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Rangers talent levels not sole concern

The Rangers need their coach to coach, not to moan about talent Photo: AP

The Rangers need their coach to coach, not to moan about talent. Photo: AP

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.

34 Responses to “Rangers talent levels not sole concern”

  1. Paul in sunrise says:

    The thing is if the rangers are going to struggle I would much rather watch kristo lindberg and other kids play and learn on the job than the current members of the bottom six working on one year or last year deals. That’s just me. The current product is borderline unwatchable. I have deleted many a DVR games this season.

    • kurt says:

      Ya, its pretty disgusting. In my opinion, its time to rebuild again. And that starts with a new.GM. id keep a small handful of our current roster and I do mean “small”.

  2. Walt says:

    Agree with you Paul.

    The obvious question is, “is AV making the call on the roster players, or is it upper management”?

    If it’s AV, then we know that he is a poor evaluater of talent, and really doesn’t want to develope the kids, as has been mentioned by many on this site. I personally don’t have any idea about that subject, and haven’t commented on it.

    If it’s management, then we are in deep poo poo. Slats has been at the helm for what 14 years? The man was brought in to win us a cup, and now the only cup we may win is a coffee cup. He stated way back that if he had the Rangers money to work with, he’d win cups, well Slats, where are they?

    Over the history of this GM we drafted poorly, signed terrible contracts, Lindros, Fluery, Druery, Gomez, BR, and the list goes on! The prospects aren’t that great in the system, and what good ones we have, he isn’t bringing up, so what good are they?

    I hate being negitive, but how many more years as a fan base must we put up with this crap? Mr Dolan, I can’t believe I said this Mr Dolan, what a laugh, please get Slats out of the office, send him back to his cottage in Calgary, and let him rot there. I know, plenty are going to come down on me, look at McD, what a trade Slats made, we all get lucky some time. Too manys seasons like this one is turning into, kiss that billion dollar renovation money good bye, the fans won’t pay good maney to watch an AHL caliber team play on the world’s biggest stage!

    • AD says:

      After the past 5 years of having a strong record of developing from within (Dubinsky, Anisimov, Hagelin, Stepan, McDonagh, Kreider, McIlrath, Del Zotto) I think you have to assume, so far, it has been AV making all the calls on the roster. That would also be normal for an incoming new coach.

      AV has a long coaching record; a careful evaluation of it reveals he does not have much patience with prospects. There are other very good coaches in the league who share his sentiment; it’s a coaching style.

      And that is one reason why Sather, in my view, selected the wrong coach, as good as he may be: we’ve downplayed an important part of what has led to success in recent years.

      We’ll so over time how material this is, but the record on this issue is what it is.

      • Walt says:

        AD

        I never followed coaches per se, but you make sense. That is the reason I wouldn’t comment, I don’t know.

        As far as Sather, the man has indeed run his course, and should retire, the sooner, the better!

        • @Centerman21 says:

          Hard to say that’s when that’s gonna happen. Dolan seems content with giving Sather the keys to MSG to do as he pleases. I personally don’t mind Sather but I feel he should dip into the future a little to save this season. I think Kane can be had from the Jets and maybe a couple 3rd line players. Even one 3rd liner and give Powe a shot. He looked good in camp. This team needs a shakeup and they have the parts to do it. Girardi, DZ, Boyle, Hagelin plus farm assets can all be used to get this team on track.
          This is the Same team that went 7-3 in November to get back to .500. It’s a confidence issue right now. You can see it in their play of late. Sather can fix this.

    • You left out Holik & Kasparitis as bad long term contract signings by Sather.

      Sather is not fiscally responsible…not a numbers cruncher. Sort of like a high school graduate becoming a doctor…way in over his head. Remember, Sather was canned from Edmonton because his last 10 or so 1st rd picks amounted to only Arnott & Beukaboom.

      Hrivik was not even considered enough of a prospect to be drafted by an NHL team. He has not been good in the AHL either. As for Connor Allen, he too went undrafted & was in 2 Washington Capitol camps without being signed by Washington. He too is struggling defensively like Kristo & Lindberg. The Rangers farm system is ranked pretty much in the middle of the pack, so expect similar performance results.

      If the Rangers are headed anywhere in free agency, guys like great forchecker Andrew Cogliano, who has never missed a gm in 7 years & is the 2nd fastest skater in the NHL 26 should be #1 on Ranger’s radar.

      • Walt says:

        Frank

        There are many more poor signings, and I didn’t want to write a book on the subject!!

      • @Centerman21 says:

        I really agree with your basic outlook on the state of the team with a little more optimism in the Rangers prospect pool.
        The player you pointed out is exactly what this team needs. I really think part of the Rangers problem is they have 9 top 6 players filling out the top 9. They need a 3rd line player willing to change a game with a hit. Get in on the forecheck. I don’t like Hagelin as a 3rd line player and I don’t really think the Rangers have a true 3rd line type of Center. In AV’s line matching the 3rd liners need to be good shutdown players but chip in offensively. I wonder if they obtained Beach from Chicago for that reason. A big mean kid that has a little offensive ability. I think the kid Cogliano could help but they could also shake things up by using some of the kids from inside the organization. Maybe find a line combo that works. The best teams have balance throughout the entire lineup. The NY Rangers don’t have that. The 3rd line needs to be full of good 2 way players. We don’t have that.

    • rich says:

      finally someone addressing the rangers biggest problem. GLEN SATHER. he continues to make worthless trades, draft Mcylrath instead of Anaheims best young defenseman etc. etc. until sather is fired the rangers will mire away in mediocrity and fans like me watch any other game on the nhl network other than the N.Y. Rangers. they stink and bore the crap out of me.

  3. Chris F says:

    I certainly hope that the organization doesn’t give up on long-term goals of building a successful franchise around home-grown youth.

    I remember a game winning goal during the run to the 2012-2012 playoffs. I forget who scored, but the play started in the Rangers zone with Lundqvist. As it developed, all 5 Rangers on the ice touched the puck: Staal, Del Zotto, Callahan, Anisimov and Dubinsky. All home grown talent, the future of the organization. Two of those guys are gone now. It was a memorable moment. Hope to see more of those in the future.

    • Paul in sunrise says:

      Two are gone. Two are injured far too often and one has sadly underperformed this far. It’s a different time and that specific window closed by two losses after battling hard to over come early deficits.

      Time to strip it down and start over with a few pieces they currently have.

  4. Paul in sunrise says:

    Just to be clear. It’s obvious the team as configured is not what AV wants. Get him the personnel that will make his system successful.

    • Walt says:

      No arguements here, so what is Sather doing?? Let’s wait and see!

      I hope he doesn’t give away draft picks. During the last draft, we didn’t get to pick until I believe the 3rd round, and what did we get crumbs? Good organization build teams by drafting players…..

  5. Gary says:

    I was a little pissed yesterday, hence the ‘blow it up’ sentiment. Someone (HTSwaze I think) made a good point that it is going to change anyway, just by non renewal of contracts and cap space.

    But I still think the KING is a problem. In goalie royalty circles, he has abdicated and there are at least 5-7 guys legitimately better than him now and probably going forward. I’d like to see Sather blow *him* up, especially if he pressured the org. into dumping the former coach with his little hints (or more). Okay, I guess I am still a little pissed. It’s looking a little like Ellesbury to me (I am a Red Sox fan — from Boston after all, don’t let the door hit you on the way out Jacoby).

    New York (esp. the Rangers of late 90′s, early 2000′s infamy) has a way of inflating its stars to god like proportions. That creates hubris, which is what I think has surrounded the KING with all this over the top adulation. It’s up to him to simplify, take account of himself and be who he has been all these years, pre-lifetime contract. A damn good goalie. That’s it.

    The rest of the team can be resolved. Assuming we keep Hank, which I know we will, a decent non-Cup contending season can still be had. The blueprint is right there with the Clowe (finally remembered his name) acquisition. This thing needs to be firmed up… have some “jam” or “balls” as Torts used to say.

    I’d trade Hags, maybe Brassard to get this done. Dorsett, McIlrath (if he sticks) and Winger X. The team needs to be difficult to play against. Some bangers can make this thing heavier and then AV needs to put action behind the words and tweak the style as well.

    • Bloomer says:

      A struggling 32 year old goalie with 8.5 million dollar cap hit for 7 years, no GM would touch him with a 10 foot pole. The Rangers are stuck with Hank and will live or die by his performance in net for the foreseeable future.

  6. Trading the fastest player in the NHL (Hagelin) makes no sense. Like Milbury & Roenick said, Hagelin is wasted because his wingers can’t keep up with him on the forcheck. Sign 26 year old Andrew Cogliano, 2nd fastest player in the NHL, a great forchecker & only 26. Speed kills & back them up with a couple of tough guys. Kristo & Lindberg are struggling defensively in the AHL & that is why they have not been called up. Connor Allen & Hrivik are also struggling, but have been passed over by NHL teams and have limited skill sets. Beech has possibilities as an Avery type if he can straighten his head out.

    • Walt says:

      Bring up Beech, with McIlrath, and Dorsett, now we have some bangers, with a little skill no less. Flush the “P” twins down the toilet, and lets see what happends. As for Cogliano, not a bad idea.

      Frank, whatever you do in the future, please don’t bring up Milbury, or Roenick again, two mental midgets. Just jerking you chain my friend!

      Milbury was such a wonderful judge of talent, Bartuzzi, Chara, Luango, are a fwew names that he gave away when he was GM of the fishsticks, they sure could have kept, and been a hell of a lot better team than what they got in return. When one says Milbury, just think CLOWN, and laugh at that fool.

    • Mikeyyy says:

      You could always pair up hags kreoder and brassard for a faaaaaaassssstttt line

  7. Mike S says:

    Trade Hagelin to acquire “bangers?” Come on, man.

    • Gary says:

      Well I was thinking that because Fast, Lindburg, Kristo, Miller are there in the background. But yeh, maybe you don’t get rid of Hags. I actually like him. Just trying to figure out how this team can get heavier, harder.

      • @Centerman21 says:

        I don’t think the Rangers are using him right. The 3rd line needs guys that can throw a hit and forecheck hard. Hagelin can forecheck but he’s too small for the 3rd line IMO.
        Not sure the Ducks would trade Cogliano but that kind of player is what they need there. A couple of big guys that can use size to win puck battles in the offensive zone. Right now the Rangers don’t have an effective bottom 6.
        I’m a fan of Boyle and all the little things he does for this team in the dots & on the PK but if there were teams asking about him like Sather alluded to during camp. Why not trade him or include him in a deal to acquire help. This team isn’t constructed properly. They need a whole new bottom 6. Maybe Brassard stays and add 2 big wingers around him. I like Brassard and his tenacious game.
        The 4th line needs to be tougher. I agree Beach should get a look. If he got it together he’d be a perfect 3rd or 4th line player.

  8. BobM says:

    The check is in the mail.
    I’m from the Government and I’m here to help you
    But, officer, I only had two beers
    Don’t worry; he’s never bitten anyone
    I can go another 40 miles when the gauge is on “Empty”
    I am married, but we’re getting a divorce
    “Rangers’ fans shouldn’t panic.”

    • @Centerman21 says:

      Are those the biggest lies? I think “I won’t come” is in there too. I spelt it wrong on purpose to not be offensive but that was a pretty funny joke back in the day.
      To me it’s just sad the way they’ve played. They gave up the 1st goal and didn’t compete after that. They played parts of the games against the Preds & Jackets but hard to say we shouldn’t worry. I haven’t liked this 1-2-2 forecheck and I haven’t liked the way we’ve used it. The forecheck has to create turnovers and they just don’t. That’s what these players have done for years. It’s been their bread & butter. Whether they’re behind or playing with a lead, the forecheck wins games. Offense comes without the puck too. Tell AV that.

  9. Paul in sunrise says:

    I am not in the trade hagelin or MDZ camp either. Sometimes adjustments to keep personnel are required. Hags is a hunter not a carrier. He is great below the hash marks. He had chemistry with step and Nash last year. Put them back together.

    With the dearth of good young defenseman why trade MDZ. While his foot speed has always been my problem with him he is young and can be useful. He is durable. And has shown snarl in the past.

    • AD says:

      Unfortunately I’ve reached a point with Del Zotto that I reached with Dubinsky, which is he may simply not have the mental strength and maturity to ever reach his capacity within the confines of Manhattan. It is a unique hockey market but certainly a difficult one for a young player to handle, in terms of the numerous off-ice distractions. Guys like Callahan, Staal and McDonagh are nique. Even Dubinsky commented on it a few days ago, and how he attributed the smaller Columbus market as being helpful to his development.

      I think we need to pull the chord on Del Zotto, unfortunately.

  10. Bloomer says:

    The Ranger organization has a history of overpaying the salaries of their players. A recent example is the signing of Lundquist. In a salary cap world, when you have a roster carrying few mega huge salaries (Nash, Lundquist, Richards)it leaves little room to fill the roster with good support players. The Ranger management has to have the courage to say no when their players demand more then market value. It is for the good of the team. Hockey is after all a team sport and tying up most of your cap space on a few players is not a recipe for success.

    • Gary says:

      Well, they can deal with the Lundquist contract just fine as long as he goes to his quiet place and figures out who the old Hank is. I know one thing, the old Hank had a D packing it in like bricks deep in the zone. Now? Not so much.

  11. Craig says:

    This team needs a major shakeup
    Hagelin is fast but doesn’t score consistently and is a small player that gets banged around. Any old timers remember Jean Carr, fast as lightning and never finished a play?
    Callahan is a great hustler , a very good player but will demand much as a free agent. He is also injury prone and his style of play will slow down as he ages and injuries will increase. Risky long term contract.
    Pouliot and Pyatt must go now.
    Girardi will also demand much money, though very good defensive instincts, lacks grit and his shot from the point stinks, He is also on the decline.
    Dorsett a good hustler but to small,injury prone, and can’t put the puck in Lake Superior
    Bassard is a tease.
    MDZ average defensemen that has no physical presence and can’t get the puck on goal or finish a play
    How about some trade packages with these players involved. This is not a genuine championship team as it is and hasn’t been for years. New York deserves better then a fairly decent or a pretty good team that just holds its own. Last year (and the year before) Hank stood on his head and was half the reason they got as far as they did.

    • supermaz says:

      May be the best post I’ve read in ages. You are a smart man Craig, other than misspelling Gene Carr’s first name. I agree with everything youve stated.

    • Craig says:

      Thanks my friend. If you remember how to spell Gene Carr, you must be a veteran fan who remembers the great Ranger teams (Park, GAG line) and the original six teams in the NHL

  12. Tim B says:

    The rangers need help. The lines should look like:

    Kreider-Stepan-Zucc
    Kristo-Richards-Nash
    Hrivik-Brassard-Hagelin
    Dorsett-Boyle-Asham

    Pouliot or Pyatt as healthy scratch. I think my lines look better on paper then te ones AV is deploying. Give Lindberg, Fast & Miller time to develop. Kristo is almost a Pt per game player last time i checked his stats. He is ready in my opinion.

    • @Centerman21 says:

      Nash is a lefty but he can play the right side. Why put him on the right and the righty (Kristo) on the left? Why put your best scorer on the 2nd line unless you have proven scorers in front of him. Kreider is improving but is he a proven goal scorer yet? Same with Zuccarello and both are lefties. One of them is going to have trouble taking passes. Same with your 3rd line. 3 lefties and those 3 can’t hit anyone. The line you have is what is wrong with the Rangers. The 3rd line should have 2 way players able to play physical and use the forecheck to score once in a while. I like Hrivik too. He might be a good 3rd line player some day. Just need some righties on the top 12 of this team. That is why the lines look like they do for AV sometimes. It’s not easy because not every winger can play both sides. Kristo will get his chance. They are right to let him play 18+ mins a night in Hartford.

  13. Cogliano is a UFA at the end of this season at age 26. He is a great forchecker with 2nd best speed in the NHL to only Hagelin AND COGLIANO HAS NEVER MISSED A GAME IN HIS 7TH YEAR IN THE NHL.
    Put Hagelin on the same line doing a forcheck with Cogliano & I guaranty you opposing teams will have problems both getting to the puck & getting it out of their zone. Ideally, JT Miller would complement Hagelin & Cogliano, especially since JT Miller is a better faceoff guy than Cogliano. But right now, JTMiller has problems backchecking. so maybe Dorsett might be a complement to Hagelin & Cogliano.