New York Rangers: A view into how a bad rebuild starts

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 03: Duncan Keith
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 03: Duncan Keith /

While the New York Rangers as an organization is gritting its teeth through the early stages of a rebuild, it is certainly better than the alternative it is going to play against on Thursday night.

Three NHL franchises have dominated the league during this decade. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have already won a combined seven Stanley Cups since 2010. However, winning long term requires a coordinated effort at every level of the organization and knowing when it is time to move on from certain players.

The reason the New England Patriots have made 12 AFC championship games with Bill Belichick is that he knows when to cut bait with aging players who are going to want a pay raise. Sometimes, he even does so a year or two earlier than the player’s drop off starts.

The sad fact of the matter is that the New York Rangers have the most postseason wins of any team this decade to not win the Stanley Cup. That’s what makes the sting of rebuild all the more painful. Both the Blackhawks and Kings are trying to stave off the inevitable downslide of success but can pool their tears in a collective five cups.

On Thursday night, the Rangers are going to take a peek into the looking glass as to what happens when a front office is in outright denial. Part of being an effective group is knowing when a player just isn’t good anymore. This is something the Rangers’ front office itself can occasionally lose sight of.

Great for 2012

Both the Rangers and the Blackhawks are clinging onto certain players for too long. The case of nostalgia is far worse in Chicago because of the success. The team won three Stanley Cups with the same core, so the inclination to keep it together was even stronger than New York’s.

Some front offices have the bad habit of paying a player based on what they’ve already done instead of what they’re going to do. Case and point, Chicago has more than $30 million tied up in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Of these four players, only Kane is still considered a genuine superstar that can win the game on a nightly basis.

In fact, both Seabrook and Keith are outright bad at this point in their careers. Both defensemen have serious miles on their wheels and it shows. At one point in time, both were considered top ten players at their position in the entire league. Now it’s just not the same as both are possession anchors.

While both defensemen have positive Corsi For percentages, meaning their team generates more than 50 percent of scoring chances when they’re on the ice, they do so with heavily sheltered zone starts. It’s a lot easier to create scoring chances when a player starts in the offensive zone because they do not have to generate a breakout.

If this sounds familiar it’s because the Rangers still have Marc Staal under contract for another three years. While Staal was once a very good but never great defenseman, he’s a shadow of his former self. The Ontario native just cannot contribute in the offensive zone or generate a breakout.

The difference

The fundamental difference between the two organizations is the front office’s approach. Unlike New York, Chicago has tried to pry their window of contention open by adding pieces to what they already had. This, in turn, yielded missing the playoffs last year and likely again for the 2018-2019 season.

The Blackhawks’ front office just has yet to embrace the reality of the situation. It’s once great players are no longer special and are just overpaid at this point.

At least the Rangers realized the writing was on the wall and sold off assets to try and recoup through the player development route. Chicago is just trying to shoehorn in players to the existing core and because of the salary cap implications, it can’t add any impact players without making a substantial trade.

In addition to it’s own high draft picks from being a bad team, the Rangers were also able to procure additional future assets. This means that New York’s rebuild has an end in sight and not just the same cast of characters for the foreseeable future.

Both Keith and Seabrook are under contract until at least the 2022-2023 season. Unless Chicago can eat cap on either deal and trade them out to a team trying to meet the cap floor, things are going to be less than ideal.

Next. An update on the injured players and where they fit. dark

Maybe one day, Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson can be the Rangers’ Kane and Toews.