The Rangers have been front and center all offseason in the NHL, regardless if it was the draft, trades, or free agency. Now that we’re nearing in on opening night after a handful of preseason games, it’s time to get some wide-ranging thoughts from most-everyone here at BSB.
Please note: this list of questions was sent out to the group on SAT 9/28, so while we all know there was some major roster updates on Monday AM, some answers were submitted before that news drop. Answers are in order that they came back. Still fun to look at!
Without further ado, here are the results of the BSB 2019 Season Preview Questionnaire:
- A non-hockey friend asks how the Rangers season is going to go – what would be your answer in five or less words?
Rob Celletti (RC): More entertaining than last year!
Justin R. (JR): Fun, but not good.
Tyler McGillick (TM): Good Scoring, very bad defense.
Dave Shapiro (DS): Operating as designed.
Rob Luker (RL): Not good, not bad.
- Follow up on # 1: explain in a few sentences.
RC: The Rangers got better in the off-season, adding quite a bit of top-end talent. They got the best free agent forward, who’s likely the best playmaking forward they’ve had since Jaromir Jagr, and the #2 overall draft pick is projected to be an offensive dynamo as well. They might give up a lot of goals, but they’re going to score a bunch too. Also, I think there will be meaningful playoff push hockey in late March and early April.
JR: They have a lot of good young players who are still developing, with a few of the better prospects not yet with the team. The defense is still a bit of a mess and they lack overall depth, but especially at center.
TM: The addition of Artemi Panarin and Kaapo Kakko is going to help them score a lot more goals, but the defense is going to allow a lot of scoring chances against. Henrik Lundqvist is a legend, but it’s hard to stop that many chances against and it’s going to bring on some tough nights. There will be flashes from the blue line, but overall it’s going to have a lot of frustrations.
DS: This is a development year – focus is less on winning and more on putting the prospects in positions to succeed. As long as they take a step forward in the rebuild, then it’s working as expected.
BH: The Rangers aren’t expected to do much of anything – most people don’t think they’ll make the playoffs. But they have immense talent, and a lot of these guys are willing to shoot their shot (no pun intended), and they have a coach who knows how to develop young players. It might be messy, but it’ll be fun.
RL: The bad is that they’re likely not a playoff team and their defense is going to be one of the worst in the league, again. There are anywhere from two to four players that should have or could have been replaced, but NYR didn’t do that. The good is that they’re young, the offense should be fun to watch, and that how management decides to further acquire or spend assets will show where they think they are in the rebuild.
- What is your top forward lineup decision for Gorton & Quinn to make?
RC: What to do with Filip Chytil. Lias Andersson carved out his niche with an excellet camp, while Brett Howden is starting to feel like a player that still needs some seasoning in the AHL. Chytil could be a big part of the team this year, but he’s been yo-yo’d all around the lineup, both in terms of role and position. The Rangers need to find out what they have in him long term.
TM: 2C is the biggest issue and should to be addressed accordingly with the younger players
DS: Decide what Chris Kreider’s future is. Either sign him or trade him, don’t let this linger.
BH: When to pull in Kravtsov, which correlates with when to trade Namestnikov.
RL: Center depth. Ryan Strome hasn’t done anything to earn the 2C spot, as his best shot/scoring chance numbers in his career aligns with when he gets less than 14 or 15 mins of TOI.
- What is your top defender lineup decision for Gorton & Quinn to make?
RC: How to shelter Marc Staal. Staal no doubt brings a lot of intangibles to the team, which do matter. He can be a stable presence and solid role model for the young up and comers. That said, he will actively hurt this team if he’s given too many minutes in a prominent role. It’s a delicate thing, because the Rangers are a classy organization that treats its veterans well, but Staal’s role should probably be phasing down as the season progresses, though I could certainly see the opposite happening unfortunately.
TM: 2nd Pairing RD, is it going to be Fox or DeAngelo?
DS: Maximize Tony DeAngelo’s value. With Fox/Trouba and then probably Lundkvist, DeAngelo’s value is probably in a trade.
BH: How to minimize Staal’s time on ice 😊
RL: Left-Handed Defenseman depth. Play DeAngelo or Fox on their off-hand in the 2nd pair and let Smith/Staal battle for the 3rd pair LHD spot (I lean Smith).
- Which forward are you most optimistic or excited about (Kakko excluded)?
RC: Has to be Artemi Panarin. The guy has skill and savvy that we haven’t seen on the Rangers in a long time.
TM: It’s hard to not say Panarin. I think he’s the answer and that “Game changing” forward the fanbase has been clamoring for. It’ll elevate Zibanejad’s and Buchnevich’s production as well.
DS: Lias Andersson had a tremendous preseason and won his 3C role. I am looking forward to him being the dark horse to unseat Ryan Strome as the 2C.
BH: Artemi! Just watching him on the power play makes me nauseous with excitement.
RL: Pavel Buchnevich. All he’s done is score regardless of his TOI, and now he certainly seems to be setup for success with a top six filled mostly with legitimate talent.
- Which defender are you most optimistic or excited about (Trouba excluded)?
RC: Tony DeAngelo. His showing in two preseason games after an abbreviated camp has been impressive. He has the skill to impact the game in the offensive zone on every shift. If he can keep his mercurial personality in check, and play average defensive hockey, he can be an X-factor this year for the Blueshirts.
TM: He hasn’t officially made the team yet as I type this, but if Fox does make the team, it’s hard not to say him. Can his game translate immediately from College hockey to NHL hockey? I think it can, but I hope he gets a ton of leash to just do his thing and help with transition and the powerplay.
BH: Hajek. It was a shame that his call up was cut short by an injury last year; he had looked great.
RL: Libor Hajek (which is probably a stretch). If he performs anywhere near like he did in the 5 GP before he got injured last season, NYR will have suddenly found a capable LHD.
- We’ve seen some good potential for success when it comes to the first power play unit. The Rangers finished 17th in the league on the PP at 19.4% last season. Where do you think they end up this year?
RC: They feel like a unit that can convert more than 20% of the time, let’s say 22%. If they did that last year, they would’ve been tied with Colorado for the 7th most efficient power play in the league. I think they can be a top ten unit this season, for sure.
JR: I think the PP is going to be much more dynamic this year with the additions of Panarin, Kakko and Trouba. Tony DeAngelo’s continued development and steps forward from Kravtsov and/or Chytil could make it very dangerous.
TM: The way they are built with so many guys with big shots (Trouba, Panarin, Zibanejad, Kakko, and Kreider as net-front guy), I think it’ll be top 10.
DS: Panarin, Trouba, and Kakko probably put the Rangers in the top-15, but the lack of middle of the lineup depth (PP2) will keep them from being much better.
BH: Top 7.
RL: Just outside the top 10 at 20-21%. I think the PP1 will be electric, but the problem is I doubt PP2 does much to help the numbers.
- What is your ideal opening night lineup?
JR: I’m going for maximum fun here, not necessarily development priorities, but here we go:
Panarin Zibanejad Kakko
Kreider Chytil Buchnevich
Lemieux Lias Kravtsov
Namestnikov Strome Fast
DS: This is cheating a bit since the lineup was released before I am answering, but I would sub out Haley for Nieves. The rest is fine for me. Development is more important this year.
BH: One that doesn’t include Michael Haley.
- Any final comments?
RC: I’m ready to be hurt again. Let’s do this!
JR: I’m just hoping this year isn’t too painful and the kids can take big steps forward as reinforcements on defense slowly arrive.
TM: It’s going to be an extremely fun year. I think we are going to see some impressive growth from players like Andersson and Chytil. Kakko is going to make an immediate impact with his size and puck control abilities, and Panarin is going to ultimately help this offense score a lot of goals. If we temper expectations that this is most likely a wild card team with the defense, you’ll mostly enjoy the product on the ice.
DS: I hope, with the hype dying down, people realize the Rangers are more of an 80 point team than a 90 point team. I also hope that I am wrong.
BH: Looking forward to the official Mika Zibanejad is captain party!
RL: If NYR extends Kreider and fires Lindy Ruff at any point during the season, I’ll be thrilled.
Shout-out to Shane & Dan for help with the questions!