Before the season began, I don’t think there were many Rangers fans who felt, as currently constructed, this Blueshirts team was a legit Stanley Cup contender. But God damn, I never expected this. So, let’s sort through the carnage after a lost weekend against Metro Division rivals.
1. Since arriving in New York four and half years ago, Alain Vigneault has portrayed a calm, cool & collected persona behind the bench. Basically, the antithesis of his predecessor. But for the first time on Broadway, we’re seeing some panic creep into his coaching style. Just six games into the season, AV has already reneged on giving Filip Chytil a chance to earn his keep in the NHL, dropped Kevin Shattenkirk to the third defensive pairing, healthy scratched Brendan Smith multiple times and deployed the rarely used 11F, 7D lineup twice. TWICE!!!!! Not exactly confident leadership.
This team needs consistency and they need it now. AV’s gimmicks and mind games aren’t working. He needs to stop being cute, put his horses in a position to succeed and allow them to ride the club out of this early season malaise.
2. Having said that, with the way the players have been performing I’m not sure it matters. They’ve been sloppy, lethargic and lacking any sense of urgency. I know this team is desperate for help up the middle, but there’s more than enough talent on this roster to make their failure to execute inexcusable.
3. Remember when Rangers fans used to criticize Derek Stepan for not being a #1 center?
For the record, Arizona is sitting in last place in the Pacific Division with a 0-4-1 record, while Stepan remains goalless on the season.
4. Actually, I don’t think the issue has been not replacing Stepan, as Zibanejad has done a tremendous job taking over the responsibilities of a 1st line center, it’s been not replacing Oscar Lindberg. With Lindberg gone, Kevin Hayes has found himself bogged down with increased defensive responsibilities and a permanent spot on the penalty kill instead of focusing on being a playmaker and having a permanent spot on the power play. You want proof? Hayes, who has averaged around one primary assist per 60 minutes during his career, has exactly ZERO primary assists through six games this season.
The Rangers really erred by putting all their faith in Lias Andersson making the roster instead of acquiring a Dominic Moore type, shutdown center this offseason.
5. I’m not saying AV should have dropped Kevin Shattenkirk down to the third pairing…but I understand.
6. I feel like the Rangers are missing something in the locker room but I just can’t put my finger on it…
Oh yeah, it’s called personality. Dan Girardi was a character. Derek Stepan was a character. Tanner Glass was a character. Now? Vanilla.
The 2011-12 Rangers, who advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, had enough personality to fill Madison Square Garden. Which is probably why they were such a close knit group and one of my favorite all time Blueshirt teams. But in a disturbing trend since that season, the organization seems no longer interested in prioritizing locker room chemistry as we’ve seen a mass exodus of popular players including Carl Hagelin, Derek Brassard, Brian Boyle and the aforementioned Girardi and Stepan.
This can eventually take a toll as off ice relationships can have a huge impact on a team’s on-ice performance. Sadly, I feel this is an underlying issue with this year’s team.
7. With that said, the Rangers really could use someone who can put the puck in the net. Too bad they don’t have someone in the AHL who impressed the coaching staff so much during training camp he actually won a spot on the NHL roster only to be demoted after the coach felt a combined three minutes of ice time was enough to determine that he wasn’t in fact an NHL player…
8. It’s also too bad the Rangers don’t have a grinder in the organization who not only impressed during training camp with his physical play but also his skill set as well…
9. Hey AV, the second power play unit has been struggling mightily so far this season, any chance you’re going to put that young, offensively skilled, puck moving defenseman you possess on that group?
10. Pavel Buchnevich has as many goals as Tanner Glass this season.
11. Dan Girardi is sporting 51.7% Corsi For while playing on Tampa’s first pair. Kevin Shattenkirk has a career worst 46.3% Corsi For while playing on the Rangers third pair.
12. I’ve seen a lot of so called Rangers fans jumping ship lately proclaiming the Rangers are headed towards another dark era. To you I say, good riddance and read these three tweets on your way out.
Yeah, unless you’ve had to deal with non-stop 1940s chants from relentless Islanders fans basking in the glory of four straight Stanley Cups during your entire public school career and then somehow endure basically your entire 20s without a playoff appearance, I don’t want to hear a word from you.