A 9-2 demolishing the next night at the hands of rookie Tomas Hertl and the San Jose Sharks, followed by a 6-0 blanking by the Anaheim Ducks then got the hockey world talking about the utter mess the New York Rangers looked to be. A 5-3 loss to the Blues put the Blueshirts at 1-4 to start the season, with four more games to come before they finally open up the home portion of their season on October 28th.
Are the Rangers truly a terrible team, or is it merely a confluence of things at play here?
Many expected that, in a more freewheeling style implemented by Alain Vigneault that more goals would be scored on the Rangers, but what has transpired through four games has been above and beyond, and not in a good way. It’s as though this team – the vast majority of which is carryover from the tight defensive style of John Tortorella – has completely forgotten how to play defense. And it’s not just from being unable to get back after jumping into offensive plays, there’s just missed assignments and coverage in the defensive zone.
It was also anticipated that goals would come pouring in with the team less shackled. Not yet. In five games there’s been a total of nine goals for, a major problem when the team’s given up 25. With Rick Nash now placed on IR with what is a suspected concussion, goals could become far more scant, should things continue in the current direction.
There is a new system to be learned, so yes, an adjustment period is expected. Perhaps the focus in camp should have been on that, rather than keeping so many in camp when, in reality, a majority of the roster spots had all but certain occupants. Ryan Callahan(who returned in the second game) and Carl Hagelin (who remains out through the first 10 games of the season) being able to skate, but not take contact, and the absence of Derek Stepan while he hammered out a new contract didn’t help matters either.
I still don’t get the logic behind schlepping the Rangers out west to continue training camp and do their team bonding, fully aware of the 9-game road trip (with 4 games out west) to begin the season. It’s not as though they stayed out there once preseason was over. They came back to New York, then flew back out to Phoenix to begin the season. There’s plenty of teams locally they could have the played to get their preseason games in, and they could have headed to West Point (as the Pittsburgh Penguins did) or Lake Placid (as the Philadelphia Flyers did). Not to knock charitable endeavors, but one has to wonder if the trip (and with it, the preseason schedule) was concocted simply so the Rangers could participate in the golf tournament.
We can all grumble and grouse and scream about the decisions management have made, but it isn’t going to change what has happened already. The Rangers finally got to practice at their home facility in Westchester, NY Monday as their road trip continues Wednesday night against the Capitals in Washington, DC. Changes were already being put in motion as the team placed Arron Asham and Martin Biron on waivers as the team hit the ice at noon.
Biron, 36, was put in a somewhat unexpected position of fighting to retain the job of being Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy when Johan Hedberg was invited to training camp on a PTO. Hedberg chose to be released from his tryout deal when it appeared he would not get much, if any, playing time in preseason games. Biron wound up keeping his spot, as Cam Talbot was assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. In Biron’s two regular season appearances, he surrendered 9 goals on 38 shots, for a 7.61 GAA and .763 SV%, enough to essentially end his time with the Rangers and possibly his playing career. In post-practice comments to the media, he’s not ruled out the option of retiring should he clear waivers and be assigned to the AHL. It’s expected that 26-year-old Talbot, who had a solid showing in camp, will be the one to get first shot at the backup job.
As for Asham, he’s already been through this once this season, placed on waivers back in July with no takers. Should he once again go unclaimed, he’ll be sent to the AHL. The move, coupled with Nash’s placement on IR, gives the Rangers the flexibility to recall 2 players from the AHL. Though there’s been no official announcement, J.T.Miller’s name is appearing on the roster at the Rangers’ web site, so it seems he’s getting the call.
Vigneault is right in saying it’s a “performance-based business.” Biron and Asham might not have performed up to expectations, but neither has the vast majority of the team up to this point, including the coach. Up next are three Metropolitain Division rivals – the Capitals, Devils and Flyers – all with sub .500 records, so there are ample opportunities to right the ship a bit and pick up points before the home opener.
About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927