At the trade deadline this year Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault was adamant that his current group of players deserved another opportunity to try and win a Stanley Cup after near misses in 2014 and 2015. However after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this spring, Vigneault admitted Tuesday at the Rangers break up day at the MSG Training Center that changes on the team's roster must be made moving forward.
"When you don't meet expectations and don't meet our fans' expectations there are definitely going to be changes," stated Vigneault. "I think we're at the stage now where we need to look at some changes. I think with any NHL team today status quo is not possible. You need to keep changing pieces, bringing in different players to add a different dynamic to your group. It is certainly time now to look into what we can do to improve, and that's what we are going to do here moving forward."
Vigneault explained that he met with Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton on Monday and they agreed that it was best to take a week or so to "decompress", in the coach's words, before breaking down what went wrong this season and to closely evaluate the entire roster. Also the head coach and management must decide what kind of direction the organization will take moving forward--skewing younger perhaps.
No matter what decisions are ultimately made, Vigneault stressed that it was imperative that they be made with clear heads and not from an emotional point of view in the aftermath of a frustrating, disappointing and early end to the season.
"I think we as an organization--and it's the right thing to do--we need some time to make sure we don't do anything drastic or too quick," explained Vigneault. "We need to calm down here and analyze what needs to be done and do the right thing for the organization."
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist echoed those sentiments when he spoke with reporters earlier in the day.
"Sometimes you overreact to a couple of bad results," offered Lundqvist. "You need to analyze it the right way. We need to play better, there's no denying that, and we all know we'll change a few things here and there, but we can't overreact to what's happened either."
Vigneault did not discuss specific players or decisions he felt needed to be made one way or the other, but he did point out "we have some good pieces". The one area he did mention as one of concern was "our back end".
"We have to look at everything," stated Vigneault. "There's no denying the inconsistency this year that was a big part of our season--especially from our back end. The puck moving ability that we had shown in the past, for whatever reason, was not as good and it affected several parts of our game. I'm not quite sure why that happened, but it's something we have to look at and address."
After failing to reach the lofty goals they set for themselves heading into the 2015-16 season, the players are currently well aware that change is in the air.
"In other years you might say we deserved better, but this year it's tough to think like that," stated team captain Ryan McDonagh. "Everyone in this room wanted more and can't be happy with the way we played, so you have to expect that the people in charge of this team will make sure that the next time this opportunity happens that we are better prepared and have a better chance to succeed. It will be interesting to see what happens."
Added alternate captain Derek Stepan, "Change is part of our business, but that's something that's way out of all of our controls. If the New York Rangers feel there is an option to make this team better they will do it."
Vigneault was asked if the changes might spill over into his coaching staff, and he replied that he did not have an answer to that just yet, saying that he told his assistants--Scott Arniel, Ulf Samuelsson, Benoit Allaire and Darryl Williams--he needed some time before final decisions on their futures are made.
Stay tuned for what is shaping up to be a busy off-season for the New York Rangers.