Why the Rangers need to move on from Blake Wheeler

New York Rangers right wing Blake Wheeler (17) skates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are currently in an excellent position. They sit atop the Metropolitan Division with an 18-4-1 record and are strong contenders for the Stanley Cup this season. However, amidst the Rangers’ success, there have been a few downsides for the team.

One notable concern has been Blake Wheeler’s performance. Wheeler has struggled significantly and appears to be on a downturn, marked by subpar performances. Analyzing his statistics reveals that he has become a liability for the team.

Blake Wheeler has struggled particularly on offense

Blake Wheeler has really struggled on offense and it does not help that his defensive skills have not been great either. When he was a Winnipeg Jet/Boston Burin, Wheeler’s main strength was his offensive skills and the fact he can’t put up average numbers now with the Blueshirts is very problematic. This makes the Blueshirts’ decision to promote Wheeler from the third line onto the first line more nonsensical.

There are so many examples of Wheeler’s decline, but the game that was really telling was the Rangers game against the Nashville Predators on November 2nd, 2023.

After a terrible first period where the team was down 2–0, Laviolette clearly had enough and decided to change the lines. Wheeler was demoted from the first line all the way down to the third/fourth line which is very telling — especially when the team performed better with Wheeler being demoted.

Wheeler has looked like the game has passed him by. It is not a good look for Wheeler with how he was demoted. There is a real chance that the Rangers may part ways with Wheeler because of how badly he has been performing.

Can the Rangers move on from Blake Wheeler?

Wheeler has a no-trade clause, so the Blueshirts can’t trade Wheeler. But with how bad he has been lately, it can’t be ruled out that the team would just release him once the trade deadline occurs.

The Wheeler experiment has been a disappointment. Luckily, Wheeler’s contract is not the worst, as it is a one-year deal with a cap hit of only $800,000. But it is time for the experiment of Wheeler to end as he has become more of a liability on this team than a positive.