18 Thoughts on the New York Rangers ahead of the new season

kaapo kakko

The New York Rangers start their season Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals. To everyone it is known as the “Tom Wilson Game” but to the Rangers it’s their first game of the season, and the first test in the Gerard Gallant era. Let’s roll through my thoughts on the New York Rangers heading into tomorrow night.

1. The Rangers can’t afford to get off to another slow start this season. If the lineup is what it looks like it will be, the Rangers aren’t going with their best 18 skaters. I trust Gerard Gallant, but that’s disappointing. The hope here is that it’s a one game hiccup rather than the plan. That’s also what I believe the case is.

2. I expect Rangers fans will be more frustrated by the existence of Jared Tinordi than they were by Tanner Glass. Glass played a meaningless fourth line role, while Tinordi could directly block valuable young defensemen from getting much needed NHL minutes. He’s the worst player on the roster by a long shot and the worst defenseman on the Rangers in a long time.

3. Julien Gauthier was absolutely fantastic during training camp and the preseason. I hope he gets the opportunity to play top nine minutes, because he deserves them.

4. Vitali Kravtsov deserves them too. I hope his demotion was a paper move because if not, it’s not rewarding a player who had a good preseason and looks to be a long term member of the team. I’m in the business of valuing the relationships of and rewarding the players who will be here a long time. To see Kravtsov spend extended time in the minors, where he and all of us know he doesn’t belong anymore, would be disappointing. To see that so the Rangers could keep Libor Hajek in the NHL would be doubly disappointing.

5. Personally? My lineup would be:

Alexis Lafreniere-Mika Zibanejad-Chris Kreider
Artemi Panarin-Ryan Strome-Kaapo Kakko
Barclay Goodrow-Filip Chytil-Vitali Kravtsov
Sammy Blais-Kevin Rooney-Ryan Reaves

With Julien Gauthier being the next man up in case of injury, then Morgan Barron.

6. Dave has been making the point that Sammy Blais forced his way onto the third line. I don’t see it that way. He had a phenomenal preseason, but the lineup is at its best with Kravtsov on the third line and Blais on the fourth. Blais starts the season on the third line because the Rangers want Hajek in the NHL and had to demote Kravtsov to make that happen. Until I see a transaction that doesn’t reflect that, that’s my personal belief.

7. So far Gallant has not been making moves I like, but I will say this: how’s your confidence in the coaching compared to when David Quinn was coach? Mine is so much higher. Gallant feels and acts like a real NHL coach. I don’t think David Quinn ever did that, even when he was a couple to a few years into the gig.

8. Mika Zibanejad signed an extension, and I gotta say, I don’t mind it at all. The years are higher than I’d like, but the $ is lower than I’d like. Chris Kreider’s extension looked bad from day one, but this one doesn’t look bad at all. Zibanejad will need to stay healthy for his game to age well, but he doesn’t have any obvious traits that will tail off terribly. I look forward to seeing him in Rangers colors for the years to come.

9. Nobody was named captain! This leads me to my odd solution that I proposed in the BSB group chat. Name Ryan Reaves captain for the interim. Announce it’s a two-year captainship with the idea of promoting one of the kids to the C after. You get the Team Dad to be captain for two years, then you get a guy like Adam Fox who is due for a leadership role as the captain in two years. Everyone profits and you have a Winner as the captain for a couple years. Thoughts? Is it crazy?

10. I’ll leave the analytics and systems talk to others, but I feel good about this Rangers team. I’d feel much better with the lineup I listed above, but I don’t see any major weaknesses. I still feel the Rangers should consider adding a top six forward, but that’s a depth issue more than anything. For now, the Rangers have a strong top nine, a good fourth line, and no weak spots on defense. Add that to a top-tier goalie and you have a strong team. As I said earlier, the team needs to get off to a good start. But they’re right there among the division’s best.

Some quick predictions now!

  1. Alexandar Georgiev is not on the Rangers roster when the season ends. He looked awful in preseason and his confidence seems shot. I think Keith Kinkaid is terrible at hockey, but the team seems to think highly of him. I could see Georgiev being traded to Arizona or Buffalo.
  2. Nils Lundkvist finishes the season with the second most points among defensemen on the roster.
  3. Sammy Blais becomes a crowd favorite.
  4. Kaapo Kakko scores more points than Alexis Lafreniere, but nobody freaks out over it.
  5. Vitali Kravtsov finishes the season in a different organization. The Rangers get a top six winger or center in the deal.
  6. Braden Schneider plays over 20 NHL games.
  7. The Tom Wilson saga goes away for everyone except the media. Wilson hurts a Ranger at some point in the season and it comes back in full force.
  8. Dave makes a typo that everyone makes fun of at least once a month this season.

Happy almost opening night and hope you enjoyed!