When the New York Rangers dismissed John Tortorella and hired the likes of Alain Vigneault, many analysts and pundits had the Blueshirts locked in to a top three spot in the newly-formed Metropolitan division.
However, as they are just past the 1/3 mark of the 2013-14 season, the Rangers find themselves missing consistency and playing some mediocre hockey at best. They are currently tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for third place in the division, and have a pivotal matchup awaiting them tonight when the Washington Capitals visit Madison Square Garden.
What many people forgot is that with Tortorella the Rangers molded their defense into a powerhouse. They blocked shots and just did everything right and we did not see them give up much on their side of the rink. They were considered one of the best defensive teams in hockey under the Tortorella regime. The only thing missing was their offense. Their powerplay under Torts was awful, and they won many tight games and also played a ton of overtime games, which we haven’t seen so far this year. Last night against the Devils was only their second OT game of the season.
Now, under Vigneault, we have seen some flashes of brilliance on the offensive side in games where they have scored four or five goals but for the most part the offensive attack has been non-existent besides players like Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Chris Kreider who have been producing on a daily basis.
The thing is though is that the Rangers have the pieces here to be a perennial playoff contender in the likes of Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan. They have the depth, but those players that were mentioned have not been producing at the level that they need to be.
On the defensive side of things, I have never seen a team give up so many odd-man rushes. Under Tortorella, odd-man breakouts were a rare occurrence but now they seem to be a game-after-game event.
The main excuse early in the season was that the team was still getting used to the system. Well, now it is December and the team has had plenty of time to adjust to AV’s style of play. However we are still seeing them play average hockey and aren’t winning on a daily basis as teams below them continue to pick up points and catch up to them in the standings.
In other words, the Rangers are extremely lucky to be where they are at the moment, and I am seriously starting to question whether Vigneault is the right man for the job or not.