Musings

7 thoughts from 7 days: Rangers playoffs chances take big hit

In case you missed it the last two weeks, I decided I’m piggybacking off Elliotte Friedman and our own Brandon Cohen. This is a weekly thought post on Wednesdays going forward. I’d usually do these ad-hoc, but I like the idea of a mid-week thoughts post. This week, let’s talk about the NY Rangers playoff chances.

1. As Brandon said this morning, the Rangers aren’t going to make the playoffs. On March 19, I wrote the Rangers needed to go about 21-7 to hit 74 points. That would put them just ahead of Boston’s pace of 72 points. Since then, they’ve gone 4-3, which means they’d need to go 17-4 over their last 24 games. That’ a big hit to the Rangers playoff chances.

Boston is a little under their pace from March 19, but they have a bunch of games against Buffalo remaining. That will improve their pace back to where it should be.

Do you see the Rangers going 17-4, with only a handful of those games being against Buffalo and New Jersey? I don’t think so. Even with the last two games of the year against the Bruins, the Rangers will likely be out of it before then.

2. The Rangers playoff chances took the biggest hit over the weekend, when they lost two in a row in regulation to the Flyers and the Caps. They needed at least two points from that weekend to stay in the race. There is a big difference between 17-4 and 16-5, even if it doesn’t seem like much.

The biggest concern was how the Rangers basically no-showed for two periods against the Caps. The Flyers game was somewhat expected, since the Rangers can’t always win 17-3. But to do it again against the Caps was a major letdown.

They even came out flat yesterday in the first ten minutes. Luckily they corrected it.

3. Missing the playoffs this year is perfectly fine and, quite frankly, expected. I know a lot of people thought the Rangers could make the playoffs, but it was a bit of rose-colored glasses. They were the same team as the prior year, the needed a near perfect February run to even get into the playoff picture. This was a team that needed all of its stars to repeat their career years. That wasn’t realistic.

Given the division, the lack of a training camp, COVID impacts, unnecessary drama, shooting issues, and other things, the fact this team is above hockey .500 is pretty good actually. They have figured it out defensively, which is a big step in the right direction. This team is too talented to not put it together offensively, so defense was the important factor.

4. I might sound like a broken record, but it was never about competing this year. There was too much dead cap space, too many question marks, and too many holes on the roster. That’s fine. This is a developmental year, especially with no training camp. Getting a year of experience under Lafreniere’s and Miller’s belts matters. Righting the Kaapo Kakko ship matters. Ryan Lindgren showing he can do it away from Adam Fox matters. Filip Chytil, before COVID and his injury, took another big step forward.

All of this development matters. It sets the table for the Rangers to go from rebuilding to competing. This goes into identifying which area need to be addressed via free agency and/or trade, and which kids are stepping into other areas. Lindgren is a great example here, as entering the season 1LD was a question mark. Now? Not so much.

5. Development should be the primary focus for the rest of the season too. Vitali Kravtsov is set to get into the lineup at some point soon. Morgan Barron may get a recall. Tarmo Reunanen might get a longer look after the trade deadline. Even in the remote possibility that none of them are going to be long term future pieces, developing them at least increases trade value.

But on Kravtsov and Barron, the Rangers do view them –at least for now– as pieces of the future. Kravtsov solidifies that top-nine wing depth, and the pure talent the he and whomever the 3LW will be helps boost a mediocre center into a viable 3C option.

Barron could be that major upgrade on Brett Howden that the Rangers desperately need. That is, assuming they keep him at center. This is the key piece of the Barron development. He’s been a winger in Hartford, until injuries forced him back into the pivot role. He’s looked good there too. Perhaps the Rangers were wrong when they initially pegged him as a winger in the NHL?

6. Speaking of roster holes – there aren’t many that can’t be filled internally. Depth players are usually bargain bin signings, and we could see one as a stopgap next year on 3LD. But the Kevin Rooney’s and Colin Blackwell’s of the world are relatively easy to find. There are always a ton of them available, which is why you don’t spend big money on your fourth line.

Nils Lundkvist, assuming he’s with the Rangers next season, slots into the 3RD role. Kravtsov and Barron might be with the club next season too.

There’s a legitimate argument that the Rangers need another viable middle-six center, which is something they can’t address internally. Of course, this needs to be at the right cost.

7. Adam Fox is elite, and deserves a Norris.

As an aside: What do you all think of this weekly column? Great? Horrible? Meh?

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    • The only way he gets minutes the rest of the way is if there’s a train accident or a Covid outbreak.

      When a team thinks Jack Johnson is a better option, that means you have no future as a NHL player. He’s 23, under height and underweight; and not even an average skater. Plenty of teams have given him a look and nobody wants him long term.

      But by all means, enjoy your stay on Fantasy Island.

  • Every season should be about making the playoffs. We use an excuse that we are young one year, too old another year, and then too over-priced the next year. Management needs to put the best players they can on the ice.

    I do not want to hear that next year we are not a playoff-bound team, because if we are not, heads should roll. We have lots of costs coming off the books, our “kids” now have at least 1 year of experience and the major issue is the draft for the Krakken, which we are well prepared for.

    No more excuses!

    • Do you want to make they playoffs or do you want to win a cup?

      One is dependent on the other, but merely making the playoffs is a long way away from having a chance to win it.

      • Last I looked you have to make the playoffs first. Don’t believe for 1 minute that we are nearing a Stanley Cup contender in the next 2 years. We need 5v5 offense, which we do not have.

        You may want to wait until you think we are Stanley Cup material. You will not know that unless you win a series or two in the playoffs first.

        • There’s no chance this team beats any one of their potential opponents in the playoffs this season. The division is too strong up top.

          First-round exits do nothing except line Dolan’s pockets. And likely would save Quinn’s job. Neither of these things should be a Ranger fan’s priority.

        • That’s a nice tautology you have there.

          It’s not about waiting, it’s about building towards a goal. I’m sure the Phil Espositos of the world could gut this roster and trade a bunch of picks to build a team that could’ve made the post season at the start of the season and not win, but then where are you?

          Most everybody here killed Slats for doing the exact thing you’re asking for and they get somebody doing the right thing the right way(maybe not at the success rate we might be looking for) and you want to go backwards instead of forwards.

          I just got my invoice for next season and I’m putting my money where my mouth is: on Gorts, Quinn and the boys in blue. $16 large.

          • Yeah, and Columbus beat Tampa last night. Would you bet on Columbus in a playoff series against Tampa?

            The Caps are 21-4 against teams that aren’t the Rangers. Great that you think the Rangers could win a playoff series against them, I do not.

          • Columbus is the perfect example of a tram that makes the playoffs, but has zero chance of going deep.

          • The Islanders have a better record than the Rangers. That’s my main clue as to why they’re better than the Rangers right now.

          • They gave TDA the deal they did because that’s the going rate.

            My only gripe is that if they have the stones to send him home, they should also have the stones to fire him for cause.

          • Just to refresh your memory, he signed the contract as a RFA heading towards arbitration, with monster empty calorie stats supporting him, *then* was kicked off the team.

          • My sentiment exactly on ADA. If he was such a cancer why did they resign him for 2 years. And the incident with George should of stayed in the room. By not turning the whole thing into a circus, the Rangers could of got something of trade value for Tony.

            Nonetheless in spite of all the issues the Rangers had this year I really believe they have built a good core team. I would like to see them take a run at the playoffs and not trade away any core pieces at the deadline.

  • I enjoy your column because it provokes discussion. I think that overall the Rangers have too many prospects for the team as it is. The youngest team will get even younger with kids knocking at the door. If we look at the weaknesses on the roster, there are 2 defensive and 1-2 on offense( one on 3rd line and one on 4th)which lends me to believe there will be a trade to move someone. I do disagree with #6. Blackwell has been great and Rooney not far behind. We can’t have a team with no grit!

  • we all signed on for a rebuild. some nights are awesome others are really
    frustrating. i am liking what i see from the kids. its been a crazy year.
    lets enjoy the rest of it.
    LGR

    PS
    A+ on the weekly keep it up.

  • Yes, that is what you get with a developing, young team. I choose to focus on the positives because I know that they will have their share of bad nights.

    But what is important is not the short term and barely getting into the playoffs. Rather, it is important to build a team that is capable of winning it all and competing at a high level for a long time. The Rangers are playing the long game and I am liking it.

  • I totally agree this is a developmental season, and I always thought the playoffs would be a tough target…

    This issue is David Quinn does not agree and has not really put development as a key priority this season. No reason at all to bring Kravstov here and keep him out. He had a good season, his confidence was there, all reports are he’s a different player these days. But let’s cut him down a bit, let him learn that in DQ’s world you sit and wait while he gets into your head and plays games. Same with Barron. Get him up here and into games. See what you have, and for the love of God, try him at center.

    • With letting Gostisbehere slide through waivers(along with certain non moves with the roster,) it would appear that Gorton is literally keeping his powder dry in order to try and swing a deal at the deadline.

      They will taxi squad healthy scratches and run a minimum roster except on the road.

  • Offseason it will be time to round out the roster. Some grit & snarl & role players will let the young, fleet wingers shine. And…much as I love Lindgren (and I do) he needs to be a more skilled fighter because of the game he plays (Nicky or Kocur lessons?) and to have some teammates help him out as he takes a beating by himself each night. Finally, love the Wed recap column. Great idea.

    • We’ll get some of that with Schneider and Cuylle and when we are actually set to go deep in playoffs, that is the easiest commodity to find.

  • This may border on caricature, but is there a location where we NYR fans can appeal for Fox to be slotted in the official Norris conversation?

  • Love the weekly column.
    Especially as a fan trying to follow the team from overseas, the information and insights are awesome.

    Personally I would like to see more stable lines, if only to help the youngsters develop. Moving them around too much is not a good thing IMHO.

  • Lots of good comments here but the thing that we need to accept is that the Rangers are not going to the playoffs this season. The team needs to add a couple of players that play a hard physical game and a professional NHL coach with loads of experience. That should take them to contention next season.

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