It’s been a long season for the New York Rangers, but they are remaining competitive despite being in a rebuilding phase.
Do you know what the worst part of rooting for a rebuilding a team is? The losing. Having young inexperienced players on your team while falling to the top teams of the league is hard to watch. It’s times like these where you find out who the real fans are. This is no exception for the New York Rangers.
The Blueshirts are 27-27-11 this season with the season winding down. With 17 games left, they sit 12 points outside of a playoff spot. Closing that deficit is unlikely. The Rangers have four teams ahead of them that they need to jump.
This does not come as a surprise given the circumstances. Last February, the Rangers announced the rebuild in a letter to fans. The letter practically warned fans that some of their favorite players are likely going to be traded. They did just that last year when they dealt Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and J.T. Miller, and they did it again last weekend by dealing Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes.
This team is looking forward to the future, no doubt about it. The Blueshirt faithful know this. However, it is still tough to see your favorite team coming out on the losing end on a nightly basis. Seeing them lose is demoralizing. But if there is one thing that you can’t fault this team for, it’s their effort.
This year, the Rangers lead the NHL in one-goal games. In the Blueshirts’ 65 games this season, 35 have been decided by one-goal. Despite all the hardships and despite losing most of their games, the Rangers are still hanging around to make things interesting for their opponents.
Keep in mind, this record doesn’t include games where the opponent scored an empty netter to put the Rangers away for good.
The Rangers record in one-goal games is not good. They’re 16-8-11. However, it does not tell the whole story. In fact, the Rangers are holding their own against some of the top teams in the league.
Recently, the Blueshirts forced overtime against the defending Stanley Cup Champions—the Washington Capitals—on two consecutive Sundays. They also held their own against the top team in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday bringing them to overtime.
Last month, in a game where they were down three goals in the third, the Rangers clawed their way back to give Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins a scare. The Pens may not be as great as they once were. But with the likes of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang, they can still be dangerous. There are plenty of other examples this season of the Rangers giving top teams a hard time despite ultimately losing.
In some of the games they won earlier this season, they beat tough opponents like the Nashville Predators on the road. Heading even further out west, the Rangers swept the season series against the always dangerous San Jose Sharks. They also were able to pull out wins against the St. Louis Blues in their building and split the season series with two of their division rivals—the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders.
From the moment the puck dropped on opening night, the Rangers were competitive. They found themselves coming up short more often than not, but they almost always seem to fight their opponent’s tooth and nail until the very end. These opponents include some teams that people expect to win the Stanley Cup. By doing this, the Rangers are putting themselves on the radar for the league to look out for in the next coming seasons.
With the team in a rebuild, that is the most you can ask for from them—that they compete. Head coach David Quinn is getting the most out of his players and it’s showing.
Some may argue that it’s better to tank so that the Rangers will get a higher draft pick. But going that route implies that the players aren’t going to give it 100 percent. It’s pivotal that the players give it their all. That way, the coaches and front office can decide which players are worth keeping and which players do not fit the mold (or in the cases of Zuccarello and Hayes, how much they can receive in a trade because they can’t be re-signed to big extensions).
You’re in a lose-lose situation when your favorite team is losing in a rebuild. If they lose by a lot, it looks like they’ll be rebuilding for a while. If they lose by a little, it arguably hurts even more because they’re so close to being in the conversation, but are just short. However, the latter option, while tougher to watch, is better. It’s much more encouraging when the team is coming up just short rather than being manhandled most of the time. Those glimmers of potential should make fans anxious with anticipation.
Do the Rangers have some elements of their game that need to be fixed? Of course, they do. However, it’s a great sign that these baby Blueshirts keep grinding until the final buzzer.