The Rangers are entering the next phase of their rebuild, but it isn’t over yet

You can't rebuild forever

A common misconception about rebuilds is that you can just tank for 5 straight years, acquire oodles of picks and prospects, and then all of a sudden you’re a contender. There’s recency bias here because of the Blackhawks, Penguins, and Capitals getting top picks and winning with those players. But the Oilers, Sabres, Islanders, and Senators are cautionary tales.

When Rangers management sent the rebuild letter to the fans, the misconception spread. The Rangers were supposed to tank for multiple seasons and just stockpile picks and prospects and then…poof a contender. That’s not how the real world works, unfortunately. Yes you need to draft well, but you also need to develop talent. Need to fill in roster holes. Need a little bit of luck.

The biggest challenge of the rebuild isn’t necessarily acquiring the picks and prospects and building out the farm system. It’s knowing when to begin the transition to building a contender. It isn’t an overnight process. You don’t flip the switch from seller to buyer and then make runs at the Stanley Cup. There’s this grey area where well run teams identify their plan and stick to it. That includes taking the middle step to a successful rebuild – turning the corner.

The Rangers are turning the corner. Perhaps this happened a little faster than planned, but not everything goes according to the plan. John Davidson and Jeff Gorton are now in the next phase – identifying their window to win and the players that will get them there. Clearly Chris Kreider is a player identified as an important cog going forward.

When rebuilds fail, it isn’t because teams tanked wrong. It’s because they either keep tanking when they should look to turn the corner, or they look to turn the corner too soon. The risk for the Blueshirts is clearly the latter, as October and November still leave people with a little cautious.

However for the first time since 2014-2015, the wins the Rangers are getting aren’t smoke and mirrors. They have good process, and have continued to generate consistently good process since December. It isn’t perfect. There are still clear concerns and roster holes. But good process is good process.

The rebuild isn’t over yet. The critical piece of the rebuild, the piece that will determine if they wind up like the Hawks and win, or like the Yotes and lose, is this offseason. One wrong contract. One wrong player identified, and it all goes away. This next step is the most dangerous in the rebuild, it’s where most teams fail.

For the first time in a while, I trust the direction of the team. Their path is not something I personally would have done if I were in their shoes, but that’s why I write a blog.

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  • It was never a full tear down rebuild, it was a total renovation — down to the studs. The studs were Mika, Kreider and Buch (for now). There were some good assets in storage (like Shesty), we went out into the market and bought a Panarin, added a Trouba, an ADA and a Fox … etc.

    The house is now rebuilt, but it still needs some redecoration and landscaping — i.e. losing Staal, Smith and yes, even our beloved Hank … plus drafting some new furniture to keep the house fresh every year.

    JG has done a masterful job — not perfect mind you, but an amazing job nonetheless.

    • The Rangers don’t need to lose anyone. PERIOD. The limitations on the team are not bad players; the limitations are a lack of a sufficient number of quality players. DQ has shown a willingness to bench Hank, Staal, and Smith. They are not standing in anyone’s way at this point.

      At this point, Marc Staal is the fifth best defenseman in the Ranger system – he just is. You don’t make the team on the ice better by discarding him any more than you improve it by discarding Skjei. The way for the Rangers to get better is by having players like Miller, Lundqvist, Rykov, Robertson push Staal aside.

      Likewise, up front, the problem is not that Howden and McKegg are bad; it is that the Rangers don’t actually have better options at this point. The only player who really doesn’t deserve his ice time is Kakko and I don’t know of anyone (including myself) who wants to see his playing time curtailed.

      • Relax Ray, deep breaths. You’re misinterpreting my point. I’m not suggesting that we dump those players without having proper replacements, I’m suggesting we need to get proper replacements and dump those players from the roster. We need to continue upgrading — although in Hank’s case I would say we’ve already upgraded that position, now it’s more an issue of a semi-dead $8.5M in cap space.

  • I like how we have become younger and much more entertaining to watch. In a sooner than expected. Gorton & JD following the plan to a T. Once Staal, Smith & The Great Hank Lundquist ( Greatest Respect ) are off the books look OUT. I felt Brady Skeij had to go. Good Move. The book is still out on Trouba, who so far has shown to be a very ordinary D Man. Not worth the huge $$$$ they are paying him. Go Rangers !

    • Trouba has in no way been that bad. Is he worth $8M a year? Not so far, but I think we need to give him time to get fully acclimated to the new system and teammates — some guys are like that, some aren’t. Some plug in right away, other don’t.

      He and Lindgren are the two most physical d’men, don’t underestimate the effect of a big Trouba hit — and there have been a great number of them. Plus he logs the toughest minutes defensively … you can play the snot out of him … he’s also the anchor on the PK (right side) too.

      • I like the big guy a lot. Trouba is going to anchor the defense for a long time. He throws his weight around and is smart about it. Other teams know not to mess with him. I expect that respect for his game will grow over time.

      • There is one huge difference between hockey and baseball – which stats miss. In hockey, a player affects what happens when he is off the ice. Guys who hit wear the opposition down and they are not quite so effective.

        It will be interesting to see what happens on the PK now. The first unit had been Skjei-Trouba, but Lindgren-Staal was more effective and increasingly relied on (Staal on right). However, if Lindgren-Trouba is now the top pair at even strength, it seems tactically easier to pair Trouba with Lindgren on the PK than with Smith.

        • Ray… it’s so very doubtful that Fox and Lindgren are split up. I think there’s more of a chance that DeAngelo goes to his offside with Trouba… but I sorta doubt that too.

          You may get your wish and see Staal getting first pairing minutes with Trouba. If so, we’ll see how long that lasts. Hopefully not long.

          • I don’t want to see Staal on the first pair nor do I expect it. DQ has already tried Lindgren-Trouba and I think he will try that as his first pair, at least initially. I suspect he will go with Staal-DeAngelo as second pair as they’ve been reasonably successful and Smith-Fox as third pair, but it would be nice to see how far they can go with DeAngelo-Fox as second pair.

            My great lament is that Lindgren-Staal has been great on the PK with Staal on the right. I wonder what would have happened in 2012 if the Ranger second defensive pair was Del Zotto-Staal instead of Staal- Del Zotto. MDZ never really prospered on the right side, but was forced to play there because Torts never considered putting Marc on the right side. One of those cases where you let the veteran have his way and make the kid adapt.

  • I am most grateful to the MGT for giving me very entertaining hockey for many years including this recent rebuild. For the most part I have enjoyed many years, dare I say the past 2 decades or so of decent hockey.

    It is awesome seeing the youngsters. This is great!


    Beat the Isles tonight baby, in that crusty crap house barn that will die forever soon enough… beat them with their new hyped up JG crashed too.


    Wreck Belmont for years to come. LGR!!!

    I smell FRESH BREAD tonight baby, he is due to stack a few flapjacks on international pancake day for sure.

  • Based on the track record of both JG, and JD, both putting together cup champs, I’m OK with the vast amount of the moves made thus far.

    We are dealing with two very smart, and shewed hockey people, who have years of experience at running a team. Would I have made more moves yesterday, yes sir I would have, but then again I’m a fan, and they run a team.

    Over the summer, or at the draft, they will have had additional time to see who will be a part of the team long term, and who is expendable. We as Ranger fans are lucky to have these two on our team, and I honestly believe they will deliver this team to the promised land for sure!!!!!!

  • even you name know sucks,is a disgrace what the organization has done to Hank he can still play but he is true professional and has not complained

    • Cesar, no one appreciates what a great world-wide hockey goalie and New York Ranger Hank has been. But he’s been playing long enough that he knows the business. he understand that winning the Cup in the NHL is the ultimate prize. Does he want it? Yes. But he’s also savvy enough to know how good Igor is. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t agree to a trade so he can get one chance at the Cup next year. He’s that kind of hockey player. And don’t think he doesn’t come back to the Rangers for a lifetime jobe , replacing Benoit in the short term and being the next Rod Gilbert in the long run. He loves the game that much!

  • The next phase is the jettisoning of Hank, Staal, and Smith and turning over the team’s keys to Zib, CK, Panarin, and Trouba.

    The Rangers will get younger by doing that and adding from within. Especially for next year, when they will have a ton of dead cap space, I do not see them adding big time players from the outside.

    Next year will start to see how well they have drafted the last few years or so. Players like Krav, Miller, Lundqvist, Robertson, etc., will get chances to stick here. Pretty exciting stuff.

    And, hopefully, we get to see Chytil and Kakko take the next steps forward to being top players on the team.

    It will be fun to watch.

  • I was wondering if the 1st round pick for Skjei can be Toronto’s pick in 2021? Here’s what I mean: Let’s say the Toronto pick is in the top 10 and Carolina losses a lot and they have the top 5 pick. Can they force the Toronto pick on us until the 2021 draft or are we getting the first for this years draft no matter what

  • Panarin and Mika !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • So is there a chance Miller joins the pack at the end of Wisconsin’s season? That would mean he might be in New Your at some point next season.

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