Thursday, September 22, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: New York Rangers

They needed an assist from the Carolina Hurricanes in order to sneak into the postseason a year ago, and flamed out in the first round against Washington. This season though, the Rangers and Glen Sather did what they are known to do, go out for the blockbuster move. They did that, but will it help them get past the first round and beyond this season in a very tough East?

Strengths: They have an eclectic, but very good mix between veteran and young players. The major problem last season was scoring, and Brad Richards should alleviate that problem easily. Not only can he score 30+ goals this season, he is pretty familiar with John Tortorella from his days in Tampa when he won the cup in 2004. His presence should help the majority of the young potential on this team. The young potential is all over this roster, including with Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky, and of course, the new captain Ryan Callahan. Richards' presence should also help Marian Gaborik regain his Minnesota form, as the Rangers could desperately use him to become a 1-2 scoring punch with Richards. On defense, the youth is evident there too along with the veteran presence, including Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, the much hyped Tim Erixon, and Marc Staal, who may end up missing time with post-concussion symptoms. Their biggest strength is of course in net, with King Henrik. The amazing thing is he is only 29, so he will continue to have big seasons for a long time coming for the Broadway Blueshirts.

Weaknesses: Getting this team to gel together and play the way many expect them to may be quite difficult. The consistency may be the biggest challenge for this offense, and especially getting it from Marian Gaborik will be the challenge posed to Brad Richards. If they can find this scoring depth and the consistency they need, they will be awfully tough to beat. They may need to find someone to step up and take Marc Staal's place at the top of the defensive totem pole while he heals, and that too may be a tough challenge for the Rangers to deal with, even though they have King Henrik to mask most of the issues.

Any Help Coming? LW Chris Kreider is a promising prospect, who is a speedy power forward. He can score with the best in college hockey, and is very solid on both ends of the ice. D Ryan McDonagh is a very fast defenseman, and speed may be his biggest asset on the ice. He can also play an all-ice game, which is a great thing for a young defenseman to be able to do. RW Christian Thomas is small, but fast again with a nice scoring touch.

Outlook: The Rangers have reason for optimism this year, and if the team can gel they will be finally able to possibly make their way out of the first round for the first time since 2007-08. Brad Richards was the biggest free agent name available for a reason, and he should be able to possibly turn this team around. How fast he can do it, and how well he can do it, in conjuction with the mix of new and old, will be the biggest challenge for this team under the lights of Broadway.

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