The Rangers website tweeted today that the Rangers staff is giving Dan Girardi the day off of practice because swelling has happened again in his cracked kneecap. Why does coach Alain Vigneault feel he has to play an injured Girardi over putting Dylan McIlrath in the lineup and getting him more experience. McIlrath won't take Girardi's spot in the lineup but he would be solid on the 3rd pairing as he has shown so far this season. With Dan Boyle playing better, he should move up to a 2nd pairing with Marc Staal and put Kevin Klein with Captain Ryan McDonagh. A 3rd pairing of McIlrath and Keith Yandle would be a mix of offense and defense and see if it would be worth pursuing this summer with both being free agents this summer.
Earlier in the year, the Rangers power play was pathetic. Coach Vigneault wasn't using either of his two defensemen that were brought in to be pointmen and quarterbacks of the powerplay in first Dan Boyle or Keith Yandle. Instead he was using pretty much anyone else but them. I understand that there is alot of lockerroom politics that leads to alot of coaching decisions, but if the General Manager brings in players that specialize in certain roles, you would think that both the G.M. and coach want them used in that role. Since the coach has utilized both Boyle and Yandle on the powerplay, the Rangers now have one of the best powerplays in the NHL. Now if the coach would just sit a player who is injured and has already admitted in interviews a few weeks back before he was sat out that with his knee injury he just wasn't able to play or move his normal way. Why the heck are they pushing this player? Has this coach not learned from the playoffs last season that an injured player can only do so much and he just might catch "lightning in a bottle" with a healthy and hungry replacement trying to prove he belongs in the lineup?
This years Rangers team is a middle of the road team that should make the playoffs with most of the Eastern teams not playing well either. Coach Vigneault has stated since he came to the Rangers that he would like to see at least 3 new faces in the lockerroom as to keep the team hungry for the ultimate goal. This season the Rangers G.M. has brought him in Emerson Etem, Antii Raanta, and promoted Oscar Lindberg from the AHL Wolfpack. Added to that is Dylan McILrath who is getting time and experience this season. It is expected that General Manager Jeff Gorton is working the phones, but will he be buying or selling? On Dec. 31st , the Rangers signed last years 2nd rounder (41st overall) Ryan Gropp to a pro contract with a cap hit of $839,167 per for 3 years that actually starts this season per the GENERALFANAGER.com.
It amazes many in the Rangers world that so many NHL professional media sites show the Rangers as one of the worst teams when it comes to prospects for many years now. Don't get me wrong, as someone who has followed the Rangers since the mid-seventies, I have seen the Rangers farm system empty for many of those years. When the Rangers brought in Gordie Clarke, that all changed. The Rangers have traded many of their top picks over the last few years to bring in players Rick Nash, Martin St.Louis, and Keith Yandle, but during those years have still picked up some solid prospects. Just this season, the Rangers had their 5 1st round picks play in the same game in Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Dyaln McIlrath, and Brady Skjei. Add in Lundqvist, Stepan, Fast, Zuccarello, Girardi, McDonagh, Lindberg, and Hayes that all played their first NHL game as a Ranger whether it was from draft, unsigned amateurs that chose the Rangers, or prospect trades. That's 14 players off of the current roster, not bad at all. With all that success the Rangers have had with these homegrown players over the last few years, the Rangers still have solid prospects waiting for their chance for a shot for a regular spot in the lineup. The player most of the NHL is excited to see is Russian Pavel Buchnevich who most likely will come over for next season. Brady Skjei will also be ready and in the plans for next season. Those two are already 2 of the 3 players that the coach wants to add to the lockerroom. any of these next few prospects could be added to the roster and be ready to produce in Adam Tambellini(in AHL this season), Ryan Gropp(already signed contract playing Jr's), Ryan Graves(in AHL this season), or goalies Mackenzie Skapski(in AHL this year) or Magnus Hellberg(in AHL this year).
The Rangers are already a young team and the "core players" are even younger except for top level goalie Henrik Lundqvistbeing the old man of the core at 33. The Rangers will get rid of their two oldest players in Dan Boyle who is 39 and Dominic Moore who is 35. Leaders of the core are 31 years old in Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, and Rick Nash. The Rangers will be a very productive team for many years even if they stay within the organization to replace players that go out of contract this coming summer. The Rangers have done a great jon of competing for the STanley Cup the last 4 years while still reloading the system for the future!
Sometimes a General Manager will use his players to get better players and it seems that Jeff Gorton is taking his time in figuring out what this team needs to get back to a top level team. Maybe it's better to take one step back to move two steps forward. He started with signing Ryan Gropp and seems to be wiling to use up a year of his contract this year which most G.M.'s don't do. This definitely could be a signal of big things to come!