While the vast majority of NHL teams have trimmed their rosters down in preparation for the season, the Rangers are still carrying a large, oversized squad as they continue to work out what they need to cope with a harsh start to their regular season. The results haven’t been positive (yet) but when has the Stanley Cup ever been awarded in September?
The short of it is that Alain Vigneault is taking a long hard look at numerous players before cutting the roster down and it’s the right approach. With injuries to key players and with an extended road trip featuring multiple presumptive cup contenders it’s imperative the new coach knows what he has at his disposal not only now but in case of all eventualities moving forward. What it also allows however is long term planning for the Rangers.
The Rangers stand to benefit from having greater insight into the likes of Conor Allen, Jesper Fast and into the less heralded prospects such as Tommy Hughes. Knowing the timetable for Oscar Lindberg’s readiness (which appears to be now by the way) or Marek Hrivik’s NHL ability should allow the club to plan beyond this season. Alain Vigneault is having to acclimatise himself with a new franchise, a new conference and is doing so to a deeper level than many may feel necessary in the short term.
The Rangers will have some difficult decisions to make over the next twelve to eighteen months. With less than a handful of players committed to the club beyond the 2014/15 season the Rangers will be looking carefully at those they feel can be part of the long term plan. Will the likes of Mats Zuccarello feature beyond this year or will the new coach prefer a Kristo or Miller long term?
With the upcoming NHL draft not generating much excitement from a talent or depth perspective early on, it is critical the Rangers staff get a good read on their own assets at every level of the organisation as quickly as possible. This includes first hand access to players beyond the core.
When a team faces both significant change (player, system and staff) and significant unrest (like an enforced long road trip can bring) it presents a distinct challenge. Alain Vigneault is aware who he doesn’t have at his disposal and who his team has to face to begin the season. He is coping with absences. Making sure legitimate talent at his disposal stretches beyond the game day bench and into the Hartford Wolf Pack is just as important as figuring out who will line up with Rick Nash or who will fill in for Ryan Callahan.
Alain Vigneault has almost certainly got his eye on the long term even as he settles into his new job. With a long contract and significant expectancy, Vigneault has been taken a look at as many players as he reasonably can for as long as he can. Asset management: it’s just as important to make sure a prospect has the calibre required for the long haul as it is to ensure Callahan’s health or his short term replacement. Known for his preparation, Vigneault and the Rangers decision makers will be planning ahead. This difficult preseason is just the start.