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Vigneault right to put the onus on New York’s top players

It seems sacrilegious to call him out, but even Ryan Callahan must elevate his game

As is always the case when the Rangers are struggling, fans, players and the media alike are all searching for answers to the team’s woes.  And though everything from bad puck luck to injuries has been a factor, coach Alain Vigneault hit the nail on the head yesterday when he put much of the blame for the team’s poor start on its underperforming core members.

“If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level, we need our top players to consistently play like top players,” Vigneault told Andrew Gross. “Not a period in, a period out. Not a game in, a game out. We need that core group, the leaders of this group, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis and on a game to game basis. Just look at our lineup, look at our core group and look at our key guys and there’s the answer.”

Vigneault couldn’t be more right in his assessment of the team 28 games into the year.  Because as much as fans like to argue about what Michael Del Zotto might fetch in a trade or which youngster should play a handful of minutes a game in place of Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot, it’s highly unlikely that any such substitution would have a major impact on the team.  Maybe J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Danny Kristo will re-join the Rangers this year and maybe not, but the Blueshirts certainly can’t count on any of the unproven prospects within the organization to arrive and turn the season around.  The team has already gotten a surprise shot in the arm from Chris Kreider, and even that hasn’t been enough.

No, for the Rangers to climb back to the contender status they envisioned when the team hired Vigneault, New York’s top players must carry the team.  Of those, only Ryan McDonagh has really played at a consistently high level.  Lundqvist, usually immune to criticism, has obviously been the most surprising disappointment, although his numbers in November were right in line with his career averages.  But Brad Richards’ play has fallen off a cliff since his hot start, Derek Stepan still doesn’t seem like he’s completely up to speed after a camp holdout, Ryan Callahan has been nowhere near as effective as we’re accustomed to, Carl Hagelin has been invisible since his terrific first two weeks, Dan Girardi has been a shell of himself, and the list goes on and on.

There were obviously different variables for Vigneault to deal with in Vancouver, but one thing the Canucks could always count on was the Sedin twins.  Both players have hovered around a point a game in all nine seasons since the lockout, a level of consistency completely foreign to the Rangers.  Offense that dependable can mask a lot of mistakes, and the biggest issue for the Blueshirts is that they haven’t received that kind of standout performance from their horses on either end of the ice this season.

The team’s most important offensive player, Rick Nash, seems to be finding his groove after missing over a month with a concussion, and he, like many of the other struggling Rangers, certainly has an excuse.  But whereas in the past when some key players have struggled Lundqvist and the terrific defense were there to bail them out, this is going to have to be more of a collective effort.

The team certainly doesn’t lack veteran leaders, but it’s on them to start performing.  Vigneault has tried every motivational tactic in the book, but at some point, there’s not much more he can do.  No fan wants to hear a new coach admit defeat so early in his tenure, but that’s not what Vigneault is doing.  The old saying “a coach is only as good as his players” holds true for New York.  If the core members of the team revert to their old form, then Vigneault will look like a genius for turning the season around.  But if they don’t…

25 Responses to “Vigneault right to put the onus on New York’s top players”

  1. supermaz says:

    McDonagh not the only one who deserves kudos…..what about my man Zuccarello. The little guy has been awesome. Its not a coincidence each time he steps on the ice, no matter who his linemates are, the Rangers have some of their best scoring chances. Lets have some love for Frodo!

    • Kevin says:

      Agree that Zuc has been one of the team’s better players, but I personally don’t consider him part of that core group. Maybe he should be, but the one-year deals he keeps inking says otherwise.

  2. Walt says:

    Maybe the core players aren’t playing up to their standards becuase they are being bullied around by teams like the Bruins, or anyone who plays a physical game. They have no one protecting their backs, as hard as Dorsett tries, he’s too small. Just think back to last season, in the few games that Ryan Clowe played in, teams backed off big time because they shit their pants at the thought of droping the gloves with him.

    Or is it that the press has everyone convinced that this team is ready for a cup run, as stated for the last three years, but may be over rated??? Just thinking out loud!!

    • Kevin says:

      I really think the bullying theory is silly, but I think you could be right about your second point.
      Torts got the most out of an undertalented group, A.V. is having trouble doing that.

      • Walt says:

        Kevin

        Was it not the case when Boston got nasty in the last game played, and the team got weak knees? When they bring up McIlrath, I believe that there will be a difference!!

        • @Centerman21 says:

          So 1 kid is gonna come up and change the entire team? That makes no sense. I’d like to see him in a NY Rangers jersey but he’s got to learn to help himself before he can help the team. I would like to see Sather admit failure and waive Pouliot & Pyatt. Shake it up. I’d rather Powe in the lineup.

          • Walt says:

            One kid will make a difference. Here are some examples of one kid making a difference when they came into the NHL:

            Keith Magnason-Blackhawks
            Larry Robinson-Montreal
            Chris Chelios-Montreal
            Joe Kocsar-Detroit
            Bob Probert-Detroit

            But you may not go back that far, or are too damn smart to think with your head. Now does that make any sense?? Always have a smart ass answer for anyone you don’t agree with, you dip stick!!!

  3. AD says:

    Richards starting off strong and then fading should not be a surprise; it won’t be long before it becomes obvious, once again, he is no better than a 3rd line player at this stage of his career.

    Also, it won’t be long before the consensus around AV comes to the notion that he is an average coach who had the luxury of elite players (Sedin twins) to carry his clubs during the peak of their careers.

    I wish this were not the case but the choice of AV as Tortorella’s replacement was a poor decision that has set this team back several years.

    Unless we go on a big winning tear (e.g., 8W – 2L) during this home stretch, the best long term plan for this team may be to trade a few of our impending UFAs for very high draft picks and “filler” assets, and restructure personnel.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      28 games is nowhere near long enough of a sample size to insist that Alain Vindiesel is an average coach and a step down from his predecessor.

      If you recall, this win a game lose a game, hover around .500 hockey is exactly where we were last year as well. Uninspiring hockey last year is arguably what prompted the Gaborik trade near the deadline.

      We need to let the season play out.

      • AD says:

        You may be right; I hope I am wrong.

        My view on AV was exactly the same before the pre-season and season started. I really think he under-performed as coach of the Canucks. I know some will show me his W/L record after that statement, but I think he should have had more success with the team he inherited there.

        Think about it: Luong, and the Sedin twins, playing at the peak of their careers. The offense was nearly unstoppable during those years (leading to a false belief AV is an offensive guru), and Luongo was as good as Hank has been in recent years.

        I just think he is an average coach. Time will tell here in NY.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          That is a very solid point. To expand on what you’re saying…. strong regular seasons only tell so much. Playoff underachievement, aside from one year (2011), will keep a dark cloud over his head until he can prove otherwise.

          • Kevin says:

            Such a thin line in public perception. The ‘Nucks were just one game away from being champs. They win that, Vigneault isn’t even here.

  4. SalMerc says:

    AV needs to put pressure on the veterans, but he also needs to better prepare the team for situational play. PP & PK can be better. Having a player move to open space or cycling in the corner can be practiced. Too many shifts seem to be 45 seconds of nothing. Every player on every shift needs to make something positive happen. Leadership on the ice can help demonstrate that.

  5. Jeff says:

    Or perhaps AV can finally bench someone other than MDZ…

    • Chris F says:

      So far he’s benched MDZ, Zuccarello and John Moore. Zuccarello responded very positively, and MDZ certainly seems more visible joining the rush and making plays since he sat. We’ve yet to see what the effect will be on Moore.

      I’d like to see Girardi and Stralman get a game or two in the press box, bring Falk back in, and see if they respond. That should help shore up the blueline’s motivation.

      As for the forward core, I see no reason why Pouliot should be getting any more ice time at the moment. Sit him down, play Mashinter (or even Pyatt at this point), and let him watch for a few games.

      After that, might need to take it to the next level and start sitting top six guys, like Brassard.

  6. Frank Cerbone says:

    Only Zuccarello, Kreider, & Hagelin are plus players. NONE ARE UFAs AT END OF SEASON. SO AT TRADING DEADLINE, SATHER BETTER MOVE ANYONE WHO IS UNSIGNED. Could you just imagine an unsigned Lundquist, Callahan, Girardi, Stralman, & Boyle leaving without compensation. Even that idiot Dolan wouldn’t keep Sather at that point.

  7. Erniep says:

    I am no hockey expert but have been a ranger fan since the late 50’s. What I see is a team being outworked shift and shift with few exceptions. The need for an enforcers in obvious, other teams push the rangers around. Ever since Brandon Prust left this team I see no heart. I love players like Prust, they give you 150% every shift.

    • Ray V says:

      I have also been a rangers fan for 50 years. We need someone to push back when needed. I miss Prust for the same reason. He gave you everything and more no matter how banged up he was. I only see that drive in Zuccs right now and Hagz but not as consistent as Zuccs. Cally has not been 100% himself this year. Something aint right. Richards had a “lucky” start thats all. I am not surprised at where he is right now. Its what I expected. Nash is starting to get his game back and if he stays healthy look out. Staal is also not what he was. Kreider was throwing his weight for a few games and thats when he was at his best. He had a nice 3 goal game a few games ago but he still can step it up. I really feel that if we sit him one game…it will wake up that fire in him even more. And lets get a real enforcer. We are getting pushed around. We need to push back so we are not taken off our game. Dont hate me on the sitting Kreider a game or two. I really feel he will come back even better and maybe fire up this team.

      • Walt says:

        Agree with most of your post, but the part about Kreider. He is playing with heart, can’t say that about the rest of the team though, but you may have a point.

        Now to your comment about an enforcer, I’m with you 100%, but you may have made the shit list for that smart ass Centerman21, he knows it all!! Just ask him, he’ll tell you.

    • Walt says:

      Hay, did you see Prust get into a fight with a Devil, Carter I believe, and he threw an upper cut. What a shot, sent that dude reeling, and he wasn’t a factor for the rest of the game.

  8. Lou says:

    Anyone who does not think bullying and intimidation are not part of hockey has obviously never played the game before.

    If you look at the Rangers…Brassard, Stepan, Calley, Hagelin, Richards, Kredier, Pyatt…..these guys all look alike (and if you look closely, none of them has any facial scars or black eyes….ummmmmm). Nice kids…would want to invite them to thanksgiving meal…but these are NOT men.

    Men are/were Daneko..Stevens…Clowe…Lucic…Chara

    Im not talking about fighters – that bred of player that can only throw the gloves is worthless today.

    Im talking about a mean SOB that you dont want to meet in an ally. The guy that will bit your ear off if you get in his way…the guy that WILLS a team to win the games against Winnepeg by crushing their star player, running into the goalie..or calling out his teammates.

    This team needs leadership. Cally is a terrific role model…but he’s not a leader. And these “boys” need a man or men to lead them!

    Need Byfluien…Ott…Glencross…Camalleri

    Trade away Pouliot, Pyatt, MDZ, Miller, Fast and draft picks to get them!

    • Walt says:

      Lou

      I couldn’t have said it better if I tried. Don’t let centerman21 read this, you’ll be put on his idiot list. I posted something along the same line, and was making no sense, according to him, just he knows everything, no one else!!