Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Ranger’s “Coach’s Forum” forÂ season ticketholders. An invitation depended onÂ what package you booked at the start of the season. I got to go because my friend, Mitch Beck let me join him.
You all know how much I esteem Coach Renney. Last night we got to meet and hear Tom Renney, Perry Pearn and Mike PelinoÂ ”Up Close and Personal”.Â It is now easier for me to understand why this coaching staff has been so succesful. Tom Renney has surrounded himself with great assitant coaches in Pearn and Pelino. These two men have hockey credentials a mile long.
Being the self-effacing gentleman that he is, Tom Renney has always deflected much of the credit for the success of the post-lock out Rangers to his co-workers, Don Maloney, Jim Schoenfeld and his assistants, Pearn, Pelino and Allaire. I only wish Benoit Allaire was there last night to share his point of view about goaltending.
With regard to our backup goaltending, the coaches said thatÂ because Valiquette has turned in two solid performances, it takes that imponderable away. Valley has shown he has the goods and they should not worry about resting Henrik when he needs it. The players have confidence in Valley. I felt like saying they shouldn’t have had any doubts about based on his performance in Hartford, where he and Jason LaBarbera won the AHL equivalent of the Vezina Trophy.Â
We found out some personal things about our coaches. The thing I found most impressive was the fact the Renney and Pearn do not live with their families during the season. They both have children and did not want to displace them and their wives by moving them around as they climbed their respectiveÂ careerÂ ladders. I cannot imagine how difficult this must be for these men. It just reinforces their passion and commitment to the game and this team.Â It makes me want to invite them over for a Sunday dinner.
The coaches had great things to say about some of our prospects. They feel there are currently about 8 or 9 guys down in Hartford that will for sure be NHL players. They spoke about how happy they are with Artem Anisimov. He is making great strides to learn English and acclimate himself to this country. They spoke of how Dawes needs to develop his defense skills but how well he is playing offensively for the WolfPack. They are pleased to hear good things coming out of Russia about Cherepanov. They think he might be over here with Hartford sometime in the New Year.Â Â
Lastly, during the question and answer portion, the guy up ahead of me asked my question about the construction of the 5 on 3 powerplay and its lack of success.Â I then made my “I told you so” observation to Renney Â about that “Red Wing Set Play” goal scored by Shanny and Avery against Dallas.
My question to the coaching staff was, “Why are someÂ Rangers, and I mentioned Jagr’s name specifically, refusing to dump and chase and do what is necessary when the Rangers are being trapped like they were after Dallas went up 3-2?”Â
Their collective answer was that they were coaching the dump and chase philosophy but it wasn’t being executed. In so many words, they collectively agreed that those failing to execute in the mannerÂ proscribed by the coachesÂ would encounterÂ repercussions, accountability-wise.
Here is a recent quoteÂ from Jagr in the Czech press (see link)
“I need to play my game. I canâ€™t dump and chase the puck — I donâ€™t know how to do that. When my linemates send it up the ice, Iâ€™m suddenly on the other side of the rink. That wears you out a lot! No matter how well-conditioned you are. Youâ€™re flying up and down the ice without the puck. I felt like I was in an elevator — up, down. I could conform. I could dump the puck in and chase it. But Iâ€™d be late. Seriously, without the puck Iâ€™m useless out there.”
In my opinion, if you are a team player, you must realize what needs to be done in a given situation and adapt your style for the good of the team. If the player cannot or refuses to dump and chase because, to quote Jagr’s mantra, it’s “not his game”, it is the coach’s duty to put players out there who are willing to get dirty and fight for posession down low. You play the players who will sacrifice themsleves in the “paint” to help screen the goalie and to put home rebounds and deflections.
Tom Renney has been outstanding in “managing” Jagr thus far. But after listening to the coaches last night and being at the game on Monday night, it is clear to me that if they sit Jagr when they are behind and being trapped, Jagr will regress further into his shell and he may be irretreivably lost.
The coaching staff is between a rock and a hard place with Jagr in a “lose/lose” situation. If theyÂ use him less against teams that are sittingÂ on a lead, he will definitely not meet the contract triggers. In that case, he knows he will be gone and won’t give a damn. Not a good thing for a team that is not scoring goals.
The only answer is to wait and see if the “Mighty Oak” will bend. The season is getting older. Jagr has to condescend to change his game now. It has to happen soon or it will all be moot.
On a lighter note, kudos to last night’s moderators, the jovial Dave Maloney and the handsome and always gracious John Giannone. They did a great job and make these functions fun. The interaction between the coaches and the fans was great. People were asking pointed questions and not lobbing softballs. The coaches answers were refreshingly frank and honest.
Lastly, congratulations to all the people at MSG who put this event togehter and worked at it. They go unsung and do a wonderful job. I appreciate their hospitality.