The new-look New York Rangers have found early success. Is that a good thing or a bad thing for the team’s long-term future?
The New York Rangers chaotic trade deadline gave way to a resurgence. The young, new-look squad has won three of their first four games. Prior to the deadline and the couple moves that happened that eve, the team had lost seven straight and 14-of-17.
With a second wind brought on by the increased roles of newly-minted veterans like Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider along with the surge of additions like Vladislav Namestnikov and Ryan Spooner, it is clearer by the day that this team has some legs. Conversely, the team as previously constructed had hit a wall.
Early returns are positive on past moves, however, there is still a reasonable debate to be had as to what would be better for the Blueshirts going forward.
On the one hand, moving up in the draft will open up more options, an increased ability to evaluate top-level talent and even a puncher’s chance at the ultimate prize: elite defensive prospect and consensus top-pick Rasmus Dahlin.
Conversely, the team is all of a sudden in an outside—albeit more likely than getting the top-pick—playoff position. With 15 games to go, the Rangers are seven points out of the playoffs. They trail the Blue Jackets, who hold the playoff spot, the Panthers, the Hurricanes, and the Islanders. To Rangers fans delight, the Islanders sat still at the deadline and somehow managed to be right next to a rival in the standings that initiated a rebuild.
While there are 30 points available, there is more to be gained in games against Florida, Columbus, the Islanders and a pair against Carolina. The remaining slate, aforementioned games included, features nine playoff-bound opponents, five games against playoff hopefuls and one against the lowly Sabres, who have a far more significant prayer at drafting Dahlin.
So what to do, tank or fight?
For me (I thought you asked), the answer is clear.
With eight picks in the first three rounds, the team would boast a young foundation if they only hit on half of those picks. Furthermore, the majority of the picks aren’t reliant on the Rangers record, unfortunately, tied to the fates of the Bruins and Lightning. The bright spot is the Senators second-round pick is likely to land in the top-five.
With all that said, one of the most undervalued pieces of a rebuild is teaching and exposing young players to winning.
The Rangers would be remiss to not foster these early out of the gate successes and push this team to fight for the playoffs. The previous iterations of the Rangers began their stretch of playoff appearances by sneaking in and being swept by the New Jersey Devils in 2006.
That experience and culture are far more valuable than the difference between picking 12th versus fifth.
What could a potential playoff push and unlikely postseason berth mean for the future of Alain Vigneault? More on that in next week’s column.