If I could get that music kicking from “The Final Countdown” you better believe I would – Opening Night is this week, and the Rangers have made their last cuts to the roster. I know, I know, it’s perhaps not what we all would have hoped, but there are a few silver linings. There’s always something to be found that’s encouraging beneath any questionable decision-making, and I guess what I’m getting at is that things will be fine one way or another. Let’s start from the top.
- A basic premise that we all need to recognize is that the Rangers have a very sparse schedule to start the season. Not playing as many games is a significant consideration for a coach charged with developing young talent, and so that’s likely something that factored into David Quinn’s calculus in sending two of his most prized prospects down the minors, as silly as that may sound. It leads me to my next point however, and in confluence they ameliorate some of the agita that we might all be feeling about not seeing Vitali Kravtsov or Filip Chytil start the season in New York.
- They need a confidence boost. Both of them had good, but not great preseason campaigns, and while you might think for a team that’s strapped for forward depth a coach would be alright with that. However, it seems clear that both of them have a role to play specifically in the top six, and given the ways in which their stylistic tendencies were visibly frustrated by more experienced players it might be sensible to let them get a few games in while the Rangers are on their weirdly spaced semi-hiatus from … playing hockey during the regular season … and let them work their moves successfully on lower-level pros. Chytil clearly wanted to try some 2C-worthy swish and dish plays, but couldn’t make it happen. Kravtsov was trying to poach breakaway after breakaway, but it didn’t always work out. Let these kids feel the comfort that comes with successfully dancing around jokers on the opposing team, really get the mechanics of how they want to play down-pat, and then bring them up when the schedule is actually norma again.
- The front office knows, implicitly, that the defense needs to get younger. Sure, they’re likely not going to just bench Marc Staal straight away, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a trade is in the works, and Brendan Smith certainly is on his last stand as a Ranger. You wouldn’t keep two young, promising d-men – Adam Fox and Libor Hajek – around if you didn’t want to inject some young blood into the defensive corps, knowing full-well that you’ve got even more fresh faces in the pipeline. This is the beginning of the end of the shot-blocking, old-school defense, and while it’s subtle, things are going to start taking off sooner rather than later I think.
So there you go, it’s all really, actually, no-joke, just fine. The Rangers are doing what’s best for them and their future stars long-term, and that can only be a good thing. It’ll come together more quickly than we all think at this point in our frustrated feelings, and honestly, by Christmas at the absolute latest we’ll be seeing some new faces up and down this lineup.
I, for one, was pretty salty that Kravtsov and Chytil didn’t make the team, because I don’t think there’s much for them left to learn at the AHL level. Maybe it’s not about learning though, maybe it’s a consideration of where they’re at mentally and how to get them into a big-league mindset. That’s fine, and the additions of two very promising young d-men in recognition of what needs to start happening sweetens the deal as well. We’ll all just have to wait and see how this works out, and in the meantime there’s a Russian dude and a Finnish kid we can watch anyways.