New York Rangers season preview: A seemingly closing window
Plus: The Rangers have enjoyed a lot of success in the last four years, reaching the conference finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals once. The core members of those teams are back. That group includes the main cogs of one of the best defenses in the NHL in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and blue liners Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. New York also has some elite stars on offense such as Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, both of whom reached the 60-point threshold last season.
Minus: The Rangers are an aging team, and there is some doubt as to how long this string of success can continue. New York picked up a few intriguing players over the summer in Emerson Etem and Viktor Stalberg. Etem, a former first-round draft pick, has never lived up to his potential in parts of three seasons, and Stalberg could not find his footing as a supplemental scorer in two seasons with the Predators. Both are gambles.
X-Factor: Chris Kreider
An aging team can always benefit from an injection of youth, and Kreider could be the player to keep the window of opportunity open in New York. At 24 years old, Kreider is still plenty young, but with four seasons of NHL experience to build off of, he could become the biggest key to the future for New York. Kreider had a solid season in 2014-15, posting 46 points and a team-leading seven power-play goals in 80 games. If he takes another step forward the Rangers’ offense suddenly becomes significantly more dynamic.
Prediction: The Rangers are solid team in all areas. but they might not be an elite team considering the quality of the competition in the Metropolitan Division. The New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are all on the rise and will give the Rangers a significant challenge as a division leader. Expect the Rangers to fight for the second or third spot in the Metro.