A BSB Roundtable: What do you expect from the Rangers?
With the exception of the draft and free agency I have gone weeks at a time not thinking about the Rangers in this oddly shaped NHL offseason. While there are multiple reasons for this (the primary being that the Buffalo Bills are actually good – Go Bills) in the end I didn’t really start longing for the NHL to be back until around Thanksgiving. Specifically, I remember thinking early in that week about how there would be no Friday game against the Bruins, which has always at least been a distraction for the final hours at the in-law’s place. But here we are, and it’s time to start looking at a preview of the NY Rangers season.
As the preview articles have slowly started to trickle in, random thoughts about what Rangers may or may not accomplish this season have popped into my head. And while there has already been and will continue to be more detailed analysis on what is to come, for this post I posed a question to our BSB group and asked them to answer it like you were talking to a friend at a bar (remember those times?) – what do you expect from the Rangers this season?
Rob L: I simply think it will be more of the same from last year with worse results. I would be surprised and pleased, depending on how they accomplish it, if the Rangers eclipsed their points percentage of 0.564 in the standings. I think we’ll be subjected to similar questionable lineup decisions for both the offense and defense while also witnessing a negative regression of some key players (not necessarily their play-driving but their on-ice shot %). That being said, I am excited to see more of Shesterkin, Fox, Chytil, Kakko, and of course the debut of Jack Johnson Alexis Lafrenière. In the end NYR could have made different (better) decisions on defense and shaken up the forwards (specifically the Centers) a bit, but here we are.
Conall: I expect a lot of the same as last year. Should be electric offensively and an absolute nightmare defensively. To me it is a real concern how this team is evaluating defensemen given that Jack Johnson may somehow be worse than Marc Staal. Igor will be great, but just like hank for all those years will be playing behind one of the leagues worse blue lines. Unless the kids make huge strides and really take over, I think it is one more year before the rangers become a regular playoff team once again.
Becky: Well, the rangers are going to be a lot of fun, but don’t expect them to be Cup contenders. That said, there’s always a bit of magic that can happen. They’ve got the next big thing in Lafrenière and feel pretty stacked offensively. The defense will need work, though. It’ll be a fun ride!
Dave: I don’t mean to be pessimistic in this NY Rangers preview, but I don’t think they will repeat their January / February magic from last season. This is a team that, despite a coaching change, has an arguably worse blue line than last season. The PK should stabilize with Jacques Martin, but unless the Rangers get repeat career seasons from big contracts and major progress from their kids, they are likely a .500 NHL team. The offense will win them games, but even with Igor Shesterkin in net, they are going to need to win games 4-3 or 5-4. I’d love to be proven wrong, though.
Tyler: My general expectations for this team are pretty similar to last year. Except this year with the divisional realignment, I don’t see this team making the playoffs. Had it been a normal season, I think this would have been a wildcard team. They are going to score and score a lot with all that forward talent up front. Kakko will be a year older, Lafrenière is expected to make somewhat of an immediate scoring impact, Panarin, Zibanejad. The question remains that the defense (especially the left side) is going to be bad again. I will say though, I have all the faith in Shesterkin and Georgiev to steal a few wins by themselves behind that defense.
My thanks to those of the BSB bloggers who participated in this NY Rangers season preview. While the 2020-21 will not be a standard NHL season, there may be the light at the end of the tunnel come the fall in terms of normalcy. Ironically, for the Rangers, that light might also signal when we can actually expect this team to not have visible roster deficiencies – the key word being might – and take a firm step forward out of the rebuild phase.