There’s Always Next Year, But First a Long Summer for the New York Rangers

Photo via ESPN

The games are done. The lockers bare. Injuries have been revealed and final thoughts from players have been offered. The tension among the fan base is palpable. The desire for the first Stanley Cup in 30 years is undiminished. For the New York Rangers, the end came two weeks and one large chalice too soon. Many of the players will start all over again in a few months. Others will start over somewhere else. Still others may have played their last.

Related Post: Opinion: Why the Rangers Got Knocked Out of the Playoffs

Among all the emotion of a season that ended too soon, it is impossible to label it a failure. 28 other teams would have traded places with the Rangers. After all, in the end, only one team ends each season with an unqualified success. For the rest, it is all about the qualifiers. In that sense, the Rangers have much of which they can be proud.

While the notion of starting from square one in September when training camp opens seems like more than one can bear, starting over each season is the best of what sports has to offer. In about two weeks the NHL will crown a champion, hand them the Cup and then, once again, everyone is on equal footing. Just ask Vegas. Or Colorado. Or the Panthers, for that matter. They began this year with the type of lump in their throats about the prior season that the 2014 Rangers remember all too well.

As the final minutes of game 6 in the Eastern Conference Final ticked mercilessly away, a passage in Mark Messier’s book with Jimmie Roberts, No One Wins Alone, in which he describes a moment after his and Gretzky’s Oilers lost to the Islanders in the Stanley Cup Final kept coming to mind. In it, he described walking past the victors’ locker room and expecting to hear a celebration. Instead, he heard silence. In that moment, he writes that he finally understood exactly what it would take to win the Cup.

The Stanley Cup is incredibly hard to win. After playing an 82-game regular season, a team needs to win 16 more games before they hoist the Cup. Four seven-game series, against stiffer and stiffer competition each time. There are no Cinderella’s left by the Conference Finals, as even the lowest seeds have managed to win 8 games before arriving. The Rangers streaked to a 7-0 playoff start, matching a franchise record, though it wasn’t as easy as the win-loss total would have you believe. Even against the Capitals, who clearly emptied their tank just to get into the playoffs, didn’t go down easy. And in what would be a meaningful play going forward, Adam Fox was injured towards the end of the first round and, though somewhat productive, admitted in post-season exit interviews that he was somewhat tentative on the ice.

Jacob Trouba played the entire playoffs with a broken ankle, Ryan Lindgren had a cracked rib and Jimmy Vesey a separated shoulder. The stars could have scored more, and the bottom six looked like a mismatch in the first two rounds but was not a big factor against the Panthers. That’s the bad news, well that and the fact that Ranger fans will have to wait 12 months to see if this core is good enough to finally get over the hump. And that’s the thing…a team and its fan base never know. Nothing is promised, nothing is given. The 2014 Rangers looked like they had what it took to get back to more Cup finals. But it was not to be.

The good news is in the way that the 2023-2024 Rangers answered many questions that were posed prior to the season. Alexis Lafrenière took a huge step forward and looks to be a budding star. Vincent Trocheck already is a star, and his contract looks like a bargain. Barclay Goodrow is a playoff superstar that Ranger fans feel foolish to have doubted during the regular season. Artemi Panarin was all-world in the regular season and impactful (though not the same) in the post season. Chris Kreider, in a single period, ensured that he will be the last Ranger to wear number 20. Igor Shesterkin is the real deal, and how lucky the Rangers are to have gone straight from Henril Lundvkist to him. That is a solid core and the possibilities seem limitless, especially when other young players like K’Andre Miller, Braden Schneider, Will Cuylle and Matt Rempe are factored in.

But there are always doubts. Lingering questions that the knowledge of how fleeting it all is leaves behind. Do the Rangers need to make a Panthers-esque move to get over the hump? Is Mika Zibanejad a true number one center? Will Ryan Lindgren’s body hold up with the punishment it takes game after game? Can Jacob Trouba be an impact defenseman worthy of his $8 million contract? And more. But the truth is that no one really knows. A bounce here or there and this could have been the year. And a bounce here or there and the Rangers could have gone down in the second round.

The reason we love sports is because it serves as a metaphor for life. It is filled with more failures than successes. And there is always hope for next year. For the Rangers, their Stanley Cup-contending window appears to be wide open. It is possible that just like Mark Messier and the young Oilers of the early 80’s learned exactly what it takes to win the cup, the 2023-2024 Rangers have seen what it takes. They are weary of getting close but never there and will find another level of drive, commitment and work ethic that will deliver the first Stanley Cup in more than 30 years to New York City. But before that all important question can be answered, they must first bear this unbearable Summer of disappointment and loss.

In this week's episode we talk about Schnieder, Lindgren's future with NYR, and with Drury seemingly done with off seaon moves the outlook of this team.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Running it Back
  2. Guest Will Wright
  3. There's more to come……….Right ?
  4. Guest Colin Stephenson
  5. Guest HockeyStatMiner

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