What Went Wrong For The New York Rangers And How To Fix It

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It’s hard to look at the 2022-23 New York Rangers season and see anything but failure. Regardless of what Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo believes.

The younger, faster New Jersey Devils bounced a team with Stanley Cup aspirations in the first round of the playoffs. Had the Rangers won in Game 7 on Monday night, people — like me — wouldn’t be talking about a failed season.

But it still wouldn’t have covered the glaring weaknesses for the Broadway Blueshirts. In a way, that makes the loss almost worth it. Almost.

New York has an all-world goaltender in Igor Shesterkin. Rangers fans don’t need to be reminded that they had an all-world goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist for 15 seasons. They wasted his career by not winning the Stanley Cup.

They cannot allow that to happen with Shesterkin.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin makes a save during Game 7 of an Eastern Conference First Round playoff game between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Andrew Mordzynski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What happened to the New York Rangers?

The Rangers went for broke and acquired Vladamir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane prior to the NHL’s trade deadline. Both players won Stanley Cups with their previous teams.

However, they didn’t add the element that the team sorely lacked: speed. They had too many puck-dominant players and the team never gelled together. It didn’t help that the Kane trade hamstrung the roster for nearly a month.

General manager Chris Drury has work to do this offseason, but not as much as people might think. The solution to the New York Rangers problem already exists on the current roster.

Many hockey fans believe that Kappo Kakko — the #2 pick in 2019, one selection after Devils star Jack Hughes (ouch) — and Alexis Lafrenière — the #1 pick in 2020 — are busts.

Rangers fans see what Jack Hughes did to their team and wish they had him instead of either player. However, the Rangers haven’t really given either kid a chance.

They’ve been relegated to third-line duty for the majority of their careers, with little-to-no power play time. The “Kid Line” with that pair centered by Filip Chytil often looked like the team’s best. Yet, head coach Gerard Gallant never elevated them to their deserving status.

New York Rangers "Kid Line" Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafreniere.
The New York Rangers “Kid Line” of Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafreniere needs a legitimate opportunity next season. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That line plays hard, it forechecks, it creates turnovers and it uses both speed and power to beat opponents. Those sound like all the things the New York Rangers need.

It’s impossible to call those players busts until they have an actual opportunity. That needs to come next season.

Kakko, Lafrenière and Chytil should to be the team’s second line and all three players must receive power play time. They need to be given the chance to sink or swim and build confidence.

The veterans didn’t get it done

Kane and Tarasenko are pending free agents unlikely to return. And they shouldn’t, frankly.

Artemi Panarin struggled against the Devils, but he also never had a chance to gel with linemates. He saw time with just about every player on the roster, but never seemed comfortable.

Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider should form a top line that strikes fear in opponents. The “Kid Line” provides a secondary scoring trio that plays a different style than the top line.

That variety in play only serves to help the team in the long run. The Devils’ youth crushed the Rangers. New York needs to let its youth get an opportunity to do the same.

The New York Rangers need to deploy a top line featuring Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad next season.
The New York Rangers need to deploy a top line featuring Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad next season. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The front office must address the third line this offseason. The team needs more grit and speed in that spot. It appears that the Vinny Trochek signing is going to go down as another Rangers misstep in free agency.

He didn’t fit in in the top-six at all this season, and doesn’t figure to next season, either. That’s tough to swallow at a $6.5M cap hit for a team that’s salary-cap challenged.

If they can find a taker for him in the offseason, they should try to unload him. If not, he’s going to have to center the third line. But they need to surround him with young, hungry wingers.

If prospect Brennan Othmann is ready for primetime, plug him. If not — and he did not play as well in the OHL this season (29 goals) as last season (50 goals) — then they have to look elsewhere.

Perhaps one of the other young guys — Will Cuylle or Adam Sykora — can make the jump.

Head coach Gerard Gallant showed his true colors

When the Las Vegas Golden Knights fired Gallant — who led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season — I couldn’t understand it.

How did they fire a coach who led an expansion team to the playoffs in its first two seasons in the middle of its third season?

I get it, now.

Gallant, like a lot of coaches, overly relies on veteran players. Even when those players struggle, they continue to get opportunity over the younger guys.

Head Coach of the New York Rangers, Gerard Gallant.
Head Coach of the New York Rangers, Gerard Gallant. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

This Rangers team needs to lean on its youth next season. Gallant doesn’t seem like the guy best suited to do that. I’m not sure the Rangers will look to replace Gallant, but they should.

And they should look for a younger coach willing to adapt his style on the fly. Too often, the Rangers seemed content to stick with their system, even when it didn’t work.

They need a coach who can help develop younger players. Perhaps someone like Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Spencer Carbery.

Either way, the Rangers need to make moves this offseason. It’s not going to be easy given their salary cap restraints, but thankfully many of the pieces are already in place.

They just need to finally use them correctly.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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