After plodding their way to a frustrating series loss against the Penguins in 2015-16, Alain Vigneault changed the New York Rangers’ style, and it worked in 2016-17. The Rangers’ experience ranks up there as maybe the most indicative of just how ridiculously stacked the Metropolitan Division was. The Rangers were one of nine teams in the NHL to generate at least 100 standings points (in their case, 102), finishing just one behind the Montreal Canadiens, who won the Atlantic Division.
The Pittsburgh Penguins became the first team since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions last season. After a summer of painful (if necessary) losses, the Penguins now aim to become the first NHL team to “three-peat” since the New York Islanders rattled off a dizzying four consecutive championships from 1980-83. Just yesterday, Matt Cullen became the latest omission from the Penguins’ mix, but he was far from the only noteworthy loss.
For Jeff Gorton, a tear-it-down rebuild was never really an option in New York anyway, even when the Rangers were looking particularly old and worn down. Two years after replacing Glen Sather, one would have to conclude that Gorton has done a pretty good job in that regard. — Last summer, Gorton was able to use a team with pressure to win now (the Ottawa Senators) to trade Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad, the latter of whom is five years younger.