Despite a 2-0 start to the season, it is evident that the New York Rangers are still a rebuilding club not ready for NHL primetime.
Following a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Rangers are staring at a four-game losing streak.
The constant questioning of what’s gone wrong is merely the top of an avalanche of problems that has begun crumbling down the massive frigid mountain named Rangerstown. The main culprit is not a coach, a player or the final score of a game, but merely a seven-letter word.
The toughest question that arises is everyone’s worst nightmare. Is the rebuild continuing?
You better believe it is.
The Rangers have been trying to get as far away from “the letter” as possible, but have just created a bigger problem than the admittance of the letter itself.
The expectation of winning games and potentially marking the postseason this year is, in essence, destroying all the hard work over the last year and a half.
It began in May with the signing of Vitali Kravtsov and then proceeded to increase with the trade for Jacob Trouba and the signing of Artemi Panarin. Add other signings like Adam Fox and Igor Shesterkin and bam, everyone sees a Rangers playoff game in the near (this season) future.
Everyone felt it the moment Panarin and Trouba stepped in the ice in the preseason. The excitement and energy that was missing for so long returned. Henrik Lundqvist looked great, Brady Skjei was flying around the ice and the rookies looked ready to take their place on Broadway.
Reality Overcame Perception
Opening night and a game in Ottawa provided glimpses of hope and optimism as the team won its first two contests. Mika Zibanejad scored four goals (eight points) and the rebuild was done, (oh) baby.
Well, so everyone thought. Then reality sunk in and knocked the fanbase’s perception into the boards.
The process began early as Kravtsov and Filip Chytil were sent to the AHL. The David Quinn has to be “crazy” scenario dove into overdrive almost immediately. Add to the strange lineups the coaching staff has been utilizing and the Monday Morning quarterback has not stopped.
JD, Jeff Gorton and David Quinn must address tough questions now, such as “Can Kravtsov and Chytil learn more in the AHL than playing for the Rangers in the NHL?” Does Brendan Smith belong on this team?
The problems are based on two sections, one of which can be addressed almost immediately with the other taking more time to fix.
The lineup needs to be revamped
Quick and simple, the Rangers coaching staff has lost its way.
- They have pushed aside the idea of the kids need to learn. They sent Kravtsov and Chytil to the AHL to gather more minutes and experience.
- Signed Micheal Haley and Greg McKegg for reasons that were unclear and against the idea of playing the kids.
- Ryan Strome took over the second line center situation which was another failure, Brett Howden has been inserted theirs with little success.
- Lias Andersson stuck on the fourth line, along with the struggles of Kaapo Kakko, which have yet to be seriously addressed.
Did I mention defenseman Brendan Smith dressing as a winger for all six games this year? Yes, the lineup is a mess.
The club needs to start over. Stop moving everyone around every game. It’s supposed to be about the youth movement, not the playoffs.
Here is what the lines could look like. Chytil should be called up soon as it is believed Kravtsov will need a few more weeks in the AHL.
Kreider- Zibanejad- Buchnevich
Yes, Nieves is a better all-around player than both McKegg and Haley. With Lemieux in the lineup, there is less need for the other two. Nieves could at least hold down the fort until the time comes when the organization believes Kravtsov is ready for the demands of playing for the Rangers.
Smith is a defenseman and that’s where he belongs or she should be moved to the AHL or traded.
The Defense is struggling with good reason
The defense is stuck in a messy situation.
It’s hard to win games when Jacob Trouba is the only reliable defenseman. Yet having the rookies on the blue line is essential not for this season, but also for the next three or four seasons.
Quinn needs to recognize the epic failure of using Smith as a forward and put him back in his defense position staring Tuesday.
People say that Quinn may not trust him in the top six defense pairings. If true, move him. Recall Ryan Lindgren or Yegor Rykov and use them on the blue line.
The team has lost four in a row currently with a so-called veteran lineup; it can’t get much worse now.
Trouba, Skjei, Staal, Fox, and Hajek are the five defensemen locked in. DeAngelo and Smith are the bubble guys the coaching staff needs to address immediately.
Better team defense will lead to fewer scoring chances against and lower scoring games. The tandem will have to continue to play strong until the team in front of them improves.
The theory of rebuilding has been based on playing the kids and let them learn how things work in the NHL. So what went wrong? How did the Rangers swerve off the road? Better yet, how do they recalculate to get back to where they need to be?
They just need to look back to last season. Coach the team, work with the kids (they have to be up with the team to do this) and rely on your veterans.
David Quinn wasn’t worried about the wins and losses but about how the team performed on the ice consistently. He has seemed to lost his way as the team has forgotten the fundamentals of hockey.
This is all correctable as long as the club is willing to stay the course that was set up previously.
Winning can be contagious, but the future of the team is much more important than is the success of this season.