State of the Rangers

You Gotta Stay Positive

It's going to be a bumpy ride for the NY Rangers

This past month or so has been an interesting one for the Blueshirts. After a string of lousy games and some weird lineup and asset management decisions, the Rangers seem to have righted the ship in these most recent several games. Reactions have been all over the place – we were supposed to fire David Quinn a week ago and now Ryan Strome is the perfect complement to Artemi Panarin. Watching the game against Nashville I had a lot of thoughts on who played well and how (Georgiev with the in-close stops! Chytil’s hands! a whole score of other nice individual efforts, really), but I think there’s a broader lesson high above the micro view that might help alleviate some of these rapid-cycling emotions and resultant hot takes that are flaring up around the fanbase.

Let’s start with the bad: there have of course been more duds than not so far this season. Games that seem lifeless and devoid of good hockey are hard to keep optimistic about, but if you try hard there’s always some silver lining. Kaapo Kakko will typically have some extended zone time with the puck, even if he doesn’t seem to put the team on his back or click quite yet. Jacob Trouba might give away the puck, sure, but he’ll also provide excellent gap control on high-danger opposition chances and turn it into a stretch pass. Pavel Buchnevich has been good on the boards, provided we take the “soft Russian” sunglasses off for a moment and look at what’s going on the ice. There’s a there, there. Always.

That’s not to say that games like the ones against Tampa Bay and Nashville aren’t far more exciting and soothing to see. Those kinds of games are surely better to watch because all of those little things not only appear with greater frequency and a wider base of coverage (seemingly every player on the ice looked at least good, if not great, against what I saw of the Predators game), but they also seem to fit into a comprehensive game plan that might just work. It’s a nice feeling that assuages the underlying anxiety of a rebuild – maybe the brass sees for certain, incontrovertibly so, that the kids are alright. Maybe the fans see it too.

These anxieties are understandable, and irrationally uncontrollable as all anxieties are. But we need to remember sample size – there’s a lot of hockey left to be played – and whether it’s bold pronouncements about the fate of the franchise or overly exuberant proposals that draw conclusions too firm to be based on roughly 15-20 minutes of hockey from any one player, there’s in a way something to be learned. We might consider, as fans, that this whole season is in some sense the preseason, and that we just want to see small bright spots that we can cautiously predict uplifting developments from. That’s at least how I look at the day-to-day game situations, because if every single game is a total referendum on the team’s Stanley Cup odds over the next full decade I may as well just do something more enjoyable like my administrative law readings.

Of course, it’s not just how to relax on an average Tuesday evening that’s important, but also how to survive the full 82-game season without losing your marbles. Instead of stringing together big determinations based on each 60-minute increment of hockey we watch, saying “well this game featured some awful defense, which means the team has a terrible defense, which means the whole defensive outlook for this team is doomed and we’re going to inevitably ruin K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist, among others,” we can do something different. We can make a decision, and I realize this is contradictory of me in some ways regarding the forest/trees dynamic, to proceed with cautious optimism and think to ourselves “well, Brett Howden showed a little bit of spark, and maybe he’ll show a little bit of spark next game, but if he doesn’t overall he’s taking strides to some degree.” We can choose this outlook, or we can spend the entire season smashing the glass on the big red button and hitting panic at every turn. It’s not as fun to do that, at least for me, so there’s only one real choice to make. You gotta stay positive.

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  • Patrick, it makes it a lot easier to be patient and positive when the coach plays the right players to play, in the right spots.

    If you polled 100 Rangers fans and asked them if losing games would be “acceptable” if the future core of players were playing regularly and in important roles, I bet that over 90% of those polled fans would say “yes.”

    Lo and behold, more younger players in the line up means more talent, skill, and speed. Huh, who da thunk it?

    3 games in a row for Georgie, building up that trade value. He’s playing very well. I liked him when he first came to the team. Good poise and is “quiet” with his movements, no flopping around. Benoit has done it again.

    • The idea that the Rangers fans poll is a better barometer of who should play than the coaches is ridiculous. Fans (fanatics) are typically wrong. The coaching staff and management have down a remarkable job of putting together a young team (youngest in the league) and balancing trying to win with development. I like the idea of a meritocracy more than blindly demanding that favored prospects play more than they deserve (based on how they practice, how they play and what skill sets they have).

      The Rangers are on the right track and the future is bright. The next two seasons should see a lot of ups and downs as we continue to improve and are likely positioned for serious Cup contention in 2022-23 and the years to follow.

      • “The idea that the Rangers fans poll is a better barometer of who should play than the coaches is ridiculous.”

        My poll comment was more about whether the fans would accept losing a little better, not making lineup decisions.

        But, since you brought it up, Staal has been a train wreck for the past 3 years, he would not have been in my line up. Smith, a D man, was playing 3rd line winger, enough said with that. Haley should not have a Rangers’ sweater, IMO.

        The idea that they know more than us only goes so far. They play their “faves” which is not necessarily good for business and results. Cutting Shatty loose and keeping Staal is just another in a long line of player management miscues, especially on the back end. That’s what 2 Cups in 80 years will bring you.

        That being said, they have done a very good job of transitioning the roster, for the most part. But now the trick is to actually play that roster in the right spots. Krav needs to come back and play here to get his experience.

        K Miller and Lindqvist, and even Joey Keane, along with Robertson makes the future even brighter, but they need top end center prospects badly. Maybe future trades will help to accomplish that goal.

  • Like Tony’s post above, I am in that camp of playing the youngsters, giving them the opportunity to show if they are for real, or are flops. Many on this site have seen first hand, as I have for well over three years, that Staal’s play slipped, and we have a stable of left defensmen who can replace him without skipping a beat. Well lo and behold, the kids on left defense, Lindgren, and Hajek, are showing that the future is bright, and should be a part of the core going forward. The simple change is showing us that we are more mobile, tougher along the boards with Lindgren, and we aren’t giving away the blue line in fear of someone getting behind Marc.

    I love that we brought back Chytil, sorry for Zib’s injury causing this move, and seeing him play the way he has. He has brought additional skill, speed, and now desire to this team. The second line looks awake, Kreider is skating with new found life. Buch is also playing with desire, but the player who has shown the most improvement to me is Kakko. The kid needs a true play maker center, passing him the puck, and it shows in the increase of his confidence.

    These were two very simple moves that needed to be addressed, and should have taken place a while ago. Bottom line, good moves on the part of the coach, or GM forcing it (?), and it’s created excitement in the stands. If we don’t win, so be it, but it will be an enjoyable experience again watching kids play with emotion…………………………

  • I hate hearing all this talk about trading Georgiev. This guy is only 23 and plays like a veteran, confident and cool. He is a star in the making and we will regret trading him down the road.. The problem is that we are stuck a couple more years with an aging goalie that is now totally overpaid. I love Hank and all he’s done, but the bottom line is winning. Having Georgiev and Igor would remind me of having Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villimere back in the day. Two great goalies sharing playing time. A dynamic duo!

    • I’d like to keep him if possible too Craig. He is young and talented. Besides, goalies usually do not fetch that much in trades. Igor and Georgie could be a tandem for a long time.

      • “Igor and Georgie could be a tandem for a long time.” IF they’re WILLING to be a tandem. Georgiev has every right to feel that he’s earned the starting spot, and Shesterkin didn’t come to the United States to be a backup goalie, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some friction there, would there? Besides that, there’s a problem with paying both of them what they’re worth. The way players’ salaries are going, it also wouldn’t be surprising for it to cost well over $10 million a year to keep both of them in the near future, when we also expect to be negotiating new deals with a number of (hopefully) very good young players.

        • Well salaries won’t be a problem for now but might be in the future. Might they be able to pay them both out the amount that Hank is making now? Possibly in their first contracts? I don’t know that answer there, but Georgiev looks like the real deal and Igor is apparently having a stellar run in Hartford. I can’t look at a situation where you have two talented young goalies as a negative.

          • Here is a possible problem. Expansion draft in 2021 can protect only 1 goalie. Will Shesty be exempt.? If not, we may lose Georgiev for nothing

  • Hey Pat, I’ve been yakking about expecting ups and downs and good nights and bad nights since the beginning of the season. They’ve beaten some very good teams and been blown out by some very good teams. I expect that kind of thing to continue. The bottom line for me is whether, by the end of the season, they’ve made real progress as a group. So as fans, we shouldn’t get too down when they get beaten or think Stanley Cup when they play well. I’ve enjoyed the season thus far, the Rangers are fun to watch again even when they lose.

  • Management listened and made DQ no option but to remove Stahl and to place the young players in. DQ would have lost a few more game if it wasn’t for management. These anxieties are understandable and very rational. It is called the fight or flight. We get nervous when the coach puts the team in a position to lose.
    We still have fears with the carnival atmosphere in the line selections. Spin the wheel and throw darts for who will be on the ice on the second shift or so on and so forth. Where is the line continuity? That first line is a powerhouse with Tanner Fast on it.

        • Gorton made DQ bench Staal and Hank because he didn’t have the cahones to do it. Gorton wants a young team on the ice to learn what they have. What should happen next is that Zibby comes back and Strome goes to the 3rd line as a winger and Smith sits.

  • It’s been all about the level of effort to me. They were largely lifeless until this latest stretch. The winning helps for sure, but I would’ve accepted losses in those games and been fine because they were skating and forcing the play aggressively the whole game. None of them were going to get better playing the way they did early in the season. It looked like they bought a ticket to watch the game like all of us, only their seat was on the bench.

    As long as they are competing hard, I’m fine. But I did have my doubts on DQ early this season when they were slow out if the gates and watching the play a lot. Maybe it was the long stretches in between games. But they look much more assertive now, and I can live with the bumps in the road like this.

  • It is clear based on Buffalo/Lightning/Preds that we have the talent. Simply need to execute. And I think DQ has it right – meritocracy means if you don’t ‘play on your toes, keep your feet moving’ – you will sit. How can you argue with that?

    Kakko is looking real comfortable with the puck. Chytil and Buch have both added an edge – not floating. Lindgren is fundamentally sound and has a real ‘touch’ when it comes to passing. Fox has been great from the start; I’ll be glad when we know for sure he isn’t a Pionk.

    Strome is starting to understand how creative Panarin is – and while Fast has played well. I would love to ultimately see Kakko as the top RW.

    Trouba was fabulous pick up!

    Kreids/Chytil/Buch is a solid 2nd Line.

    My only beef is Haley. I also don’t think Tony D’ will be re-signed next year.

    Hockey is fun again……

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