Since the November 22nd, the Rangers have gone 3-6-4, winning an abysmal 23% of their games. No question, it’s been a horrible month, even for a team that long ago admitted that it is in rebuilding mode. Nevermind for a team whose head coach still has hopes for the playoffs.
Watching New York face the Flyers last evening (a game the Rangers lost 3-2 in a shootout), one has to think that the playoffs are out of reach. Although the team has some talent up front, it is missing the grit really needed to make this the tough team to play against that Head Coach David Quinn is looking for (hardly a hit occurs as the team is attempting to divest their opponents of the puck or race up the ice). Plus, although the first period of play usually excites the fan base, the team never looks as good during the next 40 plus minutes.
Yes, it is true that this is a young team and they need to learn how to play the pro game. But it seems to me that it is more than that–there just is not the right mix of personnel donning the Ranger blue. Not yet, anyway. Some lunch-pail young guys have to join the likes of Filip Chytil—and they need to be drafted as such. The problem is the forwards that have been drafted by the team and brought up from the AHL were not drafted as lunch-pail players—they are players that the team hoped would develop as top six forwards and have not (again, maybe yet). Steven Fogarty, Boo Nieves, Tim Gettinger—they were never meant to be rough and tumble players.
A concerted effort needs to be made to find young players who fit this mold–both in the draft and at the trade deadline. Now that the Rangers have stopped trading away their first and second round picks, they have more flexibility in who to draft in the second through fourth rounds, where grit should be a top priority. And even in the first round—would getting a Tom Wilson be such a terrible thing for the Blueshirts?
As far as the trade deadline goes, I used to think that keeping one or two of the experienced older forwards was a good idea, no matter what. After the last month of play though, I think that all the older players, except Lundqvist, should be available for trade. If the team can get value, both on offense and on D, the trigger can be pulled.
When the players obtained for the likes of Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes are added to those gritty players drafted by the Blueshirts over the next few years, the team will look very different. Chytil, Howden, and Andersson will be used in a more effective manner and will find more ice on which to ply their skills.
The quicker that can be done, the closer New York will be to their next playoff appearance.