Feeling Torn: Awaiting The Impending Doom And Gloom
Above is a photo of where I sat at MSG on Thursday night for the game against the Maple Leafs. The Rangers All For One deal never seems to fail me when it comes to giving me a decent seat to see my favorite team play. I figured I would treat myself after a long hard work week and a trip to New York always wipes away the blues. I thought to myself that I could catch a good game at home, since the Rangers always play well at the Garden. I bought myself a medium pan pizza, a medium soda and was ready to take in a game that I hoped would entertain me and hopefully, send me home happy.
Half-way through the first period, all of the positive feelings went away. By the first intermission, I was seething with rage. Throughout the evening, the Rangers were utterly dominated, as Toronto skated circles around every defender and forward dressed in blue. The offense was non-existent as they finished the first with under ten shots. The fans and atmosphere at The World’s Most Famous Arena was incredibly contentious and the mood was sour. The product on the ice was something not to be desired and that feeling was felt throughout the arena.
Normally, if the Rangers get shut out, I’m upset but by the end of the game, I went from feeling seething rage to feeling down about the team. With the impending and inevitable blow up this team will face, it made the sinking feeling hit deeper. Game after game, season after season, the boys in blue always gave us something to look forward to. We were treated with competitive teams and long playoff runs for many seasons. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the case this time around.
Through out the years, we’ve grown accustomed to not only these joyous moments but to the players participating in them. We’ve seen Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh blossom before our eyes, Henrik Lundqvist steal the show, Marc Staal shut down top tier players on the back end. Rick Nash became a solid two way player and became a reliable presence and leader. Even newer players like Michael Grabner, we’ve grown to love because of his speed and consistent efforts game in and game out. These guys may be on their way out of Broadway in the near future, and that hurts.
I am torn as a fan right now. Technically speaking, the Rangers are still in the hunt and it seems to me the overall attitude is that the team wants to make a playoff push, which is something we all want to hear, but with no major changes being made and the injuries that have befallen the roster, how can this team expect to compete against the likes of the Maple Leafs, Lightning, Blue Jackets and Capitals? Some fans have embraced the tank and a recent report from Larry Brooks about the team blowing it all up, conflicts the attitude the team is putting out to the public. What are we to think as a fan base? These conflicting ideas and reports just compounded on me as I sat in the Garden on Thursday.
There is no doubt that the Rangers need to re-tool this team. The Derek Stepan trade over the summer and buyout of fan and team favorite Dan Girardi began ticking the clock to this re-tool. I call it a re-tool because realistically, the team isn’t that far off from being competitive again. Drafting Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil is a step in the right direction to that re-tool. The question is, how long will this process take? The Rangers feel that with the right moves and infusion of youth along with some players already on the team, they can be right back in the thick of things next season, which isn’t a stretch. As much as I want to believe this 100 percent, I am a bit skeptical. The Rangers haven’t failed me over the last decade or so, but as a shaken New York sports fan (Mets, Jets, Rangers), when it comes to re-tooling or rebuilding, the track record hasn’t been the best (see 2016 Mets, any Jets season).
As I mentioned previously, I’m torn. I want this team to be competitive and push for the playoffs, yet at the same time, I want them to make moves that will allow them put them in prime position to compete long term again. That being said, the latter means they’ll miss the second season. Playoff hockey is something I crave. It’s a drug and as a Rangers fan, I’ve become addicted. It’s also something I use as a buffer to hide from the inevitable misery I’ll face as a New York Mets fan. As a passionate spectator of many New York sports teams, patience is not something I was blessed with having. I understand that I cannot have one and the other at the same time. I am sure there are other fans that feel the same way as me. My unrealistic expectation is that the Rangers somehow pull off this feat of getting into a Wild Card spot and at least give us some hockey after the second week of April.
All of this is very new to me as a Rangers fan, as it is to many younger Rangers fans. Although, as a kid, I experienced some terrible Rangers squads in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I was not old enough to really have something like that sink in. As a Mets fan, I knew what to expect, which was misery but not with the Blueshirts. Certainly, the Rangers won’t go another ten years of not being competitive this time around, but it still hurts to see them lose like the way they have over the last few weeks, with the knowledge of what’s to come. If the product on the ice was better, all of this may be easier to deal with.
The Rangers have put the fan base in a very tricky spot here. Are they embracing the tank OR are they attempting to push for a playoff spot? Thursday’s effort, from my eyes, does not seem like they are pushing but the quotes and words coming out of the locker room say otherwise. As the Trade Deadline looms, the vision of where this team’s direction will become clear but for right now, it’s complicated. I am ready for whatever is to come but the confusion and the lackluster play is killing me, as I’m sure it’s killing all of us.