2014 New York Rangers Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/6/2014
Last year the Rangers accepted that they weren't going to be able to re-sign captain Ryan Callahan. Instead of playing out the season with him and hoping for a change of heart in free agency, they got aggressive, shipping Callahan and two draft picks to the Lightning for Martin St. Louis. St. Louis is much older than Callahan, so it was definitely a move for now - at the expense of the future. The price was too high in my eyes, but the move paid off. St. Louis started slow, but he had a great playoffs and was a big reason why the team made an unlikely run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They were crushed by the Kings once they got there, but even winning the East meant that the season had to be viewed as a massive success.
Besides St. Louis, the biggest reason for the success was that Alain Vigneault was brought in last year to replace the hopelessly-ridiculous John Tortorella - who took over for Vigneault in Vancouver and was fired after one lousy season. Vigneault is smarter and more stable, and he was a much better fit for this team than Tortorella ever was. He's back for a second year, and now that he doesn't have to fight to get players to buy into his vastly-different system they could start off stronger this year than last year - provided the Stanley Cup hangover isn't a big factor for them. Of course, the Stanley Cup hangover - especially for the losers - can be very significant, and as a team that can't really be called "young," the shorter offseason is a particular concern.
New York Rangers Offseason Moves
It was not a particularly active offseason for the team, but it was marked more by departures than arrivals. Brad Richards, who was three years into a huge nine-year deal, had been a disappointment and was bought out of his contract. Defenseman Anton Stralman, who ate a lot of minutes and had unrealized potential, moved on to Tampa Bay. Center Brian Boyle, an excellent checking forward, went with him. Winger Benoit Pouliot, who was tops on the team in power play goals, joined the Oilers. Those are some key pieces to say goodbye to, and the team has not done a good enough job of replacing what they have lost.
Dan Boyle was brought in to replace Stralman's ice time, but I'm not confident he'll be capable. He is 38 years old, and he isn't getting any sharper offensively. Sadly, he's the best pickup the team can offer. Aside from that they picked up decided depth guys - center Matthew Lombardi, forwards Lee Stempniak, Tanner Glass, Chris Mueller, and defensemen Matt Hunwick and Mike Kostka. There is nothing there to get the pulse racing, and it would be all but impossible to argue that his team got better this offseason.
New York Rangers NHL Outlook
I don't love this team right now, but then I didn't exactly love them last year, either, and they still won their conference. They have arguably the best goaltender on the planet and a strong defensive unit even without Stralman, led by Ryan McDonagh, who is one of the best defensemen in the league - and he should start getting credit for that this year. It's the forwards that really concern me, though. I don't trust them to score enough, and though I have nothing but respect for St. Louis, he's 39 and can't stay at the top of his game forever.
New York Rangers Schedule
After road games at St. Louis and Columbus to start the season - both solid tests - the team plays 13 of their next 17 games at home. That provides them with a chance to get off to a strong start to the season, but it will come back to haunt them later when they play more road games to make up the balance.
New York Rangers NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Rangers are 20/1 to win the Stanley Cup , which ties them with the Stars and puts them behind 11 other teams to win it all. They play in the easier conference, but I still wouldn't bet on them over Dallas at this price. They are tied with the Canadiens as the fourth choice to win the Eastern Conference at 8/1. Oddsmakers have them as the second choice to win the Metropolitan DIvision at 4/1, but they fall far behind the Penguins, who are at even-money.
2014-15 New York Rangers Predictions
I just can't get excited about this team. They are almost certainly a playoff squad, and they obviously can do some damage once they get there - they showed that last year. I don't see much to distinguish them competitively from Montreal, Columbus, Detroit, Philadelphia - and the rest of the mid-level squads in this wide-open conference. I won't be particularly surprised by any success they have, but anything beyond the first round of the playoffs will be somewhat more than I expect.
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