As the Rangers struggle to mount any kind of offense or physicality, the team is being increasingly exposed for the obvious flaws that they have. We’ve discussed ad nauseam how the Rangers should turn to some of the prospects to help the ailing offense (Kristo) or the putrid levels of physicality (McIlrath). One player that hasn’t had much airtime is Marek Hrivik, at one stage a dark horse for a spot in the line-up to start the year. Hrivik could help both of the Rangers critical areas of concern.
While it may have gotten to the stage where veteran help (aka a trade) is what’s needed to mix it up, Hrivik has shown that he can control the puck, work the boards and use his body to good effect. He’s also a player with legitimate offensive upside. At 6’1 and 200 lbs Hrivik may not seem physically imposing on paper but in limited exposure he has shown he uses his entire skill set effectively. We can’t say that about the Pouliot’s and Pyatt’s of the NHL roster.
The situation right now requires Alain Vigneault to bang some heads together, to reinvigorate the players at his disposal, but maybe also to have the guts to ice the players who have the right skill set that he craves. Can performances get any worse? Probably not. If the goaltending (as ugly as it’s ever been over the last decade) improves and the defense starts playing in front of Lundqvist, there is still an opportunity for the minimalists that are the Rangers offense. In simple terms, the Rangers have gotten away from what made them successful.
Friday night saw Hrivik score for the WolfPack in their 3-2 loss to the Phantoms and while his 10 points in 23 games does not generate a huge amount of enthusiasm, how many players in the Rangers bottom six have the combination of skill and size that Vigneault requires? The answer is not enough. Too many Rangers players are playing tentatively with the puck and unengaged without. Hrivik could provide something in both areas.
Hrivik is a long shot right now on a team desperate for help and he’s likely not on the team’s radar just yet but the point of discussing Hrivik is not so much about his own candidacy for the Rangers but more pointedly it is about bringing to the forefront the fact the Rangers do have the players in the system that could play Vigneault’s style. While the coach openly bemoans a lack of appropriate player types the system seems to offer them.
Danny Kristo and Oscar Lindberg offer skill and hockey IQ and, while still raw at the North American pro-level, Jesper Fast (still returning from injury) offers skating ability and a scoring touch. The aforementioned Hrivik offers a well balanced skill set while beyond the pro ranks players such as ‘Boo’ Nieves and Brady Skjei offer skill and skating ability. The talent in the system is there.
Rangers’ fans shouldn’t panic. This season was always going to be a period of acclimatisation to a new coach and his own ways and yet there are still opportunities for success this season. The focus shouldn’t be on a lack of ability within the organisation. The Focus should be on what help Vigneault has at his disposal in the short term but, more importantly, the focus should lie on the coach himself. Light a fire, Alain. Light a fire.