Players, not coach, to blame in New York 

February, 9, 2010

It has been a busy week as I make preparation to head west for the Winter Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver. So I'm going to quickly turn things over to the studio audience for a few questions. Here we go.

Hey E.J., how much of the Rangers' lack of cohesion/consistency on offense is related to the coaching and how much is just plain lack of player talent? I've had a running dialogue on this with a few buddies and we're at a stalemate. You're the swing vote. Thanks! -- Joel, Caldwell, N.J.

Joel, I'd say most of it revolves around a simple lack of player talent. They don't have a legit No. 1 center or anyone resembling a top center. That means they're mis-slotted from the top down. When you have a guy whose better suited in a No. 2 or No. 3 role has to be moved to the top of your lineup, that's a pretty significant problem. Fortunately, Marian Gaborik has proved to be absolutely terrific free agent addition. Can we imagine where the club would be if Gaborik had succumbed to injury as has been his history?

Also, the New York Rangers don't have a top-tier puck-moving defenseman, either. That means they don't have that guy that can jumpstart their offense by skating the puck out of trouble or making that sharp breakout pass. Young Michael Del Zotto has a lot of potential, but he's just 19.

In the end, I think those fundamental roster flaws have more to do with the Rangers' offensive woes than any coaching shortcomings. The swing voter has spoken!

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.