Five questions for the Rangers rebuild

March 12, 2018, by
rangers islanders mats zuccarello brady skjei

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Rangers are rebuilding. I know. Shocking. Right?

Not every rebuild is successful, though. As Pat has been highlighting weekly, for every Maple Leafs team, there are several Oilers, Canes, and Islanders teams. For every success, there are countless failures. I am certainly excited for what is to come, but partially petrified as well.

There are some major questions surrounding this rebuild. Some that are quite obvious, and others not so much. Let’s break them down.

Who is going to coach the kids?

All credit to Alain Vigneault for a helluva run with the Blueshirts. A Stanley Cup Final appearance. An Eastern Conference Final Game 7. A President’s Trophy. He did some wonderful things. But all coaches have a shelf life, and AV has run his course in New York. His weakness is his loyalty to his guys, and that is a weakness that doesn’t work for a rebuilding team.

The next coach needs to be a coach that can help the kids grow. They need to be comfortable enough to know they can make a mistake or two and it won’t result in a benching or a game in the press box. AV will stick around until the end of the season, since there will be more coaches available then. Personally, I want someone off the radar, who isn’t that coaching fraternity that is recycled regularly.

Which players will lead the team?

This is something I touched on the other day, but this goes beyond the next Rangers core. The next leadership group has to be a right fit with the coaching staff as well. If the new coach is an in your face guy in the locker room, then the captain group should be the opposite, and vice versa. Complementary pieces and personalities are critical for development, as it gives different routes to grow and affords the opportunity to mold players.

What is going on with that blue line?

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time believing that the Rangers are going to go into next season with what might amount to a near identical blue line from last year. Only Nick Holden is gone. Are they going to run Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith, Brady Skjei, Tony DeAngelo, and Neal Pionk out there next year? What about John Gilmour? There’s still the Steven Kampfer question.

As Justin said on Friday, I don’t see Pionk or Gilmour as long term solutions on the blue line. If they pan out into solid bottom pairing guys, then that’s a giant win. However bottom pairing is what I have pegged for DeAngelo, which again isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but probably isn’t a good thing either.

At this rate, it looks like it’ll be close to the same blue line. If the system changes, then you never know what happens. But there needs to be some form of change there.

Where is the elite skill coming from?

The trade deadline came and went, and the Blueshirts acquired a bunch of solid pieces. Ryan Spooner and Vlad Namestnikov will pay immediate dividends. Beyond that, though, there are no immediate impact players. The rest of the pieces acquired top out at middle-six/bottom four potential.

That’s not a bad thing. You need depth to win. But the Blueshirts need elite skill as well. Perhaps Filip Chytil and Pavel Buchnevich turn into that elite skill, but they need more. If the Blueshirts don’t get elite skill from their three first rounders, they need to find it elsewhere.

What is the overall strategy?

This is the biggest question. There are a bunch of possibly concerning quotes out there, saying the Rangers targeted a player like Ryan Lindgren over some other potentially higher ceiling players because they liked his character and physical ability. On the surface, those types of quotes are certainly concerning, especially when you consider the need for elite skill, as mentioned above.

There is definitely a strategy here for Jeff Gorton and company. The idea of making the best possible trade always holds true, but it’s clear the team targeted specific types of players. They built out their depth, which makes sense because it’s rare you get to Erat someone at the trade deadline. Again, depth is critical.

No matter which way you slice it, there is a strategy in place. The type of strategy is the key point, though. We will see the rest unfold at the draft. Hopefully it gives us what we are hoping for.

"Five questions for the Rangers rebuild", 5 out of 5 based on 9 ratings.
Categories : Offseason


  1. joe cafardo says:

    You need top line elites…and a roster to handle the injuries that will come… and a scheme that lets your players play. Boston had no McAvoy, Bergeron, Backus for last 6 games and won them all excluding Chicago game ( where they sat Marchand). Chicago has no Crawford, made dumb trades and now lack chemistry and depth. Nash looks like the Columbus version…heck…Holden is hitting, taking the puck up ice on the rush and has no turnovers! I trust Gorton…but man…this team is a long way from smelling playoffs with that blue line and bench leadership.

    • Walt says:


      Nash looks like the Columbus version…….

      Could it be that he is being able to play his game in a different system, and is playing for a different coach??? Just asking!!!!!!

      • MBN says:


        “…Could it be…?”

        We all know the answer is yes. I really am amazed how V did not even attempt to change his style to fit the personnel he has here. That is the most damming strike against him, in my opinion.

        Inflexibility is inexcusable.

      • HARLEMBLUES says:

        Spot on Walt with that post. Seriously guys it’s AV who’s doesn’t want to change. Let the players be who they are ADA should be allowed to bring the puck up ice. Guys should be allowed to punish players who come in their part of the ice. Guys should be allowed to stick up for each other when one takes an elbow to the head. But it’s not AV’s way. Great coaches let players play to their strengths. Not make them play a system that doesn’t fit them. Pat Riley in LA showtime but in NY bump and grind. He saw what players he had and let them be themselves.

        • Mintgecko says:

          Interesting. Kesler and Beiska never had any issues with punishing guys in their area around the net. Torres was still the same old a-hole. Rome and Burrows kept up with their antics during and after the whistle. I hate AV but certain stuff that are said about him are just flat out negative and not true at all.

          • HARLEMBLUES says:

            What’s his problem in NY? When was the last time McD when coast to with the puck. Why was Danny G standing there while his partner had taken a vicious cheap hit. The Rangers would go days without attempting to put someone thru the boards. If it was the players well he kept rolling G out there. Miller is smashing guys down south so what’s with NY.

        • Walt says:


          Your asking way too much of this cow, he can’t think, and chew gum at the same time. Like MBN above posted, he so rigid it hurts. I disliked this guy after the first year, and it’s gotten worse since, yet three guys above disagree with the rest of us. Who know what they’re thinking?????????

      • Andy says:

        Great point Walt. I liken the situation with Nash to that of Gaborik. They are great players, but not super stars at level of Crosby, Laine, Ovechkin , etc. They were both traded to deep teams with some superstars or close to superstars, not just depth. (Krecji, Marchand, Bergeron, Pasternak) (Kopitar, Carter, Doughty)When they played for the Rangers, they always faced the best D pairings, and they were easy enough to contain because we had depth but not top tier talent. Put these guys on a deep team choices need to be made on to deploy D man coverage. They are our A players, but they are B players for teams like Boston and LA in the case of Gaborik. That was a better spot for these guys, and partially they get better match ups and their numbers go up. The point that these guys games improved with better teams only furthers our need to find some true Elite talent. Now you can argue Nash produced in Columbus with less talent around him than he did with The Rangers, but he was also in his early 20’s and the league has changed quite a but since then. Don’t be surprised to see Nash have a Gaborik 2014 type run this play off season with the Bruins.

        • Walt says:


          You make valid points but again it goes back to the coaching, and the system employed. If things don’t work, why try to force it down peoples throat, rather than employ something different?

          When AV arrived, his system was different, we all liked what we saw. As time passed, teams got wise, adapted, and shut us down, especially as the seasons progressed. AV never changed anything, except maybe his underwear, but that’s for another discussion.

          Each year we started the decline, and now are almost rock bottom, and still he insists on doing the same old, same old, with the same group of players who have failed us time, and again. Why in goodness name is Staal logging all the time he is? Same held true for Holden, and others who didn’t earn their time, they just showed up, and were rewarded for being on time with TOI, just stupid.

          Yes I dislike AV immensely for his stubbornness, and inflexibility. I can’t see him being here next year, and for that we should all go out and get an adult beverage to celebrate his departure. I don’t wish him ill will personally, but I’ll remind him not to let the door him in the ass on his way out!!!!!!!!!!

    • kevshockey says:

      Not to get too much into ‘tuffness’ debate. But it’s a lot easier for a guy like Holden to start to throw his body around when that’s the mentality/identity of the team and his captain is Chara.

      In comparison to the between the whistles style of play the AV wanted his players to have which is drastically different.

    • tanto says:

      Let’s not be too sure that Nash looks like the Columbus version … I mean 3 goals 1 assist for 4 points and a -4 in 8 games isn’t exactly what I would call eye popping statistics … it’s actually Spooner that has those right now.

      Re: Holden … I remember the first half of his first season here, he was pretty good and provided some quality offense. Then what happened?

      • Mintgecko says:

        Eh Spooner has something to prove and he joined a KH who has been hot since early January.

        In Rangerland us fans always try to act like our player’s are the bomb. Let’s take a perspective of a Boston GM with a really hot team that looks like they’ll be contending for the next 2-3 seasons. Fast forward to after the trade deadline and you have Spooner who is a throw in and was kicked off his team. Then the GM telling the whole hockey world that the Nash deal was a prize for his team and that they earned that aka not giving two shi** about Spooner’s perspective or the news getting back to him. I feel like Nash could stay there in Boston and put up 30 something goals for them next year on a bargain deal that Spooner is looking to cash out from. Nash’s game has been superior Spooner’s so far, I don’t care about a +\- for a two way player as good as him. Go look at Zib’s if you want to have mini heart attack.

        • Mancunian Candidate says:

          Spooner in NY—2 G, 10 A for 12 pts
          Nash in Boston—3 G, 1 A for 4 pts

          Nash is outproducing who now? It sure ain’t Spooner.

        • tanto says:

          The response was specifically to Nash resembling the Nash he was in Columbus — which isn’t borne out by the numbers.

          I really don’t care what Spooner is trying to prove. I hope he tries to prove it next year and the years after that. Fine with me as long as we benefit from his play in addition to that juicy 1st rounder and Lindgren.

      • Reenavipul says:

        That’s a 30 goal pace.

    • Playground 9 says:

      Like to see some of these kids at some point this season if possible:

  2. flatbush says:

    There have been many good points made about the Rangers “rebuild or retool” or whatever you want to call it. I think Gorton has done a very good job of moving players and getting a very good return. As many have said, the coaches behind the bench have reached their expiration date. Replacing the coaches is one of three tasks to change the team for the better. Getting a guy like JT would be great if he wants to leave the Isles. Wouldn’t mind the term or price since he is still relatively a young guy. It would be great if Stahl would agree to be moved and we get draft pick. Don’t see him in our future and could save some $$. The Kovy talk is interesting but he is old and has been playing in the KHL not the NHL. If he really wants in it would have to be a very short term contract and I would look for money incentives instead of signing him for big dollars. Just my perception, I always saw him as a me guy not a team guy. Don’t know if that’s valid but we don’t need a mercenary. The last thing on the “got to do” list is sign that number one D man. I would not take Karlson. Too many wars and I’m sure the price and term would go against the direction and decisions made to this point. We can all dream, can’t we?

    • Walt says:


      Reguarding Kovy, and the I guy mentality, just think back to the PO’s against us, when he took the Devils to the cup finals. Agree that it should be a one year deal, small signing, big incentive bonuses. That would assure the team comes first, when he is assisting on plays, and we advance to the PO’s. Just a thought…….

    • tanto says:

      He’s 35 when he signs his next contract so that pretty much guarantees that it’s a very short term contract. I suspect he’ll want a Radulov type deal, 1 year (maybe 2 at most) for $5+m per.

  3. SalMerc says:

    If you cannot get into the top 3 picks in the next draft, forget about an immediate impact player. I don’t see Andersson of Chytil being considered elite just yet.

    As for the blueline, they need changes and they cannot come all from within. Look for the NYR to make moves on draft day. Time to clean up and really start fresh. Get another vet out of here, combine with some picks to move into the Golden top 3 picks. Next year will not be another playoff year either, but we should come out of next year knowing who our 30 goal scorers will be in the future.

    Your middle six are important only if you have a real top line. Zinbad, Kreider & Buch scare no one.

    • Agentsmith says:

      By vet you mean Zuccarello right? That would be a good start. Hes a big part of that over passing culture.

      • SalMerc says:

        Yes, Zucc, but I might dangle Kreider too. He is all potential, but never will be a 25 goal scorer for us.

        • D C says:

          He scored 28 last year….

          • Mintgecko says:

            And he has a bunch of high 40 something in points until lat year. Lol a real threat right? Hayes as a shutdown 3c can post that up in the high 40s maybe low 50s and make up for the production to be more superior during the 5 on 5 and special team (PK) unlike Kreider who just gets by due to the role he plays in. I love using Hayes as a example to show others how average Kreider can be. 53 points as a career high is nothing special when the player has McDavid speed and is built in the best possible way as a hockey player should be. Hayes career high was 3 points away!!!

            I can’t wait until KH puts up another 6-7 goals and ties Kreider with less TOI and deployed as a shutdown center on a broken team. It might bring some fans back to earth that Kreider isn’t all that special considering his natural tools.

        • tanto says:

          Kreider? You’re going to need some guys over 25 years of age. Although he’s never been able to score the types of points we all wanted, he’s an important voice on the ice and in that locker room. I would give him the C next year unless someone can prove to me that they deserve it more.

          • D C says:

            To me, Kreider is the only “older” guy on the team that is untouchable. He’ll be 27 next month (still young) and has a decent amount of years left of being in his prime. I strongly agree that he should be the next captain. He’s a great lead by example guy with how much dedication he has off the ice getting his body into shape. In my opinion, you want your captain to be someone who will stick up for his teammates and that’s something he’s consistently done throughout his career.

            • Mintgecko says:

              It’s a team vote and some fan favorite narrative that would get him the “C”. Mark my words Kreider won’t be the captain, maybe when he decides to play like a power forward and make a difference by being physical in his own end.

              Interesting to hear what Nash and the new vets like DD and Shatty tell the press in September. They said Hayes and JT are the ones to have a big sway on the ice or behind scenes.

              Whenever I see a whole group picture away from the rink chilling with Hank, it’s almost never any Kreider sighting. He’s the type to read a book and not play poker with the boys. I’ll say it again that Kreider won’t captain this team.

  4. Walt says:

    I believe there are many more changes coming before the start of next season.

    We trade for either Trouba, or sign UFA John Carlson.

    Probably Nash comes back, only under another coach, and will play 3rd line, where he isn’t the main man.

    Our defense will no longer have Staal, either by an agreed upon trade, and or a buy out.

    We will incorporated the new kid Hajak into our defense, he is ready for NHL duties.

    The defense will be, Skjei, Smith, Hajak, Trouba-Carlson, Shatty, and ADA, with either Gilmore,or Pionk as our 7th man.

    Chytil, and Andersson will be in the NHL, and perform well.

    We make the PO’s next season, and continue to develop the other kids we got back in trades, for the near future.

    I sure as heck hope this pans out as outlined!!!!!!

    • tanto says:

      … and what will you trade for Trouba? That discussion starts with a 1st rounder or Brady Skjei.

      carlson? That would be nice, but how much term are you willing to give him considering he’ll be 29 next year?

      • Walt says:


        Considering that many on this site said Zucc will be history, I’m not one by the way, well he could be a chip, along with Skjei, or a #1 pick, well worth the return. The Jets are loaded with d-men, and Trouba is not a happy camper, it could work out where everyone is happy. As for Carlson, he comes free. Yes he is 29, but isn’t injury prone, and is better than what we gave away in Mac Truck, who I loved, and has leadership qualities. I’m not the GM, I posted what I think will be the line up, but it’s not written in stone!!!!!!

        • tanto says:

          Ok, but what term will you give that 29 year old d’man. That’s all I’m asking. You willing to go 7 years @ 6-7m per? Shattenkirk took 4 years so I quickly got in line on that signing, but I’m not sure that I want to take on a d’man to 36 years old — and does it fit with the idea of a rebuild?

          Again Trouba is much more interesting — but if you move Skjei than you’re removing the last high quality YOUNG d’man we have on the squad. That seems like addition and subtraction (although I think there’s a little more add than subtraction). Zucc on the other hand is another story, but they are loaded right now … maybe the right course would be to trade Zucc for a 1st rounder (certainly possible) and trade 2 1st rounders for Trouba (not our best 1st round pick though).

          • Walt says:


            Term may be some $6 @ four-five years not more. Now don’t forget that d-men don’t decline quite at the rate as do the forwards. If that isn’t good enough, well thank you, and go elsewhere. I’d trade for Trouba, and give away Skjei. With the stable of kids we got now in the system we can afford to, where last season that wasn’t the case. By the way, maybe they don’t need another d-man, the Jets are loaded at that position, and playing Trouba on the left, where he is a natural right d-man, causing the problem with the kid. I think that Zucc, and a #1 could do the job in this case!!!!!

  5. Agentsmith says:

    I think this ‘leadership’ thing is overrated. Where was it vs the hapless sens? The top teams “leaders” just happen to be some of the top players in the game. If zuc is such a leader where was he taking control of the sens series? Did he play game 6? Or in the LA series?

    However that definitely ties into the skill question. We (the team) is just collection of 40-50 point players.

    Even if they draft the elite guys now they will likely be years away. At least they can lay the new foundation now. Get rid of the pass happy culture. Get a coach that teaches possession.

    • Mancunian Candidate says:

      Agentsmith—-Man, you’ve got quite the problem with Zuccarello. Kinda ridiculous that you sound off on him so much, he’s been as productive a Ranger as there’s been for the past five years. Harp on him for losing the Ottawa series? Gimme a break, your scorn should be directed at the idiot coach who decided Staal & Holden were the D pair to close out one-goal games.

      Lastly, if he hadn’t been hit in the skull (an injury which briefly cost him the ability to SPEAK AT ALL) by a McDonagh slapper in 2014 playoffs, I believe the Rangers would’ve hoisted the Cup in 2014. Maybe you should pick on Rangers who didn’t suffer nearly fatal injuries in the service of the team, y’know? Quite the selective and short memory you have.

      • roadrider says:

        by a McDonagh slapper in 2014 playoffs, I believe the Rangers would’ve hoisted the Cup in 2014

        I think that was 2015, no?

      • Agentsmith says:

        Are we done apologizing for him? I’ve seen blogs bend over backwards defending him for any faults.

        I’d prefer a team that emphasizes shooting and possession. Preferably size as well.

        BTW you mixed years up. Mcd on one foot vs chicago? Sure.

        • Mancunian Candidate says:

          I’m not apologizing for anyone. To act like Zucc—a player who’s about to hit 50 points for the 4th time in the last five seasons—is a problem is ludicrous in the extreme.

          • James1090 says:

            He’s not a problem, but at the same time its smart business to move him when you can get something for him. He’s 30 years old, he’s declining. It makes no sense to keep him around.

            • Mancunian Candidate says:

              I agree with that. Just saying Zucc deserves a little respect for what he’s done as a Ranger.

              • tanto says:

                He does deserve respect, he’s been a good soldier/warrior for years … and although he’s reached those years where the inevitable decline begins I think there are some good years left in him because he’s such a high quality individual — that said they shouldn’t be wasted on us not winning a SC. I would ship him off for a 1st rounder+ at the draft and then try to trade down to the Top 3 or 4.

              • SalMerc says:

                Respect yes, but we need scorers and elite ones at that.

        • Stef says:

          So, what do you mean with possession then?

          Since passing is a good way to keep possession. And I prefer 1 extra pass and a 95% sure goal compared to direct shot with 30% chance of hitting the net.

          I do happen to know that if you shoot, you’re probably up for at minimum a possession battle.

          • Agentsmith says:

            Funny bc what’s the mathematical formula for corsi?

            Now you see why we are the bottom ranked team there.

      • James1090 says:

        If you think he’s been the same player this as years past you must be blind. He’s obviously declined his year. He’s gone stretches at a time where you don’t even notice he’s playing. At the end of the day he’s 30 years old and declining. Its time to trade him, hopefully he’s gone at the draft. Its smart business to move him.

  6. Bloomer says:

    Finding a blue chip defenseman to replace McDonough will not be easy. He was the only first pair dman they had. The Ranger have several so call puck movers on the blueline, but they are not shutdown defensemen. They will have to draft and develop a new Blueline. This will take sometime.

    • tanto says:

      I think the shutdown d’men can be found in the prospects, whether they can offer the same offensive abilities that McD gave us is another story.

  7. Peter says:

    I know that many fans will be impatient for the rebuild, retool or whatever you want to call it to be accomplished quickly. Some seem to want to it to be accomplished by next season! In my opinion it is going to take three seasons for the team to be a strong contender. But, next season and the following one they should be steadily improving.

    I see calls for getting a dude like Kovy on the team to be antithetical to what Gorton is trying to accomplish. If he goes for a player who is not a prospect or very young, I expect that he will go for players more in the age range of guys like Spooner and Namestnikov. Adding 35 year-old players just does not appear to be in the cards, nor should it be.

    Unless Nash is willing to take significantly less money, I would not sign him up at this stage of his career. He is a great guy, but he is a 33 year-old player who has had more than a couple of injuries. On the other hand, his leadership by example would have value while young players are learning. If they could get him relatively cheaply he’d be worth it, but they should not spend a lot of their cap space on older guys.

    I doubt that they can move Staal because of his contract, and I am unsure whether the Rangers have the stomach to have additional dead cap space by buying him out. He may be around a while longer if he has the desire to keep playing.

    • Eugene says:

      They are rebuilding, they can easily add extra dead space for the next 3 years o big money, and then for another 3 years 1.1 mil, by the way expected salary cap is going to be around 80mil next season….

      • Peter says:

        I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of salary buy outs, but if it is as easy as you say then that should probably be the approach with Staal. I doubt he can be moved.

        • tanto says:

          Retain half his salary (which is cost effective versus the buyout) and trade him. People said the same thing about Girardi yet Yzerman signed him to a 2 year deal at $3m per — approximately half his salary with the Rangers. That was a wasted buyout on our part.

  8. Vin says:

    Dave did you forget about Mac? He’s not here either… 2 of 6 Dmen gone. Shatt and Brady are only 2 spots guaranteed in my opinion. Rest will battle with whomever else comes aboard. I see Deangelo maybe a middle pair w the Czech kid from Tampa one day. And rykov w pionk.

    • tanto says:

      If DeAngelo can get legitimately stronger over the summer than yes, I think he could wind up a 3/4. I would not give up on this kid.

    • Mintgecko says:

      Don’t we have two Czeck D men now? He rocked the number 44 but I’m not sure what happened to him. I know he came through a crappy league but he was suppose to be a solid two-way D man with PP skills.

  9. Reenavipul says:

    Mike Keenan and Mark Messier were both in your face people.

  10. gene4240 says:


    1. Will the head coach be fired
    2. When will the head coach be released
    3. How will the head coach be let go? mutual partying of the ways?
    4. When will Glen Sather retire?
    5. Will Gorton build the great wall of china around Hank

  11. Joen7 says:

    I don’t see where the top D pair of the future will come from? None of the current players will get there (Sorry Brady). From what I’ve read none of the prospects seem to be top pair type talent. The rebuild plan needs to start on the back line.

  12. Lucky says:

    “As Justin said on Friday, I don’t see Pionk or Gilmour as long term solutions on the blue line.”

    Wow , Are you serious ? Those Kids let players like Staal looks like a Hobby team player. They fast, skilled and have grit. Sometimes I ask myself if you bloggers actually watch Rangers Games or have ever played the game .

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