Dismayed by our post earlier this week on why
the Rangers could be worse next year? Then you’ll like this one.
Here are six reasons the Rangers could be (much) better in
Youngsters have just scratched the surface - The list of baby Blueshirts that played huge
roles in 2010-2011 is lengthy and the good news for New York is that many
have significant room for growth. Derek Stepan scored 45 points as a rookie but is capable of far more,
while Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh could give the Rangers a top-notch second
defensive pair. Artem Anisimov, Mats
Zuccarello, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust could all build on successful
campaigns and the Rangers can still get more from their still young leadership
tandem of Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.
Improved offense - Brad
Richards should dramatically improve the Rangers offense, but there are several
other reasons to believe the unit could post far better numbers. Two puck-moving defensemen, Tim Erixon and
Michael Del Zotto, could make the opening night roster and really help New
York’s transition game, the power play should be much better, the
aforementioned young forwards have room for improvement and Marian Gaborik should
be in line for a big bounce-back season.
Chemistry - The
signings of Richards and Mike
Rupp were significant, but this summer featured a much smaller roster
overhaul than we’ve seen in recent years. Both players should fit in relatively seamlessly and Richards already
knows what Coach John Tortorella expects of his players. The rest of the Blueshirts have a good amount
of on-ice experience together now and many have come up through the Rangers’
system, meaning this group could become a well-oiled machine in short order.
Marty Biron – The talkative backup netminder was a godsend
for the Rangers in the first half last season and although Henrik Lundqvist
seemed fine with making 31 consecutive starts to close out the year, New York
would have been much better off had Biron stayed healthy. As Lundqvist begins to age, his need
for a lighter workload continues to grow and Biron showed that he’s very
capable of handling the pressure of New York. In year two of this tandem look for an even greater split and watch it
pay off down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Removal of dead weight - Veterans Chris
McCabe and Vinny
Prospal all had lots of NHL success, but with the possible exception of
Prospal, the departed Rangers had little left in the tank. Many of them came with hefty salaries that
they were unable to live up to on the ice and that created holes in the
Rangers’ lineup. Sean
Avery, Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski are still not ideal fits, but
their collective salaries are a fraction of the dead weight the Rangers carried
for most of last year. The vacated spots
have been filled with hungry young players that should energize the team and
help build toward the future.
A better power play – Richards has been among the premier
power play quarterbacks for most of his career and he alone should provide a
big boost to the Rangers’ woeful pp unit. Add in Erixon and/or Del Zotto, both of whom have big offensive upside,
and suddenly the Rangers will have competent point men. That will allow forward Derek Stepan to slide
into his natural position along the left wing wall, while Ryan Callahan will be
able to clean up in front. And of
course, a more balanced unit with better puck distributors will benefit Marian
Gaborik, who should be in much better position to get open shots this year.
Click here for our full Summer 2011 Archive >
Follow us on Twitter (@NYRBlueBulletin and @kevinbaumer) and on Facebook.