When the former Rangers brass headed by Jeff Gorton sent out “The Letter” to fans announcing the clubs intentions to go head first into a rebuild it was met by skepticism and mockery from most in the hockey world. All we heard was “can you truly convince New York fans to buy into a rebuild?” or “can this actually work in New York?” from the supposed “in the know” in the hockey world.
We found out that both things are true and that a rebuild can work in New York and New York fans are smart enough to buy in when there’s a clear through process and plan in place.
Many Rangers fans, myself included, thought this rebuild would be of the 3-4 year variety and not necessarily an easy fix. There was absolutely work to be done by Jeff Gorton and then assistant GM Chris Drury because this franchise had mortgaged the future to try and win a Cup with Henrik Lundqvist. As we all know they came up short but it was even worse due to the cap situation and the bare cupboard.
The Letter signaled the end of a successful, albeit not totally fruitful, run of Rangers hockey.
Alain Vigneault was going to be shown the door and in would come the new younger mindset head coach better suited to lead a rebuild. Sadly the Rangers found out in David Quinn that wasn’t totally the case. However, change was on the horizon at MSG.
Out went Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and JT Miller. Granted not all of these players were moved when the Rangers announced their rebuild but all were part of the rebuild.
Then as time moved on Jesper Fast and Marc Staal were also shown the door to truly show the departure the Rangers were making from the old guard and passing the torch to the new guard.
Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Nils Lundkvist were all pieces brought in from the Rangers commitment to rebuilding and Rangers fans had hope again. These pieces were joined by the best free agent signing in Rangers history, Artemi Panarin, and now the Rangers looked like they were ready to compete again.
However they were humbled because they were young and still too top heavy without the right coach to lead them. James Dolan decided things were moving too slowly for his liking and cleaned house in the front office and placed the torch firmly in Drury’s hands to lead this team to the promised land.
Drury ousted Quinn and tabbed Gerard Gallant to lead his young core and also added some much needed toughness and depth to round out his roster and get them ready to compete. Drury then again tweaked his club by adding even more depth at the deadline to help make this team a dangerous postseason threat.
Thanks to a great blend of veterans and youth the Rangers have positioned themselves as one of the biggest threats to win the Cup. Alexis Lafreniere has grown by leaps and bounds in just a year and you see it with how he’s played on the third line after going back to his natural LW. He’s also complimented Filip Chytil extremely well and has brought Chytil’s game up to another level which is a breathe of fresh air for Ranger fans who have wanted to see Chytil elevate his game. One of Drury’s big acquisitions has also complimented that line extremely well and has brought a calming influence and that’s Barclay Goodrow.
Even if you had an issue with Drury trading away Pavel Buchnevich because you wish he was still here to bloom as a Ranger, it’s hard to argue with the results of Drury’s first season as GM.
He’s taken the plan and vision left behind by Jeff Gorton and John Davidson and continued to build on it and bring their vision to light. We all would have liked Dolan to be a bit more patient and wait to see things to bloom but it’s also again hard to argue with the results that we have seen thus far.
The letter, the ensuing rebuild, the trades and drafting and free agency, Dolan’s impatience, and Drury’s impressive year one work has led the Rangers to where they are now. Where they’re at is one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and one of the better teams in the NHL. Not everything this franchise has done has turned to gold but they’ve done enough things right to become a 100 point team and an over 50 game winner with one of the youngest clubs in the league. Fans can certainly complain, because after all that is our right, but everything this year has been absolutely special and Rangers fans should take a minute to think about where this club started from 4 years ago to where they are now and it’s certainly a sight to behold.