The New York Rangers’ season ended last night in disappointing fashion. However, there is plenty to look forward to when it comes to Rangers hockey.
When the final buzzer sounded and the New York Rangers were officially eliminated from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the immediate feeling was disappointment. Although I never believed the Rangers would win the Stanley Cup this year, I did believe they would defeat the Ottawa Senators.
However, New York failed to do so, and now we are looking ahead to 2018. It’s always a negative feeling having to look ahead at the off-season rather than the next game on the schedule, but there is plenty of reason for optimism in Rangerstown.
The New York Rangers will win the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
So Close You Can Almost Taste It
Sure, the Rangers only made it to the second round of the playoffs this year. However with all of the recent runs deep into the playoffs, Natasha Bedingfield’s lyrics in her famous tune ‘Unwritten’ must be playing on repeat in Henrik Lundqvist’s mind. “So close you can almost taste it.”
However, Henrik Lundqvist cannot do this alone. He’s tried to every season and failed, as contrary to popular belief (and what I tweet) he is not a higher power.
This season proved that the Rangers’ cup window is wide open as long as Lundqvist allows it to be. Pavel Buchnevich joined the fray. Brady Skjei proved to be a star defenseman already, while Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller took steps forward before their disappointing post-seasons.
New York boasts an abundance of young, controllable talent to go along with their veterans. The forward depth this season was remarkable, and outside of a forward possibly being lost in a trade for a defenseman and a forward possibly being lost in the Expansion Draft, everyone should return.
That means this same group that made a run despite possessing one of the worst defenses in the league will be back. Back and better than before.
Finally, a Competent Defense
The main reason the Rangers will win the 2018 Stanley Cup Final is because for the first time in years, New York will own a competent defense. It’s all but certain that the Rangers will buy-out Dan Girardi, mercifully ending his tenure with the club. At least one of Nick Holden, Kevin Klein, or Marc Staal will likely depart as well.
While Jeff Gorton has not yet proven an understanding of what makes a talented defenseman, his acquisition of Brendan Smith certainly points in the right direction. Regardless, New York brought on Alexei Bereglazov and Neil Piosk to compete for roster spots. That means they understand the defense must be improved and get younger. Which means Girardi and Staal will be bought-out or heavily sheltered.
Oh, and Tanner Glass’ contract is up.
Considering the strong group of forwards, Henrik Lundqvist in net, and a fixed defense, the only weakness remaining is Alain Vigneault.
First of all, the Rangers’ possession game will improve with the exits of the incompetent defensemen. Secondly, Alain Vigneault will either be fired, or will make changes to keep his job.
New York cannot continue to play the same brand of hockey and win. As long as Jeff Gorton provides Alain Vigneault with only options that make sense for the team, the Rangers will be golden.
Either Vigneault will lose his job or change his system, or Gorton will find the right pieces. This off-season appears promising when it comes to the front office and bench bosses.
When push comes to shove, the dead weight falling off the roster will make the greatest impact. A player like Pavel Buchnevich will play in the post-season, increasing New York’s chances for success.
Considering the Capitals will lose valuable players this off-season and the Penguins’ defense looks weak, the East should be wide open. 2018 will be the Rangers’ year.