Rangers’ Western Trip Shows the Team Isn’t Ready Yet

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 06: Calgary Flames Right Wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) jumps while Calgary Flames Defenceman Noah Hanifin (55) and Calgary Flames Left Wing Blake Coleman (20) swarm the goal during the first period of an NHL game where the Calgary Flames hosted the New York Rangers on November 6, 2021, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After October’s 6-2-1 record there was a lot of optimism and positivity surrounding the New York Rangers. While many pointed to some glaring issues during the stretch, there was also the belief in growing pains and adjustments to new teammates and coaches. After a 0-1-2 Western Canadian road trip however, all of that positivity has seemingly evaporated around the club. Now fans are left having more questions than answers to start the month.

They’re young and they’re still learning a new system under a new head coach but there are very definite questions here that need to get answered sooner rather than later. While we know the Rangers are talented it hasn’t been seen so far throughout the first five weeks of the season. In all honesty, they’ve been saved by superstar level goaltending from Igor Shesterkin from a potential horrific start. The 6-2-1 record could easily read 2-6-1 had it not been for the Vezina caliber goaltending from Igor.

The big guns have been held stunningly silent and the biggest issue is that the Rangers haven’t gotten the production from the youthful players that they hoped or had expected. K’Andre Miller, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Filip Chytil haven’t taken the next step in their development that many around the club had thought they would thus far.

When Chris Drury traded Pavel Buchnevich away one of the reasons he stated he felt comfortable doing so was because they had young players like Kakko and namely Kravtsov ready to take his spot.

However with Kakko suffering an injury early on he just hasn’t seemed to have found his footing or the scoring sheet since returning. With the Rangers youth not developing at the rate thus far that the club expected these are the bumps in the road that you’re currently seeing.

It doesn’t help defensively that K’Andre Miller hasn’t been the player that we saw in the first half of last season. Miller’s game has declined significantly and with his decline it’s also brought down the game of Jacob Trouba as well who has had to try and cover up Miller’s mistakes.

What we’re seeing with Miller right now is why I argued on the 30 On Broadway podcast last season not to rush him along last year to the NHL roster and make him bide his time in Hartford before coming to the NHL. This franchise rushed along his development and you’re seeing why he could have used the seasoning in Hartford and hopefully dominated the game at the AHL level. What started as eyebrow raising concerns mid season last year has now escalated to serious concerns on Miller’s overall game.

Not to mention that Tinordi and Nemeth have been an absolute horror show defensively and have added absolutely zero to the roster. Their perceived “grit” hasn’t even helped make a positive impact yet this year. While the franchise won’t do it they’d be better off rolling out a rookie third pair of Lundkvist and Jones because they couldn’t do worse than what the Rangers are currently getting out of their third pair.

While it’s been trendy for fans to blame the likes of Barclay Goodrow playing top line minutes, what they’re missing is that he’s being forced into a situation because of how the front office has botched building this roster. Whether that’s from some mistakes from the Jeff Gorton era or the fact that Jim Dolan mandated that the rebuild become expedited the issues with this club are purely roster based.

We’ve seen this franchise get fantastic goaltending that bailed out an inadequate roster before with Henrik Lundqvist, and now we’re seeing it again with Igor Shesterkin saving this club and getting them wins they don’t deserve. After getting humiliated in Western Canada there’s roster shakeups that should be made and there’s also developmental issues that need to be adjusted.

While it is still early in the season many can refer back to the difficult start the Rangers had at the beginning of Alain Vigneault’s Broadway tenure which began rocky as well. The key difference here is there are far more variables at play and honestly more talent this time around. Getting in front of and correcting these issues quickly will become paramount to saving a potential disaster of a season.

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