We know Ryan McDonagh is back in the US and we know Carl Hagelin has terminated his deal with his hometown team back in Sweden. We also know Rick Nash has had his own injury issues despite scoring at an impressive rate in Switzerland. It goes without saying that the NHL is the best league in the world when they’re actually playing hockey. So why then are so many Rangers players struggling to adapt to playing in inferior leagues with inferior players?
Rick Nash aside, and perhaps Hagelin – although in Sweden’s second tier, don’t forget – no Ranger has exactly set the world alight in Europe thus far. In one way it’s hard to be overly critical. After all with little practice time, familiarisation to their clubs, their leagues’ playing style and teammates and a lack of long term perspective (given the short term deals struck with clubs) there isn’t a great basis for success for players heading to Europe.
Again, to be fair it’s not just Rangers players that have failed to make a significant impact. For example Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t exactly got his game back on track in the KHL, Evander Kane suffered a torrid time in Russia while Max Pacriottey had a miserable time in Europe and came back at the first opportunity following a somewhat bitter divorce with his Euro employers.
Everyone by now acknowledges that it’s usually in the best interests of most players to get some game time. Whether its minor pro in North America or treading through European backwaters hockey players need ice time, need to get in their routines and in their grooves. They need to hit the corners and get their reps in. However be careful what you wish for. A lack of on ice success, negative press and the very real (and consistently occurring) chance of injury and playing outside of the NHL season has significant risk for anyone right now.
With Mike Del Zotto (no goals), Derek Stepan (no goals) and McDonagh (no goals) hardly distinguishing themselves in Europe be thankful for their relative health and be thankful for when real hockey returns and they resume their important roles on the Rangers. That’s if real hockey ever returns.