The Rangers Are Lacking in a Key Area
Many fans blame the New York Rangers struggles on a lack of talent. When a team has pieces worth selling, it’s hard to say they lack talent. However, they are lacking in a key spot, leadership.
In the past three years, the team has lost their captain (Ryan Callahan) and three alternates (Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, and Dan Girardi). In trying to retool and get younger, the team has sacrificed heavy leadership players. If they decide to sell at the deadline, which seems more and more likely, at least one more is likely to go in the person of Rick Nash.
While many desired the buyouts of Richards and Girardi, the effect of their lost leadership is being felt this year. The trade of Stepan paved the way for Mika Zibanejad to be the team’s number one center, yet the void Stepan left as a team leader is apparent.
— Fitz (@FitzGSN_) January 13, 2018
I get it Henrik Lundqvist, for all intents and purposes, is the leader of the team. Quite honestly he has been for a very long time now. However, at one point, he had a supporting cast that also had this fire. It cannot come down to the goaltender, who was supposed to have the night off, coming into a game and bring passion and fire.
Selling at the deadline is what every Rangers fan seems to want. Selling makes sense, and depending on how it is done, can actually give Henrik one more chance at a Stanley Cup. Yet, currently, the Rangers don’t have the leadership needed to be a dangerous team. The Blueshirts aren’t suffering from a lack of talent, rather it’s because there is no player, other than Lundqvist, that will come in after a loss and make an impact on the next game.
If, and when, the team begins to sell, youth and talent should be the main focus. Once “rentals” (Nash, Grabner, Holden) are dealt, players like Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh, and JT Miller will become the focus of trade talks. That is talent, and in the cases of Zuccarello and McDonagh, leaders, gone. The team needs a leader to help mold young talents like Anthony DeAngelo, Vinni Lettieri, Filip Chytil, and Lias Andersson for the future.
Talent vs System
Many fans believe that it is the talent level that is a detriment to the team. In reality, it comes down to a team playing as a unit. Look at the Vegas Golden Knights for instance. They were seen as an inferior team coming into this season talent wise. Now they are a top team. Even the worst NHL player has talent. In order for a team to have success, there needs to be a balance of young talent, veteran leadership and a team playing together; following the system put in place by their coach. Either the Rangers are not following their coach’s system or Alain Vigneault’s system is bad. Whichever it is, there is missing leadership via players not making in-game adjustments or coaches not adjusting their game plan.
It is not about talent, the Rangers succeed by having talent throughout multiple lines. What they need is to build around youth with veteran leadership. Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs, a talented team up and down the roster. Yet they have players like Matt Martin, Ron Hainsey, and former Rangers center Dominic Moore. It may be time to tear it down and build it back up. The only way to do this correctly is by making sure there are leaders on the roster. The Rangers don’t lack talent, they lack leadership.