Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Brooks On Point

As I watched an entertaining three set Aussie Open quarterfinal between American Serena Williams and Israeli Shahar Peer on ESPN2, I glanced at the New York Post reading all the postgame stuff on Peyton Manning's great comeback victory over the rival Patriots in an AFC championship game which will go down as a classic. Hey. That's definitely one of the best playoff games I've seen. So you have to just tip your cap.

But what caught my eye the most in today's Post was what else but an on point column on the Rangers from the controversial Larry Brooks. In it, he went on to many of the same points I made to Joe McDonald during last week's epic battle on our NY Hockey Report. That it's time for the organization to wake up already and get some of these prospects up from Hartford.

As I sit here and put together my thoughts, fresh in my memory bank is that while I was producing our All Star special show for this Wednesday night which you might not want to miss, the big player who was a big part of my argument Nigel Dawes has continued to play very well for the Pack. Since December 29, he has scored eight goals and picked up eight assists for 16 points in the last 14 contests. The soon to be 22 year-old from Manitoba should not be in the AHL anymore. After scoring 35 goals and 67 points last year, he's proving that he's polished enough to shift into a permanent NHL role. The only thing keeping him down there is the Rangers' reluctance to shed some of their payroll which is filled with vets who have secure jobs.

Why should those jobs continue to be secure when not enough production is coming? It's little secret that the bottom half of Coach Tom Renney's forwards have not gotten it done putting far too much pressure on the Big Four of Jagr, Straka, Shanahan and Nylander. You just can't win that way. How bad is it? The sparingly used Petr Prucha is still the fifth best scorer up front. Despite being in Renney's dog house, the much maligned second-year Czech has 10 goals and nine assists. It doesn't exactly say much for free agent pickup Matt Cullen or the now scratched Adam Hall (Dominic Moore anyone) for 31 year-old "solution" Jason Krog. Somewhere Fishstick fans are laughing.

The only players who have for the most part been acceptable on the support lines are Blair Betts and Jed Ortmeyer. Both always bring a solid work ethic to the table. So it's no shock that they would be doing their part. That leaves room for a hungry kid from Hartford to come up and make an impression. Something the coach and organization refuse to try. Are they so cheap that they won't sacrifice one of those "valuable vets" who don't score enough as is? Or just blind? You decide.

This week, Renney and staff will continue to take in Pack practices. Something needs to register in his head in order to get the attention of not only the GM but his underachieving team which officially returns to work Friday in preparation for a must win matinee at Philly the following day.

Too often in the past with this regime, they've tried to gun their way out by buying players or sacrificing some kids in the process to get into the postseason. The problem with this strategy is that as they should already know, you can't buy chemistry. For whatever reason, it reminds me of a classic line from 48 Hours where Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) remarks to Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) the following after Hammond gets out of jail:

"Class isn't something you buy. Look at you, you've got on a 500-dollar suit and you're still a low-life." And Hammond replies with, "Yeah, but I look good."

It's the same thing here. The Rangers could go the old route and add Peter Forsberg for the predictable package of Petr Prucha, Brandon Dubinsky and Ivan Baranka. But it won't necessarily mean they'll be better or a playoff lock.

In many ways this is a lot like the previous seven seasons before last year where you knew the team wasn't good enough and would fall short. This team shows me very little. They need a different plan if they want to save their season. Giving a Dawes, a Ryan Callahan, a Dane Byers or even a Daniel Girardi some real time wouldn't hurt. Much like former President Bill Clinton said when he ran against Bush in '92, "It's time for a change."

Brooks gets it. Will McDonald this Wednesday? Stay tuned.

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