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Despite lack of offense, Rangers must stick with current crop

Kreider is earning his ice time.

Kreider is earning his ice time.

With all the additional ice time, Chris Kreider is getting better with every game. But he isn’t scoring. JT Miller is beginning to impact games in a multitude of ways. But he isn’t scoring. Generally, the Rangers aren’t scoring. However, despite this team being in a depressing state offensively, the coaching staff needs to stick with the younger players.

While sending Jesper Fast back to the WolfPack was the right thing to do, Miller and Kreider are getting good minutes and they are now showing clear progression. The Rangers won’t derail their season by playing these two promising youngsters – now they are showing some NHL readiness – but they may damage their own long term potential beyond this season if they revert to leaning on the veterans with limited upside.

Despite some indifferent starts, the Rangers can still be excited at the long term potential of their top nine forwards. With Carl Hagelin’s return and with Kreider, Miller, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan’s presence, the Rangers have an excellent young core to build around Rick Nash. It may not be the most overly skilled top nine but there is still a nice balance of skill, speed and work ethic. You live with the growing pains.

The Rangers don’t seem able to buy a goal at the moment, but there has been some key trends beginning to emerge. The defense has clearly turned a corner (ten goals conceded in the past five games) and Henrik Lundqvist looked better against the Canadiens. That’s two key aspects that this team needs to rely on both in the short and long term.

Once this team is difficult to beat, enough goals will come, especially when Callahan and Nash eventually return. Right now it needs to be about damage limitation. Teams like the Boston Bruins have proven that you can win a Cup with a balanced team and not necessarily the most explosive team.

Right now the two most important aspects for the Rangers are to build on the increasingly stingy foundation and keep feeding ice time to the younger players. Back in 2008 the Chicago Blackhawks struggled to a record just above .500 (40-34 and change) but it was a pivotal period for that franchise.

The Hawks showed patience and worked through inconsistencies and allowed young, elite talents such as Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook to develop. The results since then have spectacularly justified their stance back in ‘08. Importantly, that Hawks team made sure it had a solid veteran influence with guys like Robert Lang, Jason Williams, Nikolai Khabibulin and Patrick Sharp.

The Rangers may not have quite that same high end skill to fall back on. But so long as Kreider, Miller and the younger players show they are not regressing against NHL calibre opposition, they need to be kept in the line-up. You can still be competitive with youth, especially when the balance is there with the likes of a rejuvenated (to an extent) Brad Richards and natural leaders such as Callahan, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist leading the way.

The Rangers are frustrating to watch right now but there’s plenty on this roster to still be optimistic about. Right now, it’s about how the roster is utilised moving forward that’s important – starting with Kreider and Miller.

36 Responses to “Despite lack of offense, Rangers must stick with current crop”

  1. Pete says:

    It seems like this season the stars would really need to align for this team to make a serious run, just too many obstacles. However, the season can still be a very productive one for the organization. If indeed AV can show he’s the right guy for the team long term and Kreider, Miller and possibly another rook develop, then next year should be a very promising one.

    Unless of course Hank bolts, in which case we foooked…

    • Chris says:

      Exactly. if the kids can show real progression this year it could really set up the franchise. Hank isn’t going anywhere. He knows he’s onto a good thing with NYR/NYC for so many reasons.

      • Chris F says:

        In all honesty, and as much as I never would have seen myself ever saying this, I’m beginning to weigh the benefits, or at least possibility, of a Lundqvist departure.

        Yes, I understand the absolute back-bone he’s been for this team for almost a decade now. He’s the reason the franchise was able to return to respectability and he’s been the factor that allowed the Rangers to begin the youth re-build. Without Hank in goal, Sather would never have had the patience/ability to bring in youth and allow them to develop. There would have been a continued urge to grab overpaid forwards to get wins. Instead, Hank grabbed us the wins, and backstopped a young, developing team. The organization owes him a debt of gratitude for all his contributions, work ethic and leadership.

        With that said, I think it’s becoming clear that Hank is just past his prime. He’s not a young guy anymore by professional athlete standards. He’s only got a few more potentially elite years ahead of him, and yet he’s probably looking for a 7-8 year deal worth $8 million per. I don’t think that long-term this is a sustainable contract. This money could be used to really solidify an elite caliber team in front of the goal.

        I know it’s extremely early, but Talbot might be franchise goalie. He’s looked great for having no NHL experience. If this team feels that he can carry #1 duty, Hank could fetch a king’s ransom come trade deadline.

        I’m not advocating this approach. But I think it’s worth pondering for the long-term success of the team. I get the sense that Hank’s heart is no longer in NY. He’s has a couple of very frustrating years recently (not statistically speaking, but in terms of team results). He’s had his problems with Torts. And he just has this defeated aura about him recently. If there is any sense that he is going to walk come summer, I think management should seriously considering his trade deadline value.

        Can’t believe I’m considering this, but it’s becoming less and less a fantastical prospect.

        Now, let me brace for the onslaught…

        • Chris says:

          No onslaught from me but that’s a hell of a knee jerk reaction. A) Hank has started poorly this year but every goalie has a poor patch. Its just that; a small period of time where he’s not at his best. Secondly, I like Talbot a lot but he’s really got very little professional, elite exposure and at 26 we need a much longer look.
          No way does the franchise let Hank walk.

          • Chris F says:

            Chris,

            How is this a knee-jerk reaction? I’m not saying “Hank sucks!” “Get rid of Hank.”

            I’m suggesting the organization and the fanbase begin to accept the reality that A) Hank’s tenure in NY is by no means a sure thing and B) the contract extension he’s seeking has many pitfalls for the franchise.

            I’m urging cautious evaluaion of all options and scenarios. The opposite of knee-jerk reactionism.

            • Steven Cifuentes says:

              With the amount of money he wants and years, if he wants a max deal for 8 years, then you just cannot do it. He is willing to realize he needs more then just him and willing to take less to remain the King of NY hockey, then you sign him.

              Not crazy to think of alternatives.

            • branted says:

              You make some valid points as far as the contract goes. It’s somewhat likely that by the end or even midway through an 8 year deal that his skills will be diminished(due to age) and his salary will not be justified and that certainly should be considered.

            • Chris says:

              I think saying someone is past his prime based on 3 weeks of a season is a knee jerk reaction. In fact it’s a ridiculous notion.

              • Chris F says:

                I said that he is “just” past his prime. As in, I think these past two seasons were his peak. I also said he has a few more years of elite goaltending in him, but that he’s on the waning side of his career. That’s just a simple fact. He’s not gonna get any better. It has absolutely nothing to do with this 3 week sample size.

        • Pete says:

          Makes sense, never going to happen but that doesn’t mean in a parallel universe it wont. The team really isnt that many pieces away to go down the trade Hank road. Unless of course Talbot stands on his head and even then…

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Much of what you say has alot of merit. And I think it was imperative that you correctly acknowledged just how important Hank was to this franchise post 2005. That said…

          At this point, even with the cap projected to increase each year over the foreseeable future an 8×8-> 64 mil contract is very steep for a tender on the wrong side of 30. It’s not Hank’s price-tag which turns me off, but rather the term. Eventually such a contract would wear it’s welcome.

          If we are outside of the playoff bubble, come trade deadline this year (which I don’t think will be the case), it would be smart to see what Hank’s return may be. Simply put, due diligence here would be the responsible thing for a GM to do.

          Assuming that doesn’t happen, and we do resign Hank to his 8×8 deal, the issue becomes, “what do we do when we no longer want him?” It is an inevitable question. We will not want him on our books when he is 37 or 38 yrs old. Coming out of the last lockout, we cannot feasibly buy him out, but one option which now is in play would be to trade him, but retain part of his contract. Perhaps, we find ourselves in a spot, say 5-6 yrs from now, where we trade Lundy for the final 3 yrs of his 8×8 contract to another team. In order for this to fly, we probably would have to keep say 3 of the 8 million on our books to appease our trade counter party.

          These cost/benefit analysis and exit strategy scenarios are necessary when deciding what to do when a team reaches a fork in the road as sizable as this one. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

          I’ve thought about it for months on end and still don’t know what side of the fence I’m on when it comes to resigning Lundy. One last thing to consider is how Chicago found Crawford after Stanley Cup winning Neimi left via free agency. Look at how Boston was fortunate enough to slide Rask into the mix after Cup Winning, Vezina Winning, Conn Smythe Winning, playoff monster Tim Thomas left.

          That said, I think the X factor is Cam Talbot. That might curb the organizations willingness to appease the monster contract which Lundy will rightfully demand.

          ^^^all that and who even knows if Hank wants that monster contract with us. It is very plausible that he wants to explore free agency. He will get his money anywhere. What he won’t get anywhere is a legitimate shot at a Stanley cup. I think that will determine where he ends up.

          • Chris F says:

            Swayze,

            This is really the heart of my theory. If Hank is going to command an 8×8 contract, the organization needs to at least evaluate what his value will be in say 3 or 4 years. Do they really want that contract?

            By the deadline, completely depending on his performance, they may say no. And that’s fair and reasonable and better addressed now than in 4 years when it’s too late.

            But, again, most of this hinges on whether they see a future in Talbot. We’ll see how the year goes.

        • Walt says:

          Chris F

          You make some very valid points, and should Hank decide that he wants to walk, I would hope that he would give us a chance to trade him for some assits in return.

          Your right about Hank’s body language speaking much louder than words. He does seem down on himself, and isn’t the smiling dude we are used to seeing!!

          This is not to say I would shop him around, but if his heart isn’t in it, then move him for as much as we can get in return!

          • Chris F says:

            That’s the only real reason I’ve been giving this thought. He just doesn’t seem happy to be here.

            If he wants to stay and his game picks up, I’ll be the first to advocate resigning him. But, if he doesn’t, then the only responsible thing to do is to at least explore his trade value lest he walks for nothing in the off-season.

            Hank is probably one of the top 3 assets in the League in terms of returning trade value. Something to ponder.

      • Pete says:

        As I’ve said before, IMO it would take a hockeypocalypse on Broadway for Hank to bolt. Realistically is there a chance, albeit an extremely small one? yeah but it would take a lot…

        • Chris F says:

          What makes you say that? Intuition? Granted, your guess is as good as mine, but why is everyone convinced that Hank would never leave?

          He’s now on his 3rd coach. He’s seen a number of players that were supposed be part of the Cup winning team shipped out, Dubinsky, Anisimov, etc. He’s seen Prospal and Prust defect. Biron retire. He’s seen Gaborik brought in and then just as quickly replaced. He’s been visibly frustrated for years and showed no signs of commitment after the Rangers exist this past post-season. There’s a lot going on that suggests he may be pursuing greener pastures, somewhere that he feels sure he can win in the next couple of seasons before it’s too late for him.

          I don’t know what’s going to happen, but this blind faith in his loyalty/commitment to NY seems misplaced.

          • Pete says:

            Maybe a bit of intuition, but mostly cuz I see it as the best place for his “brand” and besides, it’s not like the Rangers are rebuilding. The team is solid, it clearly needs to be modified a bit but the foundation is def there.

            Where do see the pastures being greener? and that can also afford his 8MM+ salary cuz you know he’s going to get that…

  2. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    Wait…I thought the Rangers were built to win now…

    • Chris says:

      I think their window has opened but that’s based strictly on Lundqvist/Nash. In terms of long term potential a lot of the better players in this organisation are young.
      Some of them are on cap friendly/very manageable deals so I think the team has legitimate potential for a long period.

  3. Al says:

    Talk from the Team 690 TSN Montreal is that Sather is looking to make a major trade to change the Rangers. Sather wants a bigger team, and he loves his kids in Hartford

  4. cv19 says:

    As assembled and healthy this lineup is better than the one that was a preseason favorite to win the Cup last year.
    Stay the course.

  5. TxRanger says:

    this team is in bad shape if they cant even get one past petr budaj

  6. Problem 1 is not scoring

    Culprits

    Boyle, a center, who makes everyone who plays with him worse

    Problem 2 is not that Rangers are small; they just PLAY SMALL.

    Culprits

    Staal, Nash, Boyle, Pyatt, Moore ALL ARE AT LEAST 6-3 and intimidate NO ONE

    Problem 3- Penalties. MDZ, Girardi, McDonough, Moore, Staal COMBINED have like 16 PM-that’s not bad mistake wise.
    However, Dorsett, Boyle, Pyatt, Pouliot, Falk just take too many PM.

  7. Tough guys

    Matt Martin 2PM 49 hits

    Justin Abdelkeder 2PM 48 hits

    Dan Girardi 2PM 23 hits

    Brian Boyle 12 PM 19 hits

    Derek Dorsett 47 PM 16 hits

  8. Hadfield11 says:

    Well said and well written! Patience!

  9. Walt says:

    As to this article, Chris, you are right on. I love the fact that the kids are getting a shot, and proving they belong with the big club. They are indeed snake bitten, but they will all start scoring, and the team will start winning on a regular basis.

  10. Ranger defenseman McDonough, Staal, Faulk are all -3 to date on giveaways.

    Moore -4 & Girardi -5 on giveaways

    Stralman is a +2, MDZ even on giveaways.

    Kreider leads all Rangers with a +5 (more takeaways than giveaways)

  11. AD says:

    Does trading Hank risk losing Callahan, who is also an upcoming UFA?

    Girardi is viewed as a workhouse and playoff-experienced, solid defenseman; and is also an upcoming UFA. Is he the odd-man out if Hank & Cally are resigned?

    There is definitely a large fork in the Rangers road; probably larger than we realize.

    My intuition says to trade Hank; my heart says no.

    • Steven Cifuentes says:

      I think this is our last year with Girardi. I can’t see paying him 5-6 Million a year. His style of play is not made for this system.

      He looks lost out there right now. I love his heart and soul but if we want Hank and Cally someone can’t be paid. Rangers have a ton of Dmen either up or in the pipeline.

  12. SalMerc says:

    So if something doesn’t work, we stick with it? “Tweaking the lineup” won’t help. Without Nash and Cally, we are not a scary team. I fear Nash is out for 10 more games, making a trade a real possibility. Should have tried for Vanek.

  13. Chris F says:

    Where’s the pregame matchup post today?

  14. Mikeyyy says:

    On the trade block I would put

    Lundquist – cam talbot is playing better and playing deep in the net in an av system won’t work. I think you can get a decent goalie and still compete in today’s nhl.

    Girardi – he’s slowed a step. Falls too easily and would fetch a decent return of picks and prospects.

    Pyatt. Really. He does have to go. On the forecheck in marl he was 2-3 seconds late In hockey you skate not sled

    Boyle big guy big heart needs to fight better and show some speed or he goes

    Dorsett – whatever he can do mash can do better.

    The rest of the team stays. Mdz too young to give up on just yet.

    This clears a LOT of cap space and can potentially give us some good prospects/picks.