The Rangers are now in their grind to end the season, playing every other day –for the most part– until the first week of April. I haven’t done a full on “thoughts” post that wasn’t specific to an event, so I’m long overdue.
1. Regarding the schedule, how nice of the Rangers and the NHL to ensure the season ends before the final season of Game of Thrones and before Avengers Endgame comes out. We will have time to reflect on the season as we also get hyped for these two mega events.
2. The Rangers haven’t won since the trade deadline. That’s good (sorta)! They are hovering in the 8-11 range for the draft, and the fewer points they get the better. They are, as of this writing, sitting with the 8th pick. Three teams (Chicago, Vancouver, Anaheim) can feasibly pass them in the standings. The game against the Devils on April Fool’s Day might have lottery implications too.
3. The reason why losing is good is because the Rangers aren’t quitting while losing. Sure the loser point for OT/SO losses is incredibly annoying and doesn’t help their draft spot at all, but that’s not really the “point” here. The Blueshirts aren’t quitting. They are not giving up, the way they did during the tail-end of Alain Vigneault’s tenure. Instilling a fighting culture in the clubhouse is a good thing. All that credit goes to David Quinn, who has the players working. There are some pretty damning (about AV) quotes out there from the players about how the culture and atmosphere are completely different this year. 4
4. A lot of credit needs to be given to DQ for how Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, and Tony DeAngelo have performed in the second half of the season. His methods got through to them. The big difference is the healthy scratches seem less haphazard and without reason. The players, when scratched, know why they are sitting and what they need to do to adjust. There seems to be a method to the madness, even if it does result in dressing Brendan Smith at forward regularly. Next up on this list: Lias Andersson.
5. The Blueshirts are still statistically bad, they don’t drive possession at all, and concede the blue line regularly. Part of that is on the players, of course, but we’ve had some concerns about the defensive zone system being used by DQ, where conceding the blue line appears to be by design. I wonder if that changes next season. I wonder how much of this is on Lindy Ruff, who has never had good defensive play on any of his teams, ever.
6. There is still work to do for Jeff Gorton. The big decision he has is whether or not Chris Kreider is a part of this club’s long-term future. If he isn’t, deal him at the draft for maximum return. Dealing him at next year’s deadline would be silly. He also needs to address the players on the blue line. Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, and Brendan Smith are not a part of this team’s long-term future. Buyouts aren’t likely, but neither are trades. Gorton might be looking at this trio as a stop-gap until more help arrives.
7. Speaking of the blue line, the Rangers would be better off dealing Neal Pionk while his value is somewhat manageable. He’s really a net-negative out there. It appears to be clear that DeAngelo has surpassed Pionk on the depth chart, which is a good thing. But I’m still concerned about the Rangers giving an ill-advised long-term deal to Pionk. He’s a righty that moves the puck, there’s value there.
8. Libor Hajek sure has had a strong three games with the Rangers, hasn’t he?