Just a few weeks back I was defending my own cynicism and giving Jeff Gorton an incomplete on his report card, but I’ve recently had a change of heart. You might find this surprising (I don’t, because I tend to be all over the place, but you all don’t know me like that) but I’m going to make the argument that such a shift in mindset is not without reason. Sure, there’s still good cause to be hesitant, but what was once skepticism can shift towards cautious optimism without sounding too crazy. Yes, folks, I’m saying it’s just about time to #TrustTheProcess.
Starting with what we know most clearly, it’s who’s on the ice that matters right now. Of course, a lot of the reason for the roster’s new look has been injuries, and the team is still playing Cody McLeod (although if you really think Gorton is playing 8 dimensional chess then maybe that’s an effort to get a higher draft pick), but the fact is that guys like Neal Pionk, Anthony DeAngelo, and John Gilmour are getting serious minutes on the backend. This is a crucial step in their development, breaking down the adjustment period that would exist if they first stepped into the lineup next year. The fact that they’re getting consistently big minutes means they can make mistakes without having their confidence shattered by a draconian coach.
Did somebody have a word with AV? Just this past game, according to hockeystats.ca Neal Pionk led the team in TOI at 20.88 minutes, DeAngelo logged 17.22 and John Gilmour had 15.87. Not exactly Erik Karlsson shifts but in those minutes the three newbies each had a CF% of 71.11%, 54.35%, and 68.75%. Not so bad I’d say for babies’ first Rangers/Islanders matchup.
Keep hearing the #NYR are more interested in top prospects/roster players than draft picks.
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) February 16, 2018
Another cause for optimism is the above tweet. Jeff Gorton is looking to make this team younger and more skilled, by his own admission, but the fact that the word on the street is that he’s looking more for proven prospects who are near or at the NHL level means he’s also got his thinking cap on. Unless the Rangers wind up in the top three this draft and pick Dahlin, Svechnikov, or Zadina, whoever they’d be taking in the first round would be at least a year or two away.
Gorton is evidently aware that the quicker way to rebound as far as roster construction, and a way to avoid potential busts, is to seek out guys who are already seasoned to a certain degree and just need to make the jump. I could also see the merits of looking for draft picks more than prospects, but I think I prefer this approach, and I’m excited to see who Gorton brings home to New York.
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) February 6, 2018
Along those lines, one of the other reasons I’m cautiously optimistic and gaining a sense of trust in GMJG’s plan is the asking price for Nash – allegedly a first-rounder, a top prospect, and a lesser player/prospect (I know you can read, because you’ve made it this far, but in case you’re twitter averse here you go). Gorton is not going to sell low on his assets, and that’s a good thing.
Now, obviously a GM that plays too hard to get is going to wind up empty handed when other teams tell him just to take a hike, but I’m confident Gorton knows that you ask high and then show some flexibility as you negotiate down with a potential trading partner. If Gorton manages this return for Nash he’s a miracle worker, but if he gets even in the ballpark he’ll be getting fair value and prove his worth as one of the better GMs in the league. This is another thing I’m excited about – what Gorton makes of his highly-prized assets on the trade market.
Lastly, we’ve got this article from the New York Post, which, again, if you simply don’t want to click it I’ll summarize for you. Early on in the article Brooksie (who’s been really on his game lately, by the way) quotes Jeff Gorton as saying “We are not going to burn the first year off any contracts,” with regard to Andersson and/or Chytil. So while we may see them for the last few games of the season, Gorton is going to let things simmer and wait until next season before making any decisions on their ability to play with the big boys.
It’s a quietly savvy move, one that shows he’s going to be conscious of the varying timelines of contract status that develop over time through a rebuild. It shouldn’t be taken out of consideration when evaluating his skill as a General Manager.
There it is, my small, but I think convincing evidence that the Rangers front office is on the right track as far as planning for the future. Whether Gorton is actually able to execute on this promise is another thing, but things are looking good so far. Right now I’m going to place my trust in management, but even if you’re not there yet there’s still room to be cautiously optimistic. Earlier this season I gave Jeff Gorton an incomplete for his mid-season grade, and while his final paper isn’t quite done yet, the first draft looks pretty promising so far. Bring it home, Gorts.