24 October 2005

The City That Never Lets You Sleep (CS)

So two things have seemingly come back from the dead. Whippersnapp and the NHL. Let the rejoicing and rioting commence. In honor of the dual resurection, i've decided to focus this post on the Rangers, a team I am a hardcore fan of despite growing up in New Jersey.

The season that never was was supposed to be a hopeful one for The Rangers, a time to rebuild, bring in some new talent, maybe even sneak into the playoffs. In this case, hope came with the lifting of a burden by the name of Eric Lindros. Like any New York team not rattling off back to back to back championships, there's always an incredible amount of pressure on the Rangers to make moves in the offseason to correct the problems. Lindros had certainly had his day while skating with the Flyers, but was always known to be prone to concussions and was clearly never the same after the infamous monster hit from Scott Stevens. He looked slow and unenthused on the ice while representing New York and he fit into the common vernacular quite easily as "a bum."
But now we see Lindros playing well in Toronto on a Maple Leafs team that is chugging along quite well in the early season (not that we could expect anything less out of Toronto). There was recently a piece on Lindros on ESPN.com by Scott Burnside explaining how excited Leafs fans are and how Lindros has become "a dominant player and a team leader." Perhaps he's finally shaken all those concussion after affects. It's understandable that a player like Lindros, with all the tools and potential to be great, would someday get back in the groove. The question then is, How come this never happened all those years he was in New York?

Burnside says in his piece that Lindros, while in NY, "played well on a bad team." For those that simply look at the numbers, this may seem true. But for those of us here in the City who actually watched his preformance day in and day out, we couldn't help but feel like he was doggin' it. He looked slow and rarely seemed to create opportunities for other players. Meanwhile, blue collar players like Matthew Barnaby, Mark Messier and even Sandy McCarthy seemed to put their blood out on the ice every night as they tried to create momentum during their shifts. Fans wished for 3 lines with players like that, rather than the "star" lines that included Lindros (and Poti, who we're still stuck with...) who would kill that momentum dead.

In that aspect, Lindros begins to remind me of Alex Rodriguez's most recent season. A-Rod was a bid for MVP this past season because he put up numbers nearly unparalleled for a third baseman, on the field as well as behind the plate. While some argue that his HR's mostly came at points where they didn't make a difference, others point to many games where they did, and certainly at least enough games to make a difference as to whether the Yankees made the playoffs or not. But for those who have been ingesting Yankee baseball since the days of at least Mr. Mattingly never felt comfortable with Rodriguez at the plate. Once the playoffs rolled around, he did not manage to prove the Yankee faithful wrong and we knew no matter what the statistics might say, a Yankee fan will want a guy like Derek Jeter or even Paul O'Neill at the plate anyday in place of Rodriguez.

So I wonder... Do we as fans simply expect too much out of them in the first place? Why, despite the numbers they might put up, do we have the unshakable feeling that they are failing us? I never really bought into it before, but i've begun to put a bit of credit into the whole "pressure of playing in New York" idea, and with Lindros and Rodriguez I think we have two cases of guys unfit to carry the burden of that NY logo when push really comes to shove.

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