Last Season: 46-27-9 (101 points), 3rd in the Metropolitan, 4th in the East.
By mid-November last year, the Rangers were one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They held a 14-2-2 record and appeared to be primed to challenge for the best record in the NHL for a second straight season.
A lot of this had to do with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who held a .935 save percentage through the first two months of the season.
But New York struggled with some inconsistency – especially in the month of December where they won three just games.
Rick Nash had a down year, dropping from 42 goals to 15 – though he only played 60 games because of an injury. Mats Zuccarello led the team with 61 points. No player on New York scored more than Derick Brassard’s 27 goals.
The Rangers tried to jumpstart their offense by dealing for Eric Staal at the trade deadline but the trade was a bust with Staal getting just six points in 20 games while averaging 16:15 of ice-time.
The defense also struggled finishing tied for 15th in the NHL in allowing 2.62 goals per-game. Lundqvist dropped off a little statistically with a 2.48 goal-against average but still held a robust .920 save percentage.
In the playoffs, the Rangers didn’t stand much of a chance against the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing in five games in the first-round. In that series, New York allowed 21 goals.
2015-16 Season, In One Picture
Did They Get Better, Worse, Or Are They About The Same?
Worse. The Rangers didn’t have enough salary cap space to re-sign puck moving unrestricted free agent defenseman Keith Yandle, so they traded his rights to the Florida Panthers. Plodding defenseman Dan Girardi is still on the team with a salary cap hit of $5.5 million through 2019-20. The Rangers got rid of Brassard, who was one of their top offensive players, though they acquired young forward Mika Zibanejad in the deal that sent Brassard to the Ottawa Senators.
Lundqvist is now 34 years old and there are questions on whether he can carry the team on another deep playoff run.
The team does have several cornerstone young forwards, all of which are under contract past this season. Derek Stepan (53 points last season) is signed through 2020-21. The team re-signed Chris Kreider (21 goals last season) to a new deal this offseason through 2019-20. All-around forward J.T. Miller took the next step in his development with 43 points in 82 games and was also signed to a new contract for two years.
New York signed heralded college free agent Jimmy Vesey last summer, but he’s never played a game in the NHL and it’s unclear if he can make a big impact.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Jimmy Vesey. Last summer in mid-August, Vesey dominated the headlines with a highly publicized free agency. The Rangers put on a heavy pitch for the young forward and some of the team’s celebrity fans got in the act on Vesey’s courtship. Though he was considered one of the top collegiate players in hockey, and won the Hobey Baker Award last year, his potential is unclear. Is he worth the hype? How will both Vesey and the Rangers fans react if he doesn’t produce?
2. Rick Nash. The power forward saw a major drop-off in production – going from 42 goals in 2014-15 to just 15 last season. He battled an injury for most of the year, but his 0.25 goals per-game was the second worst of his career behind his rookie season. Was last season the start of a big decline for the 32-year-old Nash, or just a fluke? He should return to near 30-goal status, but if he doesn’t that would mean trouble for both Nash and the Rangers.
3. Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh is the leader of the Rangers’ dressing room and averages the most minutes per-game on the team, but he has never been someone who scores a lot of points. He’s still probably the best two-way player on the Rangers and sets the tone for the group on and off the ice. There aren’t a lot of defensemen in the NHL who can match McDonagh’s headiness with and without the puck.
4. Mats Zuccarello. The “Nowegian Hobbit Wizard” stands 5-foot-7, weighs 179 pounds and throws his body around with reckless abandon. The previous year, Zuccarello faced some doubts about his career after he suffered a fractured skull, but Last season he led the Rangers in scoring with 61 points as he turned into the team’s best offensive player.
5. Henrik Lundqvist. ‘The King’ has been the most important player on the Rangers since his rookie season in 2005-06. During that stretch he has been one of the most consistent goaltenders in the NHL. But Lundqvist saw a slight drop-off last season with some numbers. Was this because he started a decline, or because the Rangers struggled defensively? For so long the Rangers were built around Lundqvist, but he’s 34 years and it’s unclear how much longer he can be the team’s centerpiece.
Mascot Hijinks Video Break
The Rangers don’t have a mascot, but they do have Dancing Larry.
Can We Trust Them At Even Strength?
Last season the Rangers ranked 21st in score, zone and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF% at 48.22. They weren’t that much better the year before at 50.42. Girardi struggled from a puck possession perspective and held a 42.95 score, zone and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF% and was minus-8.35 relative to the rest of his team. McDonagh (plus-1.19), Stepan (plus-2.96) and Kreider (plus-4.28) were all key Rangers in positive territory
Can We Trust Them On Special Teams?
Last year the Rangers held an 18.6 power play percentage and losing Yandle will sting them in 2016-17. He was the team’s top power play weapon and was tied for the team lead with 22 points on the man-advantage. The Rangers don’t currently have someone like Yandle who can jump in and replace those numbers on defense.
The Rangers were poor on the penalty kill, ranking 26th overall in the league at 78.2 percent. Last season, Lundqvist had a .8478 shorthanded save percentage, which ranked 24th of 27 netminders who played at least 200 shorthanded minutes.
Can We Trust Their Goaltending?
We can indeed trust the Rangers’ goaltending. Even at the age of 34, Lundqvist remains one of the few consistently elite netminders in the NHL. Last season in a “down” year he ranked seventh in 5-on-5 save percentage amongst goaltenders who played at least 1,500 minutes at .9367. Backup Antti Raanta was solid, boasting a 2.24 goal-against average and .919 save percentage. If Lundqvist needs a few more nights off, Raanta is capable to give him a rest.
Player Mostly Likely To Be In Vegas Next Season
Michael Grabner was signed last offseason by the Rangers. But he’s on a two-year contract at $1.65 million per-year and right now doesn’t seem like he’d make the cut of protected players.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
3. Alain Vigneault has proved a nice fit for the Rangers. During his time with New York, he’s held a .630 points percentage and made a Stanley Cup Final. But after losing in the first-round of the playoffs, you have to wonder if his seat is starting to warm a little. In most other locations, Vigneault would be fine but in the New York market one bad stretch can doom a coach.
The Rangers will be solid but unspectacular like last season. They will make the playoffs as one of the Wild Card teams and lose in the first-round. Vesey will notch 50 points and 20 goals to provide cheap scoring depth on the wing. Lundqvist will have a stellar, Vezina Trophy worthy season.
2016-17 Season Preview
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
– – – – – – –
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS