A Rebuild Realized

jeff gorton hockey operations

Roughly three weeks ago, the Rangers traded for Adam Fox. Two weeks ago they acquired Jacob Trouba. A week later they selected Kaapo Kakko at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. And earlier this week they signed Artemi Panarin to a massive free agent contract, giving them a true superstar player for the first time in roughly a decade. It’s a rebuild realized for the New York Rangers, after a deep and anxious period that begun with Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton putting Brendan Smith on waivers and issued a letter to the fans regarding their future-oriented outlook.

I’ve written before about that specific kind of anxiety, trading memories we already have and the comfort of familiar failure for some day that might never come. It’s tough, and I’m sure we ll felt it as this rebuild started. Still, we’re here now, and there’s plenty to look forward too.

We’ve got line combos to fall in love with anew, first career OT winners to lose our minds over, and roller-coaster playoff runs to go on. It’s an exciting time, and a big relief. The buzz in the Garden on October 3rd is going to be a special thing, the kind of electricity the Rangers haven’t really felt in the modern era.

There is of course plenty of uncertainty. There’s work to do as far as clearing out salary and roster spots, and although Jeff Gorton and John Davidson have done good work thus far, there’s no guarantees it’ll happen, at least not the way we might hope. Injuries, unreached potential, all kinds of roadblocks loom large, and that’s tough too. It might not be next season (I still think it could be, even if it’s no especially likely), or even the season after that. In other words, there’s reason for apprehension or malaise.

Still, we’ve got a new-look New York Rangers, a high-quality squad. Every team has bad players, and often that’s a matter of a coach being able to deploy them. Coaching too is going to help guys play up to their highest capacities, and make sure the culture (yes, it matters) pushes the players forward in the right direction. David Quinn, at least thus far, has shown himself up to the task. That’s encouraging, and alleviates some of the residual queasiness.

And here’s the thing too: we’ve got one guy who can help push us that extra little bit, one guy whose talent puts him in the top 3 all-time shortlist of players on this team. He’s a familiar face, the familiar face, and although it might be upsetting not seeing Cally, Dubi, Zucc, or Stepn make it up to the summit, we all, above all, want to see Henrik Lundqvist win it all. He’s still very much around, in our lives and in this locker room, and every player who puts on a blue sweater next for the first time next season knows he’s the franchise. They know there’s only one thing left to do: go get him his Stanley Cup.