The New York Rangers had a busy summer, bringing in fresh talent throughout the offseason. The Blueshirts didn’t have a ton of money to spend, which led to GM Chris Drury opting to hand out an abundance of short-term, low-priced contracts.
One new addition the Rangers made this past offseason was veteran forward Blake Wheeler. He’s an older winger at 37 years old, but Drury viewed him as a low-risk, high-reward signing who had a lot of potential.
Wheeler managed to net 55 points last season despite his age, and the Rangers are hopeful that he can repeat similar numbers. But three games through the season, Wheeler has had some difficulty getting started.
As Rangers’ legend Ron Duguay stated, “Blake Wheeler has had a nice career, but I have seen very little value to him thus far!”
Wheeler has gone scoreless in three games played
With the Rangers moving on to the fourth game of the season with a record of 2-1-0, Wheeler has not contributed a single point towards their success. He’s currently been playing on the team’s third line with Will Cuylle and Vincent Trocheck. This demotion from an expected second-line start comes with lesser ice time, but Wheeler still should have gotten something started by now.
Wheeler’s scoreless start has not gone unnoticed by head coach Peter Laviolette. He began the season on the Rangers’ second power play unit, a group that has gone scoreless through three games as well.
But in today’s practice, Wheeler found himself sitting out from the power play drills. He was instead inserted into the penalty kill practice group, practicing against his former unit.
Wheeler also managed to find himself benched during the Rangers’ sole loss against Columbus, a game in which his performance was quite lackluster.
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How can Wheeler improve his play with the Rangers?
One major flaw in Wheeler’s tenure so far is his skating. He’s slowed down a lot as he’s gotten older, but this is by far the worst skating he’s ever shown so far throughout his career. There’s not much he can do to work past the test of time, but he’ll need to practice harder to improve his speed and agility. The Blueshirts deploy a fast-paced style of hockey that causes Wheeler to look like the odd man out when he can’t keep up.
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Point production is obviously another factor that needs to be improved. The team has only played three games so far, so it’s possible that Wheeler is still just getting adjusted to a new team and new system. But if those points do not start flowing soon, this veteran forward could find himself skating on thin ice.