New York Rangers: The coach won’t matter without any defense

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06: Head coach Alain Vigneault (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06: Head coach Alain Vigneault (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

No matter who the coach is, the New York Rangers will not be any better without more defense.

The New York Rangers responded to their 2017-2018 performance by first jettisoning many of their higher priced veterans. Jeff Gorton and his staff realized it was time to break things down and start over so that is what he began to do. The end of the season came around and the coach was the final casualty as Alain Vigneault was relieved of his duties. That ended a coaching run that began with the 2013-2014 season. With the Rangers missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010 they decided it was time for Vigneault to go.

The whole team obviously cannot be fired, so after a really bad season the coach is the one who takes the blame, no matter what the sport. However, it’s not always their fault. Take a look at the Mets for a minute. As we talked about this morning, although the Mets replaced Terry Collins with Mickey Callaway, the record is nearly the same. Changing the man in charge is not always the way to fix a franchise.

In that article we talked about changing the general manager, but that isn’t the point here. Jeff Gorton is a fine person to continue in the role of general manager. That’s not the real problem for the Rangers. The Rangers also appear to be turning to Ilya Kovalchuk for a boost in the scoring department. That would be nice if it works out but that isn’t the major problem either.

For the Rangers to turn things around, one category has to get better. It sounds simple but it isn’t. The defense has to grow. The defense cannot play the way it did last season otherwise the new coach has no chance. Since Dan Girardi was allowed to walk, the Rangers have not been the same on defense.

More from Empire Writes Back

Who knew they would miss him so much?

Here is one way the problem becomes obvious. During the 2016-2017 regular season the Rangers were 15th in the league in shots allowed with 30.2. The Rangers made the playoffs.

Last season the Rangers gave up the second-most shots per game with 35.3 and they were on the outside of the playoffs looking in. It started the rebuilding process and it spelled the end of coach Vigneault.

Add the above to the fact that they were 23rd in the league in shots on goal per game and you have a recipe for losing. When you average four less shots per game than your opponent you are going to lose more often than not. It’s a complex game but the principles are actually fairly simple. Shoot the puck on net more often than your opponent and you are going to win. Reverse it and you are going to lose.

How does that get fixed? Bulk up on the defensive side. Convince your players to give a bit more on the defensive end. Get those blocked shots back up to the way they were in the Girardi days. Scoring more will be nice but it won’t fix much without defense.

Next: Evaluating time left with the King

The Rangers have time left with Henrik Lundqvist. They don’t, however, have forever with him. It will be time for retirement at some point. Wouldn’t it be nice to let him finally hoist the Stanley Cup over his head as he so deserves? It’s the only thing left to complete his great career. Without improvement on defense it will never happen. Even at his best he can only stop so many.

Bring that defense up to par.