Don’t look now, but in a rebuilding season, the New York Rangers believe they can be playoff contenders.
Friday’s trade that brings Ryan Strome from the Edmonton Oilers to New York sends a signal that this Rangers team, in their first year under head coach David Quinn, feel that they are more competitive than they had originally hoped at this stage.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, Strome is a forward who adds immediate depth, having accumulated 64 points over the past two seasons and provides a little more sizzle to the team’s forward group.
It is a move that shows a shift in the Rangers’ approach to the season.
In acquiring a player like Strome, the Blueshirts’ brass may have reevaluated their thoughts to this season and decided that it’s worth making a push to the playoffs. At 9-8-2, the early struggles of the season have given way to optimism. Currently, the Rangers are a point behind the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals for the third place in the Metropolitan Division and have overperformed early expectations.
They weren’t supposed to be here now. This team wasn’t supposed to be competitive. But here the Rangers are now, playing good hockey and winning.
Given the roster overhaul and the very obvious youth movement, a player like the 25-year-old Strome fits into the Rangers’ rebuild. But moving pieces to bring in someone like this a week out from Thanksgiving shows that the retooling of this team is now in overdrive.
The Rangers’ front office, led by Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather, are trying to strike a delicate balance between rebuilding with a youthful group while maintaining some semblance of a playoff push. This is a move, unlike the other trades and signings up till now, that is about the present. It is about continuing to win now.
Strome has only two points this year for the Oilers, as he’s struggled to find traction after joining Edmonton last year. The former first-round pick of the New York Islanders will be counted on to step in right away and contribute.
Since the start of the month, the Rangers have won five of seven games. There is something here in this young team and a confidence in Quinn and his methods. The optimism is reflected in this move. This team thinks they can do something here and now.
This team can grow and mature with players like Strome who have something to prove. There is no reason to believe that this team’s form over the past three weeks can’t point them towards the postseason.
Quinn has handled the first two months on the job masterfully, showing a relatively smooth transition from the college ranks to the NHL. He has his young team playing aggressively, despite their flaws. They are bottom-third in the league in scoring, a reason why Strome, despite his struggles this year was brought in to shake things up.
And while they gave up too many bad goals in a 7-5 loss to the Islanders earlier this week, the Rangers still have Henrik Lundqvist, someone who can steal a game if he’s given the support at the other end. If they can begin scoring consistently, then the Rangers could be built to be competitive come late spring.
This team has bought into what Quinn has done and what he’s preaching. It appears that Rangers management likes what they see too.
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