Shake-Up Coming in the Big Apple?
With the Rangers dropping four games at home in the wake of poor defense and inconsistent offense, heads are starting to turn towards GM Glen Sather. Many considered Head Coach Alain Vingeault’s comments on Wednesday to be a subtle shot across the bow, when he claimed “I have an idea of how I would like it to play, not quite sure we have the personnel to play the type of game I would like to play.” For many players in the system, there has been a revolving door in the lineup. Kreider finally earned a permanent spot after being sent down and coming back up again, and J.T. Miller has been playing hard and finishing checks, but for now he’s back in Hartford (for the third time this season after cracking the opening night roster out of camp).The Rangers Press Box has been home to a number of healthy scratches this season, including Taylor Pyatt, Benoit Pouliot, Justin Falk, and perhaps most notably, Michael Del Zotto. Along with the fact that most line combinations haven’t lasted more than a period so far this year, and it seems clear that the Rangers have done about as much shaking as the current roster will allow. So what can be done to help improve the Blueshirts?
Moving Del Zotto
There has been much speculation about the potential trading of Del Zotto, who was once considered to be an untouchable prospect who would blossom into Leetch-like talent. But he has failed to produce, even under the tutelage of Vigneault, and his defensive abilities have left much to be desired for several years now. According to the Ottawa Sun, Sather set the price for Del Zotto at a Top Four Defenseman, and while the Senators GM remains interested, they were unable to reach a deal. The appearance of Dylan McIlrath might loosen alter Sather’s strategy, however. If McIlrath can play well enough to secure a more permanent roster spot, Sather might be willing to look at propositions involving forward talent, not just blueliners. McIlrath is still far from a lock though. He will be watched closely, and Sather may opt not to move Del Zotto until he knows what he has for defensive depth that is NHL ready. Sather has already missed the window for getting maximum return for Del Zotto. The smart move now is to wait and see if the Rangers can replace him with in-house talent before dangling him for a defenseman.
Give J.T. Miller a Spot
J.T. Miller may not have put up a lot of points, but he was still a factor during his 17 NHL games this year. Miller routinely finished checks, fought hard to keep possession, made good passing decisions, and was one of the better forecheckers on the team. And yet, much like Kreider before him, he seems to spend more time on the bus between New York and Hartford than he does at either destination. The reason for his repeated demotion is to get him more ice time, but for a string of six games in late october, Miller was getting 13-14 minutes a game. He played hard and well during that time, despite only having one point and a plus/minus of zero during that time, but he proved he could handle the minutes at the NHL level, and it’s not as though other third and fourth line players are racking up goals. Miller is a hard worker who just needs some NHL experience, and there’s only one way to get it.
Scratching John Moore
When Del Zotto was playing poor defense, the Rangers sat him to voice their displeasure. But now, John Moore is the one who seems to be getting beaten regularly in his own zone. Moore is a victim of trying to play the puck instead of the man, but he doesn’t have the control and stick skills that McDonagh does. He needs to start taking the body more, but more immediately, he needs to get his legs back so that when he does get caught off balance he is able to recover and get back in the play before the lamp is lit behind him. Vigneault is certainly not averse to benching players for defensive lapses, and Moore won’t escape his scrutiny for much longer.
Grow From Within
With several prospects in the system, we may see more than just McIlrath getting a shot this season. Danny Kristo was acquired earlier this summer, and Oscar Lindberg continues to be one of the more talked about youngsters in the Rangers system. Whether they are ready for their turn at MSG remains to be seen, but the Rangers are barely treading water, and if at the end of the season they are on the outside looking in, many will turn to this homestand as the turning point in the season where the Rangers either proved they were a playoff team, or dug a hole that was too deep to climb out of.
Whatever he decides, now the Lundqvist is locked down tight, Glen Sather has plenty of other things to keep him busy.