Eulogy: Remembering the 2016-17 New York Rangers

(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we’re bound to lose some friends along the journey. We’ve asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers and fans who hated them the most. Here is Liam McKenna, a previous Eulogist for the Senators and a blogger for Habs Eyes On The Prize, fondly recalling the 2016-17 New York Rangers.)

(Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don’t take it so seriously.)

By Liam McKenna

Who did you think you were, New York?

Did you think you were a great team with the unfortunate bad luck of being placed in a historically great conference? That Pittsburgh and Washington were super-powered teams just above the Rangers’ ceiling, and that the wildcard was actually a blessing in disguise?

Of course you did.

You thought that you had an easy path through the conference by going through the Atlantic Divison, because you did. You had the blessing of home ice advantage all the way to the Conference Final.

Look, Rangers, if you had a year, it was 2014. But if you had a backup year, it was this one. A bit of luck, and you had a swing at the most wide open Western Conference champion in ages.

But you’re the New York Rangers. And you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

You took the best goaltender of a generation, some generous trades and opportunistic signings and then started Tanner Glass over Pavel Buchnevich.

And the teammates of Tanner Glass made him look good. This is not a compliment. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Because if you’re talking about the New York Rangers, you have to start by talking about Henrik Lundqvist.

It’s easy to go after the low-hanging fruit with Hank. The guy is absolutely brutal to his teammates, glaring at them and cursing them out after goals against. And the temptation is to chew out the King for being a bad teammate, and for disrespecting his defensemen for doing their best. If we’re being honest, though, that’s not fair.

Because his defensemen are brutal.

Ryan McDonagh is steady enough, sure. But behind him patrols a gallery of graduates from the University of Has-Beens led by Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. These guys weren’t even that good in their primes. They’re the poster boys of the flawed old-school approach, positively skewered by analytics since analytics were invented by Fenwick Q. Analytic in 1903, and for whom they are named.

The Rangers defense is a sieve. Perfectly porous. Girardi and Staal are given free rein to float around in the defensive zone, ponderously slow, wonderfully clueless, and seemingly totally unaware that their opponents also have a goal at the other end of the rink.

What I’m saying, folks, is that they are not good. But can we blame them for this? Is their [expletive] play their own fault?

Well: yes. Any self-respecting slow-footed defenseman who is that bad should fall on their sword and ask for less ice time, or at least have the courtesy to be traded for P.K. Subban.

It’s the defense that transforms Henrik Lundqvist from simply a great player and bad teammate to a tragic figure. He’s been let down by the Rangers organization for more than a decade. And since the heyday of Brian Leetch, the problem has been the same: the blueline is terrible. It’s hard to feel anything but pity for the long-suffering King, who in spite of his terrific performances – this year’s run included – has yet to hoist the big trophy.

And to that we say: good.

It’s a rare human who has the combination of looks and talent that Henrik Lundqvist has, and the goaltender’s awareness of this combination frequently manifests itself as a smugness that shames the smuggiest smuggles across the globe. Not to be confused for arrogance or swagger, Hank Lundqvist’s particular brand of smug comes in the form of knowing smiles and key saves for a team that never wins, and shouldn’t.

Non-Rangers fans like the Hank we have now: the world’s smuggest perennial loser.

Sometimes, tragedy really can be beautiful.

Much like we cannot discuss the foibles of the New York defensemen without bringing up Henrik, so too are we unable to truly divide the Rangers forwards from their hapless coach.

Hey, we were talking about smug anyway, so Alain Vigneault provides us a natural segue way.

Is there a coach more confident in his terrible decisions?

We can call him Mike Therrien Lite. While the bulk of his bad decisions through this year’s postseason rested on his insistence of playing bad defensemen over good ones, his forward deployment was spotty too.

Alain Vigneault might be the only coach in the NHL who thinks Jesper Fast is good, and I’m fairly certain he’s banking that entirely on his last name. “His name is literally Fast. It can’t miss!”

I bet Oscar Lindberg wishes his name was a bit cooler. Hey, how did it feel when Derick Brassard scored in game five? Did it feel good? I think it felt good.

Mika Zibanejad played like he had the trade that sent him from Ottawa on his mind, and not in a good way. Chris Kreider was afraid of Shea Weber in Round One, and found his game too late in Round Two. Rick Nash provided flashes of his old self but couldn’t score enough. The rest of the lineup was there too, I guess, maybe. The power play couldn’t get going, a flaw that will be blamed on players but ought to go to the coaches.

Hey, did you know Alain Vigneault is the fourth-longest-tenured coach in the NHL?

I bet Rangers fans do. I bet they think about it every damn day.

So here we are, Rangers fans. It’s springtime and again your team is being lowered into the ground. Your coach is still the same. Your defense is terrible. Your forwards are as inconsistent as a mystery meat cafeteria special. And your goalie – well, nobody looks quite so good losing so often.

In a lot of ways, it’s amazing people still cheer for a team that has churned out the same result in the playoffs for half a decade now: maybe win a round, maybe win two, then bow out to a true contender. It must seem tired to longtime fans.

And if you’re exhausted, and looking for another reason to attach yourself to a new fanbase, here’s the most damning reason of all:

Donald Trump is a Rangers fan.

What more do you need?

 

NHL EULOGIES 2017

Boston Bruins

Calgary Flames

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Minnesota Wild

Montreal Canadiens

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Toronto Maple Leafs

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