I’ve mentioned this before when discussing this rebuild, but a lot of what people get hung up on are the memories and moments of yesteryear. Trading away the players who brought us those fond times feels like betrayal, and the uncertainty of memories we may never get down the line is scary.
Still though, unless you’re Oilers-level bad at rebuilding, you’re going to have some probables, and maybe even sure things on the horizon (it’s also worth noting that although Edmonton is terrible at this rebuilding thing, they do have Connor McDavid). I think, even from the most conservative, skeptical vantage point, Jeff Gorton has done a pretty decent job at navigating this transitional phase, and I personally think he’s done more than just decent, but that’s just me. So there’s going to be some good things coming.
The first, and this is a real outside chance kind of thing but still one that gets me giddy with excitement, is Captain Kreider. That’s right, Christopher James Kreider will be the next player to wear the C on his chest in a Rangers uniform, because how could he not? He perfectly fits the mold of leadership and character that the Rangers are stressing, and given that eventually the mantle is going to pass to one of the young guys, most probably Lias Andersson, his contract status is actually pretty favorable.
It doesn’t make a ton of sense to appoint a short-term captain, but if there’s anyone well-adjusted enough to handle a weird, awkward captaincy situation, it’s Kreider. Just listen to the interview he did with Amanda Borges for the Rangers the other day, or better yet, read the piece ESPN did about his blood clot injury.
A dude who’s gone through that much and come out the other side even more at peace with himself and grateful for the game of hockey is exactly the guy you want to point to and say to a rookie “be like him”. Sure, there’s no guarantees they don’t just decide to turn into Michael Del Zotto anyways, but if you want to set a standard for what it means to be a New York Ranger in the intangible sense, there’s really only one right answer on this roster.
Kevin Shattenkirk will log at least 40, if not 50 points. This one requires a little bit less explanation than the prediction about Kreider: David Quinn is going to get the best out of Shatty, who with two fully functioning knees and a summer to prepare is going to tear it up. Look for the PP to be electric with our hometown boy at the helm, and look for him to play an excellent, free-flowing style alongside fellow skaterboi –I know they’re all really skaterbois, because they all ice skate, but him and Shatty are the two best on the team I think– Brady Skjei. They’ll get tons of minutes, and it will indeed be good.
This one you’re going to find predictable because it’s me talking, but there’s a twist. Pavel Buchnevich will not only have a breakout season, but he’ll make his mark in a big way: at least one OT winning goal. I’m looking for Pavel not just to score at even strength alongside the new Captain and our resident locker room DJ Mika Zibanejad, or even swish and dish on the powerplay, but rather, he’s going to come up huge when we need him to.
There’ll be key goals for Pavel, but what I’m saying is he’s going to pickpocket Claude Giroux in 3 on 3, go end to end, put the moves on whichever goalie Philly is trotting out this year, and roof it. The most joyous celly you’ve ever seen ensues, and scene.
Hank posts Vezina worthy numbers, and, get this, actually wins it. I know, I know, PHWA voters are dumb and will likely make a push for someone else to win it “because it’s their turn” but what I’m saying is Henrik Lundqvist will be so good that they can’t not give it to him. He’s the King, and he’s going to make sure nobody forgets it. They won’t and he’ll walk away at the end of the season with a big hunk of silver (just not that big hunk of silver, unfortunately).
You’re going to say I’m crazy for this one, and maybe I am, but here goes. Vitali Kravtsov comes over after the KHL season wraps up and joins the Rangers for the playoffs. What’s that? Playoffs? Yes, playoffs. The Rangers will make it, probably be a first round out and mess up their draft situation, but Kravtsov will get Kravty. It’ll be the second coming of College Chris Kreider (remember 2012? those were the days) and it will be glorious.
Now that I’m done hyping myself up, let me point something out. None of these things (well, except that last one, and I’m not entirely serious about it to be quite honest) involve playoffs, and certainly none of them mean lots of wins generally. That’s because while wins are what matters as far as racking up points in the standings and getting all the way down the road to that big hunk of silver, they only sometimes correlate with those memorable moments our hockey lives are composed of.
We can still share great times with our friends and family, build new connections, and see new, incredible things. Wins are nice of course, because it truly does suck to watch your team lose night after night, but there’s so much more to hockey than just getting that W. We’ll watch players grow and learn new tricks, see guys develop chemistry and cool habits.
We will witness Hank in all his glory for yet another year (let’s not pretend that he isn’t the best athlete any of us will likely see in our lifetimes), and see David Quinn come into his own as he learns to deal with press conferences and Larry Brooks (just kidding, much love to Brooksie). It’ll be good, I swear, and one way or another we’ll be with each other the whole way. It’ll be fun, just a different kind of fun."A Different Kind of Fun",