The New York Rangers have been treading water in a pool of mediocrity for a few weeks now. The results could be disastrous for the organization.

New York Rangers (24-16-5, 53 points, 3rd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Vancouver Canucks (19-17-10, 48 points, 4th in NHL Pacific Division)
Today, 7:00 PM on MSG
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

By Chris Wengert

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The New York Rangers have been wallowing in mediocrity lately.

Following lackluster performances fans often hear cliches like “stick with the system” or the infamous “it’s a part of the process.”

There is usually plenty of evidence that fans cite to back up such optimism.

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But lately the product that the Rangers have been selling on a nightly basis may point to a very different future, and a precarious one at that.

If you look at the standings the first thing you will notice is how tight the wild card race has already become. The Rangers are now only three points or one bad week away from losing their once solid playoff spot.

With teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators trending up, the Rangers will need to start stringing some wins together if they want to avoid some serious stress come March and April.

But the Rangers’ troubles could possibly reach far beyond this season if they don’t make some adjustments to their play and personnel.

Let’s take a look at some of the potential damning issues facing the New York Rangers.

Bad Contracts

It is no secret that the Rangers have virtually no maneuverability in regards to the salary cap.

The only way that the Rangers will be successful this season is if Rangers General Manager Jeff Gordan can make some serious magic happen at the trade deadline.

Keith Yandle‘s name has been thrown around as trade bait, but the real issues are Dan Girardi and Marc Staal.

Girardi has four years left on his contract and Staal has four at 5.5 and 5.7 million per year, respectively.

Also, both of these players have no trade clauses.

This means that Girardi and Staal would need to agree to a trade, and I just do not see that happening.

The biggest strength of the Rangers the past few years was defense. Their defensive concept not only kept the Blueshirts in games, but also protected Lundqvist.

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But that strong defense is long gone.

Rick Nash‘s and Henrik Lundqvist‘s contracts (7.8 and 8.5 million, respectively) are not doing the Rangers any favors either.

With bad performances in the defensive end and damaging contracts protecting the culprits, the Rangers could be handcuffed for the foreseeable future.

Players Are Consistently Inconsistent

There is nothing like a good ole’ vanilla performance, and New York Rangers fans know them all too well.

A plethora of players are vastly under performing this season.

Don’t get me wrong, every player will go through their share of tough stretches but the Rangers seem to taking the team concept  a little too literally this season.

The whole team is stuck in neutral at times. Just think about it:

If you had to grade the players for their performances thus far, would anyone receive an A?

A week or two ago you could have made a case for Mats Zuccarello or Derick Brassard, but those ships seemed to have sailed.

Even Henrik Lundqvist has looked mortal for the first time in 10 years.

Is it possible that players are only now finding their way back to Earth after over performing the past year or two?

Players have had their flashes of brilliance but lack consistency.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider (think holistically), Ryan McDonagh, Dan Boyle, Derek Stepan, and Henrik Lundqvist have all under performed.

What is Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault to do when his whole lineup goes terminally cold?

Where do the New York Rangers go from here?

Will Jeff Gordan surprise us all with a ground-breaking deal at the trade deadline? Or perhaps the Rangers will wake from their slumber come April?

The next four games will be very telling.

The Rangers will face the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators, and the Buffalo Sabers. Will the Rangers be able to string some wins together and start building some consistency in their game?

One thing is for sure.

If the Rangers continue down the current path, this fan base could be a decade away from another deep playoff run.

NEXT: Nice Try NHL: You Get No Credit For Reversing John Scott Decision

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