Crawford's Corner: Vigneault on Youth, J.T. Miller, Roster SizeSep 18, 2014
(Photo courtesy of blueshirtsunited.com)
As the New York Rangers' training camp began today with player physicals, Blueshirt head coach Alain Vigneault conducted a media session. He addressed a number of topics, but several of his comments (as taken from the reporting of Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record) had particular meaning for the Wolf Pack and the organization's prospects and depth players.
On the topic of opportunities for young players, Vigneault said, “I think there’s going to be great some internal competition for spots. Up front we lost some very important players who had very important roles. I’m not saying we’re going to structure the team the same way, we’ve got to sort this out. We’ve got to figure out what’s best for this group, but there’s some great internal competition and at the end of the day if a young player and an older veteran are both playing the same, I would say to you most teams would go with the younger player, because he’s got a better chance to improve, whereas the older player sometimes can be a bit more challenging, but that’s why we have training camp. We’re going to let this unfold, the games, we’ve got a scrimmage on Sunday so I think everything is up in the right now. Everything is open.”
And in the same vein, Vigneault had this to say about J.T. Miller: “I would say versatility for a player is a big big bonus. In J.T.’s case, (Kevin) Hayes’ case, we’re going to start those guys in the middle, then, as the camp unfolds, we’ll make the decisions that need to be made. But we’re definitely going to look, (Rick) Nash on the right side, Nasher on the left side. Things like that.”
Miller is clearly one of the favorites among the young players to grab a permanent spot in Gotham, and it certainly sounds as if Vigneault is talking about him as if he's expected not only to make the team, but to be an important player. And in terms of the young players in general, let's face it, most teams in this salary cap era would love to have as many young guys, and their relatively inexpensive entry-level contracts, on the roster as possible.
On the other hand, on the issue of how many players he would prefer to carry on the NHL roster, the Ranger bench boss commented, “Ideally I would say 13 forwards and eight Ds if we can keep 23. But I don’t think budget wise, we’re going to be right there, so it’s probably going to be 13 and seven.”
That sounds like it's going to mean a ton of back-and-forth between the Wolf Pack and Rangers, especially if there is only one extra forward on the New York roster.
And, further to that, Vigneault was asked to address the question of players "on the bubble" seeing heavy ice time with the Wolf Pack vs. learning on the fringes of the Ranger lineup.
“Young guys need to play to make the team," he responded. "I would say, each situation is different, younger players should play, if they’re not going to play on a regular basis here, it would probably be better to go to Hartford, but each situation is different. I will say to you Kreids (Chris Kreider) started last year, didn’t have a good camp, came back played regular was one of our very good players. Cam Talbot didn’t start here. If a player shows that he can play and help us win, he’ll be here.”
So, while a quick peek at the Ranger depth chart indicates that there are not many obvious holes for any individual to jump into, Vigneault's words seem to offer encouragement to those that will be knocking on the big club's door. Knock hard enough, he would appear to be saying, and we'll have to let you in, at least at some point.
If the players who will be making up the bulk of the Wolf Pack roster take that message to heart, then there should be plenty of electrifying nights for Pack fans throughout the 2014-15 season.