Some might say the New York Rangers rebuild is a failure. But has it really been?
On the surface, Jeff Gorton’s rebuild on the fly has been a failure. Ondrej Pavelec is not lightening the load on Henrik Lundqvist. David Desharnais isn’t on a 50 point pace. The two acquired pieces in the Derek Stepan trade are nowhere near the NHL. And Alain Vigneault is still the head coach(!).
However, just because the immediate results aren’t showing, can all of these moves accurately be labeled as busts?
Pavelec is with a new group of teammates for the first time in his entire career as he has spent his 10 year career with the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization. This is also a human being who collapsed on the ice seven years ago. A very scary moment, and one I would imagine, that even though it was so long ago, might still linger in the back of his mind.
He is also working with a new goalie coach, albeit one of the best, for the first time. However, things take time. Pavelec needed to adjust. He needed a good game or two under his belt to start feeling confident. Maybe a 41-save win over the Penguins is a good place to start?
What about absolutely stealing a point against the Dallas Stars a couple weeks ago, and of course shutting out the Washington Capitals two nights ago. Goalies need to get into grooves to start playing well. Now Pavelec has confidence in himself and hopefully, the coaching staff does as well.
Many will also label the signing of David Desharnais as a massive bust.
Yes, more was expected than a 3-15-18 stat line. But for a diminutive forward who possesses skill and not known for his checking ability, is placing him on the fourth line with Jesper Fast and Boo Nieves the best place for him to succeed? Quite frankly, it isn’t and taking a look at his past few games filling in for Mika Zibanejad. He has one goal, six assists, and is winning close to 56 percent in draws.
Also, since the return of Zibanejad, he has found a groove on the fourth line with Paul Carey as the two combined for some goals the other night. I’m certainly not suggesting he steals the first line center spot from Mika, but given the right linemates and situations, Desharnais is more than capable of helping this club win hockey games.
On to the Stepan trade and the return package of Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall that turned into Lias Andersson.
Sure, it’s disappointing that neither has stuck with the team. However, through the first 13 games of DeAngelo’s AHL stint, he was sitting at a stat line of three assists and a -6 rating. Certainly doesn’t scream elite NHL puck mover. He has picked up as of late in the last seven games with two goals and four assists, which is a nice sign that he has taken his demotion in stride and is doing his best to get back. He’s still very young and most certainly could develop into an NHLer.
I also still don’t think some of you understand what kind of player the Rangers have on their hands with Lias Andersson. This kid has fan favorite written all over him. He was named captain of the Swedish World Junior Championships squad–one of the most talented Swedish teams in recent memory. They could have a future first overall pick on that team but many dub Andersson the best leader. This guy has a motor that doesn’t stop, plays larger than his listed size might suggest, is a leader, and is the second leading Under 20 scorer in the SHL.
The SHL is a man’s league and one that is very hard to score in. Sending him back to Sweden was definitely the right move for the kid and I really think this kid will impress at the World Juniors this year and someone who will be on a mission to make the Rangers next season for sure.
Updated look at U20 scoring in the SHL this season after Lias Andersson's (#NYR) three-point game. Has all 11 of his points through last 14 outings. Elias Pettersson (#Canucks) on another planet. pic.twitter.com/8eRvJFdDCp
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) November 26, 2017
#NYR Prospect Update: @liasandersson with a goal and 2 assists; @Timmy_Getts26 posts a 5-point weekend; @m_barron1998 with 2 helpers in Cornell's win @TheGarden and much more. https://t.co/79G4ECHduK pic.twitter.com/bp8NBAjWxe
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) November 26, 2017
— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) December 6, 2017
It was also part of the rebuild to leave head man Alain Vigneault at the helm.
Look, it’s easy for us to look at Twitter, see the lines, and jump to the conclusion that Vigneault has no idea what he’s doing. What’s difficult is to be in charge of 20-something players of varying backgrounds, English speaking ability, and maturity level.
What we don’t see on Twitter is how they’re performing at practice every day. What we also don’t seem to grasp that if someone is moved up in the lineup, someone has to move down. Crazy concept, I know.
The most recent demotion that has everyone’s arms in the air is Pavel Buchnevich moving to the fourth line. But should he play more over Mats Zuccarello? How about the team’s leading scorer Michael Grabner? I’d say no, but that’s for you guys to decide. Sometimes I wonder that if the Rangers won a cup with Alain Vigneault behind the bench, would some fans still question who was on his second and third defenseman pairing?
Rebuilds take time and things don’t happen overnight. The Rangers have certainly found their groove right now and that’s missing their top line center. Their backup goalie seems to have some confidence and can hopefully begin to take the load of off Lundqvist. David Desharnais has proven that with the right linemates he is a fully capable center, and the prospect pipeline is brighter than it has been in years.
Trust in the process and have a little faith.