High hopes! That was the feeling of the Rangers fan-base following the 2012 run to the Eastern Conference Finals. After that run the general consensus was the team lacked scoring. In fairness, the Rangers tried to address it during the year, but the asking price for Rick Nash was unreasonable. Low and behold, the Rangers got their man and for a lot less. Instead of parting with Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto, it was Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon.

Looking back, the Rangers made a huge splash by acquiring Nash. Experts and fans alike were salivating at a top line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. The belief was that in one move, the team fixed the lack of goal scoring that cost them the ECF.

Unfortunately, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik struggled. Added to their woes the power play was worse, the team started slow, played inconsistently and limped into the playoffs. Even the deadline trade of Gaborik which netted them Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett, could only muster a first round series win against the Capitals. In the second round, the Boston Bruins put a beating on the Rangers and squashed everyone’s hopes and dreams.

Many fans were left wondering what changed from 2012? What was different? Immediately, blame was laid on the coach, John Tortorella. So management saw it fit to fire the man that had actually given the team the identity of the Black and Blueshirts. In the matter of one season, the team was gutted in order to address one issue, the need for a few more goals. Lost in that shuffle were heart and soul players. Guys who brought it every night with an in your face style that wore people down. No Prust, no Dubi, no Fedotenko and Rupp…all gone. And now the head man of that identity was gone too. The replacement? A polar opposite, Alain Vigneault.

Gone was the shot blocking fanatic and defense collapsing mad man that lead the Rangers to their best season since…1994! In his place now the man from Vancouver, who came one game short of a Stanley Cup in 2011. He’s being touted as an offensive guru with a player and media friendly attitude. The Rangers will become an offensive force! So how do we look after the pre-season? Disorganized. The defense looks stuck in the middle of blocking a shot or going after the puck. The offense is sputtering with only a few brief flashes of what might be, but a whole lot of defensive mess ups.

It is true the Rangers are missing a top line of Stepan (contract), Callahan and Hagelin (injuries) but it was no excuse for the defense to be as bad as it was. Any remnants of the Black and Blueshirts looks long gone. So now the Rangers are faced with answering this question: “Who are the 2013/14 New York Rangers?”

We are about to find out as the new look Blueshirts take to the ice in Phoenix on Thursday night. It will be the beginning of a 9 game road trip where the Rangers will face 6 teams that made last year’s playoffs. It should also be noted that all 9 were .500 or better and the Rangers had the worst road record in the East last year to boot.

Alain Vigneault and his staff have quite a hard test to show not only the Ranger faithful what they are about, but the rest of the NHL. Experts early picks were in and NY was in some instances the best of the East and some picked them to win it all. Five pre-season games later and people are panicking and revising their choices.

Ok everyone, breathe. While there are many questions surrounding the Rangers, they still have the best goalie in the world in Lundqvist. That fact and the continued maturation of one of the best defenses in the NHL and we should be more than fine. The biggest concern is the obvious one, will the Rangers adapt quickly enough to AV’s system and start scoring? If the coaching staff can identify the right combination of center and wing to play with Rick Nash, the answer is a resounding, YES! And for all the negativity surrounding Brad Richards, if he is centering a productive third line, this team will be formidable.

The Rangers need to survive the injuries to Cally and Hags. At the same time they need to get the basics of AV’s system. Most importantly, they need to survive this 9 game road trip. That means going at least 4-5 or finding a way to get 8 points or better. If they can do this, AV will put his stamp on the team and forge a new identity we can all be proud of and cheer to victory.

Fulltilt Prediction: 3rd in the Metropolitan Division

As per the Daily News:
RANGERS OPENING DAY ROSTER (in alphabetical order):

Forwards (15): Arron Asham, Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan^, Derek Dorsett, Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin*, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore, Rick Nash, Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Pyatt, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen (seven): Michael Del Zotto, Justin Falk, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, John Moore, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman

Goalies (two): Martin Biron, Henrik Lundqvist

^ – Callahan could go on injured reserve, but it would only keep him ineligible for seven days
* – Hagelin expected to go on long-term injury; would be ineligible until Oct. 29 at Islanders

Written by: Anthony S. & Will C.


Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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