Over the last couple seasons every fans excuse was that the New York Rangers did not score enough. Whether it was on the power play or 5-on-5, fans said the Rangers just did not score enough. Well most fans have not had a look at the statistics. The Rangers power play was the problem but 5-on-5 play was not. This year, under Alain Vigneault, it is the exact opposite.
The 5-on-5 play has been dreadful this year for the Rangers. This year, they rank 27th in 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio. They are at a .76 ratio for that. The power play has been the most impressive thing about the Rangers this year. They rank 12th in the NHL in their power play — their best since the end of the 2006-07 season.
Vigneault comes from the west coast and preaches a west coast system. He wants players to posses the puck, make crisp tape-to-tape passes, and have his defenseman jump into the play. His teams have also been relatively soft. The main reason John Tortorella was brought in to replace Vigneault with the Vancouver Canucks is that they wanted to be a tougher team to play against.
The Rangers are an easy team to play against right now. That falls onto the shoulders of the coach and the personnel the coach is given. If you do not preach a style of play that involves finishing hits and forechecking hard you aren’t going to win in this league. But if you don’t give the coach the players that will do those things, they are equally to blame. If you look at the teams that have won over the past few years, they have the perfect combination of skill and grit. 5-on-5 play is a real good test to see how tough a team you are to play against. As the stats show this year, the Rangers are an easy, soft team to play against.
Vigneault doesn’t deserve all the blame for this. He inherited a roster that he had virtually no say in. I expect him to push general manager Glen Sather to make some changes before the trade deadline. But the fact is Vigneault must get this team to improve their 5-on-5 play or else they will be doomed.