New York Rangers: What are we thankful for?

A New York Rangers Thanksgiving

Yes, it’s a cop-out of sorts.  Writing the “What Are We Thankful For” article in conjunction with Thanksgiving.  But hey, what in the world is there to write about while the NHL tries to figure out when the New York Rangers and the rest of the NHL are going to get back on the ice.

Look, I’m not smart enough to write about the whole escrow issue that has now popped up and could lead to some real problems with actually getting the NHL season rolling at some point in 2021. Seems like the brass at the league office are really looking to sabotage the season before they even agree that there is a season to sabotage.

So let’s not go too far down that rabbit hole and instead try to focus on the positive from the year past, it is after-all Thanksgiving week.

Yes, 2020 has been one big disaster for much of the nation, but in all honesty, it has been a pretty damn good year for New York Rangers fans.  So let’s look back and give thanks where thanks is due and hope the Rangers keep the giving going well into the future.

Summer Hockey

Before getting to the Rangers specifically, we should all give thanks to the NHL and their amazingly successful bubble playoffs. I am on record, on this site, as being against the NHL trying to complete the 2019-20 season.  I was wrong.

Having summer hockey was a godsend during the pandemic.  Each round of the playoffs was at the very least entertaining and at times riveting, with the exception of the Rangers/Hurricanes series, but much more on that later.

So thank you NHL, let’s hope that success continues in 2021.

Mika Zibanejad

Like a big slice of juicy breast meat off the bird, this is the guy that makes the meal.  When Mika Zibanejad was on the ice this past season, the Rangers feasted. His 41 goals in 57 games lead the team, but what we all witnessed last season was so much more than pucks in the net.

You could just see that ZBJ was on the cusp of true greatness when the season came to a sudden stop a week or so shy of the playoffs. He had clearly put any concerns about the neck injury he suffered earlier in the season behind him and was really starting to light it up.  His five goal game against the Washington Capitals on March 5, was something to behold just before everything went black on March 12.

Was there any doubt that ZBJ was going to carry the Rangers to the playoffs after that game? Is there any doubt that he moves up the NHL.com Center Rankings next year?  Thinking top 5 may not be out of the question.

Mika Zibanejab is a feast for the eyes for all Rangers fans to consume. For that, we are thankful.

Artemi Panarin

Drumstick please!

Artemi Panarin was the keeper of the beat during his first year on Broadway. His rhythmic and pulsating play is what launched the Rangers into playoff contention in 2020.

(A quick thanks to John Davidson here as well. He played more than a small part in landing Panarin as a free agent.)

Playing in 69 games he accumulated 95 points. He was a lock to reach 100 points if the last 12 games of the regular season were played. David Quinn would have played him 23 minutes per game, and the rest of the team would have been all in on getting him to that plateau.

The true sign that Panarin was the leader of the band is that in games that he did not have his best, it was clearly visible that the rest of the team was off-beat as well.  There were certainly a few games during the regular season where this was apparent, but it was brutally obvious in the short play-in series against the Carolina Hurricanes this summer.  The Breadman did not rise to the occasion for whatever reason and the team fell flat as a result.

That anomaly however, did lead to the one thing all Rangers fans should be most thankful for this time of year.

The NHL Draft and Alexis Lafrenière

When looking for reasons to be thankful, New York Rangers fans need to look no further than the NHL and its completely bizarre approach to the most recent NHL draft and draft lottery process.

When the original lottery was held and all the talking heads made a brief reference to the “Placeholder” that was in play because of the unique circumstances surrounding the NHL qualifying round of the playoffs, it really seemed like no one was taking it all that serious.  Then the balls started bouncing.

Low and behold the “Placeholder” had won.  Suddenly all the talking heads were talking so much more.  A team that was in the playoff tournament would now have a chance at one hell of a booby prize should they get unceremoniously dismissed in the qualifying round.

Ranger fans certainly took notice.  Plenty was written about what would be the best thing for the team.  Was playoff experience more valuable than a chance at the first round pick, should they roll over and hope for a fortuitous bounce from a ping pong ball?

We all know how it played out. Not one Ranger fan shed a tear when the team was swept by the Hurricanes; after all, there was hope.  The season hadn’t really ended, it was just put on pause for a few days until next time the NHL dropped the balls in the hopper.

The only thing that was cause for concern was that the stinking Pittsburgh Penguins saw fit to roll over the Montreal Canadiens so they would have a shot at the number one pick as well.

Then this.

OH THANK YOU! Thank you, thank you, thank you NHL and your crazy approach to deciding how young kids get randomly sorted about around the league!

Thank you for delivering Alexis Lafrenière to the New York Rangers.

Thank you for letting the sport that we all love carry us through more than just a few weeks of this godforsaken year with the promise of hope, future wins, and the Stanley Cup.

Because it is coming.

And for that we are all most thankful.