The New York Rangers have had a tumultuous season. From an early win streak to a troubled winter, the team hasn’t been able to find much footing in this period of rebuilding. That being said, the effort is usually visible and they’ve been able to make most of their contests competitive.
Indeed this has been a storied season full of rumors of trades and potential offseason acquisitions. But through all the rumblings and talk, there is still a lot of hockey to play. Here are my three bold Ranger predictions as this second half of the 2018-19 season commences.
Rangers Will Have Winning Record
Don’t be fooled. The Rangers are not going to make the playoffs and probably won’t be very close. That said, they will still have a win percentage above .500. New York started the season on a tough stretch, losing games to the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres. But shortly after that, two back-to-back shootout victories led them on what became their best stretch of the season, at least so far.
Since then, the team has struggled to put together consecutive wins and has found themselves performing poorly too often. But through all the ups and downs, the Rangers are still hovering near the .500 win percentage mark. What should prove to be a key factor in this prediction is the trade deadline.
Kevin Hayes, who returned last night after a nine-game absence due to injury, has been an integral part of the Rangers offense this season. All signs point to Hayes being traded at the deadline, which could severely affect the team’s offense. But with players like Henrik Lundqvist, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider, the Rangers will still find a way to win some games.
Rangers Will Not Call up Hajek From the Wolf Pack
Given all the hoopla surrounding the trade deadline and prospect development, a common belief has been that the Rangers will call up several of their prospects currently playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack by the end of the season.
One of these players mentioned is Libor Hajek, the young defenseman acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. But Hajek will not get his shot this season. There are several other defensive prospects who would likely get called up first. One of those is former Boston Bruins prospect Ryan Lindgren.
Lindgren played a few games before the Rangers long 10-day break and looked as though he may have a solid future on the team. Despite being on the ice for a couple goals against, his play was strong and physical. He wasn’t afraid to carry the puck into the offensive zone and lay the body to create turnovers.
I believe Hajek should be the next defenseman to get called up, but it will most likely be Lindgren again due to his solid stint a couple weeks ago. Hajek has also struggled this season, posting only five points and a rating of minus-18 in Hartford. But that is no reason to panic, as he is still young.
Another player who would likely be called up to the NHL instead of Hajek is John Gilmour. Gilmour played a significant portion of last season with the Rangers after injuries and trades crippled the defense. Gilmour was the Wolf Pack’s lone All-Star representative and is second on the team in points this season.
Rangers Move on From Lindy Ruff
The Ranger’s defense has been a sore spot ever since their trade deadline fire sale last season. Now it is filled with several young players hoping to become permanent members of the team. But in this season focused around development, there has not been much of that happening defensively.
The Rangers are among the worst in Goals Against and Goal Differential. Last season, the Rangers finished with the fourth worst Goals Against total. Needless to say, Ranger’s assistant coach Lindy Ruff has done a poor job helping the team tighten up their defense.
A big part of that falls on the team’s age and inexperience, but at some point it is time to call it quits. Especially with the defensive-minded David Quinn at the helm, a new approach is necessary as the Rangers enter a critical period of the rebuild. The Ruff experiment in New York did not work and now it is time for a change.
There are a lot of moving pieces in play as this season approaches the trade deadline and eventual conclusion. And while nothing is guaranteed, the above three predictions are very possible results of the organization continuing to rebuild and envision the future.