The New York Rangers left wing position was one that most definitely left fans wanting more out of a position that what once was a strength.
Both the left and right wings were areas of strength for the New York Rangers, but not this season.
Now a reason for this could be the fact that the team traded away wingers Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller. This completely changed the landscape of the wing, especially the left wing. What remained on the left side after the trades were the likes of Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey, Ryan Spooner and Cody McLeod. That clearly is not the greatest depth on the left side but it was the hand the Rangers were dealt, so let’s grade them.
Grades are determined based on impact to the team, performance, and consistency. Some players might have an incomplete due to the fact that they left us wanting more or had their opportunities taken away from them.
Coming into the season, the expectations for Chris Kreider was for him to take that next step in becoming a consistent goal scoring threat. This did not seem like too much to ask from him considering he scored a career-high 28 goals in 2017-18.
This season, however, Kreider suffered from the injury bug. He was diagnosed with a blood clot in late December that would have him missing 24 games. His return to the Rangers lineup was one that was welcomed with open arms. The Rangers were in the midst of trading key players and it was nice to have a familiar face return to the lineup.
Kreider came back a completely different player. He lost weight as a result of the injury and that only made him quicker. He would finish the season 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points. Five of the goals and 10 of the assists came after returning from injury.
The injury took away a significant amount of production from Kreider, leaving the question what type of player will he be in 2018-19?
After a successful rookie season, the 2017-18 season was supposed to be a stepping stone for Jimmy Vesey. Head coach Alain Vigneault was going to give the 24-year-old some added responsibility, but Vesey getting off to a slow start didn’t help with Vigneault’s trust in him.
Vesey started the season slowly, scoring his first points with a goal and an assist on Oct. 21. The thought was that after that two-point game he would go on a run, but that was not the case. He only scored three points in the month of October and just five in the month of November.
Once the Rangers made the trade deadline trades, Vesey saw increased minutes out of necessity. After moving up, he would score 10 points, six goals and four assists, playing a much more confident brand of hockey. At the conclusion of the season, Vesey would have a career-high in goals with 17 and in points with 26.
Vesey did not live up to the expectations he had hovering around him in 2017-18. The Blueshirts will have a tough decision to make when thinking about his future as he is a restricted free agent this summer.
Ryan Spooner was just a throw-in when the Rangers traded Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins. He turned out to be perhaps their most important forward in the final stretch of the season.
He would go onto score 16 points, four goals and 12 assists, in 20 games with the Rangers. 13 of those points came in his first eight games as Blueshirt. The team decided to see how he would fit at both the wing and center. Ultimately, they decided that his value to the team was better suited as a winger with Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil being recalled.
It will be interesting to see what the Rangers do with Spooner in the offseason. He is a restricted free agent leaving the Blueshirts with options. They could include him a trade package for draft picks and more young talent. The other option for general manager Jeff Gorton is, he could extend Spooner long-term.
Spooner’s brief audition on Broadways overall was a memorable one.
Cody McLeod’s role on this Ranger team was an interesting one, to say the least. He joined the Rangers midseason in the Blueshirts effort to turn their season around.
His game is a bit similar to the likes of Tanner Glass who the Blueshirt faithful remember as a gritty, physical player. That is really all McLeod brought to this Ranger team. He only recorded two points in 25 games with the Rangers.
Although his game was never quite suited for the Rangers style. Now, this does not mean you can not say he did not do what was asked of him. He arguably is one of the few players on this Rangers team that did his job consistently in 2017-18.
McLeod might not be a Blueshirt in 2018-19, but you have to respect the type of player and teammate he is. Overall he had a fine season as a Ranger.
A common theme for the 2017-18 New York Rangers is that they left you wanting more on several occasions. This was clearly the case on the left wing with the Rangers.
As the Jeff Gorton starts to look at constructing his roster for 2018-19, he needs to ask himself how can the left wing improve. Having a healthy Chris Kreider is one way, but Gorton clearly needs to add more pieces for the Rangers to compete.
Just like the rest of the team, what the Rangers have on the left wing now won’t be what they have next year. Even with that, we need to see more from the left side for the Rangers to compete.