When healthy, Derek Dorsett has been everything the Rangers hoped for
Like many parts of the 2013-2014 roster, the bottom-six forwards have struggled through long stretches of the season thus far. Part of that can be attributed to players being used out of place and in unusual situations, but the team hasn’t gotten consistent play out of many of its depth forwards for most of the year. That seems to be changing over the last few weeks, and has been as instrumental to the team’s mini turnaround as anything else.
Boyle will forever be a polarizing player amongst Ranger fans because he has hands of stone and doesn’t drive opponents through the boards with his massive size. You can’t really judge Boyle fairly until you accept those two facts of life, which many refuse to do. But Boyle is a very useful player in many other areas. Though this hasn’t been his finest year, Boyle is still being relied on as the team’s top defensive forward, plays well on the penalty kill, is the best faceoff man on the team and drives possession. He is guilty of being a passenger at times this season the same as nearly every player on the roster, but for the most part, Boyle has been use usual steady self. Still, scoring just one goal all year is pretty hard to do.
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The Rangers were able to salvage their franchise-record homestand with wins over Minnesota and Toronto, but things still need to change if the Blueshirts are going to turn their season around.
New York’s 27th-ranked offense has been carried by the likes of Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Benoit Pouliot over the last two weeks, while the team’s top players continue to struggle. Rick Nash hasn’t scored in any of his last six games, and has just one goal in his last nine. Brad Richards hasn’t scored in eight games and Derek Stepan has just three goals in his last 23 games. Not coincidentally, those cold streaks have coincided with the team’s worst stretch of the season.
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Alain Vigneault was hired to win a Stanley Cup. That’s not just a cliche that every coach says to endear himself to fans, it’s the truth of the matter. After John Tortorella followed up an Eastern Conference Finals appearance with a second round playoff exit last year, GM Glen Sather determined that a new head man was needed to push the Blueshirts over the top and capture hockey’s ultimate prize.
Vigneault, who came within a single game of winning the Cup in 2011, was viewed as the man that could get more out of the team’s offense to go with its trademark top goalie and stellar defense. But just six months after Sather made the coaching switch, his team is much further away from winning it all than when Vigneault arrived. Read more »
Ryan Callahan’s injury woes are concerning, but New York will still likely do everything it can to keep its captain
Quick note: Dave was at the game last night, so the goal breakdown will be done for the afternoon post.
The Rangers’ season is quickly spiraling out of control and it’s probably a matter of time before GM Glen Sather steps in and makes a major shakeup. But with so many pending free agents and so many players underperforming, it’s a certainty that the 2014-2015 version of the Blueshirts will look drastically different than the edition that stunk up the joint last night against Nashville. So let’s take a look at New York’s upcoming free agents and see who might still be around next year, and who could be gone.
Ryan Callahan - Yet another injury has clouded this situation. A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine life without Callahan, but his health is becoming increasingly concerning. New York’s doctors will have to evaluate Callahan’s physical condition, but assuming he’s in one piece, I still expect the Rangers to do everything they can to lock up their captain long-term. Some of the beat writers think Callahan would be very tempted to join the Sabres next summer to move closer to home, but though I’m sure Callahan loves Rochester, New York City isn’t all that far away and I can’t imagine Callahan joining a rebuilding team. If things really fall apart for the Blueshirts and there’s not much progress in negotiations, I could see Callahan being tempted by a contender. But it’s still most likely the Rangers will retain their captain, albeit at a very steep price. Remember, the Rangers paid RFAs Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Michael Sauer over Callahan in 2011 and gave him a lesser deal due to the resulting cap crunch. No. 24 swallowed that bitter pill then, but it’s unlikely New York will be getting a hometown discount this time around.
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It seems sacrilegious to call him out, but even Ryan Callahan must elevate his game
As is always the case when the Rangers are struggling, fans, players and the media alike are all searching for answers to the team’s woes. And though everything from bad puck luck to injuries has been a factor, coach Alain Vigneault hit the nail on the head yesterday when he put much of the blame for the team’s poor start on its underperforming core members.
“If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level, we need our top players to consistently play like top players,” Vigneault told Andrew Gross. “Not a period in, a period out. Not a game in, a game out. We need that core group, the leaders of this group, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis and on a game to game basis. Just look at our lineup, look at our core group and look at our key guys and there’s the answer.”
Vigneault couldn’t be more right in his assessment of the team 28 games into the year. Because as much as fans like to argue about what Michael Del Zotto might fetch in a trade or which youngster should play a handful of minutes a game in place of Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot, it’s highly unlikely that any such substitution would have a major impact on the team. Maybe J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Danny Kristo will re-join the Rangers this year and maybe not, but the Blueshirts certainly can’t count on any of the unproven prospects within the organization to arrive and turn the season around. The team has already gotten a surprise shot in the arm from Chris Kreider, and even that hasn’t been enough. Read more »
Despite all the recent trade rumors swirling around Michael Del Zotto, the young D-man may remain a Ranger beyond this year.
I’ll spare you the argument that Del Zotto is still very young for a defenseman at just 23 years old, because frankly I don’t buy that as an excuse for his erratic play any more either. But though Del Zotto hasn’t lived up to expectations, he is still pencilled in as a top-four defenseman in New York’s short- and long-term plans.
That matters because another key member of the top-four, Dan Girardi, is set to be an unrestricted free agent in July. And the way things are going, Girardi might not be back. Girardi has been better than Del Zotto this season, but not by much. He’s coming off a down year under John Tortorella, so Girardi’s struggles can’t be blamed solely on the coaching change. No, at 29 years old, it’s likely that we’ve already seen the best of Girardi, and quite possible that he’s begun his decline. Read more »
With apologies to Taylor Pyatt, the forward roster last night finally resembled the one Ranger fans were so excited about over the summer.
The lineup didn’t include J.T. Miller, but coach Alain Vigneault insisted yesterday that Miller would be back on the ice with the Blueshirts soon. But barring further injuries, the team’s top-six is clearly set, and Miller will likely be stuck with fourth-line minutes even when he does play.
In fact, Miller hasn’t played more than 9:14 in any of his last six games dating back to November 2, just after Carl Hagelin’s return. In the nine games before that, Miller had averaged 13:17, a pretty big number for a young player. But as Hagelin, Ryan Callahan, Dominic Moore and finally Rick Nash were reinserted into the lineup, Miller’s ice-time dipped lower and lower until he was finally sent to the press box. Read more »
That’s not really a fair title to Derek Dorsett, who could surely care less what Brandon Prust did in New York before Dorsett’s arrival. But fair or not, “Brandon Prust 2.0″ is how Dorsett was billed when he arrived in the Marian Gaborik blockbuster last spring, so Prust is the player Dorsett will forever be compared to in the eyes of Rangers fans.
Prust’s game has changed a bit over the last two seasons due to injuries, but at his best with the Rangers he was relentless on the forecheck, a willing combatant, a reliable penalty killer and one of New York’s most important energy guys.
Dorsett has settled in nicely this year and has filled an almost identical role. Like Prust, Dorsett has been a terrific forechecker, a dependable penalty killer, and a trusted player in his own end (just 38% of his shifts have started in the attack zone). And if fighting is your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that Dorsett has five majors this season, second in the league. Perhaps the greatest difference between the two is in the energy jolt they deliver to the lineup. This is an extremely subjective observation, but it seems that even though Dorsett goes all out every night, he hasn’t yet displayed the same penchant for shaking his team awake that Prust once did.
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Don’t expect Nail Yakupov to arrive on Broadway
As often happens in the Twitterverse and blogosphere, a pretty harmless tweet set off a frenzy among Rangers fans over the last 36 hours.
A few writers noted that Edmonton president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, GM Craig MacTavish and special adviser Mark Messier(!) were in attendance for New York’s 2-1 loss to the Ducks on Monday night. Rangers fans immediately began to wonder which Oilers might interest the Rangers. Larry Brooks fed the embers gasoline with a column debating if trading for Nail Yakupov or Ales Hemsky would appeal to Rangers GM Glen Sather. Stemming off Brooks’ post, the Edmonton Journal ran a series of articles about the possibility of a Yakupov to New York blockbuster and discussed possible packages that might interest the Oilers including the likes of Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto. And the rumormongers took it from there.
Sure, it’s probably pretty likely that Sather and other members of the Rangers brass have talked about how great it would be to have a young goal-scoring talent like Yakupov, especially with New York’s offense struggling. Sather may have even mentioned that to the Oilers contingent in attendance. But a deal is almost certainly not going to happen.
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Eventually some of Derek Stepan’s shots will find the back of the net
Despite the abominations Rangers fans witnessed earlier this season against San Jose and Anaheim, there have been plenty of reasons to expect a turnaround in the team’s fortunes. An extremely difficult early-season road schedule, several injuries to key players and an expected adjustment period to a new coach have all contributed to the team’s struggles. All of those things issues seem to be slowly righting themselves and as a result New York has won two of its last three games. But there’s another simple reason the team’s 4-7-0 record isn’t indicative of its performance the rest of the way: luck.
Sure, it sounds silly to think that luck can play such a major role in a professional sport where athletes are paid millions of dollars to use their top-notch skills to eliminate such variables, but luck is indeed as much a factor in the NHL as it is in your beer league game, when sometimes your team has 25 scoring chances in a game and still can’t put one by the opposing goaltender.
And any way you look at it, the Rangers have had absolutely miserable luck this season all over the ice. Well, all except one player – Brad Richards – who, ironically, felt like the team’s unluckiest player a year ago.
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