What are the odds the Rangers can win the Cup next year?

With the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft the New York Rangers will proudly select Kaapo Kakko*. That’s just a fact, the only thing people can really agree on, such an essential starting point that it’s worth repeating. It’s every other word in the ellipses both before and after “… Kaapo Kakko …” and a lot of it is hyperbolic or at the very least myopic. It doesn’t matter what exactly Kakko is as a player, he doesn’t even really matter that much as one individual player, because we still define success in this league based on how teams perform as a whole, and watching McDavid put up three consecutive 100-point seasons before the age of 23 (just reread that a few times – it went 100, 108, 106 also) is miserable. The thing that’s important about Kakko is what he’s a part of, which however you dress it up is the process of trying to win the Stanley Cup. Based on where we started, where we were this year, and where we’ll be next year and beyond that, this is huge, and is another one of those things to really absorb. The question remains though, and only grows more frustrating as Henrik Lundqvist’s star fades, albeit glacially, this: when will we win the Cup?

The answer is a hugely loaded question, because no matter what your response is you’re staking out a position that’s bold in its implications, likely not internally coherent, and depending on whether or not the Rangers do make it all the way, probably factually incorrect (the rules I’m imagining are that you can only guess once and it’s the next most recent championship). That’s just to get that out of the way, and since we’ve got that explicit and out-loud I’m going to be very deliberate when I say what I’m going to say. They can win the Stanley Cup next year.

Let’s imagine you had to guess who’ll win it in a given year. What would you say was the likelihood of the most favored team? Models have gotten pretty sophisticated today, and even though there all a little bit different there’s something you’ll notice in all of them, every year. That’s the weirdly intuitive, weirdly counterintuitive fact that the team most likely to win that big silver bowl is at absolutely best in the low-mid 20s as a percentage to win the Cup. To put it more simply, the far and away favorites this year, the historically-good Tampa Bay Lightning, were still 3 times more likely to lose than to win everything. After all, what were the odds of the Lightning getting swept in the first round?

Well it was 2%. And yet we’re here, it happened. Improbably does not mean impossible – all you need to do is make it to the playoffs and after that it’s anybody’s game.

This might sound like a weird thing for me to say, that the Rangers can win the Cup next year, given that I tend to be analytically focused and rely often on numbers to back up my arguments. One of the things you look out for in any kind of statistical analysis though is a small sample size, because it usually isn’t broadly representative of what’s “really” there.

Implicitly this means that the Presidents’ Trophy is more important than the Stanley Cup. Leaving aside the merits of whether that should be the case, let’s not even bother having the conversation because it just isn’t. What question this raises to me then, if the regular season record really represents the best team in the league, then what does playoff success say about a team? Unless we really want to be ridiculous and say “nothing”, and unless we want to be somewhat-less-but-still-somewhat-silly we should stipulate that “it’s hard”. I know I just teased a big head-scratcher right there, but answering the question isn’t as important as asking it in this case. 

The bottom line is that the Stanley Cup represents some level of hard-fought victory, that you can’t win it if you’re not a good team, and beyond that literally anything can happen. Sure, we want to be one of those teams in the low/mid 20% zone, but if you told me in 2010 that every year for almost a decade more or less the Rangers would have somewhere between a 5% and 25% chance at watching my team execute what is surely an immaculately synchronized and elaborate parade/media/merchandise scheme (either that or Dolan hasn’t ever really considered it, because he typically keeps his hands off hockey) I’d take it. I’d do it over and over and over again.

It’s totally unclear exactly how we’d get there, but it’s certainly possible that we do within the calendar year. We’d have to make the right moves at the draft (though I suppose there’s one move they really can’t mess up), make an impact trade, win big in free agency, and somehow sort out the defense (which is the most difficult part, but we did just cover the difference between improbability and impossibility). Even only sort of doing that, even if everything doesn’t hit absolutely perfectly, we can still have a shot at it, and probably see that shot increase steadily year-on-year. Let me repeat: anyone who makes it can win it. 

There is of course the fright of a team like the Devils suddenly rebounding, the Canes establishing dominance after years of dormancy, or the Bolts actually finally doing it. The first round will not look the way we think it might right down until the last game of the regular season (I know, I know, the Thanksgiving Rule) – teams who might seem like tough opponents might not even make it – and what’s more is that you need not play every single super-elite team to win the Cup, you need not even be a super-elite team to win it (I keep putting off my deep dive into the 2015 Blackhawks, who were egregiously just sort of good). Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but all we need to do is make it. We can do that.

*-Unless the Devils take Kappo, of course.

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  • I don’t know about a Cup, but they could make the playoffs with the right moves.

    Step 1, draft Kapo, step 2, get rid of Vesey, Strome, Names, Staal, and Smith, an clear cap space.

    Step 3, be prudent in FA and don’t go nuts. I have been thinking that a guy like Dzingel may be an affordable #2C until Chytil is ready.

    Stock the D with the younger, better skating players.

    You never know.

    • Pretty broad strokes, Richter.
      I agree they need to move the dead wood, but I’m not ready to buy out Staal yet. Strome has the versatility to be a keeper. Really we need Kappo and Kravtzov to be good enough to push everyone else down the lineup.

      • It is a general plan because too much is predicated on who is amenable to coming here this offseason, meaning FA wise.

        Because I think that they will get someone to come, maybe an impact player.

        Strome had a good year but is it related to a very good shooting %? I don’t know that I want to extend him to find out.

        And agreed with the young guys pushing lesser players down the lineup.

    • I think they will be better than most expect. The coach is a good fit and that has created some positive mojo all around.

      The next move to make is to let Quinn bring in his own guy to run the Defense and send Lindy to Hartford as coach/GM to begin the cleanup effort.

      A new voice on D will likely bring a new system and that is OK because it needs an overhaul, even if it probably create a learning curve.

      Obviously there needs to be personnel changes but I think buying out Staal (or Shatty) would be idiotic at this point. Girardi has turned himself back into a decent d-man by being being deployed more reasonably. Let’s not make that mistake again.
      Assuming there is a new defensive coach, I would bring them both to camp and see where it goes. Trading either of them and holding some salary could work as it would if is a deal with upside.

      We should have the goaltending with Hank, Igor and Georgiev. I would shuttle the two youngsters back and forth from Hartford so that they both spend significant time playing next year in both the NHL and AHL. They should be able to get 50 or or so games each.

      Offensively, we have a glut of middling forwards that hopefully can be used to get a serviceable d-man in a 2 for 1 deal. Of course Kakko and Kravtsov coming is going to be huge.

      And honestly, I am of the opinion that we should go get Panarin. Every time I watch that dude he is in the middle of everything good. Having him there right now with the two talented European kids coming in could make things very interesting. We really need a sniper like Panarin but if not him, I like Duchene a lot.

      I think they are a team that will be tough to play against and if things go decently I can see them doing some Stanley damage next year.

      • I don’t see your 2 for 1 deal. The Rangers don’t have any kind of a glut of forwards. They have a shortage of forwards and a glut of serviceable defensemen. The problem on defense is really the absence of first pairing defensemen and I don’t see how you get a real first pair guy for say Vesey and Howden. Granted it is a bit extreme, but Edmonton gave up Taylor Hall for a first pair guy and he was just a regular first pairing guy, not an elite player.

      • The real issue is that old, slow guys do not work on the D side any more, unless they have incredible positioning which Staal clearly does not.

        I would rather roll out Skjei, Shatty, DeAngelo, Hajek, Lindgren, etc., and dump Staal and Smith, hopefully with sweetened trades to get them completely off the books.

    • I doubt there’s enough draft picks to rebuild that back end in the course of a single season. As GM, I would put my best 14 forwards on the ice and/or in reserve and focus on building a back end. Sure, you have to draft Kaapo with the 2nd overall pick but there’s quite a few very strong looking defenseman towards the back side of the 1st round.
      Hopefully Dallas can make it to the WCF somehow and the Rangers get that 3rd 1st round pick so they can draft 2x defenseman with 1st round talent and/or pedigree.
      In my humble opinion the Rangers will need years to put a SCF team on the ice. The back end is too much of an unknown right now. IMO, teams need to not only do it (playoff hockey) but they have to do it together as a group to win a Cup. It’s so hard to win in this league. So many variables.

      PS: Tampa had better fold now and fall further from a cup every season until the proverbial “wall comes down” and it’s time for the inevitable rebuild. They screwed us by choking in round #1.


  • I also could get hit by lightning. Sure the is a chance, but many things have to come together. Kakko needs to be near elite. Kraftsov and Chytil need to put in 40+ points. Lias needs to show he wasn’t a wasted pick and we need to improve the defense. Anything can happen. Did we lay the ground work this past year? Possibly. I move Lindy Ruff to Hartford and get a new defense. I bring in Panarin and buy out 1 of our defensemen. Not buying my Stanley cup ticket just yet.

    • I don’t know why you want to buy out a defenseman. Just consider two options. Buy out Staal (or Smith or Shattenkirk or for that matter Lundqvist) in 2019 or in 2020. What are the differences? Well, the 2019 buyout gets increased cap space next season but costs you cap space in 2022-2023 when the Rangers are more likely to be able to contend – and when all of these hot shot young players will be wanting real money. It also costs flexibility. The Rangers should not need cap space next year. They can certainly sign Panarin without drastic measures and likely another good player as well. Granted they could not sign Panarin and Karlsson, but that seems unlikely in any event and likely to cause cap woes down the road.

    • The premise of the comment is that anything can happen. I hate the Isles too, but they are not a great team, but they play LIKE a team. We need better all around team play to reach the playoffs next year. Once you make the playoffs, anything can happen.

      • Of course anything can happen. The likelihood of this happening is extremely low. The mindset necessary and the move necessary to make it happen are likely to be mortgaging the future of the franchise again in order to get back to the playoffs for a wish and a prayer chance at getting the cup. I am completely against that, hence the Sather reference.

  • I’m a realist, and the eternal optimist, but the odds are slim to none.

    Can they make the PO’s, yes, and depending on the goaltending, and opponent, we may even go to the second round, but after that we are in LaLa land.

    This all depends on the draft, possible trades, and or UFA signings, if any? I would stay away from huge contracts in the UFA market, fill in the holes where needed, and can’t be done internally, and then shoot for the stars!!!!!!!

    • You need to get the elite players at a young age if and when they are available. I agree we should not be buying 31 y/o’s players, but if an under 29 y/o who is in the top 20 in scoring is available, you have to see how much it costs. This is true on both sides of the blueline. People seem to think you need to continue to gather draft picks of 2nd year players – wrong. You need to add great offensive and defensive players who are on the right side of 29 y/o. You do not need big names, you need big players with superior skills. The best team is the right mix of players with superior skills, not a team of 25 y/o’s

  • The most important thing you need is a great coach. We don’t have one. island girls have one and you see the difference. Columbus does and Edmonton doesn’t. Of course other things are important like players, but if you can’t utilize the strength of the players what does it matter if they play hard. The evidence of my supposition of the coach is what he did this past year. I wont recant because there is a lot of muggers of the truth, but I will say we got lucky on the lottery.

  • The Rangers have three problems and they must address at least two of them. They do not have enough total hockey ability – they lack both stars and depth. When your third best forward scores 38 points and there is playing time for Connor Brickey, there are issues. Second, the team lacks passion. Forwards only play about 15 minutes a game and they certainly can go all out for that time. I love Chityl’s talent, but what percentage of his shifts does he show up for? Buchnevich has similar issues. I don’t know what the true back story is on DeAngelo. Contrast most Ranger players with Zuccarello, who views every shift as an opportunity. Brendan Lemieux might be a good start, but there seems to be a long way to go. Finally, David Quinn is a novice coach and you can see the difference between his results and those of someone like Barry Trotz. In his defense, most coaches are not Scotty Bowman (brilliant from day one). They learn on the job. Will DQ become a quality coach? Maybe, but he isn’t there yet.

    Will this be a long road or a short road? I don’t know. But I feel confident in my belief that lots of people here are wrong about who belongs on the ice. As a purely hypothetical statement (I know little about Libor Hajek and have no reason to believe anything negative about him), if you have a choice between playing a dedicated Marc Staal and a nonchalant Hajek, you play Staal no matter which player is actually better because in the long run, a Hajek who doesn’t care may be good enough to play in the NHL, but he will not be effective enough to play on a championship team and so what difference does it make if you develop him or not.

    When Mats Zuccarello first played for the Rangers, he was good enough but Tortorella just could not see it. He did not want Zucc. Zuccarello was not frustrated. He simply worked on his game and became a better player than perhaps he would have been otherwise had he been dealing with a more astute coach. In the end, talent does not win hockey games. What wins is a blend of skill and effort.

  • The type of dreaming that a Cup is within reach is what leads to bad decisions and prolonging the mediocrity. This team is years away from being a legitimate contender. We are trending towards some good forward lines. The D, currently arguably the worst in the league, needs to be rebuilt, with limited prospects to do so on hand. And we will need to find our next goalie (hopefully Georgi or Shetsy); all before we are real contenders again.

    And we have a coach who seems quite good at developing young talent. Whether he is also capable of taking a talented team to the promised land remains to be seen.

    Better to stay the rebuild course than throw it away on an unrealistic dream.

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