Can Chris Kreider score 50 or more goals again in 2023-24 for Rangers?

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Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

In 97 years since their inception in 1926, the New York Rangers have employed only four 50-goal scorers. Vic Hadfield became the first skater to reach the mark with 50 goals in 1971-72, while Adam Graves broke that record with 52 in 1993-94. 

Almost two decades later, Jaromir Jágr set the franchise record with 54 goals in 2005-06. Chris Kreider would join the 50-goal club with 52 in 2021-22. 

Now, at 32, just one year younger than Jágr was when he set the record, the question is, can the heart and soul of the Rangers break through one more time and become the franchise’s greatest regular season goal scorer?

Chris Kreider’s production dipped last season

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Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

As the longest-tenured player in the Rangers’ lineup, Kreider has collected 477 points with 265 goals and 212 assists in 733 games. Breaking down his numbers, his goals represent 55% of his totals, thanks to eight 20-goal campaigns. Of course, there was one year when he hit 52 and last year (2022-23) when he finished with 36, the only two times he’s managed to surpass 28 in a season. 

Although it may come as no surprise to longtime fans who have watched Chris Kreider grow into the club’s unofficial leader, he appears to be at the peak of his goal-scoring career. In the last three seasons, he’s tallied 108 goals, which is almost as many goals (117) as he had in the previous five seasons leading up to it. 

It is no coincidence that Kreider’s production increased after 2019-20 when Artemi Panarin joined the Rangers, and the same year Mika Zibanejad found a new level to his game, scoring 41 goals in 57 games. Panarin has assisted on 35 of Kreider’s goals (32%), while Zibanejad has his name on 81 goals (75%). The trio combine to form one of the league’s most lethal power play units.

Whether through coaching or instinct, Kreider, Panarin and Zibanejad find each other on the ice and make magic happen nightly. However, last year Zibanejad set a career-high with 91 points, while Panarin finished the season with 92. Meanwhile, Kreider went from his best campaign of 77 points to 54, a drop of 23 points

Moreover, Kreider went from leading the league with 26 power play goals in 2021-22 to just eight last year, highlighting a dramatic drop in production from an area he’s excelled at. Sure, former head coach Gerard Gallant could have helped one of his star players adjust and succeed again, but he didn’t make the right calls, which is just one of the reasons why he is no longer behind the bench in New York.

Rangers swing for fences with deadline deals for Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko

Although it was widely expected that Patrick Kane would leave the Chicago Blackhawks at the NHL trade deadline, it was also obvious he was only coming to New York. Despite a Hall of Fame resume, including three Stanley Cup championships, he was a player the team didn’t need to be successful. The same applies to Vladimir Tarasenko, who also came over in a surprising deal, significantly altering the team’s structure after they were two wins away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Final in 2021-22.

Despite his seniority status in the dressing room, it is clear that Kreider was one of the players who suffered the most (production-wise) with the addition of so many other offensively gifted players who needed ice time. Although he led the team in playoff scoring with nine points, the supporting cast around him didn’t help as the Rangers lost in the first round to the New Jersey Devils in seven games, getting shutout in two of the last three. 

Considering how talented the current Rangers lineup is, last season’s epic failure to get past the first round will serve as motivation heading into the 2023-24 campaign. Kreider will be a focal point in the team’s successes and failures as he rebounds from a recent dip in production. 

With extended time off for the summer to reset himself, Kreider should collect at least 40 goals this year. And, if he rediscovers his scoring touch on the power play with new head coach Laviolette drawing up plays, we could see a new name on an iconic franchise record. 

Although no one will ever question Kreider’s leadership and commanding presence in the lineup, with four years left on his contract, he still has time to chase down a few more milestones, including the record for most goals in the regular season.

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