Last July, the New York Rangers made the move general manager Glen Sather believed would put his club over the top. By offloading some of the organization’s depth, Sather was able to bring in another offensive weapon, Rick Nash.
And considering scoring goals was the team’s only true shortcoming in 2011-12, the Rangers were tipped by fans and pundits alike to hoist the Cup in 2012-13.
But the Rangers struggled early in the lockout-shortened season and eventually traded their primary offensive source over the previous three seasons, Marian Gaborik, to Columbus to replace some of the depth lost in the Nash trade, leaving the club with yet again just one offensive threat.
Heading into 2013-14 the Rangers were forced to answer the question that’s been popping up ever since Jaromir Jagr departed for Russia in the summer of 2008: who’s going to score the goals?
Obviously Nash was always going to be the go-to guy for offensive production, but he’s one player. Derek Stepan had a banner year in 2012-13, leading the team in points, but for a good portion of the season, Stepan played with Nash.
Goals were also to be expected from captain Ryan Callahan when he returned from injury, but the 28-year-old cannot be relied upon for steady production and game-breaking ability.
So, heading into the season, with a healthy Nash, there was concern over the team’s offensive firepower. But now with him out of the lineup, the Rangers are going through an offensive crisis.
In the Blueshirts’ third game in San Jose—when they were downed 9-2 in embarrassing fashion—Nash took a high elbow to the head and was soon thereafter diagnosed with a concussion and sent back to New York to rest.
Nash hasn’t skated since, and as early as Tuesday morning, there’s “nothing new” to report.
That’s bad news for the Rangers, considering they’re last in the league in terms of goals-for (15) and all.
Before Saturday’s game in Detroit, the Rangers had just two active forwards with goals this season; Brad Richards with five and Derek Dorsett with one. The forwards’ overall embarrassing lack of production was the main reason the team was able to only muster-up six goals in the first five games without Nash.
Luckily Saturday night Benoit Pouliot, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard were all able to break through and score their first goals of the season and lead the Rangers to victory in what was a must-win, if there was ever to be one this early in the season.
But it’s clear the Rangers’ forwards cannot score even semi-regularly. And with no end in sight to Nash’s injury, the organization is in a tough spot.
Do they go desperate and sign or trade for an offensive sparkplug? Or do they ride it out and allow some of the younger players the opportunity to gather valuable experience?
The truth is the Rangers don’t have the assets or cap space to bring in a player who can make the difference they desperately need on offense, so any option at this point—Vinny Prospal, for example—would be a gesture of extreme desperation.
Additionally, making a big trade—and potentially moving out younger, valuable assets—would seriously jeopardize an organization that could very well be a lottery team forced to rebuild come the spring. The Rangers are in a delicate position right now, and going for broke just to possibly make the playoffs as a bottom seed would be devastating to the club’s short- and long-term future.
Therefore, the Rangers don’t have many options. Alain Vigneualt needs to take a good, hard look at his team and configure the best possible combinations in order to squeeze as much offense out of the group as he can, because this is not an overly talented team, as we all already know.
But it’s going to be a long, boring ride by the look of it. If you didn’t enjoy watching the low-scoring Rangers of the past five years, you’re going to find it even harder to watch this team if Nash is out long-term.
Fortunately, a good portion of the group is accustomed to playing in 1-0 and 2-1 games, which is good, because those are the types of games they’ll be playing in for the foreseeable future.