Quebec City, QC – We’re less than two weeks away from the start of the new NHL campaign and the new look Rangers will ply their trade in the new-look Metropolitan Division in the new-look Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets and Red Wings are now in the Eastern Conference, which makes sense being that both Detroit and Columbus are in the easter time zone. The Winnipeg Jets are now in the Western Conference and won’t have to fly to Florida six times a year for division games. I think the realignment will be good for hockey, but the names of the new divisions are terrible. And no name is worse than the Metropolitan Division. I was excited for the return of the old Patrick, Adams, Norris, and Smythe divisions, but now we’re stuck with the Rangers in the Metro.
The Rangers will have some issues to resolve at the start of the season. New Quebecois coach Alain Vigneault will look to whip the Rangers into shape next week as the Broadway Blueshirts head north for a Western Canada preseason tour. The Rangers then end their preseason in Las Vegas against the Kings at the MGM Grand a week from today. The Rangers will head west without three of their better players. Captain Callahan and Carl Hagelin will start the season on the injured list as they both recover from offseason shoulder surgery. Both of them should be back in action shortly after the start of the season.
Derek Stepan won’t be joining the Rangers out west either. He’s still a restricted free agent and currently negotiating a new contract with the Rangers. The Rangers and Stepan aren’t that far apart on a number, but the Rangers are up against the salary cap and say they can’t go much higher than the $3 million a year they’re currently offering. A deal will get done, but more than likely not before the Rangers’ curtain-raiser in Phoenix on October 3rd. The Rangers will have to tread water until they get their stars back. And they have the tools to do just that.
Rick Nash should thrive in the new offensive scheme. Alain Vigneault was a defenseman by trade, but he has turned into a coach that has stressed offense. Brad Richards is still with the Rangers and time will tell whether he still has anything left to give or if Tortorella was right. Brassard has picked up this preseason where he left off in the playoffs last year. If he carries his good play into the season, the Rangers will be just fine until Callahan, Stepan, and Hagelin get back. Chris Kreider got some time with the first line earlier this week. It could be a sign of things to come from the young winger. Kreider was left out in the cold when he couldn’t conform to the Tortorella mould. Now he’ll get his chance to shine with the anti-Tortorella at the helm.
Defensively the Rangers will be stout with a healthy Marc Staal and Ryan Mcdonagh leading the way. With the King between the pipes, the Rangers should have a stable platform at the back. So enough with the preseason. Lets get this season started. A full season, new divisions, new coaches and new players have me excited about the upcoming season for the Rangers. The fries have been Frenched, the cheese has been curded. Pour some gravy on me and lets dig in!