The New York Rangers have been a Jekyll and Hyde team so far in 2013, and the players felt the need to address some concerns. After a terrible 4-1 loss on Sunday against the Washington Capitals, a players-only meeting was held.
The locker room usually is open to the press within five minutes after the completion of a game, but it took between 15 to 20 minutes before the players were ready to face the press.
Given the current state of affairs, what should be made of the Blueshirts' players-only meeting?
Simply put, the team is putting each other on notice, and a shakeup could be coming if things start to get toxic soon. The Rangers have not had a consistent effort for the entirety of the season, and they need to start picking up points.
Given the number of players without contracts next season, it is very possible that GM Glen Sather will try to salvage the season by making a major trade to put the locker room on notice. That is the likely direction, especially when you listen to what the players are saying.
The next two tweets are very telling considering who they came from; the statements could be interpreted as a warning by two veteran leaders.
Here is this tweet by Andrew Gross of the Record:
Players only meeting for Rangers. McDonagh said teammates need to stand up for each other. Lundqvist says players need to look in mirror.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) December 9, 2013
Henrik Lundqvist is usually a martyr when the team struggles because he is such a fierce competitor, but in this situation he is clearly voicing frustration. It is also interesting that defender Ryan McDonagh brought up the fact that teammates need to start sticking up for each other.
This year the Rangers have not been particularly tough, and that could be one of the reasons why, as per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN New York), Arron Asham was called up from the Hartford Wolf Pack on Monday afternoon.
This next tweet from Katie Strang of ESPN New York is also very telling:
#NYR Brad Richards said team has to start getting uncomfortable. "It's getting old."— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) December 9, 2013
For Ranger fans, the above tweet hits home, because the last time the word comfortable was thrown around was during the Tom Renney era. If players are getting comfortable in this current system, there is no question that a trade needs to be made.
As much as the Rangers are talking about their current play, actions speak louder than words, according to Alain Vigneault.
Steve Zipay had these two nuggets from the Blueshirts' bench boss:
AV: "We've been playing .500 hockey for the last 13 games...."— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) December 9, 2013
AV: "Our compete level is at a .500 level..."— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) December 9, 2013
At this point it is clear that everyone is frustrated, and it could be because time is running out. There are 28 games left until the Olympic break for the Sochi Games, and the trade deadline for the 2013-14 season follows shortly after that.
The Rangers will or won't be a playoff team by that point, and it is up to management to make the necessary transactions.
What do the Rangers have to do to get back on track?
With the break a month before the end of the regular season, there will be a number of teams that may be reluctant to make deals. In this situation the Blueshirts could find themselves out of luck. They could also be in a position where the cost to make a deal is too much. Therefore, Sather needs to act now.
He needs to make a shake-up. It was expected that the firing of John Tortorella would provide a spark for the team this offseason. Before that it was a Marian Gaborik trade that put the team on notice; the Rangers could use another one sooner rather than later.
The Rangers play the majority of their remaining home games in the next month, and after the Olympics they will face a daunting road trip. If the Rangers don't have their act together soon, that road trip could be a death knell to the team's playoff hopes.
It may seem early to be talking about the playoffs, but as noted above, the season is slowly slipping away. At 15-15-1, the Blueshirts have a .500 record and clearly should be better than that. The players are starting to get antsy, and things will only get worse if the team continues to struggle.