaa). In response I insist NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – you’ll shoot your eye out.

Take a look at the last two years. Ranger fans have witnessed the rebirth of a team once thought to be dead in the water. They hadn’t made the playoffs in years, Sather was a moron, blah blah blah blah. Then, as if magically, the post-lockout Rangers (predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league) made the playoffs behind a Jagr-esque 120 points from the current captain. However, the Jagr train was derailed by the Scotty Gomez lead satanic incarnates ending the Rangers otherwise pleasant season far too abruptly. Last year, with slightly lower production but slightly higher importance, Jagr was perhaps 7 seconds away from a Eastern Conference finals showdown with the eventual east champions Ottawa Senators.

Now this year, Jagr’s production has dipped to below his standard point per game level and the garden smells of fear. The Rangers are amongst the league worst in goals scored per game and people are demanding bigger nets.

WELL FEAR NOT LOYALS, for I assure you that Jaromir remains one of the most talented players in the game; he has merely changed his approach. Furthermore, goals don’t lead to the playoffs, POINTS DO, and points can be accumulated in a number of super duper ways.

The previous two years, an admittedly aging Jagr expended a majority of his energy simply trying to reach the playoffs. The end result in both seasons was an underproductive playoff Jagr. What this team needs, and what I believe Jaromir has come to recognize, is that the Ranger need a 100% Jagr in the playoffs. In past years, Jagr lacked the support that he has now and was required to put the weight on his shoulders. Now, Jagr has the support of two seasoned playoff veterans, a maturing defense and an experienced goalie; the weight should not rest solely on his shoulders.

I by no means am giving Jagr a free pass to loaf for the rest of the season, and there have been various instances in which it is clear that Jagr is “taking a night off”. I’m simply arguing that Jaromir preserving himself can have positive consequences for this team in the longrun, regardless of current struggles and that HE MUST NOT BE TRADED AT FIRST SIGN OF SLOWING! (especially since he’s good buddies with Roger “Barry Bonds” Clemens.

By pacing himself, Jagr forces Drury and Gomez (the younger of the teams many veterans) to assume the weight. Gomez has been playing well and as far as recent highlights have illustrated, Drury seems to be regaining his nose for the net. THESE GUYS NEED TO BE COMFORTABLE ON GARDEN ICE COME PLAYOFF TIME. They must be ready for the pressures of playoffs in NY. Sure Drury played on cup contenders in Colorado, Calgary and a near miss in Buffalo. Sure Gomez won two cups across the river in Jerz. But these pressures couldn’t hold a candle to the expectations set upon this New York team by its New York fans.

Assume, hypothetically, that these two get going. Drury finishes the seasons with 35 goals and Gomez with 95 points. Meanwhile in the background Jagr finishes with a respectable 80 +/- a few. Several results would necessarily follow.

1. Opposing team’s defenses are forced to focus on Gomez and Drury, attempting to shut them down. These are two guys who do great things with the puck, and thus require constant attention from the opposition to ensure minimal puck possession time.

2. Brendan Shanahan is given the space he needs to resume his effective sniping which dissipated in the end of last year’s regular season but reappeared somewhat in the playoffs. Factor in the various rests that Shanny has been gifted due to minor injuries and we’re talking about one of the most dangerous playoff weapons in the history of sports having his motor running at full capacity.

3. If Drury and Gomez are effectively centering their lines, our 3rd line can and will be given extra minutes. Dubsinky, Prucha and Dawes/Cally/Hossa/Moore/Avery are fast and difficult to pursue. If Drury and Gomez are going at full speed, this line will be up against other teams’ 3rd and 4th lines, which could equate to increased offense.

4. And most importantly, Jagr slips under the radar (as much as he possibly can). If Gomez and Drury are going (as they say in hockey) then Jagr gets no double teams, he gets no shadow from John Madden or Jay Pandolfo, he absorbs no bullish checks from Jarko Ruutu. Unequivocally, an underappreciated Jagr is a deadly weapon that this team needs in the playoffs. The Rangers should be running on all cylinders.

Any talks of trading Jagr are founded on the belief that we do not need him. But what exactly would he bring in return? Chances are that any team gunning for him is doing so to increase their playoff chances. Would such a team send us a Marian Hossa or a John Liles or any of the other names that have been fired around in return? Doing so would appear counterproductive.

Rather, what the Rangers can expect is a package of prospects or expiring salaries. In trading Jagr the Rangers will show that they think they can win with the rest of their pieces; that Jagr… OR ANYONE LIKE HIM, is expendable. But given the strength of the farm, the logjam of defensive prospects and future centers, are more draft picks really the answer? I say no.

And the Rangers don’t need any more role players. They don’t need another good with the puck but can’t score Marcel Hossa, or face-off/PK man Blair Betts, or a banger Hollweg/Orr. What they need is someone who can tally goals when they really count.

Instead, ponder this. With no Jagr the Rangers make the playoffs. At that point, what would be the best thing to add to the line-up? A HEALTHY, HUNGRY, CONTRACT FIGHTING Jaromir Jagr.

Of course this entire theory hinges on us making the playoffs. However, given the glaring weaknesses of some of the other teams currently occupying spots, I do not foresee making the playoffs as an issue. All that is necessary for a playoff birth is a fully functional Gomez and Drury 1-2 center punch. I am confident that the rest of the pieces will fall into place. Then, come time for the playoffs, assuming Jagr awakes from his coma the Rangers all of the sudden gain an enormous weapon. And anyone claiming that Jagr doesn’t want to win must not watch him play; this guy hates to lose.

Come playoffs, 1 of two things happen.

1. Jagr wakes up. He begins meshing with whatever center he’s given, he gets more open ice as Gomez and Drury demand more attention. He starts scoring at a dangerous clip creating more chances for everyone else. The youngsters get excited and turn in surprisingly veteran like performances. Henrik regains that feeling he had when he won Olympic gold and transforms into a goal-size brick wall. The Rangers become THE most dangerous team in the league and sweep their way to a Stanley Cup Showdown with none other than the VANCOUVER CANUCKS, lead by Peter Forsberg and a similar combination of great young defense and godly goal-tending.

2. Jagr never wakes up. He loafs into the playoffs (or the Rangers miss them entirely). In that scenario we don’t even need to discuss whether or not we should traded him. His contract is up (for failing to meet the option requirements (another playoff series and 85 points), and he is soon replaced by Alex Cherapanov, the league’s next young Russian Phenom. The Rangers then start off the next-season 10 years younger, and nearly 5 million (on Jagr alone, ignoring Straka, Avery, Shanny…) dollars lighter.

Assuming these are the only two possibilities, I must beg that Mr. Sather and Co. give Mr. Jagr some time. Afterall, championships aren’t won in the regular season; they’re won in the playoffs. And championships aren’t won by top of the line but nonetheless SUPPORT CENTERS (Drury and Gomez), they’re won by superstars… namely Jaromir Jagr.

Other Notes

Is there anything funnier than a 40’s gangster? The answer is no.

Whoever invented the buffet is a genius. Or so I thought. Originally, when there was no currency, people probably ate whatever they wanted/could whenever they desired. Then some asshole invented currency and things started costing money. Then, people started purchasing rations and the buffet became nothing but a Vegas thing or nourishment for crackheads (no one eats at old country buffet… no one: Its like going to Hooters for Wings). I say abolish currency and bring back the standard buffet. DCMSG FOR PRESIDENT!!!!!!!!!

ROOOOLLLLLLLLL OUUUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT THOOOOOOOOOOOOSE Lazy, hazy crazy days of summer. Those days of sodas and pretzels and beers.

Why do people in serious relationships insist on inviting a 3rd wheel along to their events? Don’t they know that being the 3rd wheel sucks? Or are they just looking for the acknowledgement that they tried and the ability to say “at least we offered”?

South Park is funnier than Family Guy. No ifs ands or buts about it.

Is this Dorcea?

Don’t pronounce Schedule as “SHEDULE”, seriously… its ridiculous.

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