4 Questions For New York Rangers Heading Into Offseason
4 Questions For New York Rangers Heading into Offseason
Heading into the 2012-2013 season, fans and NHL experts expected the New York Rangers to be riding on floats along the Canyon of Heros in downtown New York City celebrating their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1994. How could you blame them after the Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago and acquired superstar forward Rick Nash?
However, their season did not go as everyone thought it would. The team fell under the spell of inconsistency all season long, and head coach John Tortorella admitted at different times during the year that this year's team failed to find an identity unlike last year's team. That identity especially was not found on the offensive end, leading to a major overhaul at the trade deadline which saw struggling superstar Marian Gaborik traded for Derick Brassard, John Moore, and Derek Dorsett. General Manager Glen Sather also traded for tough guy Ryane Clowe and re-signed fan favorite Mats Zuccarello from the Swiss League.
These guys, and of course reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist, helped the Rangers reestablish their grittyness and helped them to get past the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. In spite of that, the team struggled once again to maintain consistent intensity and to put pucks in the net. In the end, the Rangers simply did not play well enough to compete with a much better Boston Bruins team, losing four games to one in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
With these things in mind, there are four questions to consider after the Rangers’ hasty second-round exit.
1. Will the Rangers use the amnesty buyout on Brad Richards?
Richards' sub par play during the regular season combined with Tortorella's bold move to make him a healthy scratch for their last two games of the year only triggered greater speculation that the 33-year-old alternate captain's future with the team is in jeopardy. After playing like the Conn Smythe winner and clutch goal scorer last season, he suffered an embarrassing decline which saw him dropped to the fourth line in the playoffs before being benched. It would make sense for the Rangers to use the buyout now because there are seven years left on his current nine-year, $60 million deal, and they do not want to risk any further injury which would prevent them from using the amnesty buyout.
2. What does John Tortorella's future with the team look like?
Tortorella will probably return because this lockout-shortened season was too small of a sample size to see whether he would be the guy to lead the Rangers to a championship. The condensed season did not give the team time to jell and for significant injuries to key players such as Marc Staal to be mitigated. However, he did not get as much out of his team as he could have even with those limitations. Tortorella's attempts to inspire confidence in his team, such as publicly saying Carl Hagelin "stinks" on the power play and benching playoff hero of last year Chris Kreider at different times, backfired. For these reasons, expect Tortorella to be on the hot seat should his team falter in a similar fashion next year as they did this year.
3. What will the Rangers do about their Power Play?
To put it nicely, the Rangers' power play was ineffective, going 4-for-44 during the postseason (9.1%). They also ranked only 23rd in the league in power play efficiency during the regular season. It has been a problem for years, and they have thrown millions of dollars at the problem with Richards and Wade Redden just to name a couple. It simply has not worked, though. To go with getting a puck-moving defenseman in the offseason, Tortorella needs to let the players play more freely with the man-advantage.
4. Will Marc Staal ever get back to elite level?
There is no question that losing Staal's ability to mark the other team's top scorer and move the puck out of the defensive zone was a key reason for the Rangers' early ouster. After taking a puck to the eye in March, Staal missed 27 regular season games and all but one during the playoffs as a result. Though he is expected to return to health, his progress to this point has to be concerning. The Rangers need him back and at an elite level or else there will be a major void that will be hard to replace.