The tides are changing in New York and the Rangers are starting to turn things around. The past two seasons were underwhelming failures with very little to show for it. The core of this team has been gutted and lost, and what remains is new additions of both young and experienced players.
Long story short, success shouldn’t be any less than a winning record with a shot at the playoffs. Improvement in record is a plus, but the ultimate goal is a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This past offseason was the most exciting in recent memory, and the Rangers went out and acquired the best available players on the market. Not to mention, the team also had the second-overall pick of the NHL Entry Draft and had the future of this franchise fall right into their laps.
After this season, successful or not, it is going to be an incredible journey. Every single game, some bigger than others, will be a roller coaster ride right from the opening faceoff. The storylines are deep this season, and there is only room for improvement.
There are no bigger expectations in the NHL than the Rangers in 2019-20. Gaining a game-changer in Artemi Panarin will do that to you. He is expected to be a commanding force from the top line alongside potentially the next Rangers’ captain, Mika Zibanejad, and right-winger Pavel Buchnevich.
In addition, the defense is also expected to be much better this upcoming season. Jacob Trouba is the new guy on the block from the Winnipeg Jets, but there is another new face that will make an impact. Adam Fox, who has shown to be dependable in preseason action thus far, is expected to be a mainstay on defense. There is a lot of hope that the defensive unit will be better, because it has to be better. Over the past two seasons, the Rangers were being dominated on a nightly basis, and much of it due to defensive issues and lackluster performances.
Finally, nobody has the same amount of pressure as Henrik Lundqvist to meet expectations. Does he still have what it takes to be a number one goaltender, and can he be a leader to one of the youngest teams in the NHL? Those two questions will be put to the test every time he touches the ice. It is up to him alone if he can still be the kind of goaltender that has led the Rangers to the playoffs in 11 of 14 seasons.
Improvement in All Areas
A successful season for the Rangers depends on an overall improvement from years passed. The overall record, the performance of the roster and also the development of younger players from head coach David Quinn will need to be better in 2019-20.
On paper, with the new additions gained over the offseason, the Rangers are a better team. Obviously, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will always be better once the puck drops and games are being played. Growing pains are to be expected, but that is only for the first few games of the season. After that, if there is a player that is consistently failing, you can expect Quinn to use the same tactic of accountability from last season, which is a seat in the press box.
This team is beyond just developing the younger players and taking it slow to give them time to become NHL regulars. It is all systems go and these young players are being thrown into the NHL and expected to be great. That pressure can be daunting to even the most experienced of NHL players. These “kids” will have their hands full, and all of Rangerstown will be counting on them.
Another area that needs improvement is the shots on goal and scoring. The Rangers have been on a downward spiral in recent years in both of those categories, and that can be directly linked to their lackluster records. From the 2016-17 season until 2018-19, the Rangers fell from the fourth-most goals forced in the NHL with 253, to a measly 23rd-most with 221. Coincidentally, they fell from shooting the 22nd-most shots on goal with 2483 shots to 27th with 2393 last season. Adding Panarin, Trouba, Kaapo Kakko, and Fox should definitely help in both of those categories.
A playoff berth will be the defining detail to label this season as successful. Without it, there really isn’t any other indicator to say if this season is a success or not. The Rangers are past the stage of developing their players — the time is now to make a move back toward the top of the NHL. It is now a sprint to the top, instead of a marathon.
This season will be frantic, to say the least. There is a lot riding on their immediate success, as this is the best position they could possibly be in. All of the trades and draft picks over the past two seasons have come down to these 82 games. It is time to see the finished product and to see if the Rangers can become a successful franchise once again.