With the Rangers seemingly in a tail spin and with the injuries mounting it really isn’t time to panic no matter how bleak it may seem at present. That said, changes do need to be made.
The Rangers have an opportunity to insert the likes of JT Miller, Danny Kristo and Dylan McIlrath now and give them consistent ice time and at no real risk. All of the aforementioned cannot do worse than the likes of Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Pyatt and (this season at least) any combination of Falk, Del Zotto and John Moore. If all they achieve this season is to become role players – or even that they simply avoid being liabilities – then it’s almost already an upgrade and developmental time long term.
With the team generating little to no offense, inconsistent (at best) defense and with spaces to fill thanks to an injury list that could backfill a local hospital there is an opportunity to exploit. Alain Vigneault has bemoaned the lack of appropriate player types and perhaps that’s true but is that because he’s simply icing the wrong type or is it that he hasn’t got them within the entire organisation? It’s time to find out.
Barring a disaster of epic proportions, Vigneault has time on his side so it would surely benefit him to look at the prospects available. He’s not getting fired this season unless the Rangers go on a winless streak that would threaten riots in New York.
With a core consisting of Nash, Stepan, Richards, Hagelin, Kreider and Zuccarello up front there is enough depth to support the younger players who could be inserted. The assumption would be the same on the blue line where Girardi, McDonagh and Stralman (counting only the healthy) could help McIlrath’s transition, and maybe Conor Allen’s too.
The Rangers have holes everywhere but they have some opportunities here. They are in an incredibly weak division so even with injuries and a lack of consistent form they’re well in the playoff race and the LA Kings have shown us recently that it’s about getting in, not necessarily which high seed you grab.
The Rangers also have an opportunity to show players within the organisation that poor form will not be tolerated by jettisoning Pouliot and Pyatt permanently in favour of the kids. Send a signal to the roster. This kind of move also gives a preview as to whether Vigneault really does need to demand a fresh batch of talent in the summer or whether he actually has something tangible to work with.
The Rangers could always go the trade route but that will cost assets and knee jerk reactions to a poor run of form usually hurt long term and certainly more than the growing pains of some talented prospects being thrown in and given legitimate opportunity. Of course, a trade could work out well but this roster has depth issues as well as concerns regarding the skill level so will a trade (outside of the spectacular) really be the answer?
The current situation demands two things: core veterans on the roster finally being held accountable and delivering, and a fresh insertion of talent. The excuses are no longer there, the talent shouldn’t be ignored.