Technically speaking, it’s only the 11th game of the season. But when the Rangers host the Coyotes, a lot could be at stake.
Coming off another listless performance in which they were booed off home ice in a 4-1 loss to the Sharks, they find themselves in a 2-6-2 hole sitting last in the Metro and 15th in the East.
Pressure is mounting on the players and especially on the coach to turn it around. With a winless Arizona team in town, they need to win this game tonight.
If not, it could be the end for Alain Vigneault. A likable bench boss who has been a good fit with this team. Over the first four years, he guided them to a Stanley Cup Final, President’s Trophy and within a period of consecutive trips. They have been one of the NHL’s elite topping 100 points while making the playoffs seven consecutive years dating back to the John Tortorella days.
While Vigneault has come under fire for some questionable decision making with personnel, there’s enough veteran leadership to do better than two wins in the first 10 games.
With former top pivot and key piece Derek Stepan returning for what should be a emotional night, the microscope will be on the Rangers.
This isn’t what GM Jeff Gorton or Vigneault expected. Even with the roster changes that cost them Stepan and key backup Antti Raanta along with key leader Dan Girardi, they weren’t supposed to sink faster than The Titanic.
With 72 games remaining, there’s plenty of time to change the script. However, Vigneault might not survive. Losing to the Coyotes could be the day of reckoning. Cue Bane.