Welcome to Blueshirt Banters' newest weekly feature, some afternoon Bantering Points to enjoy with your afternoon lunch. I figured that now would be as good a time as any to take the idea and focus it by coming up with some random thoughts and musings on the New York Rangers. I'll try to get these out for you guys to enjoy every Monday afternoon. Now onto the thoughts.
Last Friday the Rangers introduced Alain Vigneault as the 35th head coach in franchise history, and with it marks the end of one era and the beginning of another. That got me thinking about what John Tortorella brought to New York and the state of the team that Vigneault will inherit.
When Torts came to the Rangers in 2009 the team was at somewhat of a cross roads. They just got over the post-Jagr malaze and were really not a good team. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi weren't in their primes yet and neither were Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. While the Rangers could rest on Henrik Lundqvist, he still wasn't where he is now.
So the Rangers traded Scott Gomez, signed Marian Gaborik and set off into a bold, new world of John Tortorella hockey. A brand of hockey that, while not really pleasing to the eye, was able to get results from players that were fit specifically for what Torts wanted to do on the ice. Muck up the neutral zone, get in the way of every shot and play opportunistic offense and for the most part, it worked. Staal and Girardi became solid defenders, Callahan turned into a gritty two-way forward and was eventually named captain.
Fast forward four years and the Rangers wore out Tortorella's welcome. The roster didn't fit his coaching style and in the end it was his stubbornness and a refusal to adapt and use the talent on the roster to its strengths. So now Vigneault will come in, with his heavy use of zone start data and structured defensive minds, and use the players to their strengths instead of using them based on trust.
Now some musings and thoughts...
- Vigneault will reportedly use 4 assistant coaches; two on the bench, a goaltending coach and another coach in the suites. I personally love this set up, especially keeping Mike Sullivan on the staff to coach the defense which he has been very good at under Torts.
- That "coach in the suite" intrigues me, so does Sather's "We will be employing advanced stat tracking" quote. It's one thing to gather data and it's another to utilize it to improve the roster and on ice tactics. I think AV's gonna be very good at that.
- Speaking of the roster, I think it needs an overhaul. See how Toronto beat Boston? How Chicago did it? Speed and offensive depth with quick transitions through the neutral zone is how you win in the NHL today. Goodbye Ryane Clowe and your extra "e"s and hello Viktor Stalberg (or someone similar).
- While there is a lot to be said both for and against the Brad Richards decision, I do think this is Richards' last year on Broadway. He's gotta put up or shut up (and not get injured) and even if he does "put up", it's gonna take almost a miracle for the Rangers to keep Richards around past next season.
- Lundqvist is about to sign his last NHL contract, he's 31 now so it would be nice for him to win a Cup in a year or two.
- While not the "heir apparent" Mackenzie Skapski was a nice addition to the Rangers goaltending depth that desperately needed some more bulking up.
- Of all of the RFAs that the Rangers have to sign, I think Carl Hagelin should high of Slats' list to get done. Hagelin is gonna be as important to Vigneault's forechecking as he was Tortorella's.
- If reports are to be believed that the Rangers are shopping Clowe's rights it would be interesting to see what they could get for him. My thinking is a mid to late 2nd rounder or an early 3rd and a mid level prospect.
- Hopefully the Maple Leafs are stupid and don't re-sign Clarke MacArthur...dude is a great puck possessor and can score more than a goal or two. He's a solid 3rd line to fringe 2nd line forward for any team.
- One thing that hurt the Rangers was a lack of mobility on the back end and while John Moore helps that, and hoping that Michael Del Zotto finds some kind of defensive game, the Rangers should start looking to add some defensive depth though the UFA market is kind of thin there. Then again, Justin Falk does add some stability to the back end.
- I hope AV watched how Chris Kreider played with Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. Some have said that Torts "ruined" Kreider by not playing him or playing him very little. I don't necessarily agree because Kreider was admittedly terrible before the lockout ended in the AHL and still has to learn how to play defense in order to be really effective. That being said, giving Kreider about 65-70% O zone starts should really help his offensive game develop.
- Hey, why can't Christian Thomas crack the bottom six this year? He got his one game audition last year in February in Montreal and really didn't hurt the team. I'm all for giving him some more A time and then making him a call up around the Olympic break or so. I like Thomas and I think he could be a great depth addition for the Rangers.
- Speaking of some big prospects, Dylan McIlrath says his knee is healthy. Maybe now he can get on to learning how not to be a turnstile and an actual effective defenseman. Not holding my breath on that one, but go ahead, prove me wrong, Dylan.
- I love what the Rangers did at the Draft, three third round picks and they take three high upside, but long range prospects in Adam Tambellini, Pavel Buchnevich and Anthony Duclair. All three have very good offensive skill and should be ready to contribute in two to three years.
Well, that's a pretty good start for a weekly feature...what are your thoughts, comments, critiques, ideas guys?