New York Rangers and the Lundqvist Myth

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

New York Rangers and Their King

If you follow the New York Rangers to any degree, or NHL hockey for that matter, it is hard to avoid the consistent theme that, due to Henrik Lundqvist’s advancing age, the organization has a narrow window to secure a Stanley Cup championship. The thinking is, Lundqvist is the hub around which all other variables are constructed, and that without the talented Swedish backstop the Rangers would be on the outside looking in, regardless of who else might be skating for the home team at The Garden.

This thinking, while popular, is wrong.

Lundqvist is a New York Ranger, Not the New York Rangers

Sep 24, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist /

Now before researching the various ways that you, as the reader, can inflict mortal damage on this writer, please take the time to read the article through. The premise that Lundqvist is not the only reason why the New York Rangers can contend is not heresy, nor is it irrational by any means. In truth, the Rangers will rely more on what they do to supplement their forward group and d-corps than they will on Lundqvist to bring home the Cup. Lundqvist is without question a premier goaltender, but it cannot be denied that there have been any number of teams that have won the Cup despite not having a goalie that would be considered special.

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Can a goalie elevate a team to greater heights than expected? Of course. Dominik Hasek and the 1998-1999 Buffalo Sabres come to mind, with Hasek being able to carry a team that finished just nine games over .500, with 17 ties no less, all the way to the Finals before losing to the Dallas Stars.

Conversely, Hasek was likely a missing piece for both the 2002 and 2008 Detroit teams that took home the Cup after three consecutive disappointing finishes beginning in 1999. Hasek, brought in for the 2001-2002 season, put a team that had averaged 46 wins in the previous three regular seasons over the top, teams that were booted from the playoffs despite lofty expectations. So, it’s an example of an exceptional goalie helping a strong team to reach the promised land, not a situation where an exceptional goalie lifts a mediocre team further than it should have gone.

New York Rangers
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford /

Looking to more recent times, the example of the Chicago Blackhawks and Corey Crawford cannot be ignored. Chicago has won 3 Cups over the past 7 years, and you would be hard-pressed to find any pundits claiming that these victories were orchestrated by Crawford. Crawford is no doubt a good goalie, however he is not in Lundqvist’s class statistically and he in fact platooned during one of the Cup runs. It’s a perfect example of teams that needed decent goaltending to succeed but not the second coming of Patrick Roy and Dom Hasek rolled into one.

Henrik Can Still Get It Done

King Henrik, as he is lovingly referred to by the Rangers faithful, is at this point in his career closer to the 2002 and 2008 Detroit version of Hasek than he is to the 1999 Buffalo version. In other words, he can help an already strong team to realize its potential, but he cannot necessarily carry that same team on his own. The point, though, is that Lundqvist shouldn’t be relied upon to carry the team and wouldn’t be if certain improvements are made in terms of scoring punch and defensive personnel.

Mar 10, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save against the New York Islanders during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Talbot as a Ranger during the 2014-2015 season. /

This all translates into the realization that the New York Rangers’ “window,” as it is called, is not entirely dependent on the capabilities of Lundqvist. Rangers fans will recall the run by Cam Talbot towards the end of the the 2014-2015 season during the lengthy absence of Lundqvist due to injury. The team didn’t miss a beat, and while Talbot did excel he was also the beneficiary of some of the tightest hockey played by the New York Rangers organization in all its years.

The New York Rangers “window,” then, is more reliant on capitalizing on its young core of players while they are still in their prime. Forwards Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller are “now” assets that a franchise can build around and supplement. If we are generous, we may even throw Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast into the group of forwards the team can look to for production.

pavel-buchnevich /

D-man Ryan McDonagh is also a building block, and when other

d-men such as Brady Skjei

, Dylan McIlrath and Ryan Graves are considered the “window” perhaps opens further.

Forwards Pavel Buchnevich (pictured right), Niklas Jensen and even Ryan Gropp are also on the horizon, so there is a nucleus of talent that, if properly seasoned by free agent acquisitions, could do some real damage. In the end, the development and use of these assets cannot be singularly tied to the status of Henrik Lundqvist.

He is an excellent goalie, yes, but he is not the most vital asset the organization possesses. That honor goes to the young core of talent discussed above. Their collective “window” is far more robust than Lundqvist’s – which may realistically only be viable for perhaps two more seasons – and far more of a priority. With that said, decisions need to be made with the entire roster in mind as it pertains to the next several years, not just with Lundqvist’s timetable in mind.

Next: New York Rangers Re-Sign Goalie Antti Raanta

While we cannot know for certain which of the core players mentioned will be with the organization when Lundqvist is tottering around at the ripe old age of 39 when his contract expires (2021), we do know that the organization will be around. The organization is always the priority, regardless of how loved or deserving of respect any one player may be. Lundqvist is in the discussion for the top 5 greatest New York Rangers of all time, no doubt, but The King must still take a back seat to the needs of the organization as a whole.