Please note: I had to have this done today, so it is based on who is on the roster now.
2008-09 Recap: The Rangers got off to a 10-3 start last season, but most of us knew it was mostly smoke and mirrors, and the lack of scoring soon caught up with the Rangers. The losses and underachievement began to mount, and Head Coach Tom Renney was put on the hot seat. On February 23rd, with the Rangers in the midst of a 2-10 stretch, which included a 10-2 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Stars, Renney was fired, and John Tortorella was hired to succeed him as coach of the Rangers.
The team experienced a mild turnaround under Torts, and along with the addition of Sean Avery after his disastrous stint in Dallas, played well enough to secure the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference and a first round series with the explosive Washington Capitals.
The Rangers knew going into the series that they were only going to go as far as Henrik Lundqvist could take them, and the Rangers seemed to be on their way to shocking the Caps by taking a 3-1 lead in the series. But their offensive ineptitude again betrayed them, and the Capitals came roaring back to take the series in 7 games.
The obvious bright spot last season was the birth of Blueshirt Banter, the SBNation Community for the New York Rangers, on March 19th, 2009.
The Rangers turned over a huge part of their roster, as the team is remade to fit Tortorella's style. You may want to grab a cup of coffee and settle in, this is going to be a long list.
Marian Gaborik (RW, free agent signing)
Gaborik is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the game right now, but also one of the most injury prone. The Rangers gave Gaborik a high risk-high reward 5 year $35M contract, and the team and fans alike will hold their collective breath for the entire length of the deal.
Higgins is a former number one pick of the Montreal Canadiens, and was signed to a one year deal immediately following the trade. Higgins is a former 20 goal scorer, coming off an injury as well. Rangers will also look to him for help on the penalty kill and power play. Also decent on face-offs.
Vinny Prospal (LW, free agent signing)
Prospal is coming off a down year that saw his contract bought out by the Lightning at season's end. A 30 goal scorer just two years ago, he is out for revenge against Tampa for buying him out. Despite a stormy relationship with John Tortorella, Prospal has admitted that the Rangers coach brings out the best in him. If he can return to the form of two years ago, Prospal is the steal of free agency. Prospal may spend time at the center position as well, if the "Great Dubinsky Experiment" doesn't go well.
Ales Kotalik (RW, free agent signing)
Kotalik experienced some of his best seasons with the Buffalo Sabres as Chris Drury's linemate. The Rangers are hoping those two can write a sequel on Broadway. It looks like Kotalik will also bring his powerful shot to the point on the Rangers beleaguered power play.
A speedy winger with a ton of potential, has shown promise in preseason and the Rangers are hoping he will become a top six winger in years to come.
Boyle is one of the biggest players the Rangers have ever had. Another former first round pick, the Rangers are looking at him as a fourth line center.
Donald Brashear (RW, free agent signing)
One of the most intimidating players the league has ever seen, will need to win Ranger fans over after the hit on Blair Betts in the playoffs. One hit on Crosby oughta do it.....for most of them.
Artem Anisimov (C, Ranger draft pick)
Ranger fans have long awaited the arrival of the 2006 draft pick, and after a strong preseason, his time has come. May find himself as the 2nd line center if Brandon Dubinsky finds himself on the 3rd line after his holdout.
Evgeny Grachev (LW, Ranger draft pick)
Earned himself a spot on the roster after a very impressive preseason. Has showed good skating ability, and a nose for the puck. Only our next entry has been talked about more this September.
Matt Gilroy (D, signed, entry level contract)
The Hobey Baker Award winner has made the team and fans stand up and take notice from day one. Seems to have a great scoring touch, and excellent speed. His defense needs to catch up with his offense, it has been suggested he looks more like a forward than a defensemen. Gilroy has been the talk of training camp for Ranger fans.
Scott Gomez (traded to Montreal), Markus Naslund (retired), Blair Betts (not resigned), Colton Orr (not resigned), Paul Mara (not resigned), Derek Morris (not resigned), Lauri Korpikoski (traded to Phoenix), Nik Antropov (not resigned), Fredrik Sjostrom (not resigned)
New York Rangers roster from SBNation.com
It all starts with goaltending. While the Rangers have improved on offense, Henrik Lundqvist is still the most important player on the roster. The Rangers will have to find ways to keep him fresh with the Olympics coming up in February. If the Blueshirts are in a dogfight all year for a playoff spot, as most expect them to be, the pressure will be on Stephen Valiquette to win games when Henrik needs a breather. A healthy Hank is the difference between a playoff spot and a ball with a number on it.
This Ranger team is also much faster than previous editions. Players like Lisin, Grachev, Gilroy, Del Zotto Higgins, and Avery are all terrific skaters, and will bring speed every night.
One of last year's weaknesses was team conditioning. The Rangers gave up an abundance of goals in the 3rd period, and John Tortorella feels that is because they were poorly conditioned. Expect that to be a non factor this year. Many players said they showed up in camp in the best shape of their lives, due to the fitness program laid out for them, as well as the grueling training camp under the new head coach. This team should be stronger in 3rd periods than they were last year.
Last year's strength could be this year's weakness. Losing their two best penalty killers in Betts and Sjostrom, the Rangers are going to have to figure out who can step into those roles. Chris Higgins, Marian Gaborik, and Brian Boyle will figure prominently on the penalty kill, but it remains to be seen how effective they will be. Two keys to a good penalty kill are a strong goaltender (check) and not having to do it very often, but staying out of the box has never been one of the Rangers strong points.
With the rugged style in the Atlantic Division, the Rangers may be short on the necessary grit needed to succeed in their division. Getting Dubinsky back in the fold will help, he isn't afraid to get into the corners and get after the puck. This could be an area the Rangers look to address during the season.
I asked a few of our regular readers for their thoughts on the upcoming season:
Craig (dbmaven): "For the first time since Jaromir Jagr left for Russia, the Rangers have a lot of skill players, players who can put the puck in the net, and they should be a lot of fun to watch. I predict the Rangers will finish first in the Atlantic."
The Mouth: Drink the Kool-Aid, gulp it down! In 2 years the Rangers will be an Eastern Conference force!"
Thanks to both of them for sharing their thoughts.
The Rangers will be a much more exciting team to watch this year, especially with the possible addition of four rookies to the roster. They'll be competitive, but true Cup contention is probably two years away.
Predicted Finish: 6th in Eastern Conference.