Rangers Can Benefit From Lower Expectations This Season

This time last season, the New York Rangers were coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final and were two wins away from making it to the Stanley Cup Final. The expectations were high for this team going into last season as many expected them to be back in the final four or even the final two after getting that experience. However, last season was a complete failure for the Rangers. While they did make the playoffs again, they were eliminated in embarrassing fashion by their rivals from across the Hudson River, the New Jersey Devils. After their playoff performance, the Rangers are not facing the same expectations as they were a year ago. There are a few reasons as to why this might play into their favor going into the 2023-24 season.

An All-Around Better Regular Season

The Rangers had a good regular season in 2022-23. They finished with 47 wins and 107 points and while these are good numbers, they could have been even better. Many of the players on the team last season told the media that they just wanted to get back to the playoffs and wanted the regular season to go by as fast as possible. This shows that they thought it was just an obstacle standing in their way and they just wanted to take the easy way out. Sure, they did play well, but there were times during the season when the team struggled heavily. They were one loss away in December from firing their head coach at the time, Gerard Gallant.

Jacob Trouba New York Rangers
Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A combination of a Jacob Trouba helmet throw and the Rangers finally starting to play like they should have turned the season around. Going into this season, with a new head coach and some new players arriving this offseason, the entire team is going to have to be more motivated in the regular season. Peter Laviolette is going to push them from day one of training camp to be the best players they can be. Gallant never really pushed them, so this is going to be a new factor that plays into the team’s motivation this regular season.

Fewer Eyes On the Team

It’s no secret that the players feel the pressure from the fans and the media to succeed. Playing in a market like New York means that their eyes are always on the team and they will either be their biggest supporter or their biggest critic. While Rangers fans and the media that cover the team will always be watching, the media and the fans outside of New York are not giving much respect to the Rangers after how last season ended. With the team losing big names like Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane and not making any true major additions, many feel they have taken a step back from what they were last season.

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With less national attention being given to the Rangers, it may allow the players to just play their game without worrying about high expectations. The only thing the team should be worried about is playing well under a new coach and learning from their mistakes that cost them a shot of going further in the playoffs last season. The players are not happy after last season and want to prove that they are still one of the top teams in the league. While many fans and media members think they are a good team, they don’t think they can win the Stanley Cup. If the Rangers can remain an underrated team throughout the season, maybe they can prove their doubters wrong come playoff time.

What Needs to Happen?

If the Rangers want to prove their doubters wrong, a few things need to happen this season. They need Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko to truly show that they can be top-six players in the NHL. Lafreniere more than Kakko needs to have a breakout season. Kakko has shown that he can be an effective player with and without the puck, but Lafreniere has struggled when he’s not producing. Both players have the talent to be superstars, but they need to show it at a consistent level throughout the season.

Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the younger players can take the next step, it will help this team become a true contender in the eyes of the fans and the media. With a core that already consists of Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers have all the pieces in place to win the Stanley Cup. They just need to play up to what they can be and if they are entering this season as an underdog of some sort, it may work in their favor.

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