In the wake of the Tom Wilson incident and his subsequent writs slap of $5000, the New York Rangers put out a strongly worded letter to the NHL. Contained in the statement were some scathing remarks directed at George Parros who is simply a figurehead for the Department of Player Safety.
“Wilson’s dangerous and reckless actions caused an injury to Artemi Panarin that will prevent him from playing again this season. We view this as a dereliction of duty by NHL Head of Player Safety, George Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role.“
It was a bold and commendable move by the organization. Since the statement was released yesterday evening the NHL has yet to respond, if they will at all. However, Tom Wilson is still set to play and wreak havoc on any Ranger he wishes tonight. If the league won’t protect players that leaves the Blueshirts to try and figure out how.
New York Rangers currently unfit to protect themselves
So what will the Rangers do now? Retribution is not in their DNA and they do not have the personnel to handle this situation. Even before Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren went down, they never had anyone to deter a player like Tom Wilson.
There’s been plenty of talk about calling up AHL heavyweight Mason Geertsen who is 6-4 and 221 lbs. There’s been some discussion if that would be fair to throw the 26 year-old into that situation, but that’s not a good argument. What’s the difference of throwing in an actual kid like Zac Jones into the lineup after Jacob Trouba went down? Especially without the number of practices David Quinn wanted. Jones has played defense before he got to the NHL, right? So having Geertsen step in to challenge Tom Wilson is not an issue for a guy who has fought meaner and tougher opponents in the AHL for years.
Even if they call him up for tonight’s game. His natural position is defense so he won’t be an integral part of the future. Unless they can successfully convert him to a 4th line winger that can be productive, this Rangers team has a big problem heading into 2021-22.
“Team Toughness” is what got Panarin injured
In today’s new age hockey world, just mentioning the need for an “enforcer” type player sends some fans shrieking. They scream that just the thought is ignorant, until Tom Wilson does what he normally does and they scream for a player like Geertsen. However, they quickly revert back to it not being a necessity and you can be “team tough”. A sentiment echoed by David Quinn yesterday.
“We’ve talked about it as a team this morning. The fact is we’ve got to protect each other. We’ve got to stick by each other, which is what we did last night,” the coach said. “There’s different ways to do it. The way we’re built, it’s not going to be a brawling situation. But that being said, we can play hard and protect each other and that’s what we have to do.”
There in lies the problem, Artemi Panarin was doing just that by grabbing Tom Wilson who had just sucker punched a prone Pavel Buchnevich and was beating Ryan Strome for stepping in. What did the Rangers best player get for being “team tough”? He was treated like a ragged toy in the jaws of a pit bull, body slammed to the ice and injured to the point of missing the remainder of the season.
No – “team toughness” just won’t do.
Rangers will need an “enforcer” type player if they want to win
This offseason, Jeff Gorton needs to look long and hard for a 4th line player that can be a productive forechecker but also play the role of bodyguard. The Rangers are built to be a skilled team with next to no bite heading into next season. They are a star studded bunch with a lot of young skilled kids just finding their way. Kids that will need protecting.
There are some promising prospects that could be that answer in the future like Will Cuylle and Braden Schneider but they aren’t NHL ready yet. Ryan Reaves out in Vegas has one more year on his contract, maybe the Rangers should get ahead of it an aim for a trade this summer.
I don’t have the answer as to who that player should be next season, but Jeff Gorton better figure it out.