The beautiful thing about cheering for the New York Rangers is that you’re in with a chance of winning the Stanley Cup each and every year.
Rebuilding? Retooling? That simply isn’t acceptable. The Rangers go for it. It’s the New York way.
The Rangers were Stanley Cup finalists in 2014-15, and even though Bovada lists them as 12th-best favorites, pegged at +2500 to lift Lord Stanley, there’s nothing to suggest they won’t be a contender again in 2016-17.
On the surface, there’s a lot to feel good about for the Rangers. They garnered 100 points for the second straight season and have averaged 103 points per season with coach Alain Vigneault at the helm. They’ve made the playoffs in six consecutive seasons.
On the other hand, they exited from the postseason in the first round last season for the first time since 2011. New York’s two best puck-moving defensemen, Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle, are gone. And in the Metropolitan Division, which features such stars as Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares of the crosstown New York Islanders, there’s no denying the Rangers are in tough. But when have the Rangers ever shied away from a challenge?
While Yandle’s offense will be missed, his high-octane turnover rate won’t be. Brady Skjei was one of the few bright spots in the five-game playoff loss to Pittsburgh, establishing that he’s ready to fill a role on a veteran defense that includes captain Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.
The Rangers often win because of great team defense and Henrik Lundqvist’s majestic play. The team plays solidly in front of him and usually outwork their opponents. The Rangers have a good shot of troubling the best teams in the Eastern Conference if they can consistently play with this winning formula.
New York went out and got younger up front in the off-season. They added Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey, hockey’s most sought-after NCAA free agent and traded for Mika Zibanejad, a 23-year-old, 21-goal scorer from Ottawa. Free-agent additions include Brandon Pirri, 25, whose 0.33 goals per game average the last two seasons was 30th overall among NHLers playing in at least 100 games, and Josh Jooris, 26, who potted 12 goals for Calgary in 2014-15.
Another interesting name to watch in the preseason will be Russian left-winger Pavel Buchnevich, 21, New York’s third-round draft pick in 2013. He will be making his North American debut and notched six points in seven games for Russia at the 2015 World Junior Championship. Buchnevich is considered the most skilled prospect in New York’s system.
Veteran Rick Nash, especially in the playoffs, needs to play as good as his $7.8 million salary indicates he should. It’s crucial element for the Rangers chances of progressing deep into the playoffs.
The Rangers aren’t afraid to make a big move, so if there’s a player the organization think will help get them to the Promised Land, you can be sure they’ll do their utmost to bring him to the Big Apple. So keep a watchful eye on this club as deadline day approaches.
While the Rangers are known to go after the big names, what’s impressive is that they’ve also been able to maintain a cupboard stockpiled with young talent. Just look at the current roster.
At forward they list Derek Stepan, 26, Chris Kreider, 25, Oscar Lindberg, 24, Kevin Hayes, 24, and J.T. Miller, 23, all of whom scored a combined 90 goals in 2015-16.
With such a core of young talent in place, the future remains bright on Broadway. There’s no doubt that New York will score goals. And if the Rangers can display a consistent commitment to defense and shore up a penalty kill that rated 26th overall in the NHL, who knows where they could end up going?
We like the outsider, dark horse bet at +1200 for the Rangers to win the Eastern Conference.