When the New York Rangers and head coach Alain Vigneault agreed to hire Scott Arniel to be the team’s assistant coach last season. The job also came with the responsibility to fix a dreadful Rangers’ power play from the previous year under ex-head coach John Tortorella and his coaching staff.
Throughout the first half of the season, Arniel seemed like a genius as the Rangers’ power play was actually ranked in the top 10 in the NHL at one point, but after the Olympics, those numbers slowly started to dip. By season’s end, they were ranked exactly middle of the pack at 15, slightly above the league average in power play percentage.
While not terribly bad, the power play, and failure to capitalize on one, was one of the major factors that cost the Rangers the Stanley Cup last season in the Finals, as they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
This drop in the success of the Rangers’ power play could be contributed to the decline in production of the team’s power play quarterback last season, center Brad Richards, as the season went on. Richards is now no longer on the team, due to a compliance buyout, and the newly signed defenseman, and ex-teammate of Richards, Dan Boyle, will now be assuming those power play quarterback responsibilities.
Boyle, a natural power play quarterback, should be a big upgrade over Richards at the point on the power play, which should make Arniel’s job easier. But as we all know, when something goes wrong, it is automatically the coach’s fault, or in this case, the assistant coach’s, which is why it is his responsibility to fix the power play for this upcoming season.
With the Rangers’ lack of depth at center, loss of defense in Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle via free agency and with many new faces joining the starting lineup this upcoming season, you can say that the Rangers will take steps backward this season, defensively and overall.
If this proves to be the case, which I think it will, the Rangers’ offense, especially on the power play, will be looked at to produce more than they have in years. And while this will ultimately be the players’ responsibility, if things go sour, Arniel will be the first one blamed.