GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Breaking up the band won’t be easy, but it’s happening in Rangerstown.
That strategy was formalized on Tuesday, when Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who has guided the team on two deep playoff runs and last week’s quick exit, said the entire club would be re-evaluated and that management would not stand pat.
“We’re at the stage now where we need to look at some changes,” Vigneault said. “For any NHL team, status quo is not possible and it’s not what’s needed. We want to bring in different players to add to the dynamic. The core guys have been together for a while. It’s time to look at what we can do to improve . . . I think we look at everything.”
Vigneault deferred questions on how that would be accomplished given salary-cap issues, long-term contracts and players who are free agents, to general manager Jeff Gorton, who did not meet with the media. He said that they had agreed to a seven-to-10 day break before detailed assessments on their “direction” begin. “We need some time to make sure we don’t do anything drastic,” Vigneault said. For example, he could not say at this point if all of his coaching staff would be back.
Henrik Lundqvist, asked if the team could still win a Stanley Cup with the core players, said: “I believe so. Sometimes you overreact to a couple of results. Over a hundred points, pretty good, then two really tough games. You need to analyze it the right way. We need to play better. I need to be better those last two games. There’s no denying that. But I don’t think we should overreact at the same time. We all know we need to change a few things here and there.”
The spotlight will zero in on defense, at least initially. “There’s no denying inconsistency was a big part of our season, especially from our back end,” Vigneault said. “The puck-moving ability we’ve shown in the past, for whatever reason, was not as good. It affected a lot of our games.”
Unrestricted free agent defenseman Dan Boyle’s disappointing two-year career as a Ranger is over and he is leaning toward retirement to spend time with his family.
“The next week or so I’ll start thinking about it,” fellow unrestricted free agent defenseman Keith Yandle said. “To be a UFA doesn’t come around too often, so you’ve got to be smart with it. This organization is amazing. I could definitely see myself playing here, I’ve just got to weigh my options.” Veteran Dan Girardi’s spot isn’t secure; neither is Kevin Klein’s or rookie restricted free agent Dylan McIlrath.
“We probably won’t have the exact same team, but you want to make sure no matter who it is, that we have the right mindset and focus and the will to prepare and put the team first,” said captain Ryan McDonagh, who played against the Penguins with a broken right index finger that will not require surgery.
Notes & quotes: Center Eric Staal, a free agent, was uncertain about returning. “I didn’t come here to ruffle feathers and demand to play in certain spots,” he said. “I didn’t find enough consistency in my game to do well.” He added that he wanted to play where he had a chance to be a “difference-maker.” . . . Asked if restricted free agent Kevin Hayes, benched for Games 4 and 5, had a future with the team, Vigneault said; “Yes, without a doubt.” However, he said, “We’ve seen tons of guys that have potential. Not all of them figure it out.” . . . Derick Brassard will head to Russia Friday to join Team Canada for the World Championships.