The New York Rangers have gotten a new look, one that is more gritty, tough, yet slower and less of an offensive threat. But, the renovations occurred after the trade deadline.
On Sunday morning, the Rangers recalled forward, Tanner Glass, and defenseman, Steven Kampfer, from the Hartford Wolfpack of the American Hockey League. Glass had been sent to exile in Hartford this season while the Rangers remained a top-scoring NHL club. Kampfer was acquired by the Rangers earlier in the season from the Florida Panthers in a deal that sent defensive prospect Dylan McIlrath packing.
With Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast out of the lineup, a forward call-up was necessary. After an embarrassing 4-1 loss to the Montréal Canadiens Saturday night, Head Coach Alain Vigneault griped about the Blueshirts’ lack of effort in battling for pucks and overall execution of their game.
With Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein out of commission for now, another defenseman was also a necessary addition. It doesn’t look like Brendan Smith – who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Red Wings – will be that guy, but then again we aren’t working with a big enough sample size to make that final conclusion. Nevertheless, that’s a discussion for another time, and Steven Kampfer got the ring from New York.
Is it time to panic on Broadway? If it were November, December, or even January, I’d argue that there’s still so much hockey left to play. Except back then, the Rangers were resilient in finding ways to score despite poor efforts at times in the defensive zone and, dare I say, in the crease. But now it’s March and there are only 17 games left on the schedule for the Rangers.
Truth be told, if the Rangers maintain about a .500 record the rest of the season, they will still most likely claim a wild card spot for the playoffs, barring close to a double-digit winning streak for those on the outside looking in. Furthermore, there’s a good chance they would still remain ahead of cross-town rivals, the New York Islanders, similarly, barring a major surge by the Isles. This would allow the Rangers to battle in the Atlantic Division track until the Eastern Conference Finals, assuming they can even get there. But as we have seen so far this season, the Habs seem to give the Rangers a lot of trouble this season, and that route will not exclude the bleu-blanc-rouge.
Let’s also back track for a second, and process the scenario that I have just laid out. Rangerstown is hoping for the first wild card spot as opposed to finishing in the top three in the Metropolitan Division because there seems to be an underlying lack of confidence regarding this squad. The Rangers have had the Capitals’ number the past few seasons, and the Penguins and Rangers have traded defeats as well, most recently, the Pens steel-driving their way through Broadway to capture the Stanley Cup later in the spring of 2016. But this year, the Caps and Pens are again the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference. So, is it time to panic? For the first time this season, I’m going to answer in the affirmative.
Calling up Glass and Kampfer are, prima facie, meant to provide depth support while a couple of key players are sidelined. In Kampfer’s case, that’s exactly what the call-up is for. But what happens when Grabner and Fast are ready to return and the Rangers are still having issues with effort, battle, compete level – whatever you want to call it? Is Tanner Glass the flame needed to ignite the proverbial derriere of those not giving 100%? Is the threat of being replaced by a guy like Glass in the lineup enough motivation to wake up and prepare for a serious run at the Stanley Cup?
Unless the Rangers can somehow get hot right before the season ends and maintain that momentum past the 82nd game of the season, the likelihood of the Rangers going all the way this season is daunting. Happy 35th birthday, Henrik. Maybe a better effort will be your gift this year from the team.