State of the Rangers

The Rangers are contenders (again)

Jeff Gorton's case for GM of the Year is looking strong in the early going
Jeff Gorton’s case for GM of the Year is looking strong in the early going

The season isn’t even a month old and we’re not yet 1/8 of the way through this marathon, but screw it, I’m ready to call the Rangers contenders once again. In a season when nearly every pundit expected the Blueshirts to fall back to the fringe of the playoff picture due to their leaky defense, New York has instead emerged as a lethal transition team that has speed and skill throughout its lineup, its most dangerous power play in recent memory, and as usual, all-world goaltending.

Indeed, the hype train is leaving the station. NBC analysts Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire agreed that the Blueshirts have re-established themselves among the game’s elite teams and there’s even early buzz that Jeff Gorton could be a candidate for GM of the Year.

So are we getting ahead of ourselves?

Well, of course we are – it’s November 2nd. It’s impossible to predict what injuries may befall the Blueshirts, what unforeseen circumstances will arise, and what transactions will occur over the next six months. It’s really a fool’s errand to handicap the list of contenders until after the trade deadline. But with the way things are unfolding, New York has as good a chance to remain in that mix as anyone.

Already the Rangers have notched signature wins against teams that will likely be in that group, including a convincing 7-4 victory over the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, a 4-2 road win over the consensus best-team-in-the East Capitals, a 6-1 drubbing of the Lightning, and last night’s redemption blowout of the Blues.

This team has already gelled and to be able to pinpoint its identity this early is a major shift from years past when it took months for Alain Vigneault to assemble his best lineup and for the team to establish its style of play.

A lot may hinge on New York’s efforts to add an impact defenseman, but the Rangers have the cap space and depth to weather a swap that includes a big-time forward. That D-man could be the missing piece, but even with the roster as currently assembled the Blueshirts appear capable of competing with the league’s best.

In fact, Gorton’s greatest trick this summer may have been his masterful job fortifying the lineup with two-way players and penalty killers that have added to existing strengths while helping to cover up the deficiencies along the blueline.

This rollercoaster ride is just getting started, but New York’s league-leading +18 goal differential is no fluke – this team is for real.

"The Rangers are contenders (again)", 5 out of 5 based on 30 ratings.
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30 Comments

  1. Cautious optimism

    That’s where I’m at right now. But then again I’m always the optimist around here!

  2. too soon. let’s see how the older D men hold up over the long season. their play could slip. have to keep McDonough very healthy too.

  3. Same here. Cautiously optimistic.

    I do like what I see, and the 4 lines seem to be comfortable with each other. Teh passes are crisp, and on target, which is what you like to see. The 2nd power play goal last night was a thing of beauty – all 5 guys touched the puck and moved it along quickly, but without “panicky” movement. Nice, crisp passing.

    So far , so good. But, like the article above noted – it’s (very) early.

  4. My friend on here “Richter1994″ and I have spoke at length about Jeff Gorton. I always felt he was a under the radar GM in the NHL who has not fully been given the opportunity to spread his wings.

    When he spent the two-years in Boston as the interim GM, he made a trade on draft day with Toronto to obtain the rights to Tuukka Rask and made trades in the draft with EDM and AZ to move up in the 2nd and 3rd round which was used to draft Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic as well as drafting Kessel. GM Peter Chiarelli received much of the credit when the Bruins won the cup but IMHO Gorton seemed to be a very bright GM in the making.

    Being under Glen Sather he appeared Glen made many of the decisions until this past summer. I told Richter 1994” I feel really confident Jeff Gorton will re-tool this team quickly. Boy, has he done that. Cannot do everything in one-off season but if Jeff can land a RHD for MCD in the top 4 and move on from Holden, this team will 100% be a contender. Really fun season to watch, very proud of this team and for us Fans to watch..

  5. I don’t like the Pond Hockey style the Rangers play, but I do like to see them win and I like the players on this team. I swear I will freak the F out if they deal Miller, Hayes or Zucc because of a perceived need to add a defenseman.

  6. It is too early to come to a solid conclusion, but the team is healthy, young players have stepped up & defensively its like night & day. It’s so hard to guage things early, because as they say it’s not how you start but how you finish. Washington was the best team in hockey last year, but they didn’t win the Cup.

  7. Since all is going well, not much to dissect other than some line combo modifications.

    Ideally:

    Vesey-Stepan-Nash
    Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
    Miller-Hayes-Zuccarello
    Pirri-Lindberg-Grabner

    A couple changes here that I think are beneficial. First, Lindberg in, Fast out. Fast doesn’t really fit with this team, and the need for Lindberg to handle 4th line center duties is apparent.

    Second, slide Buchnevich up. Obviously the Granbner on the third line thing was a bone for the hattrick, but he belongs on the 4th. Buchnevich could slide up to the third with Hayes and Miller, but that’s a less mature line, and I think Buchnevich could do well being paired with the more experienced Kreider-Zibanejad duo.

    Zuke will excell wherever he plays, and he could really help get Miller going who’s been right there all season but can’t seem to finish. With Zuke’s playmaking ability, Miller and Hayes should both see their games soar.

    I’m fine with Buchnevich on the 3rd, and can appreciate the concern that dropping Zuke down a line could be viewed negatively, but with this depth there is no real difference between 2nd and 3rd line duties; it’s all about who works with who best. And in that sense, I’d like to see Buchnevich given an opportunity playing with Kreider and Zibanejad.

    1. Stepan is at best the 3 rd best center on this team, 4 th if you put JT Miller at center where he belongs……..

        1. Plus you don’t break up the Vesey-Stepan-Nash trio. Call it a 2nd line or 3rd line, but that combination shouldn’t be messed with.

      1. Thinking of the whole first, second, third line as a ranking system is total BS, as far as I’m concerned. The first line is the one that’s producing the most goals, regardless of who’s on it, and the fourth is your defensive specialists. The first three are basically interchangeable, depending on which one is hot, and even that changes frequently as players get shuffled.

    2. I dig these lines and must agree with you generally speaking. K-Z-B looked great in the early going before injuries broke them up. That scenario above also puts at least one power guy on each of the top three lines, which I like.

    3. Fast is a far superior player to Lindberg. If Pirri continues to be OK at the center position then bringing in Lindberg for Fast would be foolish

  8. I am certain Papa John is not a happy man

    The Metropolitan area are getting their pies baby

    Buy Pizza Hut Stock

  9. “… he could really help get Miller going …”

    Are we talking about the same J.T.Miller who is leading Rangers in scoring at point per game?

    1. It wasn’t a knock on JT. He’s playing great, and is racking up points, but he’s had problems finishing and I think putting him with Zuke will result in a goal surge for him.

  10. Can anyone explain cap implications of Vesey performance bonuses? All i can find in press is the incentives go up to 2.85mm.
    – What triggers them?
    – When and how do they hit the cap?

    Seems like +/- 2mm can make a big difference in cap flexibility over next 2 years.

      1. Right but what triggers them?

        And if he earns them again next year, will they hit the 2018-2019 cap?

        1. The initial trigger is upon the initial signing. But I believe that they get charged to the next year’s cap.

          As far as what Vesey has to do to get the bonuses, they are usually very attainable goals that are set like number of games played here, easy stats to attain, etc. Meaning that the intention is for the player to get all that bonus money.

          Hope this helps.

          1. Usually the very expensive bonuses are for winning individual trophies, like the Calder.

            The smaller bonuses are for, like Richter said, games played. Although I am almost certain bonuses cannot be tied to goals, assists, or points.

            If the Rangers have any cap space at the end of the regular season, then any bonuses that were triggered go towards that cap space. What ever bonus money is leftover rolls into next year as a ‘cap overage’. That would effectively lower the Rangers’ salary cap for next season.

  11. ok, slow down, there’s a big “if” on all of this:

    IF the Ranger forwards can continue this pace by coming back deep into the D zone to take the puck (as opposed to the D men getting them the puck) and sprinting the other way to outrace the opponent to the O zone, then they are contenders. But it’s TEN games. Are they going to do this 40 games from now? 60 games from now? Into the playoffs? We don’t know yet.

    IF you think that teams are not going to adjust to the Rangers’ play then that’s a big misnomer. Can you say the word “trap?” Because that’s what other teams will do to try and slow the Rangers down.

    I also think that teams will start forechecking the you-know-what out of the Rangers’ D men to not allow them to get the puck top the Ranger forwards.

    We will see what this looks like in January so it’s still early. This keeps up? They can win the Cup, no question. But teams are not going to allow this to continue over the long term.

    Plus, don’t be fooled. The Rangers need a top righty D man desperately. Make no mistake about that.

    1. They do need the Damn Dman. No argument there. That being said, we have to realize that they might not land one,

      1. Skjei on the right side with McD maybe solves the problem. That’s what I wanted to start the season:

        McD-Skjei
        Staal-KK
        Holden-G

  12. Jury still out on gorton…….
    Biggest difference is VESEY….a no brainer who we were fortunate to get….we are the yankees of hockey….Hayes last year now vesey…..makes a GM look like a genius
    What concerns me is that our defense is mostly old and not good, except for mcdonagh and sjekl….
    If he can move girardi for strallman I will be impressed…..

    1. Signed Pirri. Signed Grabner.

      Traded Brassard for Zibanejad.

      Coaxed Vesey to come to NY, when all indications pointed to him signing with his hometown Bruins.

      I’d say he’s doing just fine.

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