4 Bold Predictions for the NY Rangers in 2014-15

The month of September is a difficult time for New York Rangers fans, and hockey fans in general.  After an initial flurry starting July 1, there’s now little free agent activity to speak of. Training camps are finally beginning, so there is some hope there. With so little hard news happening at the moment, though, we’re going to take a different approach. We’re going to make predictions for the upcoming season–not just any old predictions, mind you, but bona fide bold predictions.

We could sit here and predict that the Rangers will make the playoffs, but <yawn> that’s hardly bold. It’s far from a given, to be sure, but bold?  Nope. On the flip side, predicting an 82-0 season, while most definitely bold, is not exactly setting realistic expectations. What we’ll try to do is strike a balance between bold and realistic. We’ll set out some predictions that are (at least somewhat) possible, but at the same time far from run-of-the-mill. Maybe we’ll stir the pot a little, but at least we can add some spice to an otherwise boring time of year.

1) Rick Nash Will Regain His Touch… On Left Wing

Valeri Nichushkin has been compared to Rangers forward Rick Nash. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Could a position change jump-start Rick Nash’s scoring? (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The “what ails Rick Nash?” stories were flying around fast and furious during the playoffs, and it’s easy to see why.  While playing right wing on the first line, Nash was credited with the most shots on goal of any player (83), but only scored three goals for a shooting percentage of 3.6%. While he played a more engaged style and helped other Rangers players score, he couldn’t find the back of the net for himself. The folks at the New York Rangers Blog have suggested that a move back to his natural position of left wing would help him regain his scoring touch. We’ll take that a step further and predict that Alain Vigneault will move him back to LW, and that move will give New York the top-tier power forward they expected when they traded for him.

One of the things that many people noticed about Nash’s playoff performance was that he never pushed through into the high scoring percentage areas of the ice.  Instead, he played most of his game on the perimeter, with predictable results. A return to the left side would immediately get him back into an area that’s comfortable to him. While playing the right side was certainly not the only thing ailing Nash, getting him back to his natural side might just be the catalyst he so desperately seems to need. Also, because Nash is a left-hand shot, placing him on the left side gives him a better angle to protect the puck on the rush–no small thing for a power forward.

Bold Prediction: Rick Nash, moving back to LW, will put up similar numbers to 2008-09 (40G, 39A).

2) Joe Thornton Will Come to Broadway

If there’s one area where the Rangers are lacking this season, it’s depth at the center position. The necessary compliance buyout of Brad Richards created a gap that has yet to be completely filled. At this time, the Rangers have only three proven NHL-ready centers (Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, and Dominic Moore). Youngster J.T. Miller is the current front-runner for the remaining slot. Jumbo Joe would easily fit into the current Blueshirts’ lineup. He’s also reportedly said that the Rangers are the only team he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for.  Couple that with the very public way Thornton was stripped of his captaincy, and a trade of Thornton to the Rangers seems just as inevitable as the Rick Nash deal seemed leading up to the lockout.

*(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
Joe Thornton–coming to New York? (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

Obviously, a big roadblock to any potential deal will be the salary cap. The Rangers are already within $482,000 of the cap according to capgeek.com. Look for them to take a page out of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ book (remember Jarome Iginla?) and stockpile enough cap space to deal for Thornton at the trading deadline. If the Rangers go about a deal this way, it will be their own bold move–Thornton will have an additional two years left on his contract at a cap hit of $6.75MM per year. With the number of Rangers becoming free agents in 2015 (St.Louis, Zuccarello, Stepan, Hagelin, & Staal), bringing Thornton to NY this way would be an “all-in” move to contend for the Stanley Cup this season.

A seemingly unrelated story is also adding to the feel of inevitability. Reports seem to be indicating that contract talks with Marc Staal are still stalled (no pun intended), with the parties quite far apart.  The NY Daily News reports that Staal is asking for a six or seven year deal worth around $6MM per year. The Rangers are reportedly offering a deal similar to Dan Girardi’s (six years at $5.5MM per). The longer this story plays out, the more likely it becomes that Staal could be part of a potential deal for Thornton. The reasoning is as follows: If the Rangers feel that they can get Thornton in a deal by offering up Staal (which is pure speculation at this point), then they will not be in any hurry to sign such a large extension. However, if Staal is still in the Rangers’ long-term plans, then they would certainly want to avoid a replay of last year’s fiasco with Henrik Lundqvist’s extension. It’s subtle to be sure, but it does seem like more and more pieces of the Joe Thornton puzzle are falling into place.

Bold Prediction: At the trading deadline, the Rangers will trade Marc Staal to San Jose for Joe Thornton.

3) Ryan McDonagh Will Win the Norris Trophy

Ryan McDonagh Rangers
Ryan McDonagh–Norris Trophy Winner? (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

Ryan McDonagh continues to get better for the Rangers. He has blossomed into a true shutdown defenseman–someone who can consistently play against opponents’ top players and keep them off the scoreboard. His leadership is also unquestioned–he will almost certainly be wearing an extra letter on the front of his jersey this season. Reports are now suggesting it will be a “C”, and will be announced at the end of training camp. Until last season, the only thing missing from his game (and preventing him from being taken seriously as a Norris Trophy candidate) was his offensive numbers. The league’s “best defenseman” award has become more and more about the blueliner who can put points up, and McDonagh had a career high in goals (14) during his first year under coach Alain Vigneault. If that trend can continue, expect McDonagh’s name to be on the short list next June in Las Vegas.


Bold Prediction: Ryan McDonagh will set new career highs in goals and points, and win the Norris Trophy.

4) Tanner Glass Will Become a Fan Favorite

When the Rangers signed Tanner Glass on July 1, the move was either loved or hated–there was very little middle ground.  Fans either applauded the move for adding toughness or trashed Glass’ atrocious puck possession numbers. There’s no doubt the Rangers need toughness this year (Derek Dorsett moved to the Vancouver Canucks, and Daniel Carcillo has been given a tryout with Pittsburgh), and Glass can definitely fill that role. Yes, he had some of the worst puck possession numbers in the NHL last season–which is a very large concern. In fact, I raised red flags on this move in an earlier post. But even if signing Glass is a bad move for the Rangers’ puck possession numbers, his willingness to go to war for his teammates could likely have a net positive effect on the team, and win over the Blueshirt faithful. I still believe there were better, cheaper options to fill this particular role, but now that he’s here, look for Glass to become the Rangers’ next Brandon Prust.


Pittsburgh Penguin Tanner Glass - Photo By Andy Martin Jr
New Ranger Tanner Glass (Photo By Andy Martin Jr)

Bold Prediction: Tanner Glass will win the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.

So there you have it–four predictions that definitely go against the grain for the Rangers this year. Do you agree? Disagree?  Have a prediction of your own?  Let us know!


26 thoughts on “4 Bold Predictions for the NY Rangers in 2014-15”

  1. i have a feeling that with this team that the Rangers have put together and with Mac wearing the “C” the Rangers will find themselves deep into the playoffs if not with a stanley cup ring. they may not have the most depth around the league but they have the ‘we are a TEAM’ personality and i think that is what always gets them there. plus with hank getting so close yet not coming away with the cup i think it is just enough to spur that ‘perfectionist’ into action.I have a good feeling about this season.

  2. How about this, Rangers dont make playoffs, Nash gets bought out/traded next year, and THE ISLANDERS WIN THE CUP……………………….HEY IT COULD HAPPEN

    • Thanks Mikey!

      If anything, McDonagh is underrated… Seeing him play game-in and game-out has reinforced for me how solid a defensive player he has become. Take a look at his advanced stats and compare them to the other Norris finalists–the gap was not as large as you might think. The only place he fell short was in offensive numbers–and that seems to be the gold standard for Norris Trophies nowadays.

  3. Frankly I think the Rangers will digress from last year and struggle to make the playoffs. The constant roster turnover is going to cost them. Nash will be the Nash you saw (or didn’t see) last year. No true #1 center although you reference a trade for Thornton while giving up Staal. This would expose the defense significantly in my opinion and put too much pressure on Lundqvist. Looks to me like last year was the Cup year and this year they’ll finish 4th on the division behind Pitt, Columbus and NJ.

    • Thanks Charlie!
      While I wouldn’t say these Rangers are a stronger team than last year, I think this year’s version fits better with Vigneault’s coaching style–and that will make a huge difference. They lost depth with losing Boyle, Stralman, Carcillo, and Dorsett. But their pickups were primarily depth guys as well (Stempniak, Lombardi, Glass, Malone). The turnover won’t play as big a role as you might think.

      No doubt the Rangers need a #1 center. The best-case scenario is that Stepan grows into the role–but we haven’t seen that yet. Any trade involving Staal for Thornton would have to be done alongside a separate deal for a top-4 defenseman to backfill the hole. They will need to aggressively manage cap space to make that happen, though.

      They’ll still be competitive–I wouldn’t put them fourth, but I don’t see them challenging Pitt for #1 either. Columbus will be up there for sure. I’m thinking Philly will have a better season than NJ–the Devils just haven’t added much to make me think they’ll be any better than last year.

  4. 1. Yes,I think this is a real possibility
    2. No, the Rangers will be playing so well come playoff time, they won’t want to mess up the chemistry (or future).
    3. No, he should be in contention, but won’t score enough points
    4. No, not sure he’s going to make the team

    • Thanks Paul!
      1. I’ve been getting a lot of pushback on the Nash prediction–glad someone other than me isn’t giving up on him quite yet.
      2. I do worry about us not having a true #1 center, though… If you’re right and Steps raises his game to be that #1, then the current need might not be there when we hit the trade deadline. If that happens, I’ll be glad to get this one wrong.
      3. Can’t say I disagree–sadly, the NHL now needs TWO awards, the Norris (now for best offensive defenseman), and another (the Eddie Shore?) for best defensive defenseman.
      4. I think Glass makes the team, if for no other reason than this: we have NO other players who can stand up for their teammates. Carcillo and Dorsett are gone, and while Kreider is willing, we need his offense. The only way he’s not there is if the kids like Kristo and McIlrath play up to NHL level–they do have the physical presence to take his place.

      We’ll see–I’ll be happy with a .250 average on these, considering I didn’t exactly play it safe on any of them.

    • Thanks Thomas! Unfortunately, Steps only got a 2-year bridge deal, so he’s up next season as well. Sather may NEED to go all-in this year with the cap problems coming up.

    • Thanks Moe! I’ll leave that one as implied… Seriously, though, like I posted above, this might HAVE to be the year. We do not look good cap-wise moving forward.

  5. You have no clue what you’re talking about if you think the Rangers will, or by any means should trade for Joe Thornton. Between the fact that they have ZERO room under cap, and they have depth at center as it is it just makes no sense at all. Not to mention the fact that we dont have anyone that can replace Staal on the second line. Glass will likely see little playing time come December, and Nash is an enigma. I will agree that McD will be a Norris contender though.

    • Thanks Billy! I didn’t imply I thought they should trade for Thornton–but the signs have been there… Cap space will be a definite problem, but if Staal is truly asking for $6MM per, then it’s really the only way Joe could get here. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree about our depth at C–Stepan needs to get better to be thought of as a true first-line C, and I like both Brass and D.Moore, but none of those three can bring it quite the way Thornton can.
      I definitely agree that trading Staal would weaken our D considerably, unless J. Moore proves he is ready to jump into that role (a long shot, to be sure). If the Thornton deal happens, you’ll see a separate deal for a solid 2nd pair D to backfill the hole created by trading Staal.
      Glass could go either way–I’m definitely not sold on him, but I won’t throw him under the bus just yet. By December? Maybe.
      Who knows with Nash–I’m probably just a hopeless optimist there…
      McD just keeps getting better–he was actually in the Norris conversation last year, but didn’t make the final three. That’ll change this year.

      • Stepan made a good showing in the playoffs last year, and personally I see him and Krieder or Nash (hopefully not both) being a solid line this year. Brassard is clearly a great playmaker and a big shot, though a stretch for a number two guy unless he makes some improvements to his game. But then at center you have Moore (which I’d like to see as the third line guy though I doubt it would happen) Miller, Hayes, Lombardi, And Lindberg. No I dont think any of these guys will jump into the lineup this year and be all-stars. But its enough to make me think that a Thornton trade wont happen. Unless something seriously falls off in the Staal negotiation I dont see him being moved, simply due to the fact that he is too valuable defensively to our playoff hopes. I’m definitely with you about Nash. Ever since we got him I’ve been one of his biggest supporters. It gets hard at times though. LOL

        • I could definitely see a Stepan-Kreider-MSL first line doing a lot of damage. That could get Nash to LW on the second with Brass and Hobbit. Center-wise, I see your point–there’s a few depth possibilities that could keep a Thornton deal from happening. I think the biggest thing that could derail a potential deal is Stepan really coming into his own this year. If that happens, throw the “no first line C” argument out the window. Staal’s a large part of the D, for sure–but a $6MM/yr part? We have such a long history of overpaying and we now have so much cap tied up in a few players (Henrik, Nash, Brass, Girardi, McD), Slats will HAVE to make some tough cap-based decisions.
          Keep fighting the good fight for Nash… LOL. It does get hard.

  6. Don’t look for Nasher to come through this year or any other year. His past performance shows that he has no ability to use that big body to advantage, believes in the “country club” atmosphore whereby his just showing up is enough. Watched it for too many years in Columbus for him to find that “come to Jesus” moment that can turn his game around. Lots of skill, little will or ambition. #1 is a very, very ,very long shot.

    • Thanks DH! I did say BOLD, didn’t I? You’re right–that could be stretching a bit based on what we’ve seen so far. I’ll bank on last year’s Stanley Cup Final being his “come to Jesus” moment–he’s never had a sniff of the Cup, and coming that close has a way of changing perspectives. If he doesn’t step up now that he’s had a taste, then I’ll gladly come back and tell you “you were 100% right about him”. Fair enough?

    • Thanks Jasmine, Roy, and Steve! Whether they need Thornton or not, signs have been pointing to him coming here for a while now–a lot like Nash, where the rumblings became murmurs, the murmurs became shouts, and it just seemed more and more inevitable. I know Jumbo Joe’s been made the scapegoat in a lot of ways for the Sharks’ playoff futility, but his numbers have always been there. At this point the problem seems more with the Sharks organization itself than with him. Not convinced? Check out what our Sharks writer has to say about him–if anyone should be disenchanted with him, it’s a San Jose insider. We’ll see what happens, but don’t be surprised to see Jumbo Joe in Broadway Blue before the season’s out.

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