When Alain Vigneault was introduced as the New York Rangers newest head coach back in June, he talked about wanting to play an offensive style of hockey. At that point there was a sense of optimism because of Vigneault's track record, and because the Rangers were a very defensive-minded team under John Tortorella. Or at least it appeared that way.
The Rangers have played 33 games this season, and they have the league's second-worst offense. After a horrendous loss 4-1 on Tuesday Dec. 10 against the Nashville Predators, Vigneault addressed the media about his concerns with the current roster:
The 2013-14 NHL season is almost at the midpoint, and Vigneault is justified in complaining about the Rangers' roster because he has not been given a chance to do his job.
Vigneault was successful in Vancouver because he had skilled offensive players on his roster. Alex Edler, Ryan Kesler and the Sedin twins all are quality dynamic offensive players. The Canucks also had a solid secondary cast that helped carry the weight when the top stars had an off night.
In New York, the marquee is rather empty. Rick Nash is the only major offensive star, as Brad Richards is in decline. Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider have promise when it comes to the Department of Offense, but the talent pool becomes shallow after that.
|Rangers Offense Thus Far|
|Goals Per Game||2.18||28th|
When Tortorella replaced Tom Renney, he took over a roster devoid of major talent and systematically was given a chance to add players who he felt could help the team. He also nurtured some players who were able to have success in his system. These players include Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards.
Torts also got his way at the trade deadline last year when Marian Gaborik was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore. The trade for Ryane Clowe was also another move that added a Torts-like player to the roster.
Back in the present, Vigneault inherited a majority of the 2012-13 Rangers roster, and because of cap constraints the Blueshirts couldn't make any major additions to the roster this past summer. It makes little sense, because the Rangers' poor offense was one of the reasons why Tortorella was fired.
The Rangers had a poor start to the 2013-14 season, but the team's lack of health was a fair excuse used. Missing Rick Nash was an excuse for poor goal-scoring numbers, but the team's ability to score is still lowly even with him in the lineup.
It is fair to say that there was a slight chance that Vigneault's style of hockey could make this team successful, but 40 percent of the season is enough of a sample size to suggest that a personnel change is needed.
The Rangers have a number of players who are free agents at the end of this season; for that reason it is fair to assume that there will be a reshaping of the roster this offseason. Even though the club has current needs, the number of pending free agents could make the Rangers hesitate to improve their roster now.
The Blueshirts need to score goals to win games. It is a simple concept, but one that needs to be stated. Henrik Lundqvist's recent play hasn't helped matters much, but the Blueshirts are still having problems winning even when he is at the top of his game.
2.18 goals per game is pathetic considering the payroll and assets at the Blueshirts' disposal. That is one of the reasons why Vigneault made a statement. He came to New York and signed a five-year deal because he felt that he could make a difference.
To put things in context, Vigneault's ideal system is like an Enzo Ferrari. It is fast, high octane and full of power. To achieve peak performance, it requires proper gasoline. Right now, Vigneault's Enzo is running on regular gas because that is what Sather has given him.
The Rangers have a coach with a proven track record who is committed to this team. In all fairness, his boss should reward him by giving him some players he can work with, because his predecessor was given that same luxury.
There is still a lot of time left in the season, but the 15-17-1 Rangers could continue their downward spiral if the roster continues to remain status quo.