With the exception of a few depth signings, it appears Glen Sather will keep the Rangers roster mostly intact for the 2013-14 season. Rather than take a shot at Jarome Iginla, Derek Roy, or Daniel Alfredsson (all of whom signed one year deals), the organization has instead decided to keep Brad Richards around for at least one more season. Barring a trade, it looks as though AV will have to work with what he’s got.
Getting the Rangers back to being one of the best 5-on-5 hockey teams shouldn’t be an issue for this staff. Even if there hadn’t been a coaching change, the underlying numbers suggest even-strength goals scored should theoretically rebound. The Rangers after all were one of the better puck possession teams in the league last season. However, as we’ve learned since the ’05 lockout, solid 5-on-5 hockey can only get you so far.
Ultimately, Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Scott Arniel will have to reconfigure the power play and get the boys clicking at an acceptable rate if we want to go the distance.
This past week Alain sat down with the media at the Rangers practice facility and discussed his philosophy when it comes to constructing power play schemes. To paraphrase, AV believes in order to have a successful power play, you ultimately need a balance of left and right-handed shots, otherwise it is too easy for penalty killers to block shots and cover lanes.
Newell Brown, Alain’s power play coach in Vancouver, echoed those thoughts recently in the Vancouver Sun. “When you’re trying to run a power play with five left shots, which we were forced to do a lot this year, you’re really swimming upstream. Seventy-seven per cent of the power-play goals are scored with at least two right shots, so that tells you a lot right there.” Brown continued, “if you aren’t in position to take one-touch passes and move the puck quickly to shooters and shoot off the pass, you’re at a big disadvantage.”
This is something I talked about ad-nauseam the past several seasons and it’s nice to see some numbers back the theory. With that said, if you look at our roster, the problem isn’t exactly solved. As of this writing (Sunday evening), the Rangers have two right-handed forwards (Cally & Step) and two righty defensemen (Girardi and Stralman) with PP experience. Of the four, I’d say only Stepan is really capable at shooting off the pass, and even he is more of a setup guy.
This team doesn’t really possess the traits that made our coach successful in Vancouver. As far as Arniel is concerned, the Blue Jacket’s PP was abysmal on his watch. All of which leaves me a bit concerned about our PP. Will switching from an umbrella to an overload, the 1-3-1, the spread, or a combo really be the difference maker? Are different line combos the missing link? What changes can they make given our roster limitations?
In the end, my gut still says a trade will eventually have to be made if we want this PP to get where it needs to be to compete for the Cup.