State of the Rangers

Rangers still struggling to find consistency

The memory remains
The memory remains

Just thirteen games remain in the regular season and the Rangers are still struggling to find consistency. Back in January, things seemed to have finally clicked and the Rangers looked like they were headed in the right direction.

However, in the 10 games since the Olympic break, they have won four times and are averaging just 2.2 goals per game. What’s worse the power play, the team’s lone offensive strength, is clicking at just 14%.

Right now, it appears things could go either way for the Blueshirts. And despite having played 69 games, you wonder if this is all we’re going to get out of them this season, or if there’s still a late LA Kings-like surge hiding up their sleeves.

For me it comes back to the offense, particularly at even strength. The Rangers¬†were one of the better teams¬†in the league the past few years at 5-on-5 hockey. This season they can’t find any consistency and that’s with a more talented roster, a supposedly more offensive-minded system, and a more player friendly coaching staff.

On paper, the ingredients for more goals are there, but this team just lacks that killer instinct they had in the past. Gone are the heavy forechecks, the drives to the net, and three guys standing in the crease banging away at rebounds every night. This season we have over relied on counter rushes which look pretty, but those types of goals get harder to come by the closer you get to June.

Now this isn’t meant to point fingers at Alain Vigneault. He’s a very good coach who fits well with this roster and he has helped to maintain the team’s ability to win the puck possession game. The uneasiness I feel is more for management, who have made some big risks here the past two years and in the process took a successful team identity and self-destructed it faster than the reign of Rob Stark.

Who would have thought after coming within two games of the Stanley Cup final we would now be without Dubinsky, Callahan, Torts, Arty, Prust, etc. All collectively, were warriors in their own right and defined the brand of hockey that got us to the top of the Eastern Conference. Now they’re a memory.

Look, I get it. Hockey is a business and rosters and coaching staffs can’t stay together because of nostalgia. Nevertheless, sometimes a little continuity can go a long way, perhaps farther than a high-risk strategy.

All of this just seems to be a big gamble. Hopefully it pays off before the next reset button gets pushed.

Show More
  • 13 remaining games and AV still juggling lines to find a good combination is not a good sign. Sometimes it isn’t your linemates that are the problem. A few guys could use a full view of the ice from the pressbox.

    • I actually think he kept lines together too long. Too many guys have been flat and there hasn’t been much in the way of adjustments, but that’s a personal preference. Every coach has their own methodology when it comes to bench management.

  • So much for the theory that AV would bring a system with more goals. This team just can’t put the puck in the net! They lost the momentum they had before the Olympics and that I put on the coach. They can’t seem to get going again but even more importantly a very strong D prior to Olympics has regressed to inane errors.

  • At some point you need to wonder when the roster turnover took its toll. The Cup winning teams of past have had their cores playing together for 5+ years at this point.

    As for the Rangers, very few have been with the team for that long.

  • The team has come a million miles from the first 10 games of the season. Now maybe a million and 1 is what will be needed and they’ll fall short this year. But the trajectory – when certain house cleaning (hello Richie, Stralsie) is done and hopefully upgrades are implemented – is up.

    Now, do I miss Dubie, Artie and Pruster? More than I can express here. But we are not even a year into remaking the team into a new coach’s vision. And within this season they have gone from utterly putrid to damned decent.

    We shouldn’t assign our need for extended playoff hockey this year to whatever the reality is, which is probably that they are not ready for that yet.

    I hope I am wrong and they do pull a Kings-like surge, but still the re-do has not failed.

  • In my humble opinion, the Callahan deal blew this team up. There’s no shame in hanging on to him for the sake of keeping a good thing going. Were he to still walk this summer, at least the guys in the locker room would put that on Cally and not on the organization. Trading away your captain right before a playoff push is just bad business. Giving up a 1 and 2 pick is even worse. If Cally walked in the summer for nothing, there were plenty of options to fill his hole. Not to mention having a couple nice picks and his salary off the books to work with.

    MSL isn’t the answer. These guys never are. The 2011-12 Rangers had it right. Build from within, build young, build an identity, and build comraderie. The new Rangers are a ragtag group with too many bloated contracts, too many aging has-beens, and no willingness to battle every night for their teammates and their coach.

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Sather really needs to go. This organization needs to start over. The window is shut.

    • That 11-12 Team was dreadful on offense. They got as far as they did based on extreme shot suppression and whatever shots did get through Hank was able to stop.

      That is not a sustainable strategy. The Rangers did the right thing blowing that team up. You cannot win in the NHL without goals. That team couldn’t score.

      Before the break this team was on a really good run. Why? Pucks were actually going in the net. Now, not so much. They are still getting the same number of shots, they just don’t happen to be going in. If the Rangers keep getting over 40 shots a game I guarantee they will be back on a positive run.

      • Thank you. That 11-12 team was a fun bunch of grinders, but that style of play was not winning any Stanley Cups. The team as currently constructed has a better chance of winning the whole thing.

        This team needs to find ways to finish their chances, that is really the biggest difference right now from how they were playing (winning) pre-break. That and get the power play rolling again.

          • thanks, was just going to say, this is shaping up to be the rangers worst scoring year since the 2009 team that missed the playoffs with gabby netting 40+.

            the rangers of the subsequent years to that were among league leaders in defense while generating increasing offense as the core players matured and draft picks turned into real players. that seemed like a winning formula. i’ve never understood the arguments to the contrary for this current approach.

          • 13th, but yeah I get your point. Their GA was also far better that season.

            I still can’t look at this season’s as a finished product though. That’s what Gary and I are saying. The Rangers GF/GA on the season are messed up thanks to that 30 game adjustment period to open the season. Since that stretch they have played loads better. If they can find that game consistently, and I think they will, we will have a better team to watch. It just might not be this season. That’s the downside to firing a coach, you lose time to that transition.

        • So the fall from grace is nothing more than puck luck? Look I respect both of your opinions on this forum, but I’m not buying that excuse.

          I’m also not saying that the 2011-12 team could win a Cup. It’s not for lack of goals though. Scoring doesn’t win Cups. Defense, the ability to grind longer than your opponent, and opportunistic scoring wins Cups. That 2011-12 roster may have reached their ceiling, but the mentality that created that team was a winning recipe. Nash and St Louis weren’t the answers because lack of scoring wasn’t the root issue.

          The issue was depth. When the coaching staff had to shorten the bench because Stu Bickel and MDZ were the third pairing and the 4th line was ineffective, that was a fundamental problem. Those who could be relied upon had to shoulder toi much. Some changes were necessary but those didn’t include auctioning off the youth core, draft picks, team captain and chemistry and replacing that with supposed finesse and aging veterans. Management dismantled the future to win now, but winning now is now longer viable.

          • I don’t disagree with your formula (defense, ability to grind, opportunistic scoring), I just feel this squad has just as good an ability to defend and grind, but with the added ability to possess the puck and create more scoring opportunities. “Opportunistic scoring” (i.e. “clutch” scoring) is a very subjective measure, which I would bet fluctuates year over year.

            It’s not all puck luck, and I believe there is something to the premise that some players are able to finish better than others, but let’s also remember that squad was VERY lucky in the playoffs that year in that it overcame 3-2 series deficits in both the 1st and 2nd rounds, several of them one goal wins. Lose any of those 4 games and we’re not having this discussion.

            I also agree depth was an issue that year, and I feel this version of the Rangers is deeper, in that we all feel (more) comfortable relying on this team’s 3rd and 4th lines for big minutes if needed.

            Lastly, Lundqvist is not having the same year he had in 11-12, don’t discount that part of the equation as well. In my opinion, the Rangers were more equipped to win the one goal games based on the goalie play.

          • I hear everything you’re saying, RFiB, and you make some very cogent observations.

            I think fundamentally the only thing I take issue with is that I find something lacking on this team that existed in 2011-12… maybe it’s chemistry, maybe it’s comraderie, maybe it’s just youth.

            Something changed. And this team, while explosive on some nights, can’t seem to find itself and put it all out there day in day out. They’ve lost so much youth, draft picks, and even their captain that I don’t see a bright future.

          • The team is still very young. The average age is 27 – after adding MSL, younger than that of Boston, Chicago, Anaheim, San Jose (albeit very close). It did add a 38 year old MLS, and I’m with you that the cost of potentially 2 first rounders was steep. To me, that’s been the biggest gamble. The Nash trade was defensible in my opinion (I’d say the vast majority of fans on this site supported that decision), and I think we’re all ok with the Gaborik trade.

            The biggest issue I see going forward is the possibility of more turnover with half the roster being a free agent at end of the season, and the lack of NHL ready prospects outside of Miller.

          • First, it’s so nice to have a real, civil, discussion on a blog.

            The Rangers didn’t deal youth to get Nash, they moved young vets that were about to enter (or had entered in Dubi’s case) their big salary years. They made some choices. They got Dubinsky right and though AA is playing great in Columbus the guy they chose over him, Stepan, is also playing well.

            As far as trading picks for MSL, that’s the price you have to pay. The Rangers farm system is pretty well stocked right now. Hank is 32, it’s time. It’s time to start moving some future assets for current assets. That’s what the MSL deal was about. It sucked losing Callahan, but he was a goner anyway. MSL is a far and away better player. Works just as hard but is infinitely more talented.

            Anyway, to say the future of this team has been dismantled is a little over the top. The Rangers still have a young core, it’s just a different core. This team is now being built around McD not the Pack Line.

          • When I say they dealt youth I’m not discrediting that they’ve also brought some back in, e.g. Brassard, Dorsett, J. Moore.

            Perhaps my larger issue is gutting alot of homegrown youth, e.g. Dubinsky, Anisimov, Del Zotto, Callahan. That was the Rangers core. We’re lucky to have guys like Kreider, Miller, Lindberg, Allen to fill these voids, but it still stings.

            The dealing of picks is definitely troubling –even though I acknowledge that you have to give to get.

            I still think MSL is a poor fit. 7 games, 1 assist. That’s not as advertised at all. We lost 2 high picks, a captain, chemistry and a locker room / fan favorite in the deal. That’s steep. I’m not at all convinced that getting something for Callahan was essential. As I said earlier, if he walked this summer so be it. They could’ve filled his hole with Miller this summer. Don’t mess with a good thing. The Rangers were coming together. Then, on top of all the turmoil and changeover the last 2 seasons, you dump your captain on the cusp of a playoff run? MSL certainly hasn’t made this team better … yet. I hope he does. But I’m not seeing it.

  • We just caught a good goalie on an even better night. I’m not sure how you interpret a 40+ shot game as not enough effort?! If one of those shots go in the net (again, Hagelin), it’s a totally different game and we might not be having this conversation. If the effort remains, the results will come. (it better be soon though).

    • This wasn’t a reaction to last night but rather an overall feeling I’ve had for the past year and change that has just become more pronounced with each ensuing move. Hey, I hope it all pans out and the bets pay off, but this is what my gut has been telling me. Figured it was worth sharing.

  • I don’t think that the “half-empty” commenters are wrong but we are who and what we are and there are objective reasons for some optimism – including the fact that, while we lost last night, I thought we solidly outplayed one of the very best teams in the league.

  • Don’t think you are the only one Suit. My husband who has been so excited all year long, announced after the afternoon game that this team was going nowhere and maybe players are not interchangeable.

  • Players reach the NHL because they have talent. Coaching is the ability to put talented players together and try to make the sum of the talent greater that adding each individual’s talent. All too often, the psyche of players is delicate. They can perform physically, but the mental toughness that is required grows from the heart. All players have this, but exposing it for every game sounds simpler than it is.

  • At the beginning of this season the Rangers farm system was rated 27th in the NHL. How many draft picks has Sather given away since then?

    In June St Louis will be 39, and both Richards & Nash have been in decline productivity wise for years.

    You can’t keep arguing with basic math. St Louis will be 39 shortly and plays a finesse game. Nash & Richards were also clearly in decline when Sather started putting out rumors about his his intent to pursue them.

    Seems like only a minute ago when Sather said signing Richards was not really a bad deal if he could last maybe 3 years.

    However, every fan this side of the planet Jupiter said that Richards was a candidate for the next buyout on the day Sather signed him.

    Where are all these writers that said acquiring Richards, Nash, St Louis, Redden, Kasparitis, Bure, and Holik were reasonable decisions?.

    • I been on this site since it’s infancy and was one of the few advocates for BR, and NO, I still DO NOT want him bought out… Granted, he makes alot of money and should be held responsible for this team’s performance, but am soooo tired of the BR bashing already. 146 points in 197 games including 10 Game winning goals in his only full season being here isn’t too shabby.
      To me this team lost balance on the top 3 lines because of the trade for #61. In an ideal hockey world, you would want a grinder, play maker and sniper on each line, but w the makeup we have right now, we have a bunch play making, finesse players. Nobody checks on the top 3 lines because there isn’t anyone that plays like that. When was the last time we saw the glass shake in the “O” zone?
      I understand that this is the new makeup of the team and they want to play a finesse up tempo style of hockey, but it’s still isn’t working as this team still struggles to put the puck in the net. Hockey isn’t Baseball whereas hypothetically you have good hitting and defense but need some pitching so you sign a starter and a closer and fill in the gaps.
      We had a good balanced team, but we needed scoring, so the idea was get a scorer or two and presto. Doesn’t work like that. We need, balance, and with balance comes chemistry. Someone said on I think Becky’s thread earlier about seeing a contrast with the way the Blackhawks played opposed to yesterdays Ranger game, and that it seemed like that they played w more work ethic even though the Rangers peppered 40 S.O.G yesterday. It wasn’t work ethic that was the difference between the two. It’s personnel like Bickell and Shaw etc. that the Hawks have that we don’t that is the difference.

      • Exactly. It’s the intangibles that ultimately win hockey games and Cups. Every team is abundantly skilled. That’s why they play in the NHL. But the answer isn’t to go out and find all the skill you can.

        The pieces must fit. There must be balance, yes, but beyond that you need chemistry and battle level. Torts brought that philosophy and it’s a winning philosophy when coupled with the right personnel. The 2011-12 Rangers fell short because they lacked depth, not because they lacked big name finishers.

        Now we have those — and we still can’t score. The team doesn’t play the game like it’s a war. And make no mistake, hockey is a war of attrition.

  • The Rangers have a better set of defensemen than they did two years ago, but Lundqvist is giving up an extra half goal per game, that’s 25 goals over the course of the year. The Rangers have scored seven more goals than they have yielded, +7. Remove those twenty goals and they are +32, on a pace for a +38 season. The 2011-2012 came in at +39. The difference between the two teams is the fall off of one player.

    Now Lundqvist hasn’t played that badly. Except for a couple rocky stretches, he has let in almost no bad goals. But great goalies make saves when they have no chance to do so. When a Ranger game ends with a goalie stealing it, it is invariably not Lundqvist. {No, he didn’t steal the Winnipeg game, the Jet goalies threw it away, which is different. A steal is like Niemi yesterday.}

  • I remember watching the 24/7 episodes when they played the Flyers in the Winter Classic during the holidays … those guys looked like they LOVED spending time with each other. (That ugly christmas sweater party still stands out to me, I thought that hysterical). I loved that 2011-2012 team … but as a FAN, their style of play was brutal to watch night in, night out. The shot blocking, 2-1, 1-0 games. Heart attack every night.

    Now, I obviously don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes but that team had a camaraderie that I felt they were all in it together, they bought into the system and they had each others backs and you could tell when they played each and every night…. I don’t see that here. And I think the big reason is that the Rangers brass have traded away heart and soul guys as well as guys who came up through the ranks together. With the influx of players the last 2 years .. it’s been tough to gel and come together.

    IMO, I think if they just would keep the group together and let the kids have a shot at roster spots, I think they’ll be in better shape going forward. Why do we need Stralman re-signed? Just let McIlrath play. Boyle/Moore? Just let Lindberg and Kristo play.

    I feel like other teams let their young guys learn by making mistakes at the NHL level. Why can’t we do that? We did a good job building from within after the first lockout and we have lost sight of that the last 2 years.

  • Back to top button