With the recent resurgence of this team everyone is very excited, me included. But I think we need to be cautiously optomisitc when it comes managing our expectations.
They say you can never rebuild in NY, the fans don't have patience. Well I say the NYR are rebuilding and we need to be a bit more patient. How much longer do we have to wait though?
As greatly improved we are this year, we are not a legitimate contender. So when can we contend? In my opinion is if all goes well, 2013-14. If all goes great, we can make some noise in 2012-13. 2014-15 will also be an interesting, make or break season if we are still on the cusp.
Sooo, let's us start to examine why that date from the goal on out....
Goaltending- In trying to determine when our window of opportunity opens it helps to know when that window will close. In my opinion, it closes when The King can no longer play at this elite level. When is that? Hard to say. He has put on some mileage these past years, he has faced a bunch of shots and had his share of crease crashing. I think a 40yr old Brodeur like career is out of the question for Hank. Marty played in a defensive bubble for a good part of his career, Hank was the bubble and that bubble got popped on many occasions. This is why the Biron signing was extremly important. It should help extend the shelf life of Henrik. I think managment understood that they needed to make sure Henrik still has something in his tank for when the team is ready.
With no heir apparent to fill hanks shoes, I think we need say if we are going to go for it, it needs to be withing the next 5-6 years because I'm not sure you can expect that much more out of Henrik beyond that.
So that brings us to 2015-16 or 2016-17. Let's go with 2015-16. If Hank can keep it going one more season after, great, we can repeat) Henrik contract is up after the 2013-14 season, so looks like one more contract on par with the current one for The King.
2013-14 - Henrik still under his current contract, on the right side of 30. Should still be on top of his game.
Defense - This is where our Start date starts. When this blueline matures and solidifies. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have quite a few options. It will be up to management to make the right choice on who gets developed, who gets a shot and who gets moved. More choices is more chances to get it wrong (great Jagr quote) but I still prefer having the options.
Staal is the anchor. As great as he has been he should not even peak before our window is closed, so that is great news. Plus he is locked up until the 2015-16 season
Giradi - one less year than Staal on his contract. I would not project huge improvements but he is a solid player and only 26 so would not expect any decline.
McD has looked very promising and so has Sauer.
Gilroy, Vtank, Kunder, etc... Not sure how it goes for any of them. If our blueline is filled 5 out of 6 someone will have to go. Gilroy might be a stopgap until the rest of the blueline matures, but a stopgap with some upside and potential. Don't forget McIlrath should be knocking on the door withing 2 seasons
MdZ, to me he is the big question mark. Can he be out PP Quarterback and dominate offensive force from the backline? That question still remains to be seen. A decision will have to be made within the next 2 years as I don't think we have the luxury of waiting another 3-4 seasons for those answers.
2013-14: If the development continues, the youngsters have another full 2 seasons under their belt. Everyone is still under 30 which is normally the peak years for a defenseman. By now you should have the answer for MdZ and the cap space to address it if need be. McIllrath should be in the mix.
If all goes as planned...
Giradi - Staal
MDZ - McD
McIl - Sauer/VTank/Kunder
2-3 season from now with the proper development, I will match these group of guys with anyone else in the league.
I am not going to list these out as there are too many and too many possibilities. Just that by the year 2013 the kids will be that further developed. First season out of the way for the up and comings (Krieder, Werek, Grachev, etc..) and the others (Stephan, MZA, etc..) should be well into their 3rd season and over the rookie and sophomore hump.
The young core (Cally, Dubi, Prust, Boyle) should hopefully still be the core and will be that much better.I would think management will try to lock these guys up past the 2013-14 season
The key to this year is the cap space. With Drury gone, probably Avery as well, a clearer picture on Woliski and maybe a new contract more in line with his production, we have the chance to add an impact player if need be.
Worth noting that this would be the last year for Gaborik. One can only assume , hope and pray that this year was just a down year for him. If not, the year after gives us back his cap space to try to deal with that problem.
By no means am I counting the boys out for the next few seasons. Hot goaltending and an overachieving team can make some noise. But with regard to sounding the panic button, trading away some future for a win-now type of player, I think we have some time. Hopefully management (Sather) see's that as well and understands that us fans can wait it out if we actually believe there is plan.
2012-13: By this season we really should have a good grasp of what this team is capable of and what needs to be done to move it to the next level. Cap space should be available to make those necessary changes.We should be looking to go deep in the playoffs and getting some key experience for this young team.
2013-14: This should be our year. Kids further developed and matured. Holes addressed with our newfound cap space. Good playoff experience for all. Henrik should still be on his game. Staal and Giradi still locked up in contract.
2014-15: If we missed it last year, we should still have a shot this year. Or could we be talking about a repeat? Gaborik will need to be addressed depending on how he performed the prior season. If he was one of the reasons why we didn't go as far as we should have, then he is allowed to walk and we have the money to address that. Worth noting that Giradi and Henrik 's contract will be up as well. We still have a good shot, just a few more questions and contracts to deal with.