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.