Past and present regimes deserve credit for Rangers' rise

New York has pulled ahead from other up-and-coming teams in the race to contend, and both the past and present management regimes deserve credit for how it's come together.

Video Transcript

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, if this is the end, though, this could easily be a very fascinating transition of power, because the New York Rangers, all of a sudden, not only are they ahead of schedule, they have a very good chance of firmly putting up their hold as the class of the Eastern Conference for the next how many years to come.

I mean, think about it. A good forward core, which I'm sure they could always improve if they feel they need to. One of the best defensemen in the league in Adam Fox, a franchise goaltender in Igor Shesterkin, this is a team that has pieces that a cup-contending team needs. And I can understand that some teams will be like, oh, well, you don't exactly need every single piece to work so you could be a Stanley Cup Final team.

But if you have forwards and depth up there, if you're solid on defense and you have a franchise player on defense, you have a franchise goalie or you have a very good goalie, that should be able to get you through postseason after postseason. The Rangers have that. And them being ahead of schedule, I kind of see this now, if this does not go Tampa's way, this could at least be a changing of hands sort of deal.

I'm not saying that the Rangers are going to be the best team in the Eastern Conference. They could still be the class, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to be first place every year. But we could go to a situation where the Lightning could be kind of descending, and then the Rangers could be continuing their ascent and just staying there for the next few years. This could be it.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, this could be a transfer of power. I think you're right. And it's because the Rangers do have the framework to be that team, that next Lightning team with the goaltender, with the dominant defensive players, with a couple young stars and a couple dynamic forwards. I mean, they really do have pieces of that recipe, right?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: And it looks like the younger version of the Lightning in some ways, in that they are-- I mean, they look faster. They look more purposeful. They look like they're not missing pieces, like the Lightning seem to be at this moment in time. They look like they have that capability.

And regimes of the past and present deserve credit here. I mean, what were the jokes before the season? That Tom Wilson broke the New York Rangers. Well, guess what, that is not the case. What they did in the offseason was a little questionable, trading away Pavel Vucnevic and bringing in players like Sammy Blay and Ryan Reaves. And you're like, what are they thinking?

But really, this has all come together pretty well. And it came together-- or at least the start was there from Jeff Gorton going out and getting Panarin and Fox and Trouba and having Shesterkin in the system already, I believe. But they had that nucleus that was sort of being built. Of course, they get really lucky with the kid line, drafting Alexis Lafreniere in Kaapo Kakko in the top two picks in back-to-back seasons.

What's also great is that those guys aren't commanding dollars, necessarily. Of course, they're having a huge impact, but they could be around for a decent price moving forward, as they continue to try and prolong a competitive window. But what they did this year, especially at the trade deadline-- you look around the league at like Ben Sharad and Giroux, two first round picks each. And even Colorado spent a lot, and of course they should have.

A lot of teams spent a lot to try and gear up for this run. New York kind of late in the weeds. And they got Tyler Motte and Andrew Copp. And forgive me, I'm forgetting the last one--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Frank Vetrano.

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Frank Vetrano, and that's the most important one. Florida gave away Frank Vetrano to a contender because they wanted to add what they deemed as a more impactful player. And the New York Rangers went out there and just got three players that were going to help their identity and help them be a faster, more physical team that can play very well defensively. And they barely spent anything.

I think they do end up giving up a first round pick because they got to the third round. But listen, they did tremendous work at the deadline building on their own identity. And all of the sudden, out of nowhere, they are this really deep and really equipped team. And it kind of happened in the blink of an eye.

And it kind of happened on the back of James Dolan, who was pushing for change. And the change he wanted, somehow, has worked out exceedingly well. But I give credit to the general manager, Chris Drury. He did a fantastic job at the deadline. I don't know about the summer work as much. But I can't really quibble with it now. But also Gerard Gallant putting this whole thing together.

It's working out unbelievably well. They have an identity. They play with purpose. And right now, they are overwhelming the Tampa Bay Lightning. And that could change as the series shifts to Tampa Bay, but in New York, this is going to be a really tough team to beat. And guess what, they just got to win their two home games, and they're going to the Stanley Cup Final.

They have lapped several teams in the Eastern Conference that thought they were contenders. They have pulled ahead. They've stuck their noses out on teams like the Leafs and the Panthers and the Hurricanes. They are ahead of those teams right now. And they could very well win the Stanley Cup ahead of schedule here.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: There are teams like the Sabers and the Red Wings who have been trying to rebuild their teams well before the letter came out. And they're still in the mud. And the Rangers have found themselves in the position that they're in.

This is a very impressive turnaround on the part of the New York Rangers. Even if they have the benefit of location, which makes it-- you don't have to make it just a thing for opinion for me. I think it's objectively something that free agents consider when they are offered deals on the free agent market. Come on, getting to play in the top media market, that's not nothing.

But the fact that the Rangers were able to go from 2018 to now in 2022, it's a matter of about four years, where they go from a team that's saying, you know what, we're going to go through some pain for the next few years in picking top picks in the NHL entry draft to a point where they are on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final.

That is impressive for any team. And that might be a model that a lot of teams who are looking to rebuild or retool may very much want to emulate. I know there are people in Montreal who are very into what the Rangers are in right now because of one Jeff Gordon.

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