The Rangers parted ways with former head coach Alain Vigneault after the depressing 2017-18 season and decided it was time to rebuild for the first time in over a decade. What many Rangers fans thought would be another disappointing year has been more of a surprise.
Not only do the blueshirts sit just 1 point back of a playoff spot, but they have been one of the hottest teams in the league (up until this past week). Even though the Rangers hit a bit of a slump, they are nowhere near the bottom of the pack as many expected them to be in 2019.
So what has been driving this somewhat of a rebuilding season?
The simple answer is Henrik Lundqvist. The face of the franchise has had a remarkable first two months and has kept New York in the hunt. Seriously…without him they would likely be a lot lower in the standings. He has faced the fourth most shots in the NHL (695) and currently sits in 14th place in save percentage (.921). The Rangers get outshout virtually every game, but they have been able to rely on their steady veteran to keep them in any game.
Now, even though Lundqvist has been spectacular so far in 2018-19, I still argue, and have many times before, that New York needs to somehow get him to waive his no trade clause. Good goaltending is what is hindering this team’s ability to sustain a full on rebuild like the organization desperately needs. The biggest component to a “rebuild” is to play younger prospects (like NY has been doing) but to basically lose games in the process. With Lundqvist in net they have been able to steal games and earn points in the standings instead of falling towards the bottom.
Head coach David Quinn has done a really good job with this roster and has tried to make a first impression across the locker room by scratching top stars like Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and Mika Zibanejad. Not sure if scratching your best players is the right call, but I guess it is one way of tanking. Other players like Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey have found success under Quinn throughout the past month and players have somewhat bought into his systems.
Quinn was hired to orchestrate the new rebuild and develop these younger players which it appears he has started to do, but with Hank in goal it is diminishing New York’s shot of acquiring a lottery pick next summer with the hopes of landing Jack Hughes, the projected first-overall pick from the USNTDP.
For right now, the Rangers have a lot to cheer about as they are very competitive, but the current nature of the rebuild is actually putting the franchise in a tough spot moving forward.