State of the Rangers

Four questions for the New York Rangers for the second half

Miller (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
Miller (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

The first half of the 2015-2016 season for the Rangers can only be described as a roller coaster. They stormed out of the gate with three quick wins before going 0-2-1 to level expectations. Then came the run that no one could have predicted, going 13-1-1 over the next 15 games to start the season at 16-3-2, a team record. Then came the fall, as the Rangers went 3-9-2 over their next 14, literally crashing down to Earth.

The process was terrible throughout, but the recent games from the end of December through January have been cause for hope. The process is improving, and the team has started to turn it around, going 6-3-1 in their last ten games. But like every team not based in Washington D.C., there are a few questions that the Rangers will need to find answers for heading into the second half of the season.

Is J.T. Miller a top-six forward?

Perhaps the most glaring need on the Rangers is a top-six forward. Neither Miller nor Kevin Hayes grasped that role. Compounding the issue is the struggles of Chris Kreider, leaving the Rangers with a need for secondary scoring. But Miller has really turned it on of late, and seems to have finally turned that corner into top-six talent. If he is indeed a top-six forward, then perhaps the Rangers look at a middle-six forward –potentially cheaper– as opposed to a top-six forward. But Miller’s continued progression could ease a lot of the scoring woes.

What are they going to do with Keith Yandle?

The blue line has a major problem on their hands. Aside from the obvious –and honestly, beaten to death– issues with Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, the club needs to figure out what they are going to do with Yandle. Yandle has had by far the most positive impact on his teammates, but he’s been completely wasted in his usage until very recently. If they hold on to him, they better make sure they use him properly. If they are to trade him, they will need something back that is not only inexpensive, but can fill the hole left behind by Yandle. That won’t be easy to do.

Will ice time start getting shifted?

The most frustrating aspect of the first half of the season was that ice time hasn’t been shifted to those performing better. Again, we can look at the obvious ice-time issues of Girardi and Staal, but it’s important to note that the fourth line is getting a good number of shifts while trailing in the third period. There are other things to consider, like back-to-backs and keeping guys fresh, but at some point there should be a shorter bench when a goal is needed.

Also, at some point, Yandle needs to be the powerplay workhorse. Nothing else is working consistently.

What story will the trade deadline tell?

This coming trade deadline is the most important in recent memory for this club, perhaps the most important since the 2004 firesale. Saddled with bad contracts for declining players, Jeff Gorton has his work cut out for him. Does he sacrifice more future for one last shot at the Cup? Does he repeat the same mistakes of his predecessor? Does he have the stones to re-tool and deal these popular, but declining players? Some of these questions won’t be answered until the draft, but this is a significant crossroads for the club.

The second half of the season picks up tomorrow for the Rangers, and at that point we will see answers to all four questions. This could be another roller coaster ride through the second half of the season. Hang tight, Rangers fans.

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  • Will be an interesting second half. The recent results / supporting play has been moving in the right direction. Millers been a top forward all season. He’s a bit of a high risk player but he’s got the vision and creativity to back it up. He also plays a grinding game when necessary, further supporting his versatility.

    I don’t see much happening on the blue line until the summer. A weak playoff showing will lead to one of Staal or Girardi being dumped IMO. The NHL is getting younger and younger and the Rangers need to recognize that. Hopefully we see more Yandle, more McIlrath and Klein keeps up his steady play

    While there are a few upgrades that could happen they will be mostly of the depth variety. I think this is the team that rolls into the playoffs and hopefully rides a brilliant Hank run and some goal support to the cup

  • Miller is indeed a t 6 forward, and w he is being utilized properly, at last!

    Keith will be moved for assets, knowing we can’t afford re-signing him. See Dan, and Mac’s contract for that…..

    They had better start shifting ice time sit Boyle more, his history.

    Early exit will convince the need to make some major moves, get rid of old timers, and build team around Pavel, Zucc, and the kids!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • compute issues:

    Miller top 6, will be utilized properly.
    Marc’s contracts.
    Boy is history

    sorry for repost.

  • Since we only have 5 other guys playing like top 6 players, JT is in the mix.
    I do think AV gives Boyle and maybe Girardi rest on back to backs. This playing time may have a lot to do with trades as well as Gorton may need to showcase McIlvaine if he is being shopped (you never know).

    I see the team moving K.Klein and retaining Yandle at the deadline. I think Klein goes in a big package that brings back a young defenseman and a top pick. This will offset the pick we ultimately give away to get a sniper on the club.

  • /s/

    Look for the Rangers to call up Ryan Graves to slot in as PP specialist as apparently he won the hardest shot competition in the AHL All Star weekend with a sizzling 103.4! That shot will command respect and open up ice for his teammates.

    If the org decides he is not in their plans they’ll shop him as a trade chip at the deadline in order to net Shattenkirk and a 1st, or perhaps a package of Graves and Glass for Stamkos and Drouin!

    • There’s a whole world between calling him up now and trading him. I imagine the Rangers see him as a top four defenseman in two or three years.

      • I agree, Ray. That whole post was in jest. Hopefully will make an organizational impact at some point.

        But that post was kind of like those we’ve seen in the past….”Carl Hagelin is the fastest player in the NHL as shown durning the NHL Skills competition. We should trade for Cogliano, the 2nd FASTEST player and yada yada yada”

        I was a little bored this morning.

    • hey hatrick swayze…graves and glass for drouin and stamkos is wishful thinking…the lightning would have to add,maybe a 2nd pick in 2016 draft,at least….

  • Miller is and will get even better, top six time will help this happen.
    Kreider – seems like every year he is Dr. J and Mr. Hide….
    Nash – the AROD of hockey playoffs, only 1 break out season… I can do without him…

    DEFENSE!!! man isn’t it time we trade at least one of them…?

  • It won’t happen this season but I’d like to see JTM go back to his natural centre position. He just what we need there, big, tough & skilled. Lindberg should centre fourth line next year.

  • In all honesty, I don’t see a lot of options out there right now. we don’t have any real pieces to offer in a big time trade without gutting the team. The players we have whose salaries are putting us in cap hell are basically not tradeable (except Lundqvist and possibly Nash to a real SC contender who needs his skill set). There’s no way to completely dump salary re Girardi or Staal and still get a good d-man back. Maybe we could get a decent draft pick for one or the other if we eat salary on the deal. The other options (Kreider, Hayes, etc.) will not bring back comparable value unless we find some GM out there who’s drunk out of his mind. Pavel B. may or may not be coming over from Russia, but I’m thinking probably not. The KHL will somehow find a trunk full of rubles to keep him.

  • It’s important to remember that the season is not primarily about winning games. It is about making the playoffs and getting ready to make a deep (hopefully winning) run. The Rangers seem well on their way to accomplishing the former – and patience is a virtue in dealing with the latter.

    The single biggest problem with the Rangers on the ice now is that they have a below average goaltender. Yes, we expect him to come around in time and yes, there are other problems, but this team is much better than it appears at the moment.

    Note: comparison at all star break —

    Lundqvist 2414 minutes — Save % .921 GAA 2.41

    3 tenders who began their careers with the Rangers, now playing with those powerhouses Buffalo, Edmonton, and Florida (backup only here):

    3959 minutes — Save % .918 GAA 2.42

    Considering the defenses in front of them (one game Talbot lost a 2-0 lead when his teammates scored three own goals in the third period for example), the average of Cam Talbot, Chad Johnson, and Al Montoya has really been better than Hank.

    Please understand that I am not saying that Lundqvist is a poor goaltender. What I am saying is that when Hank is not sharp, he is just that. And after a good start, this year he has struggled.

    • That is wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more a reflection of the abysmal play of the players in front of him than Lundqvist.

      • It’s a combination of both. Lundqvist has been hung out to dry for the vast majority of the season, but he’s stopped far less of those chances than he had in the beginning of the season.

        Either way, the team has to clean up in front of him, or there’s no chance of a deep run.

      • Just not true. The Ranger defense may not be playing at the level we expect, but it certainly provides much more support than the Oiler defense and – with less information – I presume than the Sabre defense. Now Montoya (responsible for less than 17% of the data) is no doubt helped by the strong Panther defense, but in this competition, Hank is getting above average help.

  • JT is a top 6 forward.
    Jeff Gorton will keep Yandle (he will not get a decent enough offer at the trade deadline to entice him to pull the trigger)
    Kreider will be moved for a big named forward with an expiring contract
    The Rangers will go on another wining streak before the end of the season

  • Unfortunately it all comes down to how Gorton views Girardi, Staal, and Glass. We can all sit here and pound our chests that they should go but if the GM sees it the same way as the dumbass coach then we are sunk quite honestly. And to exacerbate the situation, if the first 2 stay then Yandle, one of their better D goes, further making a bad situation even worse.

    The only scenario that will help this team is to, somehow, trade one of G or Staal. Then Yandle can be retained. Dylan or Skjei would replace the traded player (G or Staal). Then waive/trade/dump/ whatever Glass and finally kill Voldemort so he will never player here again.

    Then redistribute the minutes accordingly based on the players that remain here. If they have the opportunity to acquire a 2nd level scorer like PA Parenteau or Vrbata or the guy from Calgary (brain freeze, lol) then maybe it will not be trade cost prohibitive. Slot that acquired player on the 2nd line and form a Lindberg-Hayes-Miller 3rd line, which would be formidable. Also a Stalberg-Moore-Fast 4th line would round out 4 solid lines.

    But it starts with the GM’s recognition that his D corps is a dumpster fire. If he doesn’t then whatever moves he does make is all for naught and he would just be wasting future assets for nothing. Again.

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