The New York Rangers accomplished their goal at the trade deadline, so where does that leave them for the remainder of the regular season?
With that goal getting marked off the list, the Rangers now need to focus on small individual goals. The team currently doesn’t look like they are going to make the playoffs despite only sitting nine points out entering play Wednesday.
Playoffs shouldn’t be the goal for this new-look Rangers team. Sure, veterans like Mats Zuccarello, Marc Staal, and Henrik Lundqvist likely will view that as the goal moving forward and there is nothing wrong with that. Actually, that’s the type of attitude your veterans should be teaching to their young teammates, especially showing that losing is unacceptable.
One way to show that is to do what the Rangers did and sell off major pieces. The other way is to keep those veterans around who hold themselves to a higher standard.
So what exactly should the Rangers goals be from here on out? We already said that the playoffs are likely not an option, as that will go against any aspirations of the team continuing this rebuild. The Rangers need to remain a lottery pick at season’s end in order for them to continue to stockpile young assets that will be ready to contribute within the next two or three years. So the playoffs are definitely out of the picture.
The first goal that the Rangers should start focusing on is to break their losing streak. Entering play Wednesday night, the Rangers will be trying to break a season-long seven game losing streak where they have gone 0-6-1. With the team being very fragile right now following the trades, the best way for them to come together is to actually win a game … something they have not done since Feb. 11 entering Wednesday.
Whether or not the Rangers end their losing streak, they should focus on getting more young players into the lineup. Players like Alexandar Georgiev, Vinni Lettieri, Boo Nieves and possibly Lias Andersson and/or Filip Chytil should be given chances to see what they can do at the NHL level. However, Chytil and Andersson might not get the call until the last week of the season so the Rangers don’t burn the first year off of their contracts.
Either way, the team needs to continue to inject some young talent into the lineup. We should not be seeing the likes of Paul Carey, Cody McLeod or even David Desharnais in the final stretch of the season.
Obviously, the Rangers will try and stick to team goals, but there is one individual goal that the team should all rally around. Lundqvist is just seven wins away from reaching 30 wins. He has won 30 games in 11 of his 12 seasons in the NHL and he would be perfect in that stat if not for the lockout in 2012-13. With 19 games remaining prior to Wednesday night’s late contest against the Vancouver Canucks this isn’t a daunting task, the team only needs to go 7-12-0. The Rangers can get a lottery pick and get Lundqvist to the 30-win plateau in one fell swoop.
Finally, one thing the Rangers should focus on doing for the remainder of the season is to get back to playing a complete game. That might be difficult to do with a brand-new roster. However, once the likes of Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov get accustomed to playing on the biggest stage in the Big Apple, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Whether or not they are able to do this will tell us if head coach Alain Vigneault has actually lost the locker room. If he has, that allows the team to begin to look at a larger goal for the long term of the organization.
Should the Rangers accomplish these small goals, they can start to look at the long-term again. Deciding the fate of Vigneault, whether or not the trade more veterans, and what they do in the draft are goals that should not be the focus right now.
The road to recovery starts now, and by working on short-term goals they can start to believe in themselves as a team once again. Then, and only then, will we be blessed with quality Rangers hockey.