New York Rangers: Top Five Things to be Thankful For
‘Tis the season of giving thanks for what you have. And despite last night’s 6-1 loss, New York Rangers fans have a lot to be thankful for.
As a New York Rangers fan, I sit here realizing how much we, as fans, have to be thankful for. Growing up watching the Rangers, going to games and connecting with other fans has made me realize how easy it can be for us to get pessimistic about the team.
So since it’s that time of year I thought I would reflect on all the things that I thank my lucky stars for every time the Rangers step on the ice.
1) Jeff Gorton’s moves this offseason
This is perhaps the most important item on this list because it directly relates to everything else.
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Think back to where we were this past April – we had a completely different team. The Rangers rode the win-now wave for years and it never worked out. We were left with the remnants of a team that could have been.
It started in May when the Rangers signed Pavel Buchnevich and extended their contract with Anti Raanta for another year.
In June, Gorton traded the rights to Keith Yandle – a good move for cap space and something I think will only benefit the Rangers as their young players start to work into their roles on the teams and solidify their futures. But can you imagine if Yandle was on this team?
July was a big month this offseason. After sending 29-year-old Derick Brassard to Ottawa in exchange for 23-year-old Mika Zibanejad (who with great talent, a couple years in the league and a much smaller price tag) made much more room for the Rangers to pick up Michael Grabner, Jimmy Vesey, Brandon Pirri, Josh Jooris and Adam Clendenning. It also gave them the room to sign J.T. Miller to a bridge deal, which hopefully could lead to a longer-term contract.
Choosing to move Yandle and Brassard is part of the reason the Rangers had room to sign the aforementioned players. The changes to the team have allowed the Rangers to get back to their quick, physical game and I could not be more thankful to see that.
2) The Youths
The youth on the team this season has boosted the Rangers play tremendously. From the
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consistency coming from players like J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider (who all held roster positions last season) to additions of players like Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich, the youth on the team has completely changed the dynamic on the Rangers roster as compared to last season.
The 2015-2016 team had 11 players over the age of 30 – and it showed. However, today, there are only four players over 30. Being able to make a change to have some youth on the team again has jumpstarted the Rangers’ game early in the season.
The 11 players on the Rangers aged 25 or younger have accounted for 45 of the Rangers 82 goals this season, 76 of the 136 assists and for 121 of their total 218 points.
These players have surprised me. Coming into this year, I had no idea that the young players would make so much of an impact, but I am thankful they have.
3) The choice to keep Rick Nash
Rick Nash is one of the best forwards in the National Hockey League. I believed this despite his disappointing play in a couple of seasons.
So far this year, Nash has nine goals, five assists and 14 points in his first 20 games. He is arguably the best player in all three zones this season and has been a playmaker even when he is not putting up points.
Many fans expressed frustration toward Nash – likely because of the amount of money they are paying him to not score. Though there were calls for the Rangers to trade him, it would have been rash to trade him because of one below average season.
With a much younger and faster team on the ice, Nash has is someone the young players can look up to. Management’s choice to keep a veteran forward who has been part of the Rangers core these last few years that is both skilled and defensively responsible a great example for the youth.
I would argue that Rick Nash has some of his best years of hockey ahead of him, and boy, am I thankful for that.
4) Grabner – Miller – Hayes
With all of the chemistry that has been created by the Rangers this season, none is better than what we have seen from the Grabner, Miller, Hayes line.
These three players combined have scored 29 goals, have 23 assists and a total of 52 points in 20 games. Putting the three of them together has brought out the best in all of them.
Let’s never forget how well this line played against Tampa…
Grabner’s pick up is arguably one of the best made this offseason. He is currently tied for second for the league’s lead in goals with 12 (Alexander Ovechkin and Patrick Laine share the spot.)
Kevin Hayes has played unbelievably this season; he looks like a different player after spending most of last season playing for sitting on the bench under Alain Vigneault. The 24-year-old centerman is playing like he’s always supposed to have played – with speed, strength, and, most importantly, confidence.
Like Hayes, J.T. Miller has been extremely consistent for the Rangers this season after coming off what I would consider his breakout year in 2015-2016. Hayes and Miller are both tied for eighth place on the league leaderboard for points with 18 (Hayes, nine goals, nine assists – Miller eight goals, 10 assists).
I am very thankful that the Rangers have found a pairing that is as dangerous as this line is this season. It appeared that in the Rangers 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh, they made the choice to separate the three of them. Clearly, they suffered for it.
I will be very thankful when they put them back together. Don’t mess with a good thing.
5) The King and The Prince
Obviously, here I am referencing our goaltenders – The King, Henrik Lundqvist and The Prince, Annti Raanta.
Lundqvist is always something to be thankful for. He anchors what without him would be an average NHL defense. Currently, Hank is 9-6-0-1, which has been a pretty good start for the 34-year-old this season.
His presence on the ice is invaluable, but what is even better is that we have another unbelievably talented backup in Raanta.
I would actually argue that as of right now we are the luckiest team in the NHL having nailed down a player like Raanta as our backup. Still 5-0 on the season, Raanta has shown that could play as a starting NHL goalie, and I am so thankful that we can look to him when Hank needs to take a day.
This holiday season, remember how lucky you are to be a Rangers fan, and just be thankful that you don’t root for the Islanders or the Devils.
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