The Jacob Trouba trade caught most of us by surprise I’m guessing, after a long, long while of assurances by sources legitimate and otherwise that he absolutely, totally, definitely, seriously wanted to come to the Rangers. It also took place the Monday before the Rangers are set to draft Kaapo Kakko, which I’m also going to go ahead and say was what we thought would be the big news this week. It still is, but the implications of the Trouba trade are far greater than the simple significance of using the 2nd overall pick to select the best player in the draft (did I say that?). You see for the longest time we heard (and maybe even said, although I don’t care to go back through my entire post history on this site and see exactly what I did and didn’t say over the past several years) that the Rangers big problem was evaluating defense, handing out defensive contracts, understanding that the big need was defense, and on and on. Basically, to really put a pin in it: they don’t get defense.
Or so we thought. I mean after all, it was a nice touch that the Rangers took two most-likely-good-probably-very-good-potentially-really-great defensemen last year in the draft, but the question lingered: were they aware that Marc Staal’s play was not worth his contract? Was waiving Brendan Smith just sending a message, or was the internal consensus that he really actually was just smoke and mirrors in that post-deadline run we had where he played so well with Brady Skjei? Could they all grasp that, hopes and dreams aside, Kevin Shattenkirk was not going to be our 1D? There was a compelling case to be made, that’s for sure, that there was some huge disconnect within management as to what exactly good defense meant in the modern NHL.
Wonder no more, because the Rangers just brought in one of the best transition defensemen in the league, a guy who can produce points, eat minutes, and shut down opponents. Coupled with say, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Libor Hajek, Adam Fox, Yegor Rykov, or even, yes, Kevin Shattenkirk, and we’ve suddenly got a legitimate top pairing. No longer will we be thinking to ourselves, “gosh, we need to put somebody out against the Ovechkin line, but who will that be exactly?” We now have a very good answer to that.
And it means something more too, because for more or less the entirety of the Henrik Lundqvist era, the theory behind the Rangers’s game plan seemed to be that stacking the forwards and leaning on a future Hall of Fame goalie would mask poor defense (or worse, that wasn’t the theory, Glen Sather and his braintrust really thought there were no defensive issues, see above). Now we’re seeing something different. This lineup is going to be balanced, even – the kind of qualities one might find in a Stanley Cup contending team.
Wait! A Stanley Cup contending team? Yeah duh, that’s the whole point of a rebuild, which means of course that they actually know what they’re doing in Penn Plaza. Maybe we should’ve trusted them all along. The sky never was falling in the first place, the house was not on fire, and the Rangers were not being steered ahead
All of this leads me to one conclusion, and I will double or triple down on this as necessary: Jeff Gorton is a good GM, and, OH BABY! John Davidson knows how to get there too. I regret to inform you that if the Rangers land Artemi Panarin this summer in free agency, then yes, playoff hockey is back in New York City. A bolder take? We’ll be in that elite group of favored teams within three years (parenthetically, you should all know by now that I don’t by any means think you need to be an elite squad to win it all, just good enough to win it all – see, e.g.: St Louis)."Trusting the process",