By finally understanding that the status quo won’t do, the New York Rangers have given fans something they haven’t had in awhile—hope for the future.
My appeal is to the abundance of pessimistic New York Rangers fans, those who are worried that the team will find a way to compromise their future aspirations. Your despondency is well warranted, and I understand it.
But, I have good news for you pessimists. The Rangers do not seem willing to jeopardize their future by taking on more bad contracts. They do not seem to be willing to hinder the development of the young talent that is vital to their future success.
There are four reasons to be excited, four reasons that foreshadow a particularly bright future for our beloved Rangers.
The Alain Vigneault Firing
Yes, our prayers have been answered. Vigneault, the head coach for the New York Rangers since the 2013-14 season, had overstayed his welcome, to say the least. Saturday night, the news broke that Vigneault had finally been relieved of his duties.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first with the report:
NYR have fired head coach Alain Vigneault. Search will commence for his replacement.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 8, 2018
What makes the move a blessing for the team? Because while Vigneault is not necessarily a bad coach (though many of the decisions he has made have been questionable, to say the least), he is not the right coach for the team. His qualifications reside with veteran talent, similar to what he had on his more successful teams in both Vancouver and New York.
His past success with a young team is…lacking. The Rangers made the proper decision. They successfully determined that he was not the coach of the future.
Now, the pessimistic Ranger fan will assume that the team will target a Vigneault clone, such as a Dave Tippett or Darryl Sutter. These successful head coaches are not clones of Vigneault in style per say, but they are indeed inept at deploying young talent properly.
But, my optimism can be garnered from a recent interview of Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton.
Understanding the Need for a “Fresh” Coach
According to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, Gorton mentioned that he would be searching for a “fresh” head coach.
Jeff Gorton says the Rangers are looking for a fresh look from a new coach. He won’t rule out candidates but sounds like he is open to bringing in someone new, someone who hasn’t been around the NHL much or coached in the league at all. TBD, obviously.
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) April 9, 2018
What does this mean? It means that the team seems to be avoiding the potential catastrophes that coaches like Sutter, Tippett and Lindy Ruff would bring to the Rangers.
While all, like Vigneault, were fine head coaches at one point, their styles do not correlate to the organization’s objectives. Signing any of them would be counterintuitive, which is not the team’s goal, evidently.
Optimism can be gained ascertaining that the Rangers will target coaches that develop youth. Such coaches would be compatible with the team’s aspirations, which would help the team develop more efficiently; maybe even more quickly.
My personal dream candidate, Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe, would thus be one of the primary candidates that the team would endeavor to sign.
The Ilya Kovalchuk Signing
According to Igor Eronko of NHL.com Russia and Sport-Express, the Rangers and Ilya Kovalchuk have agreed on a two-to-three-year deal that will play the goal-scoring forward roughly $6 million per year.
Per source Ilya Kovalchuk is set to sign at 2-3 year deal with #NYR
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) April 9, 2018
Nothing can be made official until July 1, but barring any insanity (which isn’t impossible with Kovalchuk), he will more than likely be a New York Ranger at the start of next season.
This is easily the most contested of the Rangers recent actions. Kovalchuk is perceived as an old, decrepit veteran who has an attitude that would not be beneficial for developing the youth of the team. But, the key word here is perception.
While this example is can be deemed as banal, it is vital to dismantling the enduring argument that Kovalchuk is a bad locker-room player with an “attitude.”
Martin Brodeur, one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, played with Kovalchuk in New Jersey before he left the team in 2013. Brodeur is one of the first players to rush to Kovalchuk’s defense.
“Kovy is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Brodeur told Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “And I’m not talking about just his play on the ice.”
Those who are weary of his age need not worry. While Kovalchuk turns 35 at the start of next season, his production is still high. He will not be otherworldly like he used to be, but he can very realistically give the team 60 points of production. He could very well be a 25-to-30-goal scorer as well. His shot from the top of the faceoff circle is still pristine and would compliment Mika Zibanejad quite nicely on the man-advantage.
Additionally, is presence and experience could help mentor young Russian talents Pavel Buchnevich and Vladislav Namestnikov. Buchnevich and Namestnikov are two players whose development could be imperative for this team going forward.
Finally, my case for Kovalchuk concludes with the fact that he will be an enticing component of the Rangers for Russian prospects. Igor Shestyorkin and Yegor Rykov are both teammates of Kovalchuk in the KHL. Kovalchuk’s presence on the Rangers could make the transition of Shestyorkin and Rykov much more smooth and appealing.
The Rangers, for the first time in a very long time, have a group of prospects bustling with youth, skill, and potential.
Others, such as Yegor Rykov, Igor Shestyorkin, Ryan Lindgren, Brett Howden, Sean Day, Ty Ronning, and Libor Hajek are all players who can have a spot on an NHL roster someday as important contributors.
In other words, the Rangers are set with solid depth for many years to come. They can draft high-ceiling, potential superstars on draft day and continue to add to the immense amount of hope us Ranger fans possess.
This is why there is nothing for us fans to worry about. The Rangers are making a plethora of interesting moves to guarantee a bright and successful future. We do not have to worry about them making any bad moves to compromise that future either.
There is a bright future for this hockey team. Fans just have to trust the process.