The New York Rangers‘ slow start has led to finger-pointing and bashing. But are we pointing at the right people?
Alright, New York Rangers fans. We’re now four games into this season and full-on panic mode has set in. Fingers are pointing and calls for people’s heads are being made, but are we holding the right people accountable?
The hockey season is quite literally a marathon, not a sprint. That is why these first four games shouldn’t be used as an indicator for the season. Real hockey fans know that you cannot peak too early as a hockey team. Just ask the Los Angeles Kings when they went on to win the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed in the playoffs. They peaked at the right time, and the right time wasn’t in September. So everyone needs to calm down.
Sure, every game is important and you don’t want to miss out on valuable points and then have to wait until the end of the year when points are harder to come by. However, it is quite necessary to hold the right people accountable for the mistakes and slow start. This doesn’t start and end with one person. This is an entire organization pulling on this rope.
Listen, I understand the need and desire to complain about head coach Alain Vigneault. His personnel usage is head-scratching. But folks who actually played the game of hockey know that ice time is a meritocracy. It is something you earn every day in practice and in games. Did Brendan Smith earn ice time when Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner put him in a blender?
Gardiner's Beauty Goal! pic.twitter.com/UXVUYjlbpi
— Maple Mecca (@MapleMecca) October 8, 2017
Is Kevin Shattenkirk earning first-pair ice time by going minus-three against the lowly (I think they’re much improved) Colorado Avalanche? If your answer is yes to either of those questions then you need to watch the game of hockey, not play “Be A GM” mode in NHL 17. I know these are isolated incidents but do you think the guys who have been around the game for 30+ years might know something we don’t? I’m not looking to make excuses for Vigneault, he’s most certainly not getting off free here. But let’s take a log off the fire and take a look at the others who, in my mind, need to be held more accountable by the fans.
I know these are isolated incidents but do you think the guys who have been around the game for 30-plus years might know something we don’t? I’m not looking to make excuses for Vigneault, he’s most certainly not getting off free here. But let’s take a log off the fire and take a look at the others who, in my mind, need to be held more accountable by the fans.
But let’s take a log off the fire and take a look at the folks who, in my mind, really need to be held more accountable.
I’m not onboard the Hayes train and I’m not sure I ever will be. There’s no questioning the kid’s skill. He has talent. It’s his consistency and work ethic that gets to me.
At 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds, he has a size advantage more often than not. But he ignores it and tries to play like Patrick Kane, who is 5-foot-11 and 177 pounds. He gets bumped off the puck by a stiff breeze, coasts around the ice, and has zero foot speed.
Those aren’t ideal traits for a player many dubbed the franchise’s next second line center. Taking just four shots on goal in four games isn’t going to cut it, either. As for the excuse that he’s not getting time on the power play, what has he done to deserve any? The answer, at this point, is nothing.
Let me preface this by saying that I love what Henrik has done for the organization. He is the heart and soul of this team and I know he’s given every ounce of energy to this franchise and city. But you cannot be paid and treated like a top-five NHL goalie and play like a journeyman backup. Yes, the defensive zone play has been disastrous at some point. But gone are those
Yes, the defensive zone play has been disastrous at points. But where are those jaw-dropping, bail the team out saves we used to see? If we aren’t getting those, what are we getting? An old guy who posts a 90 percent save percentage and 3.00 goals against average? That’s not money well spent. I do believe it’s just a matter of time before he starts to play better. But it has to happen sooner than later for this thing to get turned around.
Fans had to love DeAngelo—it was the only way we could tell ourselves that the Derek Stepan trade was worth it. But he’s another player who hasn’t earned his ice time, as limited as it’s been. The talent is there, but his hockey IQ doesn’t seem all that high.
Hyman goal pic.twitter.com/kiriSJKp6i
— steph (@myregularface) October 7, 2017
He’s got to start making smarter decisions with the puck—dishing out assists to the other team doesn’t help the Rangers win games.
Do you think the Pittsburgh Penguins envisioned Phil Kessel playing with Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin when they acquired him? On a team with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, I sure as heck didn’t—and I don’t believe the Pens did, either.
Chemistry is a funny thing. I bring this up because I feel Shattenkirk isn’t a top pairing defenseman. I don’t think he’s the right fit next to McDonagh. Allowing Shattenkirk to play against inferior competition—not the opponent’s top line—frees him up to do what he does best: Focus on bringing offense from the blueline.
If I can come up with this thought process, why can’t Vigneault? I’m all for shaking up line combinations and defensive pairings, but the shakeups have to make sense. So far, most of the changes he’s made don’t.
All in all folks, this thing is a group effort. The players say it every night in the postgame, they use the term “we” a lot. Which is why hockey is the best sport in the world.
Things might look grim right now, but keep your faith and support the team. There’s enough talent and experience for things to work out. I do think the aforementioned players can bounce back to have very successful seasons. I still believe in Vigneault as a head coach.
But it’s going to take improved effort from everyone, whether they’re mentioned above or not. We all know what this team is capable of. It’s time they start reaching that potential.