Hockey season is just over a month away, and it is time to get excited about the New York Rangers. With a seemingly brand new team, the sky is the limit with this roster. With new additions, blossoming draft selections and a positive feeling surrounding this team, there is a bigger list of expectations for the 2019-20 season than there was in 2018-19. After an aggressive summer, the re-build has been completed.
What makes this team so special?
A New Hope
There is a new hope with this team. Going into the 2019-20 season, it doesn’t feel like this will be another season of dread and desperation. It feels more like a season of aspiration. From the top line all the way down to the backup goaltender, the Rangers have a positive outlook again.
After missing the playoffs in back-to-back years, there is a serious chance of not making it a three-peat. It can’t be denied that the Rangers used this offseason perfectly, and each need was addressed accordingly. The Blueshirts gained a pure scorer, a reliable and strong first-pair defenseman and the “second best” prospect in all of hockey. A major change was declared by the front office, and it happened.
Artemi Panarin, Kappo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and Igor Shesterkin will be in the spotlight. Each of these new additions will have their own expectations to deal with, but there is only one goal for this team. A return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The ultimate goal is to use these new additions to have a winning season, a chance to be among the best 16 teams in the NHL and give the fans a newfound passion for the team they unconditionally love.
Were all of the moves worth it? Was it enough to turn this failing franchise around? Both of those questions can only be answered after Oct. 3, and a definitive answer won’t be given until April 4. It’s a long season and with a majority of the team being young and inexperienced, it will seem even longer at times. The growing pains will be tough to swallow at first, but given time it will turn around.
After failing to have a winning record over the past two seasons, the Rangers have been deemed as one of the lowest-ranking teams in the NHL. They have made the right moves, and selected the right players to earn themselves the best prospect pool in the NHL. With an influx of new talent, both veteran and greenhorn, that expectation of being a bottom-of-the-barrel team has flipped. Now, they have a new set of expectations from the league, and their loyal fans.
Trying to mature and just focus on development for the future is not on the agenda for this team. It is all-or-nothing and there is no learning curve. Each of these young players will have to get things going in preseason and then immediately get ready for the regular season. Other NHL teams will see them as a bunch of newbies getting their first taste of action. If they can pull it off, that is where the Rangers will have the advantage. The opposition doesn’t have anything to prepare against a young, inexperienced team like this.
For Rangers fans, of course a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is always an expectation. But, with all of the optimism about this team being successful, it can certainly be possible. This can be the beginning of something revolutionary for the NHL, and the Rangers are at the front of it.
If this is a successful season, and the expectations are met, we could be looking at a dynasty. With young talent proving their ability to play at the NHL level, this could be sustainable for a couple of seasons. This season can be a tease of what could be and then should be.
Panarin and Trouba are locked up for long-term contracts, Henrik Lundqvist’s contract will be ending at the conclusion of 2020-21 season and Mika Zibanejad is slated to be a Ranger until the end of the 2021-22 season. This team could make an impact this upcoming season, and then be a contender the following year.
The Rangers have done it before. After missing seven straight postseasons from 1997-98 to 2003-04, they went on a run of making it to the playoffs in 11 of the next 12 seasons. It just takes one solid year — a good first half followed up by an equally strong second half. If any team can do it, then why not the Rangers?
What Makes This Team So Special?
What really makes this team so special, is the fans. Like you, like myself, like the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of members in Rangerstown. It’s been a lifetime since 1994, we saw the Stanley Cup run in 2014, and now it is time to return to prominence. We all want to see if this youth movement and full rebuild was worth it. It is starting to look like it was.
Led by youth, this franchise is going for it all. There is no second place, no time to adjust, and no higher expectations in their 93-year history. The Rangers have a tall hill to climb, and it will get harder once the season starts. The Eastern Conference is still filled with skill and speed that will make your head spin, but the Rangers now have that as well.
This team is special because it is one-of-a-kind. This dynamic of relying solely on new additions coming into a brand new system is very rare, and that may be what sets them above the rest of the NHL. You cannot anticipate how good or bad this team will be after October, but you can assume that each night will certainly be unforgettable.
I cover the New York Rangers. I graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism.