Someone needs to “throw a stick of dynamite” in that Rangers locker room

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The salary cap has changed many things in the NHL. One of the most underrated effects it has had on General Managers is it has severely curtailed their ability to make trades.

Trades are a tool in a GM’s toolbox. Trades also get people talking and generate interest in the sport, especially if high profile players are involved. There are very obvious reasons for trades (positional needs, contract issues, player/coach dissatisfaction) and sometimes a GM just wants to shake things up. Years ago they would use the term, “throwing a stick of dynamite in the locker room.”

Historical NYR Shakeups

In 2005 the NHL initiated the salary cap era. Previous to that, “shakeup” trades would happen regularly. In 1993, Mike Keenan’s Rangers got off to a horrendous start, meanwhile 32 year old Blackhawks right wing Steve Larmer was demanding a trade and refusing to re-sign with Chicago. So then Rangers GM, Neil Smith, shook up his floundering team by making a 3 team trade in which he acquired Larmer and hard to play against, Nick Kypreos (plus a pick and prospect) for James Patrick and Darren Turcotte. Both of those players were deemed “too soft” by Keenan at the time. That trade jump started the Rangers season and turned it around completely. Leading to a President’s Trophy and a Stanley Cup.

Another example of this type of trade occurred on November 8th of 1975. The Rangers dealt defense-man Brad Park, Joe Zanussi, and center Jean Ratelle to Boston for center Phil Esposito and defense-man Carol Vadnais. If you look at that trade it was strictly center and defenseman for different center and different defenseman. A culture shock to the teams involved. A message sent to all of the players NOT involved in the deal: You could be next.

Flash Forward

Now here in 2017, the New York Rangers are off to a dreadful start, 2-6-2, good for last in the Metropolitan division. Their play has been sloppy, listless, disjointed, and uninspired. The forwards aren’t scoring, the defensemen aren’t defending, and the goalies are giving up a weak goal every game.

It couldn’t be worse, nothing is going right, if ever a team needed a “stick of dynamite” in the locker room, it’s this one. But don’t get your hopes up. Early season trades have become as rare as Rangers victories this year.

In 2013 the Buffalo Sabres, off to a 2-10-1 start, started their rebild early with an October trade. Garth Snow of the Islanders made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, he sent wing Matt Moulson, a 2014 first round pick and a 2015 second round pick to the Sabres for the impending free agent Thomas Vanek. Other than that exception, early season trades involving big name players are exceedingly scarce.

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Where does that leave the Blueshirts?

Well, since playing the trade card is unlikely, firing the coach becomes that much more of a possibility. In January 2017 the Rangers had extended Coach Alain Vigneault by 2 years, and a bump in salary. Is that enough to save his job if the Rangers zombie-like, losing play continues? Probably not; though it will get him more time than he may deserve.

Coaches are hired to be fired. Vigneault was hired in 2013, so this is his 5th season. If he can’t get his team turned around, the calls for his head will get louder. Unlike coach John Torterella who was a disciplinarian, AV is a player’s coach. However they are just not responding to him anymore. His message is getting lost. Signs of that are already clearly there.

If you listen to his press conferences about what has to be done, and what needs to be fixed, it seems like so far, none of this is getting done or fixed. At some point something has to give, and there will be a sacrificial lamb. If he does get the axe, I would be surprised if Scott Arniel and Lindy Ruff don’t go with him.

Many assumed Ruff was hired to be a fallback option. While that is possible, I wonder if he is the right man for the job, and if at that point, the Rangers may have to clean house. I would think Darryl Sutter could be an option. Vigneault is currently the third highest tenured coach in the NHL, behind Jon Cooper of Tampa and Joel Quennville in Chicago. That also tells us how long the shelf life of an NHL coach is when the third highest is under 5 years on the job.

Hey! What’s that smell? Did someone light fuse? Take cover Rangers fans.

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