Well folks, it’s been fun. First of all I’d like to thank former Oracle Editor-in-Chief Andrew Lief for allowing me to take over his Jets column and turn it into a Rangers column after he graduated. Secondly, I’d like to say thank you to those that have read Blueshirts Blueline over the past year, it’s meant a lot to me and I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback. Now let’s get into the last column ever for Blueshirts Blueline. I’m going to drop a bombshell right now, ready? This probably won’t happen but I figure let’s go a little crazy this last column.
Whether the New York Rangers win or do not win the Stanley Cup this season, it is time for a scorched earth rebuild. That’s right. You didn’t read that wrong. If the New York Rangers win or don’t win the Stanley Cup this year, they should rebuild.
Now you’re saying “But Russell, you’re crazy! They still have Lundqvist!” Yes, true. Who else do we really have? Rick Nash? He doesn’t seem to know what a goal is anymore or what using his body means. Chris Kreider? The king of having potential but seemingly not living up to it. Derek Stepan? He’s the guy who was supposed to turn into our number one center but didn’t. Derick Brassard? Number two guy as well. Not a number one center. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal? Oh you mean the traffic cones that head coach Alain Vigneault puts out there every game this year?
How’s that team looking right about now? That’s right. Not as good as you thought. Believe me, none of this is easy to write and I love these players, but the way they are playing isn’t getting it done and the makeup and core of the Rangers is not what it once was.
Whereas defense used to be the Rangers strength, but is now full of question marks. Will Keith Yandle stay or will he be traded? Will Staal and Girardi somehow get back to a semblance of what they once were? Is it time for Brady Skjei, and Dylan McIlrath to take prominent roles on defense and possibly even Ryan Graves to be brought up?
The forwards are another enigma all together but the bottom line is that this team is just not built like a Stanley Cup contender should be. Let’s take a look around the league at some of the best teams in the league and see just why the Rangers are having the problem they’re having. We’ll take a look at number one centers around the league and top offensive threats.
Rounding up the number one centers of the elite teams in the NHL brings us Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars, Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings. Top offensive threats bring us Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Seguin/Jamie Benn (Stars) and Alexander Ovechkin (Capitals).
And now for the Rangers: number one center is our very own Brassard, and top offensive threat is Mats Zuccarello.
Is everyone starting to see the problem now? Do either of those names strike fear into the hearts of an opposing team or make the opposing team skate that much harder? Do either of those names make opposing fans stay on the edge of their seat when they’re on the ice worried that they could do damage? No. This is not to say Zuccarello and Brassard are bad players, they aren’t, but they’re second line players. Not first line.
Sure, the Rangers have Lundqvist but in this day and age you don’t need a superstar goaltender to win the Stanley Cup. Don’t believe me? Corey Crawford isn’t a superstar goalie but he has helped the Blackhawks to two rings. Antti Niemi isn’t the best goalie in the world but he helped the Blackhawks win a Cup in 2010 and he’s doing well with Dallas now. Yes, Tim Thomas was exceptional in 2011 when the Bruins won and yes Jonathan Quick has been spectacular for Los Angeles but in this day and age, if you have a supremely put together team you don’t need a superstar goalie.
The Rangers, no matter what need to rebuild after this season is over. If they win the Cup, great! We got one for Hank and it’s time to move on and rebuild correctly. If they don’t win… it’s still time for the team to move on and realize they don’t have what it takes to win the Cup.
Now who should the Rangers have up on the main roster while the rebuilding process begins? Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Skjei, Dylan McIlrath, Oscar Lindberg, Pavel Buchnevich, Adam Tambellini, Ryan Gropp, Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, Kevin Klein, Brandon Halverson, Mackenzie Skapski and other prospects and players that they feel could use development. It will be a dark road ahead for Rangers fans for a few years and there would be a lot of losing ahead but the rewards? High draft picks, players that could potentially turn into superstars and a better chance at the Cup down the line.
Nash, Kreider, Brassard, Stepan, Girardi, Staal, Zuccarello and yes, even Lundqvist. Lundqvist deserves his chance at the Cup and if he doesn’t this year, they should send him to a team where he can win one. They would all bring the Rangers quality young players and picks in trades and would provide a solid foundation for the team to rebuild with.
The team would immediately be one of the youngest in the league and with all the picks and young players they would have a pretty bright future. Now will any of this happen? Probably not. But hey, a guy can dream right?