New Era for Rangers Begins in Vancouver

On Feb. 8, GM Jeff Gorton and President Glen Sather announced that changes were coming in RangerLand. Sure enough, they were true to their word as sweeping changes have been made.

The culmination of which was the dispatching of captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay in the waning moments of the trade deadline Monday. In all reality, this process really began last spring when the Blueshirts were eliminated from the playoffs by Ottawa.

[Read: Blue Skies on the Blueshirts Horizon After Deadline]

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton talks about dealing captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning, what the Blueshirts got in return in the trade and the areas where he thinks the team still needs improvement.

At that time it was not so much the loss, which certainly hurt, it was how the team went down with very little pushback. That would continue this season as there were too many nights where the lack of a competitive pulse was disappointingly evident. I’m not sure anyone expected this thing to play out as quickly as it did, but you do have to respect a management that concluded what they were watching wasn’t good enough now, let alone down the road, and changes had to be made.

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Moving ahead, there is still a ton of work to be done. Patience is going to be required and the future rests in the hands of unproven assets. There will be further moves during the offseason whether through trades, the amateur draft or free agency. Nearer term, Gorton and his staff will need to figure out ways to stay NHL competitive with a product that shows signs that at the very least, we are heading in the right direction.

Not an easy task, but given the kudos from around the league for it’s handling of everything that went on up to the last minute of the deadline, this management team seems to know what it is doing.

It is crucial to recognize the contributions that were made by each guy that was moved in the past 10 days or so. All with various times of tenure as Rangers, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, J.T. Miller and captain Ryan McDonagh will be missed for who they were both on and off the ice. Each will suit it up for a playoff-bound team, and while not all of them can win the Stanley Cup this spring, I do hope that “Nasher” and Nick with the Bruins, or “Mac” and “J.T.” with the Lightning, or “Grabs” with the Devils get their chance to take a drink from the NHL’s Holy Grail.

Alain Vigneault talks about how difficult it is to trade away a player like Rick Nash and what the Rangers are getting in return from Ryan Spooner.

To the task at hand, the Rangers take on the Canucks in Vancouver tonight for the second and final time this season. Behind Jimmy Vesey’s third-period game-tying goal and shootout winner, the Blueshirts prevailed 4-3 in November at MSG. Vladimir Namestnikov acquired from Tampa Bay, is expected to make his Ranger debut.

It would be good stuff if he kicked off his career on Broadway in the manner of Ryan Spooner, who had two assists in his first game as a Ranger after arriving in the trade with Boston for Nash. The team may need nametags with all the new bodies, but as Henrik Lundqvist told me yesterday, it is up to the guys who pull on the Ranger jersey to go out and give it their best shot. I would expect just that tonight.

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1. Lundqvist

Henrik, while being stunned at the finality of the deadline events, is determined to be as important moving forward as he has been in the past. A little more patience with his game and with the game of the team in front of him will be necessary as we move on.

2. Talking it Up

With so many new components and so little time to develop any playing chemistry, it will be so important that there be extensive on-ice communication. From Henrik on out, there cannot be too much chatter.

3. Boeser

Brock Boeser, one of the leading rookie of the year candidates, leads the Canucks in goals with 27. With an Ovechkin-like penchant for shooting the puck, he needs to be paid attention to in the defensive zone.

[Watch Rangers-Canucks on MSG & MSG GO. Download Free]