FHL: Rangers got the blues

Updated: October 31, 2006, 3:32 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com
What is going on in the Big Apple this season? Most times, a playoff-caliber team dips into the free-agent pool, brings in a veteran and watches him take a little time to get comfortable, and all the while, his surrounding parts pick up the slack. This season, however, the New York Rangers have been carried by their free-agent addition, Brendan Shanahan, while the rest of the team has been struggling. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Monday's game was a perfect example: In losing 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings, the Rangers scored only one goal, and Shanahan contributed it. He has 10 goals in 11 games, one-quarter of the way to his entire 2005-06 total, and is on pace to shatter his career high of 52 goals, set 13 years ago. But Shanahan's really not the problem; he's a point-per-game, 100-PIM performer, a well-rounded fantasy player whose only worry is that he occasionally fades down the stretch. What's going on with the rest of these Rangers?

The defense has been a primary reason for the team's struggles. Darius Kasparaitis, Sandis Ozolinsh, Thomas Pock and Karel Rachunek have combined for a minus-20 rating, and although only Ozolinsh really warrants any fantasy consideration at all, the quartet's poor performance does have a devastating impact on the plus/minus numbers of the rest of your Rangers players. Think Jaromir Jagr is going to duplicate last year's plus-34? Not if he's not getting any help from the defensemen behind him.

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