The New York Rangers dropped their second game of a four-game road trip on Sunday night. If the team is going to make the playoffs, Alain Vigneault needs to go now.
When the horn sounded at the Staples Center in Los Angeles early Monday morning, the New York Rangers found themselves in a familiar but sad place. Another loss to a team that they could have—should have—defeated. The losses continue to mount and, as a result, their position in the playoff race has begun to slip.
The Rangers are 24-19-5, have 53 points, and have gone 4-6 since the calendar flipped to 2018. They’ve gone 2-5 over their last seven games and, entering play on Tuesday, have fallen into a three-way tie for the second wild-card position with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.
In those seven games, the team has a minus-10 goal differential (16 goals scored, 26 goals allowed). Nine of those goals—nearly 33 percent of their offensive output—have come in two games, a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers and a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Head coach Alain Vigneault has never been able to find a consistent scoring combination on any of his four lines. With the exception of Michael Grabner, who leads the team with 20 goals, it’s been a scoring-by-committee approach—and it doesn’t work.
The problems on defense have been written about extensively and beaten to death. The team on paper is much better than the team on the ice. Turnover after turnover, poor defensive coverage, horrible decisions and other than the injured Kevin Shattenkirk, have provided almost no offensive production.
The Rangers seem to be as unorganized on the ice as they are in the front office. The small moves that the team has made—like recalling Vinni Lettieri, Peter Holland and Anthony DeAngelo, for example—haven’t been the game-changing moves the team needs.
Decisions still need to be made about whether they will be buyers or sellers as the NHL trade deadline approaches and the question of what to do with their soon-to-be unrestricted free agents is front-and-center.
Truth be told, this team is not just one or even two big trades from making an impact in the playoffs.
There is only one move left to make. The Rangers must move on from Vigneault. This topic has come up several times throughout the season, but with the playoff crunch here, general manager Jeff Gorton must do something drastic. As the saying goes, “you can’t replace the players, but you can replace the head coach”.
There are several good things that can come from a head coach change.
- The players can feel like they have a fresh start, which would be great for guys like Pavel Buchnevich and Brendan Smith.
- Vigneault has been known to give younger players a real hard time (just ask J.T Miller and Buchnevich). With both Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil playing with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, a new coach could bring some positive energy to these players if and when they are called up.
- The line combinations would finally get a chance to gel together. One of the biggest problems with Vigneault is that he is constantly changing the line combinations. The coach preaches chemistry, yet he breaks up that chemistry whenever things don’t go the team’s way.
With only 34 games left in the regular season, the Rangers can no longer play the wait-and-see game. A change needs to be made now, and it’s the perfect time to make such a bold move, with the NHL All-Star break arriving this weekend. It will give the team a chance to find out what their new coach expects and give the organization some breathing room before they hit the trade deadline head on.
Alain Vigneault has been the head coach of the Rangers for five seasons. He has taken the team to two Eastern Conference Championships and one Stanley Cup Final in 2014. It appears the team is no longer listening to his voice. It’s time for the Rangers to bring in a new one.