The 5 Biggest Letdowns of New York Rangers' 2013-14 Season So Far
As a whole, the New York Rangers have had a pretty good 2013-14 season.
If the season ended Wednesday, they would be in the playoffs. They stand a good chance of making a deep run if they do make the playoffs.
That said, not all is rosy. There are a number of individual performances that have not lived up to the expectations.
What are the five biggest letdowns of the Rangers' 2013-14 season thus far?
Read on to find out.
5. John Moore
John Moore hasn't really progressed as a defender in his first full season with the Rangers.
He played pretty well in the postseason last year, averaging over 17 minutes a game and adding an assist.
While he has shown flashes of offensive upside, his play in the defensive zone is really lacking.
Moore makes a ton of mistakes, whether it's a bad pass or a costly turnover, and that has been reflected in the way Alain Vigneault has used him.
Moore has played less than 15 minutes in 36 games this season, more than half of the games he's played. He's only played over 18 minutes nine times this year.
It would not be surprising if Moore is benched the rest of the season for Raphael Diaz. Diaz is better offensively and more reliable defensively.
Moore has a ton of potential, and he will turn into a good defender, but for a team in the midst of a playoff race, it cannot afford his mistakes in his own zone.
4. J.T. Miller
J.T Miller made the team out of camp, ahead of Chris Kreider. Since then, he has shuttled between Hartford and New York, playing 35 games in the AHL and 28 games in the NHL.
He's dominated the AHL, scoring 12 goals and adding 25 assists.
While he has shown flashes of potential at the NHL level, he hasn't been able to turn it into consistency.
Miller has three goals and three assists this season. One of those goals was scored on a nifty breakaway against Toronto. He has plenty of offensive skill.
But he's a mess in his own zone and looks like he does not know what to do. Part of that seems to be that he confuses the responsibility of a winger and a center. He's played both with the Rangers; when he's a winger, he seems to be taking on the defensive role of a center and vice versa.
He's only 21, and there is plenty of time for him to develop, but look at the steps that Kreider has taken to become a first-line winger. Miller, who beat out Kreider in camp, has yet to take those steps.
His speed and offensive skill would have fit nicely on the fourth line, but he is too much of a liability defensively to be trusted.
3. Rick Nash on the Power Play
Rick Nash has just four power-play goals and only three power-play assists.
His career high, set in 2003-04, is 19 goals and 10 assists on the man advantage.
While the power play as a whole is much better than last year, the inability of Nash to produce on the man advantage is puzzling.
Scott Arniel, who runs the power play for the Rangers and coached Nash in Columbus told Steve Zipay of Newsday before the season that he was trying to put Nash in a position to succeed on the power-play unit:
I noticed there was a lot of different looks, as there were with a lot of different players. We're going to try to get him in the best place possible and more than likely that's somewhere out in front of that net, whether it's in that high slot or the front of the net area, he's got one of the best quick releases in the game and he's a big man and he knows how to protect the puck and keep it away from people. As a staff we're going to have to try to fit people in...our defense, there's a lot of guys who can kinda slide in there on the power play, with Rick it's the same thing, I know what he can do, I know some of the best places for him. With everybody, it'll be a little bit trial and error in these exhibition games, throw them in, maybe they jump out at us, maybe they're a net front guy or a half-wall guy. We've got to play it through.
Nash has only occasionally been placed in front of the net, mostly alternating between the high slot or the wall.
The unit, as a whole, is vastly improved over last season, with better puck movement, but that has not been because of Nash. If anything, it has been because of the presence of Ryan McDonagh and an improved Brad Richards.
Nash used to be a monster on the power play. Now? Not so much. If the Rangers want to make a deep run in the playoffs, Nash will have to step up.
2. Michael Del Zotto
He's no longer on the team, but Michael Del Zotto's rapid fall from grace that resulted in a trade to Nashville has to be included on any list of letdowns for the Rangers' season.
Two seasons ago, Del Zotto had 41 points and averaged 22 minutes per game for a team that went to the Eastern Conference Final.
Last year wasn't as good, but he still averaged 23 minutes a game and added 21 points.
This year? A disaster. He had just 11 points in 42 games with the Rangers, making a number of defensive mistakes per game.
As Vigneault told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News after Del Zotto was traded:
For the most part Michael was alright. He played some good hockey. I was expecting a little bit more offensively. For whatever reason, it just didn’t come out on a regular basis. I’m not sure why. But at the end of the day, his play lately had been better. We’re on a pretty good streak right now, and he’s been part of that. This was just a matter of right-hander, left-hander, and him and Johnny Moore both are the same age, both bring similar things to the table, and the right-hander – in my estimation and Glen’s estimation – made us a better corps on D.
Reading between the lines, it's pretty clear that Vigneault is happy Del Zotto is gone.
Given how well Kevin Klein has played, the Rangers really did upgrade their defensive unit. Besides, it's not like Del Zotto is setting the world on fire in Nashville. He played just a paltry three minutes in his last game against Calgary and has been a scratch. As Nashville's coach Barry Trotz told Josh Cooper of The Tennessean:
His game has slipped, and our coaching staff has talked to him about making solid decisions, solid plays and he has gotten away from that a little bit," Trotz said. "We had some healthy people and we felt this would be a good time. You're always competing for a spot. He's not veteran enough to not compete for a spot. Every night has to be about consistency for him and we have some people we can pull in and out.
At one point, Del Zotto looked like he was going to be one of the game's best young defenders. Now? He might be playing himself out of the league.
Simply put, the Rangers would be better off if they had the Del Zotto from two years ago. But they don't. It seems like that Del Zotto doesn't even exist.
1. Martin St. Louis
Marty St. Louis was brought in to provide offense.
Through 11 games, St. Louis has zero goals and only three assists.
Meanwhile, Ryan Callahan, who headed to Tampa Bay in exchange for St. Louis, has six points in 10 games for his new squad.
It's not like St. Louis hasn't been active. He has 22 shots, some of them glorious chances. Given his history, it's likely that those shots will start to go in. Before being traded, St. Louis scored on 17 percent of his shots.
You have to be honest in assessing your game. Am I playing great? No. But I’ve played way worse than this. You've been in one place for so long and you’re used to a lot of players (who) read and react a little better off of me and (it’s) the same for me. I come on a new team and I have 20 new teammates that have seen me play and played against me, but it’s a lot different feel playing together. That takes time.
St. Louis is too good to go the rest of the season without scoring, and it's clear that he's pressing. Once he scores once, a lot more will follow.
But given that the Rangers gave up so much to get him, the fact that he hasn't scored is incredibly disappointing.
The Rangers need St. Louis. They need him to be a potent scorer, an offensive threat on every shift. They need him to be Martin St. Louis.
Until that happens, this is without a doubt the biggest letdown of the season.