Rangers continue to confound with roster decisions

A series of head-scratching decisions by GM Jeff Gorton, and Coach Alain Vigneault, are having a very negative effect on the New York Rangers. Some decisions have involved personnel, some involve scheduling , and some involve how the team is configured. In the preseason the team didn’t have any impressive games. While they shutout the Canadians on home ice, it may have been more the opponent, then the home team.

GM Decisions

General Manager, Jeff Gorton has done several things that have earned criticism. Let’s start with scheduling. For some reason Gorton approved a schedule that had the Rangers preseason games end on Tuesday, September 26. They COULD have played until October 1.

They chose to go 8 days without any games. How sharp have they looked because of that? Remember how poorly they played coming off the 5 day “bye-week”, last January? It has nothing do do with arena availability, since they could play road games. In recent years, the team bonding exercise the Rangers usually work into their preseason was done in the middle of it. Destinations like West Point have been chosen in the past, with 2 exhibition games played after the bonding part of the preseason.

With 10 home games, or 1/4 of their home schedule, in October, it was imperative to get off to a good start. Teams don’t make the playoffs in October but they can surely miss them with a poor start.

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AV and the Roster

The composition of the team falls on both Gorton and Vigneault. Gorton would have been wise to make a deal with Las Vegas to protect Oscar Lindberg, knowing full well he was trading Derek Stepan. Losing 2 out of 4 centers, and having no one ready to grab a role out of the farm system is mind boggling. When questioned about this he offered they would seek remedy in the trade, and free agent market.

They filled only the 4th line center role with David Desharnais. As the summer passed and the team arrived at training camp (still no trade for a center), first round pick Lias Andersson, and Filip Chytil were given opportunities. Now, both have skills and look like players to look forward to but, Chytil JUST turned 18 one month ago. Taking a look at Chytil’s success in the preseason, remember, he was playing against lineups that were approximately half NHL players and half prospects. He scored points on the power play only, and excelled in 3 on 3 situations in overtime.

Another thing to consider is, players are not allowed to do any serious weight training until they turn 16. So Chytil has 2 years of that under his belt, whereas players in their mid-twenties have 9 or 10 years of building their bodies under their belt. Getting hit by a Radko Gudas is a lot tougher, with that in mind.

Kampfer (Getty)

Then the organization failed to trade defenseman Nick Holden, after acquiring Anthony DeAngelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexi Bereglazov, and Neal Pionk. So, now there is a logjam that extends from the NHL level through the AHL level. Somehow journeyman defenseman Steve Kampfer has found his way onto the big club. Adding another unnecessary roadblock in front of Berezglazov and Pionk, and quite possibly DeAngelo. Note, DeAngelo is scratched tonight versus St. Louis.

Are they worried about waiving Kampfer, with so much depth at his position? It seems to me that Gorton is hoping to trade to get picks or prospects, counting on a rash of injuries to NHL defensemen. I had a lot of questions about DeAngelo when he was acquired. He has great skating, passing and shooting skills, and needs work defensively. But those offensive skills are so good, it’s worth letting him play every night, and coach him.

Larry Brooks wrote an article saying he looked “skittish” against Toronto. Who didn’t look skittish in a game that they gave up 8 goals? The next night, after the Canadiens game, Brooks wrote ” …the Rangers survived overwhelming 5-on-5 attempt numbers the wrong way through two periods (19 for and 39 against), many of which were racked against the Holden-Kampfer duo.” DeAngelo played all of 3:45 against Montreal. With that tandem struggling all night, he couldn’t have played more? Holden and Kampfer weren’t, ahem, skittish?

Beyond numbers, there are two other issues. Unnecessarily keeping an eighth defenseman, a journeyman, also eats into potential salary cap space that compounds through the season. Meaning, they would be 600k lighter if he was waived and sent to the minors (or claimed), but that figure would compound straight through the trade deadline. There is also a crying need for another forward, since Jesper Fast isn’t ready yet. Dressing 7 defensemen was ludicrous. And that’s all on AV.

Chytil-mania no more

The Filip Chytil “experiment” should never have happened, considering his age. Let him develop somewhere other than the NHL. Getting just over 7 minutes one game, then 5 minutes the next is absurd. To say he never got a chance would be a profound understatement. Keeping him here and “giving him a chance” was a colossal waste of time. It was a bad idea to begin with, and executed less than halfheartedly.

Did Vigneault elect to keep him, than play him so little? Was he forced on the coach by Gorton? Another issue early on is Desharnais on the power play over Hayes AND Vesey. Who are we trying to develop here? Both were signed to be offensive players here, why not allow them time on the man advantage over a guy that has no big offensive years in his entire career?
In the end, a lot of these things can be corrected. The Chytil fiasco doesn’t sound like it’s about to end with him being sent down to Hartford. For more on that click here. Gorton has to clear up the roster configuration, sooner rather than later. Getting an NHL center (Oscar Lindberg, perhaps?) here, and getting a few right handed forwards has to be on the to-do list.

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