Should Rangers Fans Root For The Team To Lose?


Monday night, December 31st. The final game of 2018. Henrik Lundqvist took a drink from the “fountain of youth” to single-handedly propel his team to victory and grab two points against the St Louis Blues in a 2-1 Rangers win.

Wednesday night, January 2nd. The first game of 2019. Henrik Lundqvist looked like a tired old man who was grossly over-matched in surrendering six goals on just 18 shots to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 7-2 Rangers loss.

The duality is this: Many Rangers fans had a bittersweet feeling watching Lundqvist turn back the clock to steal a victory against the Blues. Many Rangers fans had a similar bittersweet feeling seeing Lundqvist resemble Swiss cheese against the Penguins. You see, the Rangers are in that proverbial gray area as they meander their way through this current, eternal NHL season. Most Rangers fans are well aware there is a potential savior that will be awarded to the team fortunate enough to win the NHL Draft Lottery. That savior’s name is Jack Hughes, considered to be the next “generational talent.”

The conundrum is this: Do Rangers fans want to see their hero goalie continue to look like he should contemplate retirement, as he assuredly was in the blow out loss to Pittsburgh? It is very painful to watch the once foundation of the Rangers franchise play his way to back-up duty. When the camera panned on Hank’s finely textured, wrinkle-free face after he was summoned to the bench by coach Quinn, you could clearly see the disgust, pain and anguish. You don’t have to be a body language expert to see just how hard it is for him, and the fans who’ve watched him carry the organization for well over a decade.

The reality is this: The more they lose, the higher a probability of landing the top overall pick in this June’s draft. The more they lose, the quicker GM Jeff Gorton will abandon any hope of making the playoffs and jettison the likes of Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, and perhaps, Chris Kreider, for a bounty of highly touted prospects and future draft picks.

The question is this: Is the continued losing and embarrassment of the greatest Rangers goalie in team history worth a shot of having the most ping-pong balls for the lottery? Ask teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, and Arizona Coyotes about the importance of building and maintaining a winning culture. Losing on purpose, or as it is commonly known, tanking, may improve a team’s odds of winning the draft lottery, but there may also be collateral damage. When a team, any team in any sport, does not do everything in their power to put a winning product on the ice or field of play, it has ripple effects throughout the organization.

I was never a fan of this completely absurd and unnatural phenomenon of rooting for my team(s) to lose. I don’t care if Jack Hughes is considered to be the next Wayne Gretzky. I don’t care if Kaapo Kakko is considered to be the next Jari Kurri. Losing on purpose, tanking, “Lose For Hughes.” Whatever the terminology is, in my view, is fool’s gold. Go ask the Edmonton Oilers, who’ve had four number-one overall picks in a six year span from 2010 through 2015, including the epitome of a “generational player” in Connor McDavid, about the difficulties in building a winning culture.

Drafting in the early part of the first-round has zero guarantees of building a successful team. Since losing in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals, the New York Islanders have had a total of 22 top-ten first round draft picks. You know how many playoff series they’ve won in that time span? Five. No, that isn’t a typo. That vagabond franchise has won a total of five playoff series in almost 35 years with an ungodly amount of high draft picks.

Conversely, the Detroit Red Wings, starting in the 1990-91 season through the 2015-16 season, qualified for the postseason every year and were a perennial cup contender. You know how many top-ten picks the Wings had in those 25 years? Zero! And, in many of those years, they didn’t have a first round pick at all. Yet, they were able to maintain an unprecedented standard of excellence and a perpetual culture of winning.


I fully understand the mindset of wanting to draft an elite talent like Jack Hughes or “settling” for the Finnish consolation prize in Kaapo Kakko. I fully understand the desperate need for a franchise like the Rangers to have a player, or players, compete for one of the NHL’s individual awards. When the league has its annual luck-of-the-draw broadcast during the third round of the playoffs, I would love nothing more than for Deputy Commissioner Bill Daily to be holding the envelope containing the Rangers shield when he announces the lottery winner. However, these hopeful expectations cannot and should not come at the expense of trying to win every game that a team plays.

My thought process, I am guessing, is not followed by the majority of fans of the Blueshirts and that is OK. I think we can all agree that the best case scenario is for the Rangers to continue to compete and play their best game in and game out and let their lack of talent and roster depth be the deciding factor in what determines the losing outcome. The Rangers need for an upper-echelon talent like Jack Hughes is tantamount to the politicians on Capitol Hill’s need for clarity and respect from their constituents. As the hockey team from Broadway gets ready to play the second half of their schedule, let’s all join hands and agree that competing hard and representing the organization with dignity while coming up just a goal or two short as often as possible is the best way to move forward during, what will hopefully be, a very short rebuilding process. Fair?

Now, if only the aforementioned miscreant politicians can learn to negotiate like that…

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