The Rangers are spiraling out of control. The team has no killer instinct, no winning spirit, and seem to get derailed in games when even the slightest bounce goes the other way. It’s tough to address the mental aspect of the game without winning, so the goal should be putting them in a position to win. The Rangers need a major shake up to right the ship, and while many think that means a trade, it simply means dressing the best roster and line combinations.
Rangers need a major shake up at forward
The biggest issue for the team, and why the Rangers need a major shake up, is at forward. As Rob Luker pointed out, that’s the focal point of the Rangers blame game, and most of the pre-work falls on Gerard Gallant to stop the galaxy braining.
Just one month ago, the Rangers had everything going for them except for puck luck. They were among the best in controlling play, generating scoring chances, and limiting the opposition. But a slow start in net and some missing bounces made them appear to be worse than they were. Smoke and mirrors, but regression should have been a positive thing for the Rangers.
Instead, after just one bad period against Detroit on November 6, Gallant blew it all up. Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow wound up in the top six. Vitali Kravtsov couldn’t get into a game to save his life. And the bottom six were without roles. Very anti-Gallant and Chris Drury thinking, and it was an extreme overreaction.
The Rangers need a major shake up on these lines, and the best bet is to simply revert back to what was working before that one period in Detroit. It all boils down to a few major points.
- Barclay Goodrow does not belong in the top six. Period. End of story.
- Jimmy Vesey’s best spot on the team is in the bottom six, not the top line. But at least he has the possession metrics to support a temporary spot in a larger role.
- Vitali Kravtsov should be playing. Even if he doesn’t work out, you need to know what you have in him. Plus, the Rangers need offense, and he’s a tremendously skilled top-ten pick just sitting there twiddling his thumbs.
- Sammy Blais has no role on this team. Period. End of story.
The best and most efficient manner to address the Rangers shake up is to simply go back to the lines that were working.
Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Kaapo Kakko
Artemiy Panarin-Vincent Trocheck-Vitali Kravtsov or Alexis Lafreniere
Kravtsov/Lafreniere/Julien Gauthier-Filip Chytil-Gauthier/Kravtsov
Jimmy Vesey-Ryan Carpenter-Barclay Goodrow
The Rangers need a major shake up, and reverting back to what worked, while also adding a productive Gauthier, gives the Rangers four lines with roles. The top six are the top six. The third line can produce and perhaps might wind up as a track meet line in sheltered offensive zone starts. The fourth line is a shutdown line.
All four lines have a role. Unlike today where there is no offense in the top six, the “shutdown line” is getting caved in and not shutting anyone down, and the fourth line is just kind of there. They exist, but don’t do anything. Drury and Gallant sold us all on roles, and then went right back to the fourth line being scraps and a throwaway line.
Other shake ups needed?
The Rangers need a major shake up, and perhaps the forwards are enough to provide that jolt. But perhaps other changes are needed? K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba haven’t been nearly as effective for about a month, which coincides with the one bad period in Detroit. Is it time to move Miller up to play with Fox, and give Trouba someone who focuses entirely on defense in Ryan Lindgren?
Does the top powerplay, which should be, but isn’t, producing as a top-five unit in the league, need to be broken up? Is it time to add another shooter to that unit? Perhaps spread out some of the talent?
It’s easy to say blow everything up, but when you blow everything up, you create more variables. The defense pairs were fine before the forward lines were destroyed. The powerplay was producing chances, but not scoring. Now it does neither. Does a simple fix at even strength address both of these? Perhaps. But first you need to identify what worked and what doesn’t.
The Rangers need a major shake up. But before they blow everything up, it makes sense to change one thing and see its ripple effect down the lineup. Then change another. Follow suit until you fix everything. Time will tell if it’s as simple as getting the optimal lines out there. But hey, that’s a good enough start, right?