The Rangers won again last night. That puts them in second place in the Metro Division, something that I don’t think anyone foresaw or predicted. This Rangers team was supposed to be a bottom feeder all year and contend for that #1 overall pick (Jack Hughes). They aren’t supposed to be in second place. And it has all the tankers and #LoseForHughes folks in a tizzy.
The Rangers are not going to lose games on purpose, so the #LoseForHughes thing is more of a joke than anything, at least from my point of view. Instilling an atmosphere of losing doesn’t help anyone. Developing the players they have now is more important than trying to land the #1 pick, which isn’t even guaranteed with a last place finish. Also, for every team like the Penguins, that has won from top picks, there’s an Oilers.
The most important piece of the season this year will be developing players like Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Lias Andersson, Tony DeAngelo, and Neal Pionk at the NHL level. It’s about getting playing time for Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren Ty Ronning, and Tim Gettinger in the AHL. It’s about figuring out what they have in them and developing them to their full potential. Putting in a losing culture is not one of those development paths.
Tanking is usually a mentality that comes from the front office and works its way down. It starts with the GM putting together a questionable roster. The coach knows that the roster can’t really compete. The players know they are supposed to lose. That’s not what you want to see.
While the Rangers’ roster isn’t one built for a Stanley Cup, it is one that isn’t exactly designed to lose either. The forwards have enough skill to put up goals in bunches, even if it isn’t overly consistent. Henrik Lundqvist is still here, is still a leader in the locker room, and is showing he’s still an elite goalie. Those two alone propelled the Rangers to the playoffs in more than a few seasons. It’s also the reason why the Rangers can’t “tank” in the traditional sense. There is too much skill.
The Metro Division is a train wreck right now, but you figure teams will figure it out by the dog days of winter. When that happens, the Rangers will begin seeing losses pile up, and the #LoseForHughes train will be in full swing. While the points in the standings now are banked, there were great lessons learned in coming from behind, in learning what wins feel like, and knowing/trusting that the coaching staff and front office staff are invested in them as players, not just as losing machines.
There is some “doom and gloom” that the Rangers are going to sneak into the playoffs and screw up their draft pick. I find it a little humorous that making the playoffs is doom and gloom, but that’s where some of the fanbase is. For the long term, missing the playoffs and increasing their chances at a top-three is probably in their best interest. But there is value in creating trust in the coaching staff and management that they still want to win.
One final note. Players don’t tank. Front office leadership tanks."On rebuilding, tanking, and Jack Hughes",