The Rangers began last season with the dawn of the Rick Nash Era; made a dramatic deadline move in sending a slumping Marian Gaborik to Nash’s former team; had defenseman Marc Staal have his career threatened after taking a puck to the eye; watched star center Brad Richards struggle mightily in the playoffs, having a fallout with coach John Tortorella, advancing to the second round, seeing Tortorella fired and then watching the man he’d replace in Vancouver, Alain Vigneault, replace him in New York.
It’s a team with untapped offensive potential, strong defensemen and the best goalie in the Eastern Conference. Free of Torts, can the Rangers finally win their first Stanley Cup in nearly 20 years?
Rick Nash brings the shootout nasty against the Boston Bruins. Did Jack Edwards make a Tarzan reference there?
The Rangers bid adieu to deadline acquisition Ryane Clowe, who signed with the Devils; depth defensemen Steve Eminger and Matt Gilroy; and depth forwards Christian Thomas and Kris Newbury.
Justin Falk (Wild) and Aaron Johnson (Bruins) were brought in on defense, while Benoit Pouliot was signed as a free agent up front. Dominic Moore is back with the Rangers, attempting to make the roster after taking a year away from hockey to be with his wife, who died of cancer at age 32 in January.
Captain Ryan Callahan continued to give the Rangers tough minutes, especially shorthanded, and dependable offense with 31 points. Derick Brassard found his offensive game after the Gaborik trade, scoring 11 points in 13 games and continuing to play well in the postseason. Hobbit Wizard Mats Zuccarello brings some skill to the wing, while Derek Dorsett is the kind of tough agitator teams love. Moore, Darroll Powe, Taylor Pyatt, Arron Asham and J.T. Miller fill out the ranks.
All that said, the Rangers’ have three complete question marks at the forward spot. The first is the incredibly talented Chris Kreider, who had just two goals in 23 games last season after a star rookie performance in the 2012 postseason. Out from under Tortorella’s thumb, can he shine?
Brian Boyle had two goals in 38 games after scoring 32 goals in the previous two seasons combined. What can he bring to the Rangers in a contract year?
Finally, Brad Richards is signed through 2020 at a $6.667 million cap hit. His reasonable stats in the regular season covered up what was, overall, a very average year. His postseason performance – 1 goal in 10 games, his ice time dipping to 14:43 – was one of the all-time flameouts for a star player. Can Vigneault help him recapture his game, or is he destined for a buyout?
Defense: A healthy Staal gives the Rangers an outstanding top four, with Dan Girardi (25:24 per night) leading the way along with Ryan McDonagh (24:21) and Michael Del Zotto, who makes up for some defensive liabilities with solid offense.
After that, the Rangers will be choosing from Anton Stralman, Falk, John Moore (who impressed after the Gaborik trade) and Johnson, with the ever-present Stu Bickell, journeyman Danny Syvret and bruising rookie Dylan McIlrath waiting in the wings.
Goalies: Once again, Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers when they needed him, with a league-best 24 wins and a 2.05 GAA along with a Vezina nomination. Will his numbers change minus Tortorella’s defensive front? It probably won’t matter to Hank if it means a few more Rangers goals in the playoffs that he hasn’t been getting. Marty Biron will be his backup.
Glen Sather battled through health issues and remains one of the most respected general managers in the NHL. Well, at least when he’s making trades, rather than signing big free agents.
Here’s the official Rangers playoff song from 2012, and their goal song, and it’ll really get you going on that elliptical trainer.
Lundqvist. Could it be anyone else? As long as the King is between the pipes, the Rangers are a contender. Give him some goal support, and things could get really interesting.
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- New York Rangers
- John Tortorella
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- Marian Gaborik
- Alain Vigneault