Grindliners

Season Preview: New York’s Big City Blues

marc-staal-new-york-rangers

The Season Preview will be a running column on questions and thoughts for the upcoming season. Individual teams will be highlighted in each post.  CLICK HERE for the full list of Season Previews. 

Let me start this preview by airing several opinions of present and past Rangers hockey:

1. I do enjoy watching Rangers games, especially with some of the squads they’ve had over the years.  Not a Rangers hater.  They’re original six, so they have history, but they aren’t the Canadiens, Leafs, or Red Wings, so  their history isn’t obtrusive enough to be overbearing.

2. I was not a fan of the Marian Gaborik trade, nor the quickness of their fans and media to lose hope with him after one bad postseason (during which he was probably injured, because, you know, he’s Marian Gaborik).  He’s better than Richards.

3. I roll my eyes when I hear about 1994.  It will be twenty years this year.  As far as flash in the pan champions, it was not as awe Messier
inspiring as New Yorkers would have us all believe.  Detroit, Colorado, Dallas, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh were all far more impressive mid to late 90s teams.  Sorry.

4. The Rangers will be mediocre this year and Alain Vigneault will be lucky to keep his job.

If these opinions offend you, well, you’re probably a Rangers fan.

This is what the Rangers are to me right now, and have been for a while; a little town team with big city syndrome.  They’ve never been able to live up to the mystique they’ve always desired.  They tried to create a legacy in 1994 (they even keep telling us that Mike Richter is a hall of famer!  Hah.), they tried to buy the legacy with their late 90s spending frenzy (shame that these games aren’t played on paper), and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have been right on the precipice of greatness ever since.  And maybe, for a moment, if it could have all come together in the right way during the John Tortorella era, maybe they could have been a champion.  It’s not like the pieces weren’t there.

Kovalchuk-outshining-Gaborik-in-East-final-GE1GO35P-x-largeProblem is, a lot of the pieces aren’t there anymore.  Their elite scoring is gone.  Gaborik traded, Richards a shell of his former self, and… well… Rick Nash isn’t nearly as impressive when he isn’t put into every single offensive situation necessary to be 10-20 points from a ppg average, like he is most seasons.   But that’s what I mean when I say big city complex.  They have it in the NBA when they think they’re going to sign Lebron James simply by virtue of being New York.  And they’ve had it in the NHL for years.  It’s always been about a player’s name.  Never mind if trading for Nash removed several key depth players.  Never mind if Nash has never taken an average team and made it good, or elevated  his game to elite levels.

In last season’s playoffs, Nash and Richards had a combined 2 goals in 12 games or for you cap counters out there, about 7 million per goal…. bargain!

But seriously, this franchise should be worried.  Like trying to row your dingy around icebergs worried.  Not only are their offensive players not living up to potential, what is even more worrying is what is coming down the line next year.  Cap Armageddon.

Currently, the New York Rangers have exactly 6 players under contract next year.  Brad Richards, Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Dorsett, and Derek Stepan (Staal, Hagelin, Stepan, and Dorsett are all due deals the following season too).   And it’s especially scarey because a lot of these soon to be free agents are due some pretty hefty pay raises.  Dan Garardi will be making more than his current 3.3 million, Del Zotto will get more than his current 2.5, and Ryan Callahan could probably get more than 4 million too.   Not to mention, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman, and Stu Bickel have all become regular NHLers and will be due contracts to that effect as well.   Hmm.. and who am I forgetting.  Who, who, who?

Oh yeah, that guy named Henrik Lundqvist.  Ever heard of him?  Yeah, he’s only projected to be the highest paid netminder the NHL.  He’s already #3 with a contract of 6.875 per year and will probably get more than Rekka Rinne’s 7 million a year.  No big deal.   Here’s a breakdown of what Lundqvist could earn based on present goaltending trends.

Yeah, they are going to need to pay this guy:

It’s a bit of a double edged sword.  On the one hand, Rangers fans could be pleasantly surprised with this roster exceeding expectations with everyone playing for a new contract.  On the other hand, if they do, that will kind of screw the Rangers and make it difficult to keep the core of their team in tact.

But on to this year, and what will actually happen on the ice.  I don’t expect this team to be great.  Sorry Rangers fans.  They may make the playoffs, and having King Henrik in net means that anything can happen…  But I just don’t expect anything too unexpected.  I expect a low seeded playoff team that struggles with scoring and hangs out in the middle of the Metropolitan Division for most of the season.   I want to be able to say that the Rangers will be able to become the team that the other US based Original Six teams have become, a regular contender and a champion, but until they improve their offense, somehow get rid of Richards (next offseason buyout?), and figure out their big time cap hurdle, this team is going nowhere.

Optimism rating (out of 5):  2.5 

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