It’s strange to think your team is in a good place when you miss the playoffs, but New York Rangers fans have plenty to be happy about.
When you think about how the New York Rangers rebuild is progressing over the last year and a half, it’s truly amazing to see them in the situation they find themselves in now.
This time last year, they fired their head coach in Alain Vigneault after a disaster season while seeing little to no progression from their younger players. Most individuals outside of the organization felt this could be a longer process and could potentially take up to five years or more of no hockey being played at the World’s Most Famous Arena come April/May/June.
But here we are a year later, and all of a sudden, everything surrounding the future of this Original Six franchise has drastically changed thanks to a year no one in the league saw coming.
The major difference 2018-19 saw compared to the year before was an apparent development of some of the franchise’s most important young players. Under first-year head coach David Quinn, the likes of Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei, Filip Chytil and Tony DeAngelo all took their games to a level which brought promise to their futures after some major question marks were raised about their game in the season prior.
We all knew the reputation surround Quinn was his ability to connect with younger players, but what we didn’t expect was his ability to relate to his veterans. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider both had the best years of their careers playing under Quinn, while he was also able to get the most out of Ryan Strome who the Edmonton Oilers simply just gave up on.
What Quinn showed and brought to the table was accountability, something lost in the final years of Vigneault. Now, all of a sudden, the Blueshirts have more of a core to build around than they thought they did when they began this entire process.
It doesn’t just end with development when it comes to Quinn, though. He managed to convince every single player in the locker room to play their tails off all the way to the final buzzer of their final game, knowing what the ramifications could be. As we know now, the “hockey gods” rewarded the Rangers and Quinn by moving the Blueshirts all the way up to the number two slot in the NHL Entry Draft.
Picking second overall is going to guarantee the Rangers a major building block for this rebuild in either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko to go along with top prospect Vitali Kravtsov and Chytil down the road. Now, Hughes and Kakko might not turn out to be the best players in the entire league, but it gives the Rangers a young franchise and game-changing player they simply have not had on their roster in the last 10 years.
Even with all of the positives surrounding this Ranger team, there was a small chance all of it would slowly disappear after the news of Glen Sather stepping down went public. A change all the way at the top of an organization has a serious ripple effect all throughout an organization, and when the owner has a history of making wrong front office decisions there was certainly room for concern.
But the “hockey gods” continue to be on the Rangers side this year and created an opportunity for former Ranger and Blueshirt broadcaster John Davidson to come in and take the reins atop the franchise.
Davidson is coming into the fold at the perfect time considering his track record with developing teams into perennial Stanley Cup contenders over the years. His work in St. Louis has made a huge impact on their Cup run this year, while most recently he helped lead Columbus to the second round for the first time in their history against the best team the NHL has seen in years.
He’s built the foundation once before and has enjoyed success. Now, he’s coming into a situation where a strong foundation has already been built. All that’s left for him to do is to put his ideas out there—ideas which have already shown to be successful along with him making minor and potentially major tweaks to the Blueshirts’ staff fans don’t hear from.
Sather leaving could have done some serious damage to the Rangers’ rebuild. Who was to say that a new president wouldn’t have come in and change the general manager and head coach to bring in their own person to do the job. If that happened, it could have set the Rangers back years. Fortunately for New York, Davidson recognizes the progress made in such a short time. He’s coming here while wanting to add to the process rather than completely blowing it up.
This summer is one of the most important summers the Rangers have seen in the last five years, considering they have a chance to take a giant leap in their rebuild with the proper deals.
As the saying goes, “Everything is coming up roses.” This time you can apply it to the New York Rangers future.
What a difference a year makes.