Winning meaningless games down the line to maintain a now debilitated sense of pride will do nothing for the future of the New York Rangers. Tanking is the answer—and what fans should be clamoring for.
It would be an understatement to say that the 2017-18 season for the New York Rangers has been a disappointment. It has been a disaster, a disgrace, and a shame.
This team, fresh off of signing Kevin Shattenkirk, the best available defenseman on the free agent market, was believed to be capable of doing great things.
Back-to-back early postseason exits were believed to give the team some much-needed rest for the upcoming season “of true hope,” as Blueshirt Banter’s Joe Fortunato dubbed it in early October.
Most of us agreed with Joe. There was no reason to doubt the Rangers would have a tremendous season due to the construction of the roster, the level of star power, and the speed and youth of the team. Slower defensemen had been moved, others had retired. The team had an entirely new look to it, eliciting massive expectations from us Ranger fans.
But, we underestimated how bad the coaching staff would be. Who knew that they would deploy one of the worst defenses in the NHL this season, just barely behind the defensive abominations that are the New York Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Ottawa Senators?
While the roster did not prove to be as talented and infallible as many of us thought it would be, it’s fairly evident that the Rangers would be in a playoff position if this coaching were, at the very least, competent.
Subsequently, injuries would follow suit, and the Rangers would find themselves in a position where their very own General Manager would have to concede the season and seek a rebuilding process.
A Message from Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton. pic.twitter.com/Q56CXS8vDc
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 8, 2018
If someone had said to me that the Rangers would be rebuilding by the end of this season, I would have called them insane. But, here we are.
Now, of course, the Rangers are putting together victories and points to ascend in the standings. Through a plethora of poor performances and luck, the Rangers have garnered a point in each of their last four games, much to their detriment.
Now, we have fans celebrating the “fight” in the Rangers, and the “pride” of the team. I take great pride in being a Rangers fan, but I cheer for what is best for the team, not what looks the best.
What is better for the Rangers? To finish as a 13th seed in the East, miss the playoffs, and raise their draft position? Or to finish as a ninth seed in the East, miss the playoffs, and lower their draft position? The question requires a very simple answer.
The fact of the matter is that the 2018 NHL Entry Draft is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.
Potentially franchise-altering defensemen like Rasmus Dahlin, Adam Boqvist, and Quinn Hughes are all available in the top-six. Future NHL All-Star defensemen who possess great potential are available in the top-eight, such as Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson.
Future NHL All-Star wings, a position the Rangers are desperate to fill, are available in the top-ten of this year’s draft as well. Players such as Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina could provide the accurate one-timer on the power-play that the Rangers have been searching for for years. Brady Tkachuk can provide the big, net-front, solid goal scorer the Rangers could definitely emphasize in the top-six. Oliver Wahlstrom and Joel Farabee could be the puck-carrying wizards that can create with the puck more naturally than any other Ranger’s forward in recent memory.
The New York Rangers need to put themselves in the best possible position to draft the best player they could draft in this year’s draft. While Dahlin, Svechnikov, and Zadina look to be out of reach, considering that their talents deserve top-three consideration, the Rangers could certainly look to players like Wahlstrom, Farabee, or even Boqvist in the six to ten range.
How do they put themselves in a position to get one of these young men? They tank. Yes, losing games, no matter how incapacitating it may be to your pride, is what is best for the organization. Do you want one of these players in the system as an up-and-coming prospect that could help change the course of the organization? I sure do.
As a fan, while I have felt conflicted and confused during games, I find myself rooting for the success of the opposing team, mainly because I know it will benefit them the most in the long run.
I want to start over. I want the team to legitimately compete in three or four years. That, after all, gives the team its best shot at a championship.
The Rangers lost to the scorching-hot Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. They play the Washington Capitals back-to-back at the beginning of next week. The Tampa Bay Lightning play the Rangers later next week.
There is no reason that the Rangers cannot lose eight of their final 10 games. Teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres provide for important “tank games.” These games have enormous implications in the upcoming draft.
The Rangers should focus on playing youth and developing towards the future. Of course, players arrive into an arena with no intention of losing. But hey, it isn’t the worst thing in the world.
The tank is what the Rangers need to do to improve their team. This season is lost. There’s no use in continuously hampering future success to maintain an already battered semblance of pride.