Last season, a big reason for the New York Rangers’ success throughout the year was a strong leadership group that seemed to have answers for everything. Not even a quarter into the 2022-23 NHL season and it’s clear that the same group is now a major problem.
The hardest part is that potential solutions are running out.
Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Edmonton was the clearest example of this. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead with a dominant two periods, the Rangers came out unorganized, passive, and disinterested. The Oilers responded with a four-goal third period that stunned everyone attending Madison Square Garden.
New York’s reasoning for the loss? A change in overall play.
“I thought we kind of got away from the things that we did so well in the first and second periods.” Mika Zibanejad said after the game.
It’s easy to say the Rangers played more to protect the lead instead of playing good hockey. It’s also easy to think how a loss like Saturday’s could propel the team and change their struggling ways.
But it’s been over a month of NHL games where the New York Rangers have been unable, or unwilling to play a full three-period hockey game. That alone is on the leadership of the group, even looking at the microcosm of a collapse like Saturday.
“There are a lot of guys responsible and it’s a team collapse. It’s a group of guys that have to know that that can’t happen. We sat back and watched and watched two of the best players in the world dominate.” Gallant said.
The Rangers have three of the top 25 players in the entire NHL. There is no reason for a team as deep in the leadership department as the Rangers are, to struggle to figure out how to win hockey games.
Players aren’t the only issue either. Gerard Gallant’s refusal to call a timeout during the Oilers’ four-goal run to maybe calm down the roster was as egregious as New York’s inability to operate when one player goes down.
One player cannot make a team go from bad to good. The Rangers are too talented, and frankly too deep to have this happen to them. The leaders aren’t the only problem that the Rangers have. The entire team has a problem finishing, and the defense, while improved has been inconsistent.
But a big part of those inconsistencies? The captain of the team misses plays and other associate captains not producing nearly as much as they should.
It is important to remember that games like Saturday against Edmonton are going to happen throughout the entire season. But it’s been over a month where a lack of focus or unwillingness to change their ways, expecting their talent to win out. That alone falls on the coaching staff and the leaders they picked.
“I don’t have an explanation. I thought we played a great two periods. We came out in the third period and were careless and sloppy…a couple of dumb penalties didn’t help.” Gallant added.
If things don’t change soon, the lone solution won’t be a trade at the deadline: it’ll be the removal of said leaders and coaches that are allowing this type of play to continue.