With the Stanley Cup Playoffs lost and a young roster grinding, the New York Rangers road ahead is a very slippery one.
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the New York Rangers find themselves in largely uncharted territory. After a decade of playoff appearances, in 2019 the Broadway Blueshirts will fail to qualify for the postseason for the second consecutive season.
Similarly to last year’s campaign, the Boys in Blue would probably be better off losing these games, as it would likely help them attain a higher draft pick. At the same time, tanking is not the answer for a young, fragile squad like the Rangers.
In terms of the NHL standings, the Rangers are currently the seventh-worst team in the league. However, New York is only four points ahead of the fifth-worst squad, the Anaheim Ducks. While the Blueshirts can easily plummet down the standings and improve their draft position, they can also climb up the standings with ease.
As of now, the teams ranked between 25 and 20 in the standings are separated by only three points.
If Jeff Gorton is looking to pick in the top-five of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, then he should be thrilled with the Rangers’ final 12 opponents. Of the Blueshirts last dozen contests, only three of them come against teams that are not competing for a playoff spot (New Jersey, Detroit, and Ottawa).
The Rangers’ schedule is so crucial because it will likely cause them to fall down the standings, therefore, improving their draft position.
The objective of the Baby Blueshirts’ final 12 contests should not be winning. Despite the fact that victories will help establish a positive culture and boost the morale of the team, two very important aspects of a rebuild, David Quinn’s primary goal should be player development.
These meaningless hockey games offer the front office an invaluable opportunity to evaluate their players ahead of perhaps the most important summer of the Rangers’ road back to the Stanley Cup. This is management’s opportunity to see how pending free agents such as Pavel Buchnevich, Neal Pionk, Tony DeAngelo, Fredrik Claesson, and Brendan Lemieux fit into New York’s future plans.
Additionally, Jeff Gorton should take advantage of this chance to get a glimpse at some of his top prospects. This is a perfect time for the Rangers to assess what they have in Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, Ryan Lindgren, and Filip Chytil.
Essentially, development and appraisal should be the focal point of the rest of the 2018-2019 campaign, yet it is important for the Blueshirts to maintain their competitive play. The Boys in Blue have struggled to make their way into the win column as of late, but it hasn’t been for a lack of effort.
David Quinn’s squad has given some of the NHL’s best a run for their money and has not backed down to anyone.
Continuing to play hard until the final buzzer should be a priority going forward, as the Rangers can’t afford to implode in a fashion reminiscent of the 2017-2018 Alain Vigneault-led group. Nevertheless, coming out on the short end of the stick wouldn’t hurt the Blueshirts in the long run.