Don’t Bure Them Just Yet: A Metro Hockey Update
Stop Freaking Out!!!! Okay, New York Ranger right-winger Pavel Bure may have injured his knee on the December 7 game against the Buffalo Sabres, but all is not lost. The team will succeed in his absence and make up for the loss of his speed and natural goal scoring instincts.
Um, well, maybe…okay, yes, the team lost to the Boston Bruins the very next day. But that doesn’t mean that the team oughtta start focusing its attention towards next years draft just yet.
Keep in mind that other teams throughout the 85-year history of the National Hockey League have succeeded without high-priced superstar players. Some recent examples include the New Jersey Devils of 1995 (by and large a collection of nobodies) and the ’93 Canadiens (who, with the exception of goalie Patrick Roy, didn’t have many household names either).
Yes, those teams would spawn future stars like Billy Guerin and John LeClair…but in the mid ‘90s, those teams proved that tenacity and strong goaltending were the keys to victory. As a matter of fact, a more pressing issue for the Rangers whether the team can acquire a reliable goaltender who can substitute for the solid but inexperienced Dan Blackburn and the injury-prone Mike Richter.
But that, my friends, is another article for another time. You’re here to find out how the Rangers can win without their mercurial winger. This is not to imply that the team doesn’t need Pavel Bure. Having him healthy would certainly benefit, but having him on the injured list doesn’t necessarily mean that the team will falter.
1) Gimme a D...
The Rangers don’t necessarily have to employ the passive, non-forechecking neutral-zone trap. Instead, the team can employ a weak-side lock system. Two forecheckers enter the zone while the third forward stays by the opposing blueline on the "weak" side away from the puck (this is why the system is also known as "Third-Man High"). An increased emphasis on defense may not be very exciting, but it wins games.
2) Know Your Role!
The team as presently constituted is already equipped to play such a system. The strengths of the Rangers lie on the starboard side and at center ice. The Metro Hockey Update proposes the following combinations, from center to right wing: Bobby Holik with Eric Lindros (why break up a good thing?) Peter Nedved and Radek Dvorak (the increased ice time for Dvorak will elevate his game), Mark Messier and Jamie Lundmark (veteran experience and youthful speed, respectively), and Rem Murray and Mikail Samuelsson (a combination strong on defense). Left Wingers Robert Petrovicky, Matthew Barnaby, Sandy McCarthy and Ted Donato provide the necessary toughness.
3) Opportunity Knocks…
….For those under thirty in the Rangers’ organization. Now is the time to give young players like Jamie Lundmark, Roman Lyashenko, Rico Fata, and Nils Eckman an honest chance. While it is unlikely that any of the aforementioned would ever score 50 or more goals in a single season (which Bure has done five times, by the way), any one of them can give a much needed spark to yet another underachieving Blueshirt squad