Salvaging the Season May Cost the Rangers

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Dave Rogers

Editor-in-Chief at Cleared for Contact
Writer, photographer and a lifelong New York Rangers hockey fan.
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After a horrendous start to the season, the New York Rangers found themselves at an early crossroads. Many, including myself, called for the team to read the writing on the wall and begin concentrating not on the current season, but the future. That start was followed by a bipolar-esque turnaround, which saw the team rattle off a six-game winning streak. That streak was followed by two road losses and then another four straight wins before a loss in their most recent game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

That loss to the Florida Panthers mirrored the team’s season thus far. Behind by three goals in the first period, the Blueshirts managed to march all the way back to a four-four tie. Though the comeback would fall short late in the game as first a Brendan Smith and then a Nick Holden turnover would gift the Panthers the go-ahead-goal.

Being able to come from behind, whether it is in a game or in a season is a trait found in winning teams. However, requiring come-from-behind victories should be the exception, not the rule. It is a razor edge margin where too often success proves elusive. Coming back from deep deficits is entertaining, as is the invulnerable feeling when a team, once in the gutter, marches all the way back to the playoff picture. It is not a strategy for success though.

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In the interim, the Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault has had to make deal after deal with the Devil. Unable to risk any single game because of the hole that was dug, 35-year old Henrik Lundqvist has played far too often. Smith, who struggled mightily to start the season, was shelved over the six-game winning streak despite the long-term benefit getting him back in the lineup and playing might have had for his future with the team. Young players like Pavel Buchnevich, despite showing maturity, has all too often found himself the victim of Vigneault’s fears of losing. His ice time continues to sit near the bottom of all regular forwards.

Most alarmingly, the Rangers for the first time in recent memory, have no impact rookies in the lineup. Sure, Boo Nieves, now 23-years-old, is technically a rookie, but he is also one of the few examples where Vigneault is playing an inexperienced player on the fourth line where his role should naturally be. It is likely that the dire situation the team found themselves in forced Vigneault to keep more impactful rookies, who sometimes can prove costly in terms of wins, out of the lineup. While the team should never rush prospects into the NHL, it is also vital for successful franchises to continually add young cost controlled players into their mix in order to navigate the Salary Cap.

This is especially true for a team with dead cap space from bought out player Dan Girardi that is also facing new contracts next year for a number of valuable Restricted Free Agents (RFA). J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Brady Skjei will all need to be re-signed. Having a couple second-year players next season ready to take on increased roles might help mitigate the potential losses of Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, most likely to become cap casualties in order to retain the teams RFAs. In recent years, we’ve seen the Rangers have impact rookies make the next steps necessary to allow the team to part with players they could no longer afford or not have to go to a more expensive route in the UFA market. Players like Skjei, Buchnevich and Vesey are vital to the team, yet the next generation of these types of players are all in currently in Hartford or overseas.

While this team, as constructed, can certainly finish inside the playoff bubble, if they do it will be at the expense of the future. That is a fine path when a team has a considerable shot at a deep run and possible championship, however, this does not appear to be that team. Instead, fighting to salvage this season could hamstring their future. They may become buyers at the deadline instead of sellers, meaning sending away prospects and picks rather than acquiring more. Their own picks, should they manage to retain them, will be at worse draft spots had they accepted the reality of their position and made the proper personnel decisions earlier in the season.

The worst case scenario is a team flirting on the playoff bubble come the trade deadline, making moves to try to shore up a playoff berth that doesn’t come and without any rookies in the lineup gaining valuable experience. The start to their season cemented the idea that this was a team that should go all-in on their ‘retool on the fly’. One season of pain could have righted the franchise’s prospect pool and set them towards a number of years of contention. Instead, they are a listless ship with an identity of falling behind and sometimes, pulling themselves out of the ditch they keep finding themselves in.

Discussion
  1. Dunny, unfortunately for me, I think you guys are right. The days of big open ice hits are over.

    The thing that gets me though is that the "old school" style of play, coupled with the speed and skill of today's players I feel could be harnessed to build a winner. A guy like Kreider has speed like none other, and yet is built at 6'3" and 230 lbs. That's a freaking freight train!! My belief is that you get players like that to play a hard nose (not dirty), but gritty game of finishing checks, getting pucks deep, shooting pucks and getting to rebounds, and I think this team will see a lot more success in the playoffs.

    The regular season to me is simply a dress rehearsal. It still serves no purpose other than positioning for the playoffs since so many teams qualify.

    I suppose it's just what I like to see in a team. The game has definitely morphed into a much more passive "skill" type game where zig zag passing and Highlight reel goals are what's demanded of teams nowadays.
    Yes, I too have an affinity for such hockey. Best line from a coach I had was "It's not spearing if their throat runs in to your blade".

    However, it's really all gone. Dumping a guy out front is an automatic interference call. There's hasn't been a single "big" open ice hit this entire NHL season. Not one!
    It's all changed, and changed forever.
    I don't know, Future...I kept feeling that LA had our number the whole way; they fought us and kept coming back against us. We couldn't put those guys away, and in those OT's is where is finally caught up with us. Anyway, that's water under the bridge at this point.

    Fact is, I just simply think that this team needs to start clearing guys out in front and playing tougher hockey. I'm not saying to go get Joey Kocur back and go that route, but be a team that simply finishes checks and makes sure that guys aren't standing around the net like the 4th goal in that Florida game where the guy was just banging away at it for 5 seconds before he dented the twine. Toughness still has a place in today's game in my mind. But that's me.

    I was always taught that a player's scoring percentage is considerably lower when he's on his ass in front of the net.





    Quote Originally Posted by Bugg
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    Gonna have to play Buchenvich more, and probably Chytil and Letteri are going to be here soon.No way around it; AV will need to have young guys produce.Is there a point to Paul Carey?

    Might help if Lundqvist stopped shitting the bed on a nighty basis too. The first goal, you can understand. The other 2 were typical awfulness we've seen too much of. Looks like he gives up an early goal and loses his focus. At this price, that's unacceptable crap. Have zero sympathy; if NYR had gotten even decent goaltending this season, this team would be in the mix for a top 3 division playoff spot rather than struggling to get in at all. Those 2 points the other night, and quite a few of the other shit games,are gonna cost them.



    Did you watch any of the games leading up to the Florida game?





    Quote Originally Posted by Ozzy
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    I just keep thinking back to the series for the cup we played against LA where they simply beat the crap out of us. The Rangers had a much faster team than LA, but they wore us down and beat us down on a nightly basis. I sometimes feel that a more physical team will more often than not, neutralize a fast team just by over powering them and wearing them down over a 7 game series.



    What? The only game that's a good example of what you're talking about was game 3...which the Rangers won. Didn't LAK win games 1 and 2 without ever even having a lead until they scored in OT? For all eternity, people are going to remember that series as 4-1 LAK, but that's not even close to how even the series was. The Rangers could have won that in 5 just as easily as LAK, with a couple different bounces.

    Toughness doesn't win in the NHL anymore, and the Rangers have been plenty physical in the playoffs the last two years. You have to be strong on the puck, but beyond that, physicality is largely irrelevant in the NHL.





    Quote Originally Posted by Respecttheblue
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    Thing about Pittsburgh when they beat us in the playoffs was their D, or team D, very effectively neutralized our attack and minimized out time in their zone —*our entries were mostly one-and-done, in and out fast.

    That kind of defensive effectiveness is not a strength of this Rangers team on most nights — although we saw a few glimpses the other week, it's not something i would put money on being consistent.

    Now that Zibs is hurt, it really calls the season into deeper question, IMO. But you know how it is here, if management even sniffs playoffs they'll typically be buyers when they probably should be sellers.

    But let's see how things go. There's plenty of hockey to play before the trade deadline.



    Yea, that's why Pitt has been so good in the playoffs. The whole team commits to that defensive style. I think the Rangers try to do that, they just aren't very good at it. The forward group doesn't get nearly enough blame when it comes to this team's defensive deficiencies.
    I just keep thinking back to the series for the cup we played against LA where they simply beat the crap out of us. The Rangers had a much faster team than LA, but they wore us down and beat us down on a nightly basis. I sometimes feel that a more physical team will more often than not, neutralize a fast team just by over powering them and wearing them down over a 7 game series.

    Yes, I know there needs to be a skill level, and I think even though the Rangers now have some physical players, they simply don't play that style.....it's shame too! Hitting stirs emotion, and this team seemingly plays a lot better in my mind when they play with emotion....especially Kreider and Nash.

    Fact is they can, and we've seen it! ...and I think that more or less comes from behind the bench. I'm still more of the belief that we've had our shot with this guy behind the bench, and I think it's time to step outside the box and try it another way. The "Ice Capades", as I call it doesn't really offer us a very good chance to make a long run in the playoffs in my opinion.

    We're way too soft, in my opinion. We don't finish checks enough, we sure as hell don't shoot enough, or get enough pucks to the net and yet we have guys like Kreider, Nash, Hayes and Vesey who are built to play a more physical game. Even Zuch plays a physical game and loves to scrap with the other team while going to the net. Those guys can go to the front and bang in rebounds like crazy. We even got Shatty who can get the shots through traffic in front...yet we still go with that "Pass First" mentality. Very frustrating to watch at times.

    I just think it's time for a changing of the guard around here; I would like to see the Rangers bring in a coach that plays a tougher, more complete game, rather than guys flying the zone and trying to make tic-tac-toe passes trying to look like the Red Army of the 70's out there.

    I really like this team too! They can be a blast to watch in spurts when they hit, shoot and play tough hockey the way they're supposed to. But when they come out in the first period and play like they're sleep walking, I wanna go and have my nuts extracted with a warm, dull pointed steak knife.





    Quote Originally Posted by Future
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    Pittsburgh and Chicago make a living scoring on the rush and neither is physical.



    Thing about Pittsburgh when they beat us in the playoffs was their D, or team D, very effectively neutralized our attack and minimized out time in their zone —*our entries were mostly one-and-done, in and out fast.

    That kind of defensive effectiveness is not a strength of this Rangers team on most nights — although we saw a few glimpses the other week, it's not something i would put money on being consistent.

    Now that Zibs is hurt, it really calls the season into deeper question, IMO. But you know how it is here, if management even sniffs playoffs they'll typically be buyers when they probably should be sellers.

    But let's see how things go. There's plenty of hockey to play before the trade deadline.





    Quote Originally Posted by ThirtyONE
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    The problems with the team are the same as they were last year and the year before that. I don't care if they win 10 in a row, they're VERY weak at center and D with Mac out, they generally score on the rush, and they don't take the body -- these are the opposite qualities of a good playoff team.



    Pittsburgh and Chicago make a living scoring on the rush and neither is physical.
    The problems with the team are the same as they were last year and the year before that. I don't care if they win 10 in a row, they're VERY weak at center and D with Mac out, they generally score on the rush, and they don't take the body -- these are the opposite qualities of a good playoff team.

    They actually cycled the puck for the first time against Florida and that's what they need to be doing more of but until it happens consistently, I won't get excited.

    For the millionth time, no matter what place they're in come deadline, they need to move Nash for a 1st.
    Shitting the bed on a nightly basis? Wow. Talk about blind hatred. Prior to the Florida game he was 10-2 with a 2.28 GAA and a .930 SV%. That's #1, 6, and 5 in the league over that span. Yeah fuck him.
    Gonna have to play Buchenvich more, and probably Chytil and Letteri are going to be here soon.No way around it; AV will need to have young guys produce.Is there a point to Paul Carey?

    Might help if Lundqvist stopped shitting the bed on a nighty basis too. The first goal, you can understand. The other 2 were typical awfulness we've seen too much of. Looks like he gives up an early goal and loses his focus. At this price, that's unacceptable crap. Have zero sympathy; if NYR had gotten even decent goaltending this season, this team would be in the mix for a top 3 division playoff spot rather than struggling to get in at all. Those 2 points the other night, and quite a few of the other shit games,are gonna cost them.

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