Is it time for Rangers GM Jeff Gorton to make his move?
We have arrived at a point in the season where the warts on the Rangers are no longer avoidable. The Rangers defense keep turning the puck over, they continue to show an inability to protect Henrik Lundqvist or even limit odd man rushes despite the warning signs being there from the very beginning of the season.
Sure, the Rangers still have a very healthy record and they keep winning games (disregarding the current three game losing streak) but this team isn’t about the regular season. This team is about going deep beyond April. If the bad habits can’t be ironed out now, they threaten to undermine the team when the season has meaning.
Is this overreacting to a handful of sloppy results? After all, before the Bruins loss last week, the Rangers were the only team in the league to be averaging under two goals per game against. The only team in the entire league. Clearly that was an impressive statistic but was that the by-product of Henrik Lundqvist’s unbelievable start to the season? The Rangers have conceded at least four goals in three of the last four games, not including the stinker laid down against the Flyers. Right before that stretch of goals conceded, the loss against Tampa Bay was also highlighted by a late, shorthanded goal caused through individual mistakes from the Rangers.
So many games this year this team has failed to clear the front of the net and give Henrik Lundqvist time and sight. The fact that Lundqvist has already registered a handful of save of the year candidates isn’t a good thing. He has had to be spectacular on a nightly basis. So, with all this considered have we perhaps arrived at Jeff Gorton’s first true test as the Rangers head honcho?
The Rangers first year general manager has done an impressive job so far. He dealt with complicated salary cap situations over the summer decisively and has given the Rangers decent depth to contend with. Yet the Rangers defense needs remedying and sooner rather than later. How Gorton deals with this ‘situation’ (or doesn’t) could define the Rangers entire season.
Dan Girardi is seemingly regressing on a game by game basis, Marc Staal has been wildly inconsistent all year, Dan Boyle is an adventure in his own end and offers almost nothing going forward while Keith Yandle has been underwhelming. Even Kevin Klein who was the Rangers best blueliner to start the year has seen his play slip. The captain, Ryan McDonagh hasn’t been up to scratch every game. How do you beginning to rectify a unit that has not one piece playing to its normal level?
Is it a system issue? Do the Rangers problems on the blueline start and end with Alain Vigneault’s coaching ability or are changes needed to the make-up of the unit? Should Dylan McIlrath be in the line-up permanently? A lot of questions need answering right now.
The facts are this: the Rangers can afford to be patient because of their quick start to the season so a knee jerk reaction isn’t necessary or likely. They can wait and see how players develop and accumulate more cap space as the season progresses. We also know the team has minimal assets to make a move (picks or prospects) so unless a major piece of the roster is involved in any trade, Gorton has to get very creative if he deems a change necessary.
A three game losing streak to end November is absolutely no reason to panic but it is without doubt that the Rangers have issues that need attention. This team has issues up front but even more so on the back end. It will be interesting to see how the Rangers cope (and react) in the next few weeks. If the defense’s horrible play continues we could see a major change soon. Under the current circumstances there is no chance the Rangers get past Tampa, Montreal or even Washington in the playoffs. Is Jeff Gorton is on the clock?