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Blueshirt Banter 2022-23 Season Preview Roundtable

Some of the Banter staff offers up some predictions for the upcoming season.

New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Seven Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

After a shorter-than-usual offseason thanks to a deep playoff run, the New York Rangers are set to begin another season of pain excitement, promise, and hope.

In preparation for the 2022-23 campaign, I tossed some questions over to some of our Blueshirt Banter staff. Their answers (and mine) are below. Time for some predictions!


Part 1 Questions

Will the Rangers win the Metropolitan Division?

Tom D.: No, but that’s OK. They’ll still be firmly in the playoffs.

Tom U.: No. The Rangers will finish in the top 3, with Carolina being the favorite in my mind to win the division.

Mike: I think it will be Carolina but the Rangers will be right behind them if they stay healthy.

Jack: No, I’d pick Carolina and Pittsburgh to win the division before I’d pick the Rangers.

Roberto: No, my guess is they’ll end up battling down the stetch for second place in the division.

Commentary

Despite the promise of what this season could bring, no one anticipates a division title. The Carolina Hurricanes, despite some roster turnover (and their playoff loss to the Rangers last season), still feel like the class of the division. But we don’t anticipate that mattering too much with respect to the Rangers qualifying for the postseason.

After making the Eastern Conference Final last season, what should be the expectation for the Rangers this season? Is it Stanley Cup or bust?

Tom D.: Re: Stanley Cup or bust, I’m not sure I’d ever set such expectations for any season (yes, I’m aware I asked the question in the first place) simply because of how difficult it is to win it all, but the Rangers are firmly in their window of contention, so failing to at least return to the Eastern Conference Final would inevitably feel disappointing. The veterans are (presumably) still productive, the kids are still affordable and will hopefully be even more effective, and the cap crunch hasn’t yet created any major casualities. Of course, it’s hard to expect Igor Shesterkin and Chris Kreider to duplicate their magical 2021-22 seasons, so others will have to step up (like the kids, and Gerard Gallant in giving them more opportunities).

Tom U.: The Rangers have heightened expectations based on what was accomplished last season. Anything short of making the Conference Final will be a massive disapointment. That sounds harsh, but it is just a reality given the circumstances of how this team is built, what their cap situation is going to look like, and their overall standing among contenders in the league. New York is very much in a win-now mode with the hope that the kids can elevate their games to put an otherwise above average roster caried by elite goaltending and special teams into a position to win a title.

Mike: This is obviously a playoff team. It would be a massive disappointment if this team doesn’t make it past the first round and I think they return to the Eastern Conference Final. I want (and need) to see more consistency at even strength from this group but where there’s an Igor, there’s a way.

Jack: It is Stanley Cup or bust (I’d argue that last season was Stanley Cup or bust once th playoffs began) in the sense that the team’s core players are getting up there in age. As high hopes as the fanbase has for the team’s young players, odds are the team’s current stars like Mika Zibanejad, Artemiy Panarin, and Chris Kreider are better than any of the younger players will ever be. A return to the playoffs is the bare minimum expectation, with hopes for a championship being almost necessary given the construction of the roster.

Roberto: Luck played a big role in their surprisingly deep playoff run last year. With the youth on the team getting more experience added to their already established core, the minimum expectation for this squad should be the second round.

Who has a breakout season?

Tom D.: K’Andre Miller

Tom U.: Filip Chytil

Mike: Alexis. It’s time.

Jack: Alexis Lafrenière

Roberto: I think Kaapo Kakko will finally put all of his haters to rest. Perhaps I’m being a bit too optimistic but I’m feeling a 25-goal season for the young forward. We also can’t forget about K’Andre Miller. It may finally be the year he makes the rest of the league remember his name.

New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images

Commentary

Alexis Lafrenière’s name understandably comes up a couple of times, as the talented young forward enters his third NHL season. He seemed to gain confidence as last season progressed, so hopefully that carries into 2022-23. Personally, my only hang-up is that I do not trust Gerard Gallant to give him or the other kids top-six-level minutes on a consistent basis, nor do I anticipate him sniffing any power-play time outside of 25 seconds of puck recovery as part of the second unit. K’Andre Miller also probably won’t see any meaningful time on the power play, but there’s no question that Gallant will otherwise lean on him heavily. After a strong second half to last season, the smooth, rangy defender seems poised to break out.

Who will end up as a scapegoat?

Tom D.: Barclay Goodrow

Tom U.: Vincent Trocheck

Mike: Barclay Goodrow

Jack: Gerard Gallant. Igor Shesterkin probably isn’t going to play like prime Dominik Hasek for 75% of the season like he did last year, and a lot of warts are going to show. After how the playoffs ended in the spring, frustration will continue to mount in Gallant’s second season in New York.

Roberto: Vincent Trocheck. If there is any inconsistency or overall lack of production from Artemiy Panarin and Trocheck is still his center, he will be the first to blame.

Commentary

It’s not Barclay Goodrow’s fault that Chris Drury and the Rangers decided to pay him about twice as much money (and twice as many years) as he should be making, but when Gallant inevitably moves him into the top six at one point, it’ll be easy to become frustrated with Goodrow’s inability to create consistent offense.

Trocheck, a solid player who was handed a very lucrative contract on the opening day of free agency, could also draw ire from the fan base if he does not perfrom at a consistently high level.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game Five Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Team MVP?

Tom D.: Igor Shesterkin

Tom U.: Igor Shesterkin

Mike: Igor Shesterkin

Jack: Igor Shesterkin

Roberto: Igor Shesterkin

Commentary

What did you expect?

Will Igor Shesterkin repeat as the Vezina Trophy winner?

Tom D.: Yes

Tom U.: No

Mike: Yes

Jack: No

Roberto: Yes

New York Rangers v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Rumors are swirling...will Patrick Kane end up a Ranger before the trade deadline?

Tom D.: No. There’s no cap space!

Tom U.: No

Mike: No

Jack: No, too many cabbies in the city, too much risk for Kane to have a repeat of previous incidents

Roberto: I’m praying to the hockey gods this won’t be the case.


Part 2 (Bonus Questions): Over/Under

O/U: 75 points for Adam Fox?

Tom D.: Under (barely)

Tom U.: Over

Mike: Push

Jack: Under

Roberto: Over

O/U: 40 Goals for Chris Kreider?

Tom D.: Under

Tom U.: Under

Mike: Over

Jack: Under

Roberto: Under

O/U: 40 Goals for Mika Zibanejad?

Tom D.: Under

Tom U.: Under

Mike: Over

Jack: Under

Roberto: Under

Bonus Commentary

Mike seems to be the biggest believer in the magic of Kreibanejad. I’m sure the rest of us would be happy to be wrong on our goal predictions for each player.

O/U: 50 Points for Vincent Trocheck?

Tom D.: Over

Tom U.: Push

Mike: Over

Jack: Over

Roberto: Over

New York Rangers v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

O/U: 90 Points for Artemiy Panarin?

Tom D.: Over

Tom U.: Over

Mike: Under

Jack: Under

Roberto: Under

O/U: 35 Points for Vitali Kravtsov?

Tom D.: Over (I’m starting to feel not so great about this take, but I’ll stick with it against my better judgment. At least Roberto is on my side.)

Tom U.: Push

Mike: Under

Jack: Under

Roberto: Over

O/U: Libor Hajek plays in 30 games for NYR?

Tom D.: Over (much sadness)

Tom U.: Under

Mike: Under

Jack: Over

Roberto: Under