Derek Stepan is one of several players that need to be better
The Rangers have struggled to score consistently all season. Successful teams get the bulk of their scoring from their top six forwards, but no Ranger forward has covered himself in glory this season. Before going on to look at the individual grades at the halfway mark consider this: Mats Zuccarello is leading this team in scoring – a team designed to win the Cup – and is 71st in scoring in the league at time of writing.
Offensively this team will live or die on Rick Nash’s production. As of Wednesday night, 156(!) players had scored more goals than Rick Nash (7 goals, 16 points in 24 games). While his injuries are unfortunate, the peripheral play, extended droughts, and lack of dominance from a player with Nash’s skill and size are a concern. Nash is making $7.8 million and is the team’s most gifted forward, but rarely has he come close to earning his salary or leading the Rangers offense. A team with limited skill need more from their sole elite forward, Nash needs a strong second half if the Rangers are going to have success.
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Per Seth Rothman, both Ryan Callahan (knee) and Marc Staal (concussion) are with the Rangers on the current road trip. Staal has been out since the December 7 loss to New Jersey, and Callahan since the December 10 loss to Nashville. Staal has been skating for a few days now, and it was rumored that he would return on this road trip. Callahan was supposed to be out 4-6 weeks with his MCL sprain, so news of him traveling with the team is a bit of a surprise. The team needs both of them back in a hurry.
The Rangers were able to salvage their franchise-record homestand with wins over Minnesota and Toronto, but things still need to change if the Blueshirts are going to turn their season around.
New York’s 27th-ranked offense has been carried by the likes of Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Benoit Pouliot over the last two weeks, while the team’s top players continue to struggle. Rick Nash hasn’t scored in any of his last six games, and has just one goal in his last nine. Brad Richards hasn’t scored in eight games and Derek Stepan has just three goals in his last 23 games. Not coincidentally, those cold streaks have coincided with the team’s worst stretch of the season.
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If Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s epic 2008 crime drama “The Dark Knight” has taught us anything, its that as long as everything goes according to plan, everything is fine. Even if the plan is horrifying. When the Flames lose 50+ games this season, nobody panics. When franchise players are flipped for unknown prospects and picks, everything is fine. But when one little ol’ contender struggles, especially in New York, well, then everyone loses their minds.
This year’s New York Rangers club has fallen well short of expectations thus far. This team was supposed to be the cream that rose to the top of the less-than-stellar Metropolitan Division and carry Stanley Cup aspirations into the late spring months. Alain Vigneault was supposed to be the final piece of this puzzle, taking a team more offensive talented than the 2012 team that grinded their way to the Eastern Conference finals to the next level.
Clearly, the transition has been sandpaper smooth to this point. The team in general (but, especially the defense) have had a difficult time going from John Tortorella’s straight forward 2-1-2/low zone collapse to AV’s more complex, matchup oriented overload system. Henrik Lundqvist has been mortal to this point, and our beloved Blueshirts are clinging to playoff contention more as a result of the weak Eastern Conference and weaker Metropolitan Division than of the quality of their play. Read more »
Ryan Callahan’s injury woes are concerning, but New York will still likely do everything it can to keep its captain
Quick note: Dave was at the game last night, so the goal breakdown will be done for the afternoon post.
The Rangers’ season is quickly spiraling out of control and it’s probably a matter of time before GM Glen Sather steps in and makes a major shakeup. But with so many pending free agents and so many players underperforming, it’s a certainty that the 2014-2015 version of the Blueshirts will look drastically different than the edition that stunk up the joint last night against Nashville. So let’s take a look at New York’s upcoming free agents and see who might still be around next year, and who could be gone.
Ryan Callahan - Yet another injury has clouded this situation. A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine life without Callahan, but his health is becoming increasingly concerning. New York’s doctors will have to evaluate Callahan’s physical condition, but assuming he’s in one piece, I still expect the Rangers to do everything they can to lock up their captain long-term. Some of the beat writers think Callahan would be very tempted to join the Sabres next summer to move closer to home, but though I’m sure Callahan loves Rochester, New York City isn’t all that far away and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team. If things really fall apart for the Blueshirts and there’s not much progress in negotiations, I could see Callahan being tempted by a contender. But it’s still most likely the Rangers will retain their captain, albeit at a very steep price. Remember, the Rangers paid RFAs Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer over Callahan in 2011 and gave him a lesser deal due to the resulting cap crunch. No. 24 swallowed that bitter pill then, but it’s unlikely New York will be getting a hometown discount this time around.
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Per Larry Brooks, captain Ryan Callahan appears to be returning tonight against Anaheim. Cally suffered a broken thumb a few weeks ago in Washington, and was scheduled to be out for 3-4 weeks. A return tonight would put him right on the three week return date.
To make room for Cally in the lineup J.T. Miller will be a healthy scratch. Coach Alain Vigneault noted that Miller had a tough game in Carolina, which is the reason for his removal from the lineup. Taylor Pyatt still remains in the lineup.
The injury bug continues to haunt the Rangers, as the club has announced that Ryan Callahan is out 3-4 weeks with a broken thumb. This is certainly terrible news for a team that appeared to be finding its groove under AV. It is assumed Cally will be placed on LTIR. Darroll Powe has been recalled from Hartford to take Cally’s spot on the roster.
Goaltender Jason Missiaen has also been recalled, and Cam Talbot has been returned to the AHL. The goaltender swap is likely to get Talbot some AHL work, as Hartford has games coming up.
As for Powe, it’s interesting that he was recalled, and it does speak to his play and the play of others in Hartford. Powe will likely slide into a fourth line role, which means J.T. Miller should get top-nine minutes.
It’s always easier to write the Musings after a win. Last night was a huge relief to many Rangers fans so let’s talk about it.
John Moore: If Moore continues with performances like last night’s against the Capitals, then he could quickly go past Michael Del Zotto in the pecking order. A quick release, a good overall game and solid defensively, Moore still has a ton of upside to be explored. His skating is very good and his upside is exciting. You get the feeling he could prosper under Alain Vigneault.
Mats Zuccarello is a very good hockey player but he’s surely on shaky ground as a Ranger. Yes, the season is but six games old but he’s brought next to nothing to the table, and that’s despite being on a scoring line. He’s averaging close to 17 minutes a game which is plenty. He’s not even averaging a shot/game at this stage. If he’s not producing give a prospect those 17 minutes per game.
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As expected, the Rangers have made some formal roster moves to allow the roster to be at its current size. Captain Ryan Callahan has been placed on IR, where he must remain for seven days. Winger Carl Hagelin has been placed on LTIR, where he must remain for three weeks of ten games. Both moves are retroactive to September 30, meaning Cally will be able to return on October 6, in time for the game in Los Angeles. Hagelin must remain out until at least Tuesday 10/29, when the Rangers are on Long Island to take on the Islanders.
Per Katie Strang, captain Ryan Callahan is indeed a no-go for tomorrow’s opener in Phoenix. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Cally was not practicing with the main lines or either of the powerplay units. Cally is rumored to be aiming for a Monday return in Los Angeles.