Expectations lower for New York Rangers this season

chris kreider new york rangers
Jan 3, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) celebrates the 5-3 victory with New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) against the Carolina Hurricanes after the game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2022-23 campaign, the New York Rangers were viewed as one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup after an unexpected trip to the Eastern Conference Final.

After a disappointing first round exit to the upstart New Jersey Devils, followed by the firing of Gerard Gallant, it took the sparkle off the team. Throw in limited cap space to make any major signing and expectations are much lower for this upcoming season.

What a difference a year makes!

Related: Rangers prospect pool dips again

Lower expectations for New York Rangers

rangers kids line
Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

It’s pretty wild how the view of the Rangers has dropped so dramatically. This is a team that posted 110 and 108 points respectively over the last two seasons.

Last I checked, Gallant has been replaced with a capable veteran coach in Peter Laviolette and Igor Shesterkin is still tending goal. In additions, perennial Norris Trophy candidate Adam Fox patrols the blue-line and the Rangers have plenty of offensive weapons.

That still wasn’t enough for NHL.com writers to place the Blueshirts into the top 10 for rankings coming into 2023-24. Ultimately they came in at 11th, with the aging Boston Bruins ahead of them and the the fledgling Seattle Kraken on their tail.

Fans shouldn’t be mad at these writers considering the way they view the franchise themselves. According to a new article by The Athletic, the Rangers are ranked 25th for confidence in their front office.

The vibes in New York are very off lately, understandably so after watching the Devils leapfrog the team’s rebuild last spring. Both the public and the team’s fans are much less confident than they were a year ago as it’s starting to feel like the Rangers will peak as a good, but not great team. A Stanley Cup feels farther away than it did a year ago.

Dom Luszczyszyn, The Athletic

When you delve into the reasoning as to why the Rangers are dropping in the eyes of many experts, it all seems to revolve around two high-profile youngsters.

Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko need to take big leaps in their development to shut all the naysayers down.

Lafreniere, 21, just signed a two-year extension which many see as a show me deal on Broadway. He registered 16 goals and 23 assists for 39 points in 81 games last season. Entering his fourth year in the league, there’s extra scrutiny not only on Lafreniere, but the entire organization to see him reach the lofty expectations of a number one overall pick.

Meanwhile, Kakko showed some promise in 2022-23 posting career highs. The second overall selection notched 18 goals and 40 points in 82 matches which is very promising. Heading into this season, the path has been cleared for the 22 year-old to prove he’s a top-six right wing with only newly signed Blake Wheeler posing a threat to take minutes away.

At the end of the day, it appears the Rangers are going into this year as an underdog. I believe that suits this group just fine and may actually allow the kids to surprise a few people this season.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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