Hi all. I have been at this as a Ranger fan since 1967. I have been through all the heartaches, the few really good times, and the one really high over those many years. I have waited for this for many, many years. What am I talking about? A team that has a significant number of home grown players and that has outside players that really want to be here. For the first time in a long time, I feel that we have a "team" of players that want to put the Rangers' sweater on, fight for it, and win for it.
You look up and down the current roster and all you see is players that you know will put in the effort to help make the Rangers winners. Last season was one of the most enjoyable for me in quite some time. We all know the team wasn't great talent-wise but the night-in, night-out battling that they displayed was appreciated and something to behold. I knew they would make the playoffs. Even during an early March 3 game home stand in which they lost all 3 (unfortunately I was there for all 3 of them) I knew they would make the playoffs because I could see that this team always finds a way to get it done. The Boston home game at the end of the year was incredible. Coming back from a 3 goal deficit in front of the home crowd in a game they had to have was like being at a Game 7 in the playoffs.
To add to that determination, it was quite obvious that the talent level needed to be elevated. Bring in Richards, bring in Erixon, bring in Rupp (an enforcer that can actually be given ice time and score some goals), and have the core grow one more year results in a team that I believe can get to the 5th or 6th seed of the conference. That may not seem significant, going from 8th to let's say 6th, but actually it is. Sports have become a year-to year type of thing. There will no longer be any dynasty-type teams in sports that have a cap and free agency. i would bet starting with this past year's Cup winner, we will see 5 different Cup winners over the next 5 years. So, making the playoffs "easily" as opposed to having to fight and claw to the end is a significant step. Don't forget, this is a 3 year plan: Make the playoffs in 2010/11, bring in more talent for 2011/12 and keep the core intact, and seriously compete in 2012/13 when the next wave of young players are ready. IMO, we are right on track to not only win in the short-term but I feel we are built to win and compete long-term.
Gone are the days of paying poor Bobby Holik like a #1 center, playing him there, and blaming him for not succeeding. Sather FINALLY GETS IT. This team is constructed the way it should. There is now a balance of speed, grit, and talent that will allow them to compete with anyone in the league. Don't forget, the team had a great combined record against the elite teams last year, the problem was consistency over teams they should beat. With a better team they should be at least 10-15 pts better by just being more consistent because they now have a little more scoring. Barring a visit from the injury bug (especially the King), God forbid, I believe that we are well positioned to be a part of something really special going forward. And this comes from a pessimistic, long-time Ranger fan. Thanks for reading.