Who Should Be Held Accountable For The Rangers Struggles In 2017-18?
Accountability. We are all accountable for things in our lives, especially our jobs. Like most of you out there, I have bills to pay and finances to worry about. I have to make sure I perform well at my job or I will be let go and someone will be brought in to replace me. That’s just how life works. Right now there seems to be a major problem within the New York Rangers organization. That problem is the safety net that some of these top figures within the organization seem to have and that this team won’t get better and won’t make any noise unless changes are made. It’s about accountability and right now Alain Vigneault and Jeff Gorton need to be held accountable for this mess that they’ve made.
This season has been a disappointment, let’s not sugar coat it. The center depth has been a glaring weakness, injuries have hurt the Rangers, and players that left the organization were not adequately replaced. The Derek Stepan trade could be looked at as a disaster if Anthony DeAngelo and Lias Andersson don’t turn into the elite players the Rangers are hoping for. Ondrej Pavelec, while he’s had some bright spots, is no Antti Raanta. Jeff Gorton has not filled the necessary holes he has needed to fill. But with the roster the Rangers currently have they should still be playing better than they are right? Wrong. The coaching decisions have been atrocious.
The Pavel Buchnevich debacle is enough reason to get rid of Vigneault at this point, but there are plenty of other reason why the Rangers need a new bench boss. Brendan Smith should not be sitting in the press box for Steven Kampfer. No way, no how, no way. End of story. Brady Skjei playing third pair minutes on some nights is absolutely inexcusable, considering that he has arguably been the Rangers best defenseman this season. Nick Holden is not a first-pair defenseman. No way. David Desharnais should not be playing anywhere close to top-six forward minutes, even with the injuries.
So back to the main issue with all of this: accountability. Gorton, and especially Alain Vigneault seem to have very long leashes here. Vigneault has made questionable decisions for a while now, but after the disaster that was the Rangers/Senators series last spring, it really makes you wonder how Vigneault survived the summer with his job intact. The way the team was coached during that Senators series was absolutely atrocious. The Rangers should’ve had that series in the bag, but decisions like playing Holden and Marc Staal out there in crunch time absolutely killed the team. Not playing Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith in crunch time in that playoff series was one of the dumbest decisions I’ve seen made since I started watching hockey. Benching Pavel Buchnevich in the playoffs was absolutely inexcusable. He is our most gifted forward and Vigneault thought Tanner Glass would be a better fit. Gorton should’ve sent him packing for that terrible coaching during the Senators series.
How is Vigneault still here? How has Gorton let this go on? What will it take for Vigneault to go? Missing the playoffs? Would that do it? To cap this whole thing off, the Rangers showed absolutely no compete level against the Islanders and got blown out 7-2 on Madison Square Garden ice the other day. Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. The team gave up. The coach needs to find a way to get them going in these situations and the team completely gave up.
Gorton, on the other hand, needs to be held accountable for this mess also. Derek Stepan’s presence was not replaced in the lineup and the team may have thought Lias Andersson would be ready. But guess what? He’s not and they may have missed one of the best upcoming players in the world by passing on Casey Mittlestadt in the draft. The thought on Andersson was that he would be NHL ready and possibly take Stepan’s spot in the lineup. Guess what? Wrong decision. With their second pick of the first round this year the Rangers took Filip Chytil with players like Eeli Tolvanen and Klim Kostin still there. I still question the Chytil pick. Even though he may turn out to be a good player, those two taken after him might prove to be even better. The Rangers had two chances to take game breakers and didn’t take them.
Gorton may not have as many questionable decision as Vigneault, but he should still be feeling the heat. But neither of them does and here’s why. The Rangers will do everything they can to make the playoffs. They’ll somehow squeak in as the first or second wild card and then they’ll bow out in the second round if they even make it that far. Then next season the same thing will repeat. Just doing enough to get into the playoffs, give us all hope and then it all gets taken away. The way this team is going, with this so-called “rebuild on the fly,” just won’t work. But the owners of the Rangers won’t change a thing. This is a problem at the way top. The owners are fine with the Rangers just making a round or two and then bowing out because they’ll get their money. To turn the Rangers into true contenders, they would have to suffer for a few years of losing and no playoffs and they don’t wanna do that. No playoffs mean less money.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs can rebuild, the New York Rangers can. I’ve heard the argument that it’s New York and you can’t go full rebuild here. The Mets have been doing it for years and people still go to games. The Yankees even went through a pseudo-rebuild and now they’re one of the best in the league again. The Rangers, even in rebuild mode, would attract fans. Fans would see that they’re trying to build a contender in the vain of the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then after a few years of high draft picks and smart signings, the team would be equipped to battle in this war that is the eastern conference in just a few years. But they need to bottom out. They need to start the process.
But they won’t. Greed will hold them back and Gorton and Vigneault will be safe as long as this team makes the playoffs. Nothing will change as long as ownership cares more about getting into the playoffs rather than winning the Stanley Cup. And let me make one thing absolutely clear:
This team, as currently constructed, will not win the Stanley Cup.
But hey, as long as they make the playoffs and the owners get a little more money it’s all worth it right?