To say that’s it’s been a roller coast season for the New York Rangers might be the understatement of the century. Heading into the 2017-18 campaign, the Rangers were thought to be one of the strongest contenders in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, especially considering some of the offseason moves they made.
Sure, they were forced to part with veteran forward Derek Stepan and backup goaltender Antti Raanta, but they gained a true, legitimate number one defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk and effectively rebuilt most of their blue line. With Shattenkirk, Anthony DeAngelo (acquired in the Stepan/Raanta trade) and Brendan Smith (acquired from the Detroit Red Wings during the 2017 trade deadline) in and veteran defenseman Dan Girardi out, NHL analysts applauded the Rangers’ offseason moves. Fast forward less than six months though and the team’s defensive structure is in shambles.
Captain Ryan McDonagh has been the lone steady ship on the team’s blue line. The highlight of Brady Skjei’s season was an SNL clip. Shattenkirk is out long-term with an injury. Ditto for Marc Staal. Brendan Smith has been waived. Ouch.
Ironically though, things didn’t always look so grim for the Blue Shirts. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist started the season on a tear and it looks as if the team’s young forwards, notably Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey, were ready to take giant steps forward. But, with the Rangers mired at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings and with the team facing a turning point at the upcoming trade deadline, Rangers management has elected to tear things down and rebuild from the ground up. Just last week GM Jeff Gorton and president Glen Sather issued a letter to the team’s fanbase, warning them to brace for change:
Since then however, Gorton has yet to make a substantial move. It has been reported that he's shopping McDonagh to Stanley Cup contenders like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins... but so far nothing. Meanwhile, the Rangers have dropped four straight games, including today's embarrassing 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and Lundqvist has made it clear that he's NOT happy with the way things are going in NYC.
When asked for his opinion on the current state of the team, what with them sliding in the standings and being subject to daily trade reports, King Henrik was blunt in his assessment:
Ouch. How's that feel, Rangers fans? You have to really feel for the 35-year-old veteran goaltender this season. He's played his entire career as a Ranger and, despite a valiant run in 2014, he's yet to taste any real success with the franchise. This season, his 13th with the team, Lundqvist has started 51 games, earning just 23 wins along the way. His 2.80 GAA and .917 save percentage are league average but, as mentioned before, his defense has not exactly been stellar in front of him.
The dejected goaltender spoke with the media again today after his team's loss to the Flyers.
"I've got to be better. A lot of mistakes..."
Double ouch. Lundqvist would go on to say that he's doubting himself and has lost his confidence, saying that it's been tough for him to work up the motivation needed to perform.
Something's got to give in New York. When your star player, the face of your franchise, calls you out in such a way... something's got to give.