Rangers Season Preview: Blueshirts Usher In New Era

Nothing about me is gonna be the same, there’ll be some changes made. (Excerpt from hit tune).

No musical lyrics could better fit the “new” New York Rangers than the above jazz tune’s theme.

Ever since last February, and right up to the recent deal that brought Adam McQuaid to Seventh Avenue, the Blueshirts have created a new look — while retaining some of the better aspects of the past.

Led by rookie coach David Quinn, a spate of new faces grace the club’s roster while gone are staples once regarded as pivotal to success.

[Fischler: Quinn Excited, Anxious to Hit the Ice]

The likes of Ryan Spooner, Neal Pionk, Lias Andersson and McQuaid have replaced Nick Holden, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller.

For the first time in recent memory, a major overhaul — unabashedly declared to fans last February — is underway and will continue as club leaders Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton deem necessary.

[Maven: Gorton Eager to Mastermind a Rangers Rebuild]

For starters, the high command demonstrated that it wasn’t kidding around by retaining their three 2018 first round picks. Shake and bake while moving forward all the time.

Where this shake-up will lead is anybody’s guess but, as Quinn emphasizes, “We gotta do this together; this is a WE.”

The following is my Rangers preview:

GOALTENDING

More than ever, the eyes of Rangerville will be trained on Henrik Lundqvist. Hank’s spring chicken years are in the rear view mirror but the skill and determination remain foremost and fresh. But, for how long? That’s why King H is more pivotal to the club’s success than any other skater. A promising backup could be Alexandar Georgiev who impressed late last season.

Take a look at Henrik Lundqvist's best saves from the 2017-18 season.

DEFENSE

Coach Quinn is hoping to convert the D from last year’s OY VEY to YAY YAY. The additions of dependable, tough McQuaid and recovered-from-injury Kevin Shattenkirk should be a zestful starter. Another boost could — make that should — come from reaching-potential Brady Skjei; even possibly rookies Pionk and John Gilmour. Three more plusses could be Fredrik Claesson, a recovered Brendan Smith and much-motivated Marc Staal, determined to prove that he has some fuel left in his tank. As always, outsiders could come in from the cold, especially Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek and Tony D’Angelo.

OFFENSE

Coach Quinn believes that he can get more from his core aces Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello. I agree. My favorite — captain material, if you ask me — is Chris Kreider, a new man after his blood clot issues were resolved. Pavel Buchnevich is due for bigger and better things. Look for him to be a fixture as one of the team’s top-six forwards. A prize in the making looms in the skates of Filip Chytil, a 2017 first-rounder; providing his radar can find the net. When Quinn stated, “I can think of guys who can be better,” The Maven thought of Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Both the penalty killing and power play need little to no improvement, based on last season’s work. Zibanejad produced 14 PP goals with Hayes runner-up. Improvement figures now that Shattenkirk is in mint condition while Buchnevich will look better as his confidence improves. PK issues could evolve minus Michael Grabner and Nash. Then again, tenacious-sagacious Jesper Fast could rank among the NHL’s PK powers.

INTANGIBLES

NCAA-winning mentor Quinn has the makings of a rookie coach of the year. His university background could prove a tonic for nine players with U.S. college experience. “For me,” says Quinn, “it’s about creating trust. And I want to see us have a team-bond of trust.” The mentor may not name a captain, but if he’s looking for leaders, he already has them in Zuccarello, Kreider and Lundqvist.

ROOKIES

Chytil and Howden will be on the Opening Night roster, while Andersson and Hajek will be on call in Hartford.

X-FACTOR

According to The Hockey News, “It’s all about Quinn, whose only experience in the NHL was with Colorado in 2012-13. Competing for a playoff spot will be a challenge.”

BRASS

The general staff made a bold stroke last year and will pursue the rebuild — with fans approval, by the way — throughout the new season.

ONE FAN’S OPINION

“We’ll be better than the expectations (from experts) but it will be a learning year. McQuaid is a good pick up for veteran leadership. Plus, Hank has plenty left in his tank. The younger players have to show up hungry and ready to make an impact. — Jason Russo, Brooklyn.

PREDICTION

The alleged experts have buried the Blueshirts. Not The Maven. “There’s so much parity in the league right now,” coach Quinn correctly concluded.

And that means anyone can make the playoffs. As we learned, even the expansion Vegas Golden Knights made it to the Final. So why not the Rangers? Yeah; why not?

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The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.