Rangers Flashback: “The Letter” and its profound impact on the New York Rangers

new york rangers
Jan 14, 2021; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers players huddle around the center ice logo as they prepare for the home opener against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

February 6th, 2018 started off with some foreshadowing as the New York Rangers asked Rick Nash for his no-trade list. On February 8th they waived Brendan Smith for the first time and called up Neal Pionk. Smith was in the first year of a four-year deal he signed and it sent some eyebrows raising around the hockey world. Then “The Letter” was released.

The Rangers were floundering, they were older, and it seemed like they stopped listening to what Alain Vigneault had to say. Something needed to be done.

A seismic paradigm shift for the Blueshirts

The significance may be lost on some of the younger Rangers fans, but the letter talked about rebuilding. That is simply not something one does in New York.

rangers the letter
Jeff Gorton and the Rebuild (NHLI)

Neil Smith desperately wanted to rebuild a few seasons after the Rangers won the Cup, but ownership wouldn’t allow it. He then made some bad trades to move up and draft Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark. That eventually cost Neil Smith his job, and worse yet, it mired the Rangers in mediocrity for almost two decades.

That was until Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton came to the realization that the Rangers could no longer continue on this path. They sent out “The Letter” and held a press conference to explain. It was a hard thing to do, but three seasons later the absolute right choice.

Now the Rangers are on the precipice of Stanley Cup contention. In the fold are young stars by the name of Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Igor Shesterkin, and Alexis Lafreniere.

Let’s not forget the organization boasts one of the best prospect pipelines too. Soon, players like Vitali Kravtsov and Nils Lundkvist will be making debuts. Even more important, that deep pool and some of the assets on the team today will be converted into key championship pieces this offseason.

All that isn’t possible without “The Letter”. So here it is, in all its glory for you to read and remember just how far the Rangers have come.

FTHN Rebuild TL 2/19/18

New York Rangers: The Letter

As a member of the Blueshirt Faithful, we consider you a part of the New York Rangers family, and always want to ensure we share important news about the organization directly with you. Today, we want to talk to you about the future.

As you know, since the 2005-06 season, we have been a highly competitive team. We have played 129 playoff games, won the Presidents’ Trophy, reached the Conference Finals three times, as well as the Stanley Cup Final. While we’re proud of all those accomplishments – we didn’t reach our ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to New York.

So as we do every season, we have been continuously evaluating our team, looking for areas that can be improved to enhance our chances of winning. We began the process of reshaping our team this past summer, when we traded for assets that we believe will help us in the years to come. As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, we will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character. This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect. While this is part of the game, it’s never easy. Our promise to you is that our plans will be guided by our singular commitment: ensuring we are building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender.

There are no fans like Rangers fans. You are passionate, loyal and true. You fill The Garden every night, and we always know there will be a strong showing from RangersTown in every building across the League. We do not take your support for granted. We appreciate that you have always stood by us, and we ask you to remain by our side as we undertake this exciting new chapter filled with promise and change.

We will keep you informed as this process takes shape. Thank you for the incredible loyalty, pride and respect you show to the New York Rangers, each and every day.

The Letter can be found on the Rangers website also.

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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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