Last season, the New York Rangers kind of took everyone by surprise when they managed to grab the no. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They rode that momentum all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before they were bounced from the postseason by the New Jersey Devils.
This season, the Blueshirts aren’t going to take anyone by surprise. With the roster they’ve built on Broadway, a Stanley Cup isn’t really a hope or a dream anymore. It’s an expectation.
On paper, the Rangers may be the best team in the league. It starts between the pipes with Henrik Lundqvist. He won the Vezina Trophy last year and was also a finalist for the Hart as the league’s most valuable player. He’s going to follow up that season with another one like it this year.
The blue line is as steady as they come. They have some top young talent on defense, including Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Del Zotto, as well as some other strong depth back there. They’re going to be tough to score on, just as they were last year.
We already knew that the Rangers had what it takes on the back end to contend for a Stanley Cup. But it’s their moves this summer that indicate that they’re going all in for a title.
Already with Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and Ryan Callahan up front, the Blueshirts went out and made the biggest acquisition of the offseason: Rick Nash. More than anything else, this move speaks volumes and says that this is the year the Rangers are going for it.
Add those guys, with improving youngsters like Carl Hagelin, as well as rookie Chris Kreider, and there really are no excuses for the Rangers this season. That doesn’t mean the team gets blown up, by any stretch of the imagination, if they fail. But for this team, it really is Stanley Cup or bust.
Whenever the season does start, assuming it does at some point, the Rangers should be a favorite to win the Cup this year. On paper, they may be the best team you’ll find anywhere in the league. Now they just have to back it up. Just improving isn’t reason enough to be satisfied with a season. This one will have to involve a rather large, shiny cup.