By Dominic Lancella on August 6, 2014
The New York Rangers will begin their new campaign with some new faces and without some key players from last season’s team. The identity and style of this team should not deviate much, but it’s a new year and a new team nonetheless. It’s important to be prepared to hit the ground running at the start of a new season. Here are five things the Blueshirts must figure out before the 2014-15 season gets underway in October.
It’s got to happen sometime, so let’s get this question out of the way. Alain Vigneault has yet to name a captain since the team traded Ryan Callahan last season. Vigneault's said that he has some idea of whom he might pick, but the favorite seems to be defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Fellow defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are also strong candidates for the duty. Any of these three are good choices, but Vigneault still has time to make a choice.
With the departure of centers Brian Boyle and Brad Richards, the team has to decide on who will fill the third-line spot come opening night. The Rangers signed center Matthew Lombardi recently, who played in the Swiss-A league last season and has 536 NHL games in his career. They’re hoping he can step into the role, but it isn’t a certainty as of now. New York just has to make sure they have the center lineup figured out come October.
Miller’s a natural center, but he hasn’t been given the opportunity to assume that position to this point in his Ranger career. He might have to wait a little longer, but it depends on how Lombardi plays. He should get the chance to play at the NHL level on a more consistent basis, but where in the lineup does he fit? Most signs point to the third line regardless of position, but Vigneault has some time to try him out in different situations.
The two developed great chemistry last season, but they may not play on the same line on opening night. Brassard is going to move to the second line to replace Richards, but Zuccarello might not join him. Zuc is still an important player, but wings Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis were together on the second line last season. If Zuccarello does move up with Brassard, Hagelin or St. Louis will be sliding down in the lineup.
Richards was second on the team in goals, and Pouliot was very productive on the power play. They combined for 87 points last season, but who will pick up that slack now that they’re gone? The Rangers need to get their first line going early in the season, and they need to be good on the power play. By October, the Rangers need to know who’s capable of stepping up in certain situations and scoring consistently.
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