The New York Rangers have lost 10 of their last 13 games in disturbing fashion. What is really wrong and is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
By Chris Wengert
The New York Rangers have been playing consistent hockey lately, and scoreboards around the NHL have been proof of this play.
The Rangers have consistently left opponents open in front of their net, players are not going hard to the dirty areas, and lately it seems that they are not skating hard.
This is surprising for a New York Rangers organization that since the 2004-2005 lockout has had their foundation set in hard work.
So you have to ask: What is wrong with this team?
Everyone knows that the Rangers have been playing poor hockey. The concern should be directed towards how they have been losing games, and the lack of adjustments.
For a few weeks now, bad defensive coverage has plagued the Rangers. These rookie mistakes happen from time to time, but should not happen multiple times in every game.
When these mistakes do occur on a regular basis, you have to look at the coaches.
Alain Vigneault is a great coach and has a strong staff accompanying him on the bench. A bad coach doesn’t make it to the Stanley Cup Finals twice in his career by chance.
So when these mistakes happen consistently, you have to wonder why adjustments are not being made.
Are players overcompensating in their own zone? Is it the system the coaches are running? Or…
Are the players tuning the coaches out?
This last statement would be downright disappointing of course, but every team has their breaking point. For a team to go from winning the President’s Trophy to looking downright incompetent, it has to take a toll.
When Newsday Rangers beat writer Steve Zipay was asked if he sensed any dissent in the locker room:
I took a break, was not on this trip, so can’t say. Frustration for coaches, players? Absolutely. https://t.co/Ay9jmgjDjQ
— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) December 19, 2015
And if there is any question about the Rangers level of frustration, take a look here:
— SNYRangers (@SNYRangers) December 19, 2015
The Rangers have also lost their speed, which was a large part of their identity last year. Some of this can be attributed to weak neutral zone play.
A team gains their speed and momentum in the neutral zone after a strong break out, but lately opponents have been hindering this quick transition.
By clogging up the neutral zone (similar to the neutral zone trap), opponents have kept the Rangers from making the cross ice and stretch passes that promote their speed.
Not only does this slow the Rangers down, but also causes brutal turnovers in the opponents favor.
To be clear, I’m not insinuating that the Rangers should make a coaching change. But there comes a time when a team needs a little bit of the Mike Keenan treatment.
Keenan would have no problem sitting or benching players who were not giving their very best effort. AV should have benched the struggling Chris Kreider weeks ago, yet Kreider has been allowed to continue his lackluster, soft, and production-less play.
So how does this get all get better? I wish I had the answer. I still maintain that most of these mistakes are simple to address, but they have to be addressed.