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The Death of a Season

It's difficult for us to fathom what has become of the New York Rangers 2006-07 season. Sure, they're still only behind the Devils in the Atlantic Division, but at present they are tied for eighth in the conference with one game at hand vs. Toronto. That's right. If the season ended today, the Rangers would receive an early-round thrashing from the Sabres, similar to the show put on by the Satanists over in Jersey last year.

But if you've been living in a cave for a month, you would probably be surprised at this turn for the worse taken by the Rangers. After their 5-2 win at Dallas, where Henrik Lundqvist stopped everything, making 43 saves, the Rangers moved to 18-10-4 and had the division lead. It's been downhill from there. They have allowed 50 goals in their last 15 games, while scoring only 35 in that same span. The problem with that is that the Rangers are deviating from their best output in both directions.

Their weapons are rusty. Jagr's the walking wounded, Shanahan has two goals in his last 18 games, and Michael Nylander apparently has forgotten how to shoot the puck. The team defense is absolutely wretched- they take a plethora of useless penalties and then leave it up to Hank to make a great save. Of course, given that the Rangers play in Madison Square Garden and are owned by Jim Dolan, the coaching staff and front office are also ridiculously culpable.

Some of the team's problems were due to GM Glen Sather's weak manuvering during the spring and summer months. The playoffs exposed the Rangers as a team with few offensive weapons and scoring defensemen. Accordingly, Sather opted to let two of the Rangers' top scorers walk. Peter Sykora and Martin Rucinsky found new homes, and the Rangers seemed in no need to replace them.

Rather than choosing to add an elite defenseman, Sather chose to add Aaron Ward, a man who grew a red playoff beard last year. He added Ward's Hurricanes teammate Matt Cullen. The Rangers also added notable alcoholic Latvian superstar Sandis Ozolinsh into the fray last year, absorbing Ozo's giant contract from the Ducks in exchange for Ville Niemenen. He made another poor trade, as well, acquiring useless chump Adam "11 points in 47 games" Hall for Dominic Moore, a player who was much of the heart and soul of this team.

The burden to a certain extent falls on coach Tom Renney's shoulders as well. The coach has overexposed many players, repeatedly expecting some sort of output from them, while simultaneously burying the Rangers' future in Hartford and on the fourth line. Overexposed players include low-scoring forwards Hall, Jason Ward, Marcel Hossa, Colton Orr, and Ryan Hollweg, all of whom are logging valuable minutes while Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan rot in Hartford and Peter Prucha is atrophying on the fourth line.

The Rangers have also been the victim of some bad luck, to be sure, given Jagr's injury, Henrik's sophomore slump and Fedor Tyutin's sudden defensive regression. It's hard to say that this couldn't have been planned for, though.

Accordingly, the Rangers lost again, today, and will head into the All-Star Break losers of four of their last five.

They best come out strong, for Renney's sake.

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