As we get into September, we can see the dawn of a new NHL season on the horizon. There will be a time when we have New York Rangers hockey on the ice in Madison Square Garden. Coming off of a disappointing defeat in the playoffs to the New Jersey Devils, there will be much to prove for the Rangers this year. Expectations have tapered from where they were in seasons gone by.
Much of the media and fanfare has the Rangers third in the Metropolitan. Competitive and a strong team, but probably quite distant behind the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, who look like they could be the top two teams in the NHL this season. This would be the same position the Rangers finished in as the season just completed. This would mean that the Blueshirts did not progress over the summer.
Given the amount of change the organization has undergone this summer with a new head coach, new backup goalie, multiple new forwards, and defensemen, it will be an interesting start to this season. If this team struggles out of the gate and finds the gap to the playoff places too large by Christmas, this roster could potentially look at selling off pieces at the deadline. That is in an absolute worst-case scenario.
For the season ahead, it’s probably going to be a straight shootout between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final divisional spot in the Metropolitan. One could fall into a wildcard berth but then would get exposed to probably the Toronto Maple Leafs or one of the two-headed monster the Metropolitan offers at the top of the NHL. Other teams in the division could be competing for a wild card berth.
Speaking personally, this feels like an underwhelming build-up to a season. Drury has brought back the same core, which is understandable given the contracts would be difficult to move in a flat-cap era. That makes sense. Most of the new additions are on the wrong side of 30, have been declining for several years, or are just injury-prone. I understand they come cheaper with the Rangers cap concerns, but it’s not good.
In a recent poll run on X, 61% of you thought the Rangers would finish either 3rd or 4th in the division, which is about right. Something would have to go catastrophically wrong for one of the teams projected to finish above the Rangers for the Blueshirts to nab a spot in the top two, but Shesterkin alone means they won’t finish below fourth. It’ll be up to Laviolette and the rest of the staff to get the best from this group.