Here we are Rangers fans. Just 12 games into the 2017-18 season and somehow, according to history, it may already be over.
The Rangers have 8.
So now what?
1. The easy answer is to dump Vigneault. Is it AV’s fault that Miller, Kreider, Hayes, Zuccarello, Nash and Vesey have COMBINED for 12 goals in 12 games this season? No. Is it AV’s fault that Lundqvist is allowing goals from behind the goalline? Nope. And is it AV’s fault that McD, Smith and Shattenkirk have forgotten how to defense? Hell no. But guess what? The fish rots from the head down. I’m not going to rehash all the mind-numbingly insane personnel decisions AV has made over the course of his tenure as the Rangers head coach, especially this season, however, with every slow start to a game it’s becoming more and more apparent that his message isn’t resonating with this group.
Reports have Tuesday’s contest vs. Vegas as AV’s last stand. Why bother? One win vs. an expansion team, albeit a good one, doesn’t suddenly change things. Since upper management obviously questions the head coach’s ability to the lead this team, they should just cuts ties now. Give Ruff or Arniel the interim title till the end of the season, hope it sparks the team, then clean house this summer and start anew.
There’s been some historic Rangers moments during AV’s time on Broadway, but as Glen Sather says: every coach has a shelf life. And sadly it looks like AV’s is about to expire.
2. The worst thing the Rangers could do right now is make a panic trade. Since history suggests that the Rangers aren’t likely to make the playoffs, mortgaging the future for Matt Duchene seems foolhardy right about now. And while I’ve mentioned trading Kreider in a previous post, if the Blueshirts decide their best course of action is hanging on to young assets to build for 2018 and beyond, at 26, the Massachusetts native can be someone to build around. While I don’t think Kreider will ever become that 35 goal scorer we all envisioned, 25-goal guys don’t exactly grow on trees these days and that’s precisely what he is.
3. Instead, what the club should probably be doing is selling off their older assets for picks and/or prospects. And the biggest fish in the Rangers pond is Rick Nash. In the final year of his contract, he could be a very attractive option for a team with Cup aspirations. To get the most value out of Nash, the Rangers GM will probably have to wait until closer to the trade deadline to prey on teams’ desperation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gorton was able to negotiate a first round pick for Nash. It won’t be easy to move Nash as he possesses a no trade clause, but since he is in the final year of his contract, I assume he’d be willing to waive it for another chance at the Cup. Plus, if he really wants to continue playing in New York, he could always look to re-up with the Rangers this summer.
While I’m sure no one wants to say it, another tradable asset is Mats Zuccarello. What do you guys think about the idea of moving The Hobbit?
So I guess that’s a no?
4. Another elephant in the room if the Rangers decide to look towards next season is Henrik Lundqvist. How does he react to the team pulling one of the few remaining chances for the Cup out from under him?
Does he ask for a trade? Hell, does the team ask him if he’d be willing to waive his no trade clause? If the Rangers still employed Talbot or Raanta, I’d fully endorse moving on from Lundqvist while the team retools, but with the club’s current instability between the pipes after The King (at least until Shestyorkin’s KHL contract ends in 2019), I’m not so sure it’s the right call.
5. If the Rangers are able to unload some of their veterans to build for the future, I have to guess recalling guys such as Chytil, Lettieri, DeAngelo and Pionk would be a given. Get these guys some valuable NHL experience in a non-pressure environment, while also injecting some youthful enthusiasm into the lineup. Yes it’s a move with an eye towards 2018-19, but I also think adding fresh blood makes the team better this season as well.
6. The only hangup with a Chytil promotion is whether the Rangers are willing to burn a year of his entry level contract during a lost season just to get him experience at the NHL level. Financially, it makes a ton of sense to keep him in Hartford, while allowing him to develop at his own pace. However, the 18-year old might be wasting his time in the AHL as he’s dominating the competition with 8 points (3g, 5a) in his first 6 games with the Wolf Pack.
It’s a small sample size, but I’d hate to see the Rangers potentially stunt his growth due to playing inferior competition.
7. If the Rangers are going to continue being one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL, it really makes zero sense to have Staal and Holden in the line-up. While I give Staal a ton of credit for his renaissance this season, he still shouldn’t be manning the blueline of a 3-7-2 team when there’s good, young talent waiting in the wings down in Hartford. Sticking Staal in the press box for the remainder of the season won’t be an easy decision for the organization, but it’s a necessary one if this team wants to build for the future.
8. It’s also officially time to start worrying about McDonagh. With possession anchor Dan Girardi gone, it was supposed to be the Captain’s time to flourish. Instead, the Minnesota native has started the season with a thud as AV continues to search for the right defensive partner for his All Star defenseman. McD has logged big minutes against the toughest competition the NHL has to offer for the last 7+ years. Eventually his body was going to start breaking down, so you have to wonder if this is the beginning of the end for McDonagh.
9. Another knock on McDonagh is the team’s lack of leadership. While never a vocal leader, it’s beyond time the Captain and his alternates rattled some cages in the locker room. Similar to McDonagh, the newly designated alternate captain Mats Zuccarello seems to be weighed down by the burden of wearing a letter. In the past he was a source of energy and inspiration, now he’s become passive and non-combative. The effort and execution haven’t been nearly good enough, so by any and every means necessary the leadership must provide motivation for this team.
10. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks the status quo is unacceptable as there were a number of high ranking Rangers officials at the Canadiens/Senators game tonight:
Kreider for Galchenyuk? Kreider for Pacioretty? Maybe they’re looking for a new head coach. Marc Crawford is an assistant in Ottawa.
Larry Brooks at the New York Post seems to think the Rangers like Andrew Shaw and his much needed sandpaper.
Also, why no Gorton? Is it merely a scare tactic for the players? Or maybe it’s the Rangers announcing that they’re open for business. Who knows, but I can assure you this: we’re one loss to the Vegas Golden Knights away from finding out.
11. This morning, while publicizing his new book on WFAN, Sean Avery weighed in on the Rangers struggles (H/T to reader Bill McNeal for the link)…
Man, the Rangers could sure use an Avery type player on the team right now.
12. I’ve thrown a ton of shit at the wall in this blog post. I have no idea if any of my suggestions would be effective or if the Rangers are of similar mind on any of it, but all I know is something has got to give. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And sadly, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think insanity is the Rangers current strategy.