A year ago, the New York Rangers were feared by every other team in the N.H.L . Their style of play using body checks and young speed in front of Lundqvist allowed them to punish their opponents. If they didn’t bring the intensity at the start someone (Brandon Prust most likely) would drop the gloves and the Rangers game came back to life. After this dismal locked out season, the Blueshirts have lost their identity and are in search of a new one that provides them with offense.
Where the Rangers started to go down hill was losing their toughest player, Brandon Prust summer 2012. He’s not the biggest guy in the league, however he had the most fights in the N.H.L. in 2011-2012. Prust would sacrifice his body in order for his team to gain some momentum and it worked. Unfortunately for the Rangers, he was an UFA after 2012 and was offered a $10 million contract from the Canadians. A huge step up from his previous deal of $800,000 you can’t blame him for taking that deal. You also can’t blame New York for letting him go, Prust is not worth $10 million.
So they lose Prust and get back on track in the 2012 offseason to grab Rick Nash by trading key Ranger role players in Dubinsky and Anisimov. After a disappointing season from the two, trading Dubinsky’s grit and Anisimov’s finesse it was a fair deal. When the Rangers traded Dubi, they also traded their last hope of using a physical style of play to find success.
The Rangers need Nash to put up points and he was successful this year with 42 points, second behind Derek Stepan. However, the original idea was for Nash to work alongside Gaborik and Richards. With Gaborik gone, even with a lackluster season the Rangers trade to add more depth wasn’t enough to make a deep playoff run.
Brad Richards is another story as he looked lost in almost every game he played this season, especially failing to lead the pathetic power play. He couldn’t keep up with the pace of the N.H.L and the bad news for Richards is the game isn’t getting any slower and he’s not getting any younger. Richards, who was expected to be bought out to save the Rangers a risk of taking a massive cap hit and being stuck with another Chris Drury. He’s still eligible for a buyout after 2013-2014 so it is up to him to determine his future.
The last act was firing John Tortorella and basically swapping coaches with the hiring of Alain Vigneault Vancouver’s former head coach. Taking out Torts’s hard hitting and constant fore checking system out of the organization provides a clean slate for the Rangers to find a new way to utilize their talent. What Vigneault will bring to the table is a mystery but he may want to start with the extra man.
The Rangers have been busy this offseason, locking up Ryan McDonough long term with a six year deal and bringing back Carl Hagelin for another two. They still need to sign team point leader Derek Stepan who will be essential for another winning season in New York. Also, the Rangers need to give Hank an extension, on of the best goalie in the world and a fierce. If the Rangers fail to make a run and the King is not signed don’t be surprised if he tests the market hard.