September 25, 2013 by andymisek
The New York Rangers fell short of 2013 expectations by finishing 6th in the Eastern Conference. It is hard to argue that the trade for Rick Nash hurt the Ranger’s depth. They made up for it by acquiring key depth pieces in the Marian Gaborik trade. The Rangers are a better team having traded away Gaborik, and it will show from the start of the new season. This is why the New York Rangers finish 6th on our NHL Season Countdown.
The Rangers traded away their first round pick in the Rick Nash trade, and the only new pieces they signed during free agency were Dominic Moore, Benoit Pouliot, and Justin Falk. In other words, it was an extremely boring off season in the Big Apple.
The Rangers did fire Coach John Tortorella and hire Alain Vigneault as his replacement. Vigneault will provide a more calming presence behind the bench but he does have a knack for making excuses when things don’t go his way. Without a doubt, Vigneault is a great coach and is inheriting a great Rangers team that is geared towards a successful run in 2013.
The New York Rangers have one of the most stacked offenses in the league. Derek Stepan will be centering the top line with Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin. Rick Nash, who is entering his prime, is capable of carrying a line on his own. Young players like Hagelin and Stepan will look to continue to develop and ignite the offense. Stepan is capable of scoring 25 goals per season (he was on pace for 30 in 2013).
The second line is centered by Derick Brassard, who was a piece returned in the Marian Gaborik trade. Brassard played very well in his first playoff experience scoring at a point per game. If he is able to build on experience, he will be a dominant force on the second line. Brassard will be centering for the heart and soul of the New York Rangers, Captain Ryan Callahan, and struggling rookie Chris Kreider. By playing with Brassard and Callahan, Kreider should show improvement over 2013.
We haven’t even discussed the bottom six. Brad Richards, Mats Zuccarello, Brian Boyle, and Benoit Pouliot are all capable of being offensive threats. Richards should be in a top six, but fell out of favor with a poor showing in the playoffs. He could make the best of a bad situation by scoring 20+ to prove his value to the team. Derek Dorsett (another piece in the Gaborik trade), Dominic Moore, and Brian Boyle have that gritty, physical presence needed when reaching the playoffs.
It is astounding how many great defensemen play for the New York Rangers. It is difficult to discuss each player individually as they have all committed to a system of strong play in their own zone and blocking shots. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, and Marc Staal are defensive minded top four who play tight in their own end and make it hard for the opposing offense to set up in the zone.
Michael Del Zotto may have fallen out of favor a bit last year in New York, but he is still capable of being a strong offensive defenseman. His solid numbers from 2011-2012 were not met in 2013 and he will need to improve if he wants to regain a spot in the top four. At the age of 23, he is far from his prime and has plenty of time to develop.
Del Zotto will be paired with Winnetka IL native John Moore, who was the final piece in the Marian Gaborik trade. Moore struggled to find his game in Columbus, but the change in scenery helped and he posted 6 points in 13 games. Moore is also young at 22 so he and Del Zotto will develop together.
Henrik Lundqvist: that is all that needs to be said about New York Rangers goaltending. He is dominant, one of the best in the world, and only 31 years old. There is plenty of game left in Lundqvist and he will have another stand out season with the Rangers. Whenever Lundqvist does need a day off, the Rangers have a great back-up in Martin Biron. An embarrassment of riches in defensive defensemen and goaltenders. It will be difficult to score on the Rangers when they are playing their A-game.
It’s time for the Rangers to shake off their sketchy start in 2013 and play up their expectations. The added depth gained in the Gaborik trade will help the Rangers start the season off stronger. With a tough defensive minded defense core and extraordinary goaltending, the Rangers have no excuse not to make it deep into the playoffs.