The New York Rangers begin another season today, which will be our 10th full season (we started in December of the 2008-2009 season) here at BSB. This season has a different feel though. For the first 8.5 seasons we covered, the Rangers were expected to compete. It wasn’t until the rebuild letter that the focus shifted to something other than building a win-now team.
Last season was rough, the first full rebuild season on Broadway in a generation. The Rangers were expected to be bad last season, and that they were. But believe it or not, most people accepted this in stride. Sure there were concerns that popped up, but the on-ice product was largely evaluated for David Quinn’s systems and growth and development of the prospects.
This season feels different. The hype surrounding the Rangers is there. In are Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Kaapo Kakko, and Adam Fox to add significant skill to the top core players of the team. Lias Andersson had himself a preseason and has shown significant improvement. This is the second season for Brett Howden, who is looking to show that his hot start last season wasn’t a blip as he rounds out his game. Brendan Lemieux gets his first full season too, as fans hope he is more Sean Avery Part One than Sean Avery Part Two.
Waiting in the wings are Vitali Kravtsov and Filip Chytil. Both are expected to be with the Rangers before the calendar year ends, if not sooner.
Yet with the hype comes a bit of realism. We saw in the preseason what the Rangers can do offensively, especially on that top line and top powerplay unit. It is expected that this team, while top heavy, will be able to score in droves. It is also expected that the Rangers, who addressed their right defense issues but still have left defense concerns, will still have issues defending and limiting shots against. The fun phrase to use is “we may win but I may die.” They may win, they may not, but we can expect some back and forth hockey to keep us entertained.
Even though the Rangers are expected to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in, wild cards drive nearly every facet of their success this season. No one knows what Kakko and Fox will do as rookies. No one knows what Andersson, Howden, and Lemieux can do as second year pros. No one knows what Chytil or Kravtov will do when they get called up. No one knows how quickly someone replaces Ryan Strome as the 2C. It is very difficult to predict these unknowns. This plays into the hype that perhaps the Rangers can sneak into the playoffs, the best case scenario for even the most extreme optimists.
The pent up excitement is palpable. You can feel it. Everyone is ready for this season to get underway. No matter how the Rangers finish in the standings, the feeling is that this is going to be a fun season, and a step in the right direction."A new season is upon us",