Can the Rangers realistically contend this season?

The hype is real with the Rangers this year, so much so that Vegas has their odds significantly higher than expected. Some books have the Rangers finishing around 85 points, a 7 point increase from last season’s 78 points.

It’s hard not to be excited about this team. They’ve added Jacob Trouba, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Kaapo Kakko to the starting lineup. They’ve removed Neal Pionk, a negative impact on the roster, and nothing else thus far. Just on those four additions and one subtraction, the Rangers are already an improved club. But the question is – are they improved enough to make the playoffs?

Before we evaluate the Rangers, let’s take a look at the state of the Metro Division. The Capitals and Penguins are aging, but still probably talented enough to finish in the top-three. Carolina is probably finishing in the top-three as well, that team is scaring me. Philly won’t make the playoffs, and the Devils, even with Jack Hughes and PK Subban, just don’t appear deep enough. That leaves the Isles and their sustainability/goaltending questions, and the Blue Jackets and if they can win without Panarin/Sergei Bobrovsky.

Right off the bat, the question is whether the Rangers can beat out two of the Caps, Penguiins, Canes, and Jackets to finish in the top-three. If they can, then they are in. If they can’t, then they need to beat out at least one and then one of the Atlantic’s four-headed hydra of Montreal, Boston, Tampa, and Toronto. That’s a tall order, especially for a team projected to be at 85 points.

The other thing to consider is that the 85 points assumes a lot for the kids:

And that’s just the kids, we also need to assume a bunch about the veterans on the roster and how they are deployed:

Those are a lot of assumptions, and that’s just for the Rangers to hit that 85 point threshold. Last year’s bottom wild card team was Columbus, and they had 98 points. That’s still a 13 point difference. Even if every single bullet point above is met, the Rangers need to get from that 85 point bar to 98 points, 100 to be safe.

So even with everything above, the Rangers need to see an improvement of at least 20 points to even sniff the wild card. I don’t mean to be the Debbie Downer here, but I don’t think they are 20 points improved yet. There are too many unknowns about this roster.

That said, a lot of the success of this team will be on David Quinn and how he deploys two positions: center and left defense. Those are the two weakest positions on the Rangers today, but the right deployment, getting the most out of the roster, goes a long way to squeaking out those points.

"Can the Rangers realistically contend this season?", 5 out of 5 based on 20 ratings.
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  1. We have more potential and real gifted players on the roster than in the past. We should have a tighter/better defense than last year and we should go at least 2 lines deep in offense. If Hank can step up and Georgi can play strong, I see us improving. I suspect a 12 point jump in the standings. Is that enough? Not sure, but I suspect we will contend until the last week of the season.

    1. Canadians missed the playoffs last year with 96 points. It will likely take close to 95 to make it this season. Not realistic that we will increase by 17 points in one season. Would require almost every variable to go our way.

      Also seems wrong to say definitively that the Flyers and Devils won’t make the playoffs. Flyers are getting a lot of love from the hockey media and they may have solved their biggest issue – goaltending – so they at least have a shot. Similarly the Devils made the playoffs 2 seasons ago and then fell apart last year when everything went wrong for them. They certainly have a possibility to rebound, especially with Subban and Hughes. Also it seems likely that the Eastern wild cards may both come out of the Atlantic.

      I expect the Rangers to compete for a wild card spot for most of the season so that should make the season interesting enough as we parse thru our young talent and see what we have. I anticipate the great push forward in 20-21.

      1. I agree that a 17 point swing is a lot to ask. I suspect we win a few more of those overtime games, just because we will have more talented players to put on the ice. I feel that DQ has the team playing hard for 60 minutes. To me, 12 points gained is about right.

        I also fear there will be some sophomore jinx for some of our second year players. Can they make it past the jinx? Will the rookies begin to burn out by game 60? Still a lot of question marks, but it will be fun and the talent stream would make it seem that we will continue to get better.

      2. The wild card is where we will make some noise. If we play meaningful games through game 80, that is something to cheer about

  2. “Evaluation Period Part 2”
    it’s a 82 part series highlighting the big market franchise the New York Rangers.
    The season kicks off with a 2 part episode introduction to this years roster, players will be featured, career accomplishments back-ground and an all rookie introduction to the big leagues.
    Each episode will end featuring a behind the scenes commentary by NYR management and coaching staffs.

    During the season fans will get full access to player interviews, coaching strategy, hockey concepts and tactics provided by the coaching staff and broadcast commentators and insight to the owner Jim Dolan and his outlook for success.

    Assume –

  3. I think we’ll certainly be more competitive, and be in the hunt for a wild card spot. However, I do not think we make the playoffs this year. Too much has to fall right and there is very little room for anything to go wrong.
    We’ll be fun to watch, that’s for sure.

  4. Metro division saw the Islanders, Washington and Pittsburgh make the playoffs. I personally think the Islanders were quite fortunate last year, and they got some ridiculous goaltending. I see it hard for them to repeat

    I must say that I think Pittsburgh has lost a superstar in Kessel, who I think is not easily replaced. I see them dropping by 6-8 points.

    Washington still is a force. Add to the mix the improved Devils and the improved Flyers. We will have a super competitive division where, in order to make the playoffs, you can’t let your Metro division opponent get points.

    Pessimist – We will have a very tough fight, but will fall short of making the playoffs.

    Optimist – 2 rookies light the lamp for 25+ goals each. Panarin has his best year,. Hank returns to 28 y/o form. Rangers get to 100 points.

    The scenario more likely is the Pessimist view IMO.

  5. I think the playoffs are a stretch this year, but not an impossible goal. It will take a lot of luck, a lot of synergy between the new players and the rest of the team, and some real hard, and consistent, effort, from everyone, but it might happen. On the other hand, I definitely do expect to see a lot of exciting, entertaining, hockey from the team all year long, with more than a few great plays being made. I can also see a real team emerging toward the end of the season, a united group of dedicated players, ready to really make some noise for quite a few years.

  6. We will definitely be in the playoff hunt…Georgie will be our Goalie because he can stop the puck. Dave is it ever Henriks fault? and Shattenkirk wont even be here

  7. There are always 1-2 teams that surprise everyone and play much better than expected. And another 1-2 that fall apart. The NYR are not really expected to get too far, but still right now expected to do better than they did last season. This week and the rest of the summer will be critical.

    The test to me will be Dec and January. That’s when the grind kicks in, and we’ll see how some of these really young guys handle it. I don’t expect them to concede out of the gate poorly, so Dec/Jan will be the key with this roster. But IMHO, I think they will be right in the thick of it til the end. I do feel they will prob come up a bit short. But I also think we’re all going to love every minute of watching these guys get at it and start building something here.

  8. Carolina put something really special together last season, that said, I am really hopeful for our upcoming season.

  9. Too many unknowns right now to make any prediction on the Rangers. Let me reply a week into camp and I’ll give an honest guess.

    But I will state the following:

    1: Hughes not going to help the Devils early and when he does, it’ll be in the wing. Also, by the time that happens, Subban will look a shell of his prime as he has avoided back surgery and rehab only retards the damage.

    2: Isles are going to regress hard. Varlamov is shot as a goalie, it doesn’t matter that shots faced will go down. That alone gets them battling for a wildcard, any regression elsewhere (and Barzal not rebounding) and they’re screwed.

    3: Penguins are gonna be a mess, that roster makes as much sense as a Rainbow trout in a car wash.

    4: Caps are getting older and worser.

  10. The defense is still bad.
    Henrik is still old.
    This is a rebuilding year.
    No playoffs.

    Next year? That’s when the fun begins.

    1. A bit harsh but a point to be considered for sure: Henrik has been on a downward trajectory the past couple of years. If he can’t magically turn it around @ 37 this team cannot compete even if most of the other variables go our way. And the defense should be significantly better, but still is unlikely to actually be really good next season.

      1. We are adding at least 2 better defensive players than we had all of last year. Trouba, Fox, Skjei and AD are not world beaters, but not a horrible 4. Figure on Staal being on the 3rd pair with one of Shatty/Smith/Lindgren. They should be better defensively. Just removing Pionk is a step in the right direction.

        I think it will take some time for the offense to settle in. We have to find out who will be here, but I would leave the first line intact and put Panarin on the 2nd line with Strome and Kakko. My third line would have Chytil centering with Kraftsov and Lemieux. The 4th line is Lias at center, Howden and Fast on the wings. Boo and Names will somehow be in the mix.

        The first 10 games will be spirited, but lots to figure out. Next 20 is where we need to start shining. By the midpoint of the season, we should know who we are – contenders or pretenders.

        1. LHD remains incredibly weak. We have no one to rely on there. Hopefully Skjei will finally play up to his potential after 2 up and down seasons. After that nothing: Staal and Smith are being run out of town, Hajek looked terrible in his first season at Hartford. Can’t expect Rykov to make the jump to the NHL from the KHL in his first season here. Lindgren looks like a career AHLer, with a top ceiling as 3rd pair; he can skate and hit, but is terrible with the puck..

          RHD looks much better with Trouba and ADA. Rangers would be better off keeping Fox in the AHL for 2/3 of the season – will gain a 2nd rounder instead of a 3rd. If Shatty is around he would be OK but we don’t really need him on the PP with the others and that is his best talent – he’s a poor fit otherwise; and we can’t afford him.

  11. Henrik !!!

    If you believe he is one of the best all time goalies than you must believe he can do the same as other legends in sports have done… improved after a downslide.




  12. We might even be worse than last year. Two self-proclaimed superstars added to about 8 kids under 24. We are doomed for failure and the Trouba contract will look like a nightmare after only 40 games. He turns into Girardi after only 1 year of a 7 year deal.

    Panarin will get fat on borsch from Brighton Beach and will never hit 50 points again. We may not see the playoffs until 2025. We are doomed I tell ya, doomed.

    Our defense might actually be worse than last year, if that is even possible.

    Don’t get me started on our geriatric goalie. DQ will put him out there because of the name on his back, not because of how he plays. We again will be sellers at the deadline, with no one to sell. We can’t even find any teams to trade with now, otherwise Buch or CK would have been gone, Nobody wants Strome, Namesnikov, Shatty, Smith etc. This is gonna be a real sucky year. Look for Lindy to take over the head coaching duties by all-star weekend.

    And BTW, can this organization find someone to coach in Hartford? You would think it was in the middle of nowhere. Geez

    Gorton gets low marks by signing over-priced superstars that we cannot afford.

    Doomed I tell you DOOMED

    1. You’re half right: next season Rangers will be like the Blues were this year. Rangers will be terrible for the first half of the season. Quinn will get replaced by Ruff and the Rangers will catch fire and win the Cup. Lindy Ruff will be coach of the year and the king of the hockey world!

    2. You must be a life coach or occupational therapist in real life.

      Such encouragement.

  13. Lindy Ruff is great, but the team he has in front of him is like a Junior team from Long Island. They think they are all that, until they play real NHL games. Our kids will be embarrassed, JD will have no choice but to fire Gorton.

    Even the Golden Knights figure out Cap issues better than we do. Fast is still on the team, WHY? Might as well start the Russian goalie so half of the kids on the ice have never even been to an NHL game.

    Let’s hope Kakko isn’t CaCa.

    People will be giving their season tickets away by November.

    Be realistic – playoffs? Are you kidding me. Big deal, great work ethic, that and $3 gets you on the subway. We may only have 20 wins next year, Panarin gets hurt and Zibby is our only trade bait. Vesey becomes all world and Pionk learns how to play D under a real coach.


    Whew, I feel so much better now

  14. Better defense then last year, both offensively and defensively. Georgeiv should play more games, making Hank more effective when rested. Last quarter of the season was played in uncertainty and disarray because of the dismantling of the team. That took its toll. They lost a ton of one run games because of a lack of skill offensively (not lack of hustle) which should be much improved. Bush matured last year, and along with Paninan and Kakko, will likely be over 150 points combined. Key issues are; how well the talented kids adapt and how quickly they mature and play as a unit. There is no way they will not be better then next year (unless the injury bug creeps in), and may surprise a lot of people. I see them starting off slow in adjusting, but really coming on as the year progresses. Don’t be to shocked if 85-95 points just may be in the cards!

  15. Love the blog and agree with the post. I know I am in the minority but the constant “Pionk sucks” meme is getting a bit old. He is what he is and now he is in Winnipeg. Let’s leave it at that and wish him luck. He was not the only reason we struggled the last 2 years. I guess Winnipeg is just stupid for taking him in a trade. But that is me…

  16. they had 14 ties last year and a lot of 1 goal games. All they have to do is win 1/2 of those which they can do with the new talent they’re in

  17. Dan Rosen
    The Rangers have agreed to terms with Pavel Buchnevich. No contract terms disclosed in the team’s press release.

  18. Larry Brooks
    Buchnevich in at $3.25 Million per for two years. Buyout window closes Wednesday 5 pm.

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