New York Rangers 2013-14 Season Preview

Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist
Apr 19 2013 Buffalo NY USA New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist 30 before the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center Kevin Hoffman USA TODAY Sports

After another postseason flame out, the New York Rangers are shifting gears. Firebrand bench boss John Tortorella swapped jobs with former Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault early in the summer, and now Vigneault will be tasked with bringing the Stanley Cup back to Broadway.

The Rangers’ new coach has two Presidents’ Trophies and a Jack Adams Award to his name, but unlike his predecessor he has never won a championship. He took the Canucks to Game 7 of the 2011 Final, but a bigger and more brutal Bruins team kept his Canucks from the top. He’ll have plenty of grit in his new locker room, but he’ll have to bring some offense all the way from British Columbia.

Tortorella built the Rangers to stop the puck by any means necessary. Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Callahan have the welts to prove it. The Rangers’ commitment to defense has paid off handsomely. They allowed the fourth fewest goals against in 2013. Henrik Lundqvist is and will continue to be a monster between the pipes, and top pairing defenseman Marc Staal should be available for the start of the season after missing significant time with an eye injury.

The problem at Madison Square Garden is on offense. Rick Nash lived up to the hype with 21 goals and 42 points, but his arrival wasn’t enough to make the Rangers champions. Marian Gaborik couldn’t find his scoring touch before being shipped off to Columbus, and Brad Richards was practically dead weight in the playoffs. His nine-year deal is beginning to look more and more like a bad investment.

Meanwhile, Chris Kreider dropped off the face of the earth after his scintillating postseason debut in 2012, and Carl Hagelin‘s powerplay futility gave us one of John Tortorella’s most memorable soundbites. Hagelin wasn’t the only problem with the Rangers special teams. The New York powerplay ranked 23rd in the league last season, and it was completely invisible in the playoffs.

Vigneault coached the league’s most effective special teams unit in 2010-11, but the Canucks were just a tenth of a percent better than the Rangers in 2013. His long-term success in New York will depend heavily on his ability to raise the team’s success rate with the man-advantage. He has the mind for it, but he no longer has the Sedin twins to rely on.

However, he does have Derek Stepan who has evolved into a bonafide star. As a third-year center, Stepan led the team with 44 points. He’s a restricted free agent at the moment, but the Rangers would be foolish to let him slip away. He is now the franchise center that Brad Richards was signed to be.

GM Glen Sather‘s only significant offseason addition was winger Benoit Pouliot. The acquisition should offset the loss of rental winger Ryane Clowe. A former first-rounder, Pouliot has been effective with the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning over the past two seasons, but he’s more of a depth scorer than a difference-maker.

Trade deadline acquisition Derick Brassard was tremendous after coming over in the Marian Gaborik Trade. He notched 23 points in 25 games, including the playoffs. He should line up as the blue shirts’ number two center, leaving little room for Richards in the top-six.

J.T. Miller will be a young player to watch this season, and he’ll add some depth down the middle of the ice. The 20-year-old center earned some minutes with a strong World Junior performance last winter, but he produced just four points in 26 games. He’ll get a shot at a larger role in training camp, and he could end up playing on the wing.

The Rangers have most of the necessary ingredients for success. They are defensively sound, tough as nails and they might have the league’s best goaltender. However, they can’t match the offensive output of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and both the Islanders and Capitals have enough talent to fight with them for position in the Metropolitan Division.

The adjustment from Tortorella to Vigneault may not be a smooth one at first. Far less vocal than Tortorella, Vigneault won’t hog all of the attention in Manhattan, and that should be a good thing. His finesse style will take time to mesh with the Ranger’s band of bash-brothers. It should work out eventually, but early struggles could hurt the club at season’s end.

The Rangers ought to be in the playoffs once again, but they might be one offensive weapon short of a deep run. A hot goalie can give practically any team a chance in the postseason, but the Rangers don’t deserve to be Cup favorites just yet.

author avatar
Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard is a Boston, MA native and a student at Davidson College. He began writing about hockey as a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report in the fall of 2012. He has been covering the NHL for XN Sports since May of 2013. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');