Rangers need Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck to be better

The New York Rangers will need a whole lot more from Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin if they hope to surpass their run to the Eastern Conference Final last season.

After the Rangers dropped a 3-1 decision to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, head coach Gerard Gallant was asked about changing his lines again. In particular, moving Jimmy Vesey up to the second line and dropping Vitali Kravtsov down.

“I’ve talked about our second line all year long playing harder defensively and not giving up the odd man rushes,” Gallant stated. “It continues to happen so I have to put somebody over there that’s a little more (defensive). It’s not [Kravtsov’s] fault. He’s part of the line but [Panarin and Trocheck] have to better than what they are.

“They create offense but we’re not going to beat good teams if they continue with a chance for them, a chance for us. Two for them and one for us.”

A pretty scathing criticism of two key Blueshirts to say the least.

Gallant wants Trocheck and Panarin to be better

new york rangers
Jan 12, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck (16) celebrates with New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) after an overtime win against the Dallas Stars at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

A quick look at the New York Rangers giveaways this season has Panarin with 49 (ranks 1st on the team) and Trocheck with 37 (ranks 4th).

“They better get better. We need a lot more defensively,” Gallant exclaimed. “They’re our top players and they could’ve scored three or four (against Boston), but they could’ve given up four or five just as easy. That’s not what coaches want.”

There’s no doubt that both players are offensively gifted, but there’s something missing. Call it a lack of cohesion or chemistry if you like, as many were concerned when the decision was made to let Ryan Strome walk in the summer to sign Trocheck.

Simply put, when these two are on the ice they don’t always seem in sync. Panarin is an east-west player that hates to dump in the puck. Trocheck is a north-south player that made a name being a good forechecker. These two style clashes tend to see more chances going the other way than any coach would be comfortable seeing.

That’s why Gallant tried Filip Chytil as Panarin’s center for a while. It may be time to try that again.

The reality is that what the Rangers needed to happen this season was for Chris Kreider to be able to make a successful switch to right wing. That would’ve bumped up Panarin to playing with Mika Zibanejad, a center that compliments his game. Another added bonus would’ve been more ice time for Alexis Lafreniere earlier in the season.

While it may be too late for this move now, swapping Kreider and Panarin might make more sense for the rest of this season. Depending on what the Rangers do at the trade deadline, Kaapo Kakko could move down to play with the second line and whoever the Rangers bring in can be placed at the top.

I mean, if the Rangers are going to spend assets on acquiring a star like Patrick Kane, why wouldn’t you play him with your very best players?

Regardless, in the long run, the Blueshirts need both of these players to elevate their game. The organization is committed to Panarin for three more seasons at $11.6M AAV with a full no-move clause. They signed Trochek this past summer for seven years at $5.62M AAV with a full no-move until 2025-26.

Financially alone, the Rangers need them to better or otherwise those will become expensive salary cap handcuffs.

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