The Rangers aren’t alone in their battle to remain relevant as contenders – all around the league many of the clubs we’re used to seeing play deep into the spring are having major issues just like the Blueshirts.
Perhaps the most disappointing team of all this year is the Ducks, who thought they had attained an unstoppable mix of size and speed to go with a mobile young defense and multiple stellar options in goal. Instead, Ryan Getzlaf has two goals in 30 games and Anaheim sits just three points out of the cellar.
In the Eastern Conference, the Penguins’ blockbuster trade for Phil Kessel did nothing to help and the club fired coach Mike Johnston earlier this month. Pittsburgh’s decline has continued over several seasons and it’s at the point that there’s a reasonable case to be made for the Penguins to – gasp – trade one of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Read More→
The biggest contributors to the Rangers’ problems are veteran defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who have struggled mightily and each have cap hits of at least $5.5 million for the next four years (five for Staal).
Dealing either player will be tricky given their robust contracts and current level of play, but that’s the ideal solution for a club that desperately needs to redistribute icetime and everyday lineup spots along the blueline, and hopes to re-sign Keith Yandle this summer.
Trade rumors are likely to begin flying quickly after the holiday roster freeze is lifted and Staal and Girardi will be at the forefront. But while dumping either for prospects and/or draft picks might be possible, it’s an unlikely course of action for a team that fancies itself a contender. Clearing money from the payroll will become a focal point possibly by the trade deadline and certainly during the offseason, but for now GM Jeff Gorton is still hoping to improve his team for the present.
On the heels of a disastrous trip to western Canada that represents the low point of a troubling first quarter, it appears the Blueshirts have reached an impasse wherein they are in danger of taking a clear step back in the contender pecking order. The growing warts in the lineup have deteriorated the team’s quality of play and the Rangers have come crashing down to earth where it appears they’ll stay unless changes are made.
The biggest issues are defenders Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who for so long ably handled critical roles as stalwarts in the rearguard. But there are also team-wide problems including a less effective forecheck in part due to the loss of Carl Hagelin, frustrating mental mistakes defensively up and down the lineup and nonexistent production offensively from some of the team’s most talented players.
Other than the infamous “Potvin Sucks” chant, there’s not much that’s more annoying at MSG than the cries for players to “SHOOT THE PUCK!” on the power play.
Sure, shooting the puck is usually a great idea – as Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – but blasting a slapper from the point into the shin pads of an opposing forward when you’re the last line of defense is generally inadvisable.
In his column yesterday, the Post’s Larry Brooks wondered if New York’s choppy start is in part due to an inability to find the proper motivation for relatively meaningless early-season tilts, as well as general fatigue and wear and tear suffered by key players.
Whether or not that’s a viable excuse for the team’s uneven performance thus far – and no one within the organization would ever admit it if it was – one of the early trends of the 2015-2016 season seems to be a conscious decision by coach Alain Vigneault to put an increased emphasis on resting his squad, specifically, its biggest stars. Read More→
Chris usually gets to have all the fun with these musings posts, but my thoughts are all over the place with so many interesting developments in the first four games of the season. So here are some of my early impressions:
- It seems like entering each year now, there’s buzz about how the upcoming season will be the Rangers’ last real chance at the Cup and the window is rapidly closing. But that’s really a bunch of baloney. The end of this run could come, and it could come suddenly – but if it does, it will only because Henrik Lundqvist has finally fallen from his perch atop the mountain of NHL goalies. Four games into this season, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Lundqvist has responded to coach Alain Vigneault’s challenge to start the year better with a sparkling stretch of unbelievable saves. Lundqvist’s reflexes look faster than ever, and if he’s actually able to continue this hot streak for the first few weeks and months when Lundqvist usually struggles, then you might as well hand him the Vezina Trophy now.
- One of my biggest problems with trading Carl Hagelin was that I thought his speed was essential to the team’s identity. Bu this year’s version of the Blueshirts plays as frenetic as ever. There’s still speed to burn up and down the lineup and it has to be a nightmare to defend.
He’s not Vladimir Tarasenko and he’s not Cam Fowler. To this point, Dylan McIlrath’s professional career pales in comparison to those other 2010 first-round picks selected just after him. But to his credit, McIlrath is finally on the cusp of being an NHLer.
When McIlrath was selected 10th overall, he was a feared pugilist and open ice hitter with a grand total of 24 WHL points in his draft year and 19 fighting majors to his name. The Rangers drafted him for being a tough guy, with the dancing vision of a future Chris Pronger-like player no doubt dancing through their heads. Read More→
Much was made yesterday of Alain Vigneault’s decision to dress defenseman Kevin Klein back-to-back nights this week given the developing competition for the final spots on the blueline in training camp.
On the one hand, Klein only dressed Monday because Dan Boyle was a last minute scratch, so perhaps some are reading into it too much. However, there were many other players Vigneault could switched with Klein last night, but he still chose to play the 30-year-old veteran again.
Despite Klein’s struggles late last season, it was still widely assumed that the final spot on the bottom pairing was all his entering training camp, but there are a few other things to consider. Read More→
Training camp is a day away, so we are nearly through the brutal August days when there’s no Rangers news to talk about. But honestly I’ve talked and thought about last year’s faults and analyzed potential new line combinations as much as I care to, so before we (finally) get down to the business of training camp, I figured it would be a good time to try something a little different.
Zuc could have a post to himself with all the hilarious photos he’s been in.
Stealing Kevin Hayes from the Blackhawks last summer may prove to be a coup of nearly the same magnitude as the Ryan McDonagh trade back in 2009.
Hayes racked up 45 points as a rookie and showed improvement with almost every passing game in the second half of the year. He’s already a huge part of the Rangers’ present and future, but there’s some uncertainty over where he fits into the lineup entering the 2015-2016 season.
Hayes thrived as New York’s third-line center for most of last year, but he played primarily right wing at Boston College. On an individual level, the biggest knock on Hayes playing center is his ugly 36.3% faceoff win percentage. To many #fancystats gurus that’s a non-issue, but it’s still a factor the Rangers are likely to consider (although the Blueshirts have deployed Stepan as their primary pivot for several seasons now and he has never won more than 46% of his faceoffs in a single season). Hayes also struggled defensively in his freshman season. Read More→