After failing again to the Montreal Canadiens Friday the New York Rangers are scrambling to figure exactly how this atrocious start to the 2017/2018 season has plagued the team. At 3-7-2, the Rangers have yet to put together back-to-back wins and have developed an unsettling trend of simply not putting in a solid first-period effort in games, and Head Coach Alain Vigneault has largely been the target of blame for these struggles.
Concerns have arisen that perhaps Vigneault’s messages are just not being picked up like they previously were over his five-year tenure as coach. The extra motivation and effort that fans want to see from the players is just not being displayed on the ice and the passion from the players looks and feels disheartening. The struggles of the star-goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has only made the outlook gloomier.
Five times this season the Rangers have fallen behind within the first three minutes, and seven times the Rangers have let up the first goal, and while the team has found ways to battle back admirably in many contests they have come up short every time.
When trailing or tied after the first period the Blueshirts are 0-6-2 and they are 0-7-2 when trailing after two periods.
Opponents are scoring 50% more against the team in the first period — 18 goals against to 12 goals for the Rangers so far this season.
The players are constantly behind the 8-ball scrambling to get back into the game and being drawn out of position as they try to push for the extra offense.
They have gone win-less on the road in October, and these struggles of early starts predate 2017/2018 and call back to the tail end of the 2016/2017 campaign in which the Rangers suffered some of the similar faults.
Vigneault harps the fact that his team is getting scoring chances and generating offense, but the losses are piling up and the team may be forced to relieve Vigneault of his duties if the Rangers continue to be the basement dwellers of the standings this season.
The mismanagement of the defensive corps and the lack of trust in younger players is an area of note for Vigneault’s coaching identity. The team has struggled to mesh defensively and the defensive lines being shuffled nearly every game has resulted in poor defensive cohesion through the first 20 minutes of nearly every game.
Despite this goal differential, the Rangers are actually tied in shots in regulation compared to their opponents thus far with 375 shots. The team is statistically generating enough offensive pressure to warrant a better record, but the defensive gaffes and goaltending struggles are so significant that it mitigates the offensive efforts of the team.
Now the Rangers high-uppers including GM Jeff Gorton will need to heavily analyze whether they believe Vigneault can continue as an effective coach, and while some may suggest that he is on a wait-and-see basis of job merit with the hopes that the club can turn things around — it would be wiser to fire him right away if they believe his motivation and message is falling on deaf ears.
Associate Coach Scott Arniel or Assistant Coach Lindy Ruff would be the most likely candidates to step up and lead the team provided things don’t turn around fast.
Vigneault will have a valid defense to his merit to the head coaching job in that his team is generating high-quality scoring chances and the defense is playing decent enough if they can get just an extra save or two each game.
However, the business of sports is about winning — not just playing well. Until the coach can figure out a way to string some wins together, there will be no solace by the fan base by just looking at how well the team can play.
Some rumors suggest that A.V. is down to his last lick as the team prepares for their upcoming game against the second-place Vegas Golden Knights as the Rangers look to close out this disastrous October.
…now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write going into the 2017/2018 season.