(Also posted at The Devils Advocate)
Let me start off by saying that it’s great to join HockeyAnalysis.com. Over the next week or so, I will be taking a look at the Atlantic Division. The first team up is the New York Rangers.
What they lost: A ton of stars and payroll. Bobby Holik, Eric Lindros, and Mike Dunham have all been lost since the Broadway Blueshirts last took the ice, and even more were shipped out before last season’s trading deadline. The biggest blow to the Rags could be the loss of captain Mark Messier, the most recent future Hall of Famer to retire after the long layoff. They also lost their chance to bring back Brian Leetch, who signed in Boston. The Rangers have been somewhat of a running joke around the NHL for their high payroll and low output, so they’re switching to a youth movement in hopes of rebuilding and changing their fortunes.
What they gained: Finishing several consecutive seasons low in the standings does have its benefits. The Rangers now have a stockpile of young talent led by Fedor Tyutin. Their future in net looks bright with Henrik Lundqvist and Al Montoya battling for the #2 spot behind Kevin Weekes. As far as veteran additions, the Rangers picked up Steve Rucchin, Ville Nieminen, Martin Rucinsky, Jason Ward, Marek Malik, and Martin Straka. None of these guys are mega-superstars, but that’s exactly what the Rangers need. These could be the character players they’ve needed for the past eight years.
Staying at home: The Rangers did not do to Darius Kasparaitis what they did to Bobby Holik, and now he is the backbone of their defense. Jaromir Jagr will be expected to provide the offensive spark for this team, and justifiably so. He is arguably the most talented played in the NHL (I’d argue on his behalf), and if his heart is in the game, no one can stop him. Other notable returnees are Tom Poti and Michael “Born to Play for the Islanders” Nylander.
Bottom line: This is not the year the Rangers make a triumphant return to the playoffs. Make no mistake about it, this is a rebuilding season, and their final standings will be a reflection of it. Four or five years down the road, the Rags may be contenders once again, but not this year… not with this team. They’ll finish dead last in the Atlantic.