New York Rangers: Ten thoughts going into January

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 02: The New York Rangers celebrate after defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Rangers are right in the thick of the Metropolitan division playoff race after 38 games. The team has found a way to win without any real consistency, here are some thoughts on the team going forward.

The team strategy of put warm bodies in front of Henrik Lundqvist and see if he can drag you to the playoffs is in full swing. This is one of the least impressive Rangers teams in a long time, the defense is outright terrible and the offense comes in spurts. It is too late to fix the team in a meaningful way without having to give up an arm and a leg.

The List

Alain Vigneualt is 12th all time in wins by an NHL coach is an impressive mark. He’s one of the Rangers most successful head coach’s in franchise history in terms of regular season success. However, his tenure with the R fix a team that was constructed poorly.angers will probably come to an end after blowing two golden opportunities to win a Stanley Cup. 

The Rangers need to find a way to keep Pavel Buchnevich on the ice as much as humanly possible. The young forward is arguably the best winger on the team with the injury to Chris Kreider. Without Kreider in the lineup, Buchnevich will need to step up considerably and try to make up that lost production.

I’m not ready to say the Derek Stepan trade was a failure. Lias Andersson has thoroughly impressed in the World Junior Championships and deserves some leeway. He is honing his craft in one of the best leagues in the entire world and will be ready soon. Andersson will eventually make it to Madison Square Garden as a Ranger and when that happens, the trade will no longer be a “failure.”

The Rangers are lucky poor talent evaluation is not a crime, if it were their coach would be in jail. Filip Chytil looks like the real deal and is outright dominating in the World Juniors. He got sent to Hartford after less than 13 minutes of ice time in two NHL games. Chytil should be the Rangers third line center right now, but he’s making do in the AHL. Chytil will almost definitely be on the opening night roster next season.

Bargain bin free agency signings have a unique way of paying off for the Rangers. Michael Grabner is one of the team’s best free agency moves ever. The winger is leading the team in goals for the second straight season. His absurd shooting percentage from last season hasn’t dipped yet, he continues to find the back of the net in improbable ways. The Rangers should see if any team’s have interest in him at the deadline, he’d be a good rental.

If the Rangers are forced to only pick one of J.T Miller and Kevin Hayes the choice is clear. Hayes has taken a large amount of defensive zone starts and had to learn on the fly. Turning Hayes from a sheltered player to a dependable one was a stroke of genius. The gamble of depending on him after moving Stepan seems to have paid off and it’s going to get him paid.

The shootout was first implemented 13 years ago and is no longer worth the headache. The usefulness of the skills competition has passed, it’s more frustrating than anything else. I would have preferred the game to just end in a tie both times the Rangers went to a shootout this week. Going back to the old model of playing just an overtime period and letting the game end in a tie is a better way to go in terms of standings.

Speaking of the shootout, Rick Nash and Buchnevich need to be in the team’s first five choices. Selecting Kevin Shattenkirk and David Desharnais for the shootout does not make a whole lot of sense. So is selecting to shoot first when they are the home team. The Rangers should always select to shoot second, it puts the pressure on the other team.

The Winter Classic is one of the most fun parts about regular season hockey. Nearly 50,000 people will brave the elements on a New Year’s day where the high temperature will be just 19 degrees. The Rangers are undefeated outside and will hopefully continue that trend, or 19 degrees will seem infinitely colder.