DeAngelo demotion is latest blemish in Rangers’ makeover

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As a big-market NHL team fighting for headlines (preferably on the front or back page), the New York Rangers are no strangers to splashy moves.

Even so, this summer felt notably different, as we saw the end of several eras and a continued transition to, well, transition-friendly hockey.

With the boos cascading from the rafters at Madison Square Garden after a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks on Monday, the Rangers fell to 2-6-2 this season, leaving their makeover looking awfully ugly.

It doesn’t look like the fun will start for a while.

Tuesday provides the latest reminder that these tweaks aren’t going so well, as the Rangers demoted Anthony DeAngelo on his 22nd birthday. You may remember DeAngelo as a significant part of the trade (along with the pick that became Lias Andersson) that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes.

While DeAngelo has his issues, particularly in his own zone, many Rangers fans feel exasperated by how head coach Alain Vigneault uses younger players and utilizes different portions of the roster, most memorably in debatable deployment of Tanner Glass in previous years.

If nothing else, this might open the door for certain tweaks, most simply in returning to a traditional format of 12 forwards and six defensemen. The team recalled Boo Nieves in DeAngelo’s absence, for one thing.

Especially optimistic Rangers fans are even throwing around hypotheticals about space being made for Matt Duchene or Alex Galchenyuk, but that feels more like wishful thinking than anything at the moment.

Such tweaks might be a bit lofty (although, again, the Rangers aren’t the shy types when it comes to making waves), yet this situation doesn’t seem especially sustainable.

If demoting DeAngelo on his birthday wasn’t awkward enough amid this Rangers revamp, consider that their Thursday opponent is Stepan and the Coyotes.

One of the few bright sides is that, for whatever it’s worth, things haven’t been great on Arizona’s end. The team is currently winless (0-7-1) and injuries have kept Raanta from making any impression, positive or negative.

Stepan, to his credit, has quietly been effective for the Coyotes, generating six points in eight games. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Stepan and Clayton Keller from getting a hat trick in a recent loss to Dallas, with Stepan coming close here:

As mentioned in this post, the Rangers haven’t just been losing, they’ve been squandering a big chunk of home games. Only two of the Rangers’ first 10 games have come on the road, with both being losses. They have a 1-2-2 record in the first five games of this current six-game home stand, so getting a W against those Coyotes could at least even things out to a more appealing 2-2-2 homestand.

Yeah, gross.

*Cough*

For all we know, the Rangers could begin to turn things around this week. It seems clear that Henrik Lundqvist will have to wait to rebound from his early slump, however, as Ondrej Pavelec is getting the nod on Thursday (in part because Hank is a little banged-up).

The seat seems to be warming up for Vigneault and others, especially in a Metropolitan Division that looks deep and challenging. It all makes for some pretty miserable times, as Kevin Shattenkirk‘s offense hasn’t been enough to push the Rangers through their struggles and even the addition of Lindy Ruff seems underwhelming:

Yes, it’s early, yet things seem dreary for the Rangers. It’s the kind of stuff that can really ruin a birthday party.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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