Three things the New York Rangers need to do to stop the slide in 2020-21

Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Mika Zibanejad (93)
Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

There’s three things that could help stop the rot for the New York Rangers.

Boy, this has been a tough start to the 2020-21 season for the New York Rangers. Now, let’s not forget that this was always going to be another development year for a young team in the final year or two of a rapid and hugely successful rebuild, but they were expected to be competitive in a stacked East Division.

Well, a month or so in, it hasn’t been that case with the Rangers currently 4-7-3 on the year having dropped a tough 5-2 loss to a New Jersey Devils team on Tuesday that hadn’t played in two weeks after being shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

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Not only did the Devils win but they also dominated their Hudson River rivals, outshooting them 16-9 in the first period and it looked like it was the Rangers who were sitting on their backsides for two weeks rather than New Jersey.

That was just the tip of the iceberg for a Rangers team that would be bottom of the East Division were it not for the Buffalo Sabres having played less games due to a COVID-19 outbreak of their own. Throw in some drama with defenseman Tony DeAngelo who remains in exile, coupled with losing star defenseman Jacob Trouba to a broken thumb for four-six weeks, then it has been a pretty tough stretch for this franchise.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom and we’ve pinpointed three things the New York Rangers will need to do in order to stop this current slide and start living up to their potential. So, without further ado, let’s delve right in…

Three things the New York Rangers need to do in order to turn things around in 2020-21

Ryan Lindgren (55)
Ryan Lindgren #55 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

3. Add some toughness & leadership

While there are some out there that believe you don’t need mutants running around the ice and taking people out in order to send a message anymore, toughness and grit is still an important aspect of the modern-day NHL. I mean, just look at the St. Louis Blues who bullied the Boston Bruins on their way to winning the Stanley Cup in 2018-19.

Even the Tampa Bay Lightning, who pride themselves on their skill and potent offense, understood that they needed some substance in order to go along with their boatload of style, acquiring players in the ilk of Zach Bogosian, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow at the 2020 Trade Deadline, with all three playing key roles in the Lightning finally winning the Stanley Cup last year.

Boasting such a young roster that is loaded with skill and speed, the Rangers are missing that sandpaper finish and, while they have Jacob Trouba, who is now out for up to six weeks, Ryan Lindgren and Brendan Lemieux, that isn’t enough and toughness isn’t just slamming someone in the boards or dropping the gloves.

Toughness can be doing the dirty bits of the game, like playing hard along the boards and battling in the dirty areas, putting your body on the line to block a shot in the dying seconds of the game or taking bumps as you try to redirect the puck in-front of the net in the slot area.

Brian Boyle (9)
Brian Boyle #9 of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

All of the above translates to playing with a tough underbelly, which the Rangers lack currently, and they also lack that real veteran leadership that can help to grind out wins even when you aren’t at your best. For the most part this season, the Blueshirts have been right there in games but they maybe need that presence on the ice and on the bench to help teach the young players what it takes to turn those close battles into wins.

Someone in the ilk of Brian Boyle, who is still a Free Agent and knows the New York market well having played five seasons with the Rangers organization, would be a good fit and he would provide the kind of grit, toughness, leadership and in-your face approach that this roster currently lacks, not to mention expertise in the faceoff circle given his career win rate of 50.3 percent.

Whether it is Boyle or someone else, however, the New York Rangers do need to add some snarl to their lineup, a physical presence that will make an impact in all three zones and take care of the intangibles that are crucial to winning hockey games. If they can inject some toughness or leadership into the locker room, then that could help this young core to really flourish.