Rangers Should Just Embrace The Tank

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Robert Sabo

Nearly halfway through the season, we are starting to see the Rangers team we expected to see. The 9-1-1 stretch in November seems like a very long time ago. With an extremely difficult stretch of games coming up in the next month, we will see what David Quinn’s Rangers are capable of. After recent games against two juggernauts, we can see that the Rangers are nowhere near ready to compete yet.

John Woods/CP

The White Walkers from beyond the wall of Winnipeg made coming back from a 3-0 deficit look like nothing. The Rangers managed to hold a lead, while at one point only registering four – yes, four – shots on goal in the first period and a half. The King in the Northeast was the only reason the Rangers even had a breath in that game. Winnipeg is an extremely talented team that is in my opinion, one of four real contenders to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.

One of the other four teams on my shortlist are the enemies in the south, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts have been extremely close for the last handful of years, and after a multitude of moves, they look like they are ready to win the final game of the season. On December 10, the Rangers headed south to face off with the high-powered Lightning, and the outcome was as expected. Tampa defeated Quinn’s Rangers by a score of 6-3, in a game that the Rangers played pretty well.

The point is, when the Rangers go up against high-powered teams such as the Jets and Bolts, they are clearly out-matched. Even in a game where they played well against Tampa, they were still run out of the building. The Rangers are not ready to compete, and fans need to accept that. Yes, it is fun to watch the young guns play and grow, but the reality is they are a number of pieces away from being in the same conversation as the Winnipegs or Tampa Bays of the NHL. So how did the Jets and Bolts get to this level? 

Yes, Steve Yzerman is a cap specialist – partially being he does not have to pay up because of no state tax in Florida – and he and Cheveldayoff are fantastic drafters. But both teams have something else in common, both of them had the luxury of receiving a top-two pick at some point in the NHL draft. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning struck gold when receiving the number one overall pick in the lottery, and, as we all know, selected Canadian center Steven Stamkos. Stammer has been a bonafide all-star since entering the league. The other night, he notched his 700th point in fewer than 700 games against none other than the Rangers. Tampa, as we know, is a perennial powerhouse in the NHL and their captain is a tremendous reason for that. In 2016, the Winnipeg Jets landed the number two overall pick via the lottery. And after American sensation, Auston Matthews went first overall to Brendan Shanahan and the Leafs, the Jets took Finnish sniper Patrik Laine. Laine, from what we can see in just a little over two years, is the next coming of Alex Ovechkin. He is a scoring machine and does it at will. Laine has already achieved superstar status in the league.

Ilari Isotalo

So what’s the point? The Rangers are in a spot where they can finish at the bottom of the standings in the entire league this year. Though it might be rough, there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the forms of 2019 NHL Draft phenoms Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. Yes, I understand that the NHL is not like the NFL where the worst team picks first, and so on and so forth. The fact of the matter is though, the closer to the bottom you are, the better chance you have to land in the top three. It is possible for a team that finishes in last does not get rewarded the number one pick. On the contrary, it rarely EVER happens that they fall even out of the top two picks. I am not saying that you cannot find talent outside of the top two picks in the first round, because you obviously can. Look no further than last year. Swedish center Elias Pettersson, who is currently ripping up the league, went fifth overall. He is, in my opinion, by far the best player from the 2017 draft, as he was pre-draft for me as well.

Let me give you some perspective about the top teams in the league and what they have in common. Teams 1-9, at least in my opinion, are as follows: Tampa, Toronto, Calgary, Nashville, Winnipeg, Buffalo, Washington, Colorado, and Anaheim. Aside from the Preds and the Flames, every other team has a player that went first or second overall, and are some of the top players in the entire league. The only two teams that do not have a player selected first or second overall – the Flames and Preds – do have players selected in the top six. The Flames drafted Matthew Tkachuk sixth overall in 2016, and the Preds acquired the fourth overall pick from the 2010 draft, Ryan Johansen.

AP

All in all, the Rangers need to bottom out in hopes of getting Hughes or Kakko. All of the great teams around the league have landed a top two draft pick and built their teams around them. Again, I understand that the draft selections are based on a lottery, but the further down in the standings the Rangers are, the better chance they have at landing a special, homegrown, star in a Hughes or Kakko.