Elster's World

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Blue, Green and Orange Post-Mortem

There were three very significant sports-related events this weekend. (i) The Rangers were eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a four-game sweep by the hated New Jersey Devils, (ii) the New York Jets completed their selections in the 2006 NFL draft, and (iii) the New York Mets took two of three games from the Atlanta Braves.

While not necessarily apparent on the surface, these three events are the cause of great optimism for this fan. I shall explain.

The Rangers: While I am admittedly still reeling from the first round disaster, the truth is that this wasn’t too difficult to call even a week before the regular season was over. The Rangers were the hottest team going into the Olympic break, but came back a different team. Many of their starters looked a little worn down from deep runs in the Torino tournament and the team lacked the same fire they had shown before the Olympics began. And When Henrik Lundqvist went down with his hip injury (among many other factors), the wheels came flying off down the stretch. The first round ouster by the Devils was almost predictable (and in fact was indeed predicted by many, right Joe?) and swiftly became a four game reality.

Yet all that said, this season was, in many ways, a very effective balm for what has been ailing fans of the franchise for the entire playoff-less drought. The Rangers went back to basics. Instead of trying to sign every high priced free agent looking for his last big payoff, the Rangers chose to build around Jaromir Jagr, surrounding him with a number of Czech teammates for comfort, a two high energy checking lines to do all the dirty work like killing penalties and shutting down top lines. The strategy worked. Buying into coach Tom Renney’s system, the team worked hard all year, starting with an opening night shocker in Philly and continuing on for 100 points. Jagr was rejuvenated and the Rangers seem to have found a goalie for the future in Lundqvist.

The biggest positive: The Rangers can simply tweak this team and make it better for next year. Jagr is under contract for another two seasons (not fact checked) and players from within like Jarkko Immonen should be ready to contribute next year. Immonen actually scored in his first two games in his short call up replacing Steve Ruccin. If (and this is a huge if) the Rangers make a smart free agent signing or two, the offense should be in good shape. Defensively, the hope here is that Marc Staal (and to a lesser extent Thomas Pock) will be ready to step in next year and be the steady, two-way players the Rangers so desperately need to lock the defense down for next year.

So while the season flamed out, the Rangers did not crash and burn. Next season should be a bright one as well. Of course, management needs to resist the temptation to try and make a free-agent bought run at the Cup. It never works and will only destroy the carefully crafted team chemistry.

The Jets – I have neither the energy nor the time to delve too deeply into the significance of tight end Jason Pocisak or tackle Titus Adams, I will say that when I saw on the ESPN ticker after Shabbos that the Jets had solidified the offensive line with both D’brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, I literally jumped for joy. Two solid, if not boring picks. Safe and smart instead of flashy and risky. I approved of both selections. For a full orthodox Jewish breakdown of the 2-day draft event, I encourage everyone to check out Joe’s not yet up post (http://jschick.blogspot.com/).

The Mets beat down of the Braves this weekend was historic. They never win in Atlanta and no one ever has six and seven game leads in their division in April. The Mets are serving notice that they are the team to beat in the East. If the starting pitching holds up, that should be the case the entire season.

28 Comments:

  • My take on the Rangers is that they overachieved most of the season. Once fatigue and injuries took their toll, they not only took a step back but completely folded and inexcusably failed to even show up over the last 3 weeks. They need a lot more than one or two more players. They need forwards who can score, players that provide some toughness, and both an offensive and a defenseman defenseman - and two of the latter wouldn't hurt.

    Bottom line - Carolina and Buffalo also came out of nowhere to play excellent hockey. Those teams are still playing.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 7:48 AM  

  • I didn't necessarily say they are one or two players away. But the team needs tweaks, not obverhauls. I agree, they need more balanced scoring and a little more toughness, but tehy arent 10 players away either.

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:28 AM  

  • They need much more than tweaks. The defense needs an overhaul. They are at least five players away from real contention.

    When did you become Mr. Sunshine? Have you forgotten that your teams all suck. Yes, even the Mets, until they are six games up in July.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 9:55 AM  

  • Hey I am entitled to optimism too. I disagree that the defense needs to be overhauled. Keep in mind that a couple of them broke down at the end, like Darius K and Poti (who had a decent year despite all those who would blame every loss on him).

    And of the "4 or 5" players tyhey need to add, they don't need to really add front line superstartys. Thus, it's still all tweaking.

    As for the Mets, I need to write positively while there is something positive to write. When the lose 7 out of 9 in a three series row to Atl, Philly and Atl again, I will have less sunny things to say.

    By Blogger Elster, at 10:18 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Marvin Schick, at 11:53 AM  

  • Well, we completely disagree on the Rangers. They will never compete with Ottawa without more front line stars, and they won't compete with techinically sound and tough teams like the Devils with this defense.

    I'm glad that you too are actually a bit skeptical about the Mets.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 11:54 AM  

  • Re: Mets - Years of practice - It's been a long time since '86 - it's even been a long time since the Subway Series. I don't trusat the starting rotation and that is where the team will (probably) eventually fail.

    As for Rangers - I think I have more faith in guys like Immonen and Staal being able to step in and contribute immediately.

    Remember, I spent the entire season saying the Rangers need more scoring from the other lines. I stil believe that. All I'm saying is that the panic signing of high priced free agents or the entire farm team for one guy type moves are not necessary.

    By Blogger Elster, at 12:13 PM  

  • Braves will come back, like they always do. Don't count the tomahawk boys out yet, dude.

    By Blogger Jewboy, at 7:44 PM  

  • We shall see Jewboy

    By Blogger Elster, at 10:37 PM  

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