Something Really Feels Different About These Rangers
Before the start of last season, I wrote a piece about the Rangers having a different feel to them. During the tail end of Alain Vigneault’s tenure and the infancy of the newfound Rangers rebuild, the on ice product was less than exceptional and there was a sense of uncertainty amongst the fan base. Mistakes galore offensively and defensively was the main culprit along with a clubhouse with no leader and no direction.
Once the team began to fully commit to the rebuild, dismiss Vigneault and bring in David Quinn as head coach, you began to see how things started to change. Quinn’s style is a much more hard-nosed and aggressive on ice, accountability across the board and placed himself as the obvious leader in the locker room. Although they did not make the playoffs, the Rangers still played hard night in and night out. Comparing last season’s squad with the one previous, you could see a noticeable difference in effort and intensity. The culture began to change, for the better.
All of that is fine and dandy, and it is one of the main aspects in bringing in a winner, but the Rangers sorely lacked high end skill and extra anchors on the back end. Luckily for the Rangers, all that seemed to change during this previous offseason.
The arrival of John Davidson as team president began to turn the wheels on what could potentially become one of the more pivotal offseasons in franchise history. Drafting Kaapo Kakko second overall in the NHL Entry Draft, trading for Jacob Trouba, signing Artemi Panarin, Vitali Kravtsov, Yegor Rykov and Igor Shesterkin along with spearheading the change in culture within the organization in New York and Hartford, is what leads me to my next point.
Now that we have a better idea of the direction the franchise wants to go in, and having exciting and supremely skilled players to boot, it’s created a different feeling from last season. Watching them play, even amongst all the miscues and gaffes, is exhilarating. I attended the home opener at MSG versus the Jets, and there was this air of excitement all around the crowd and arena that I hadn’t felt in some time. Then, when the team took the ice and everything was clicking, I was blown away.
Although he did not score, seeing Kakko barrel down the ice taking on veteran defenders with ease to the net was a sight to behold. Witnessing the skill and poise Artemi Panarin has with the puck and without the puck was nothing short of a revelation. Watching Jacob Trouba command the back end with poise and smarts was refreshing. Looking at Mika Zibanejad take a bigger step in his development and become more dominant in his all around game was thrilling. Seeing the rookies like Hajek, Fox, Andersson and Howden fit in like a glove was satisfying to take in. Pavel Buchnevich, a guy who many counted out, rebounded and elevated his game to another level, was and is fantastic.
The point is that these guys are not only fun to watch, but are creating a new culture that breeds skill and soon enough, winning. The skill on display is by far, some of the best we’ve seen come out of a Rangers roster in quite some time. When watching the games, you can feel it and see the differences in play and effort. Honestly, it’s quite refreshing to watch because it brings hope for more in the future. Put all of this together, along with up and coming prospects like Vitali Kravtsov, Nils Lundkvist, K’Andre Miller, Karl Henriksson and a bunch more, and we will begin to see the tide turn in favor of the Rangers, in hopes of long term success and eventually, getting over the hump the previous teams couldn’t overcome and win the Stanley Cup.
There is something different about these Rangers and it’s all unfolding right in front of our eyes.