The Rangers fell 4-2 to the Capitals on Wednesday but the final score mattered little. Coming in, the question was what would be the team's response to Monday's Tom Wilson incident, for lack of a better term. We got our answer early and often, from the opening draw through the first period.
Right from the Opening Draw, it was fight night as MSG. Kevin Rooney battled Nic Dowd, Colin Blackwell fought Carl Hagelin and Phil Di Giuseppe squared off with Garnet Hathaway. But wait, there's more. Forty seconds later, Tom Wilson jumped on for his first shift. Brendan Smith skated directly to him in the neutral zone, dropped his gloves and took Wilson in a clear response to what happened Monday, drawing the respect of his teammates, coaches, organization and fanbase. I don't advocate vigilante justice, but this was a teammate sticking up for a teammate and the Rangers telling the NHL, even beyond the tweet, more on that below, if you don't handle issues correctly, we will do it here, even on national TV.
In case that wasn't enough, Anthony Bitetto fought Michael Raffl at 4:14, then Ryan Strome, who called the failure to suspend Wilson “a joke,”and may have been the most eloquent of all Rangers before and after the game, then took on Lars Eller. Six fights in the opening 254 seconds.
As the NY Post wrote: "Pavel Buchnevich, who became Wilson’s first victim on Monday in taking a hammer punch to the back of the head while prone, took a slashing minor for hacking No. 43 at 15:56 of the first. But that wasn’t all for Buchnevich, who high-sticked Zdeno Chara late in the first before drawing a major and game misconduct for his malicious high stick to Anthony Mantha’s face early in the second period" You want to argue buch was stupid on the play with Mantha, be my guest. But he likely felt he was being tracked and was going to potentially be hit by Mantha, though that is mildly questionable. What did Buch get for his actions? A one game suspension, We knew a suspension was forthcoming and thought it likely will be two games. So can we say George Parros continued his pattern of letting players off easy or is this a case where history and reputation mattered, finally?
We aren't done yet. Today, the NHL fined the Rangers for the "the tweet." Yes, we have the "letter" and now, the "tweet." Hurting Gary Bettman's and George Parros' feelings are 50x times worse than being a headhunter on the ice. Can't make this up.
Larry Brooks had a 1:1 discussion with James Dolan on the decision made to fire John Davidson and Jeff Gorton. Culture was the key word used. I think culture could mean toughness, though this gets into what Brooks reported as to a "disconnect" between the players and the coach as to style, but does that filter up the line to management?
Today's press conference didn't provide any great insight as to what will be the difference between Chris Drury and his predecessors (see transcript here). I didn't expect much in terms of takeaways, but this might have been even lighter than expected. Glen Sather did to the bland line in his comments.
The big question, beyond what the offseason player moves to be made, is what will happen with coach David Quinn. Like Drury, he has BU ties, which could factor in his favor. But the comment below from Dolan may contradict that and is a topic we discussed during the year.. If this means JD and Gorton, how does that not also mean Quinn.
“I started thinking about it 20 or 25 games ago at a time when the team really needed to show heart and we had key games — I won’t be specific — where we had to show up and had to come out strong, and even if we lost, it had to be our best effort,” Dolan said. “And we clearly had nowhere close to our best effort.”
The potential for a crazy and shocking offseason is in place.