Update, 10:30 a.m.: The Rangers have re-signed Greg Moore, ensuring more trips on the Greg Moore Highway. No word yet on terms…
Earlier: One of the side effects of a job covering the Rangers is that when you go to a barbecue or the beach or even a golf tournament, people are likely to ask you about the team’s prospects for the season ahead. Which is fine. I like talking about the Rangers, otherwise writing about them in a blog and a newspaper would become painfully tedious.
But at least a half dozen times this weekend when people asked me what I thought about the team’s offseason moves, I struggled to articulate what exactly they’ve done.
Obviously, I know what they’ve done. I can give you the full list of trades, signings, and departures. But when it comes to assessing whether those moves helped or hurt the team, that’s when things get trickier
So usually I spew something about how they’re expecting to be a little quicker and a little more cohesive without some of their high-maintenance components from last season, and that they’re counting on a handful of new acquisitions to thrive under the spotlight in New York. And right about then is when the red flag should go up in all of your heads.
Look, this could work. There is a very good chance that Nikolai Zherdev delivers on his explosive potential. There is a chance that Markus Naslund looks more like a perennial All-Star than the aging wing he resembled last year in Vancouver; just as there is the good chance Wade Redden flourishes upon leaving what had become a negative atmosphere in Ottawa. All of those things, along with an increased comfort level for the likes of Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, and Henrik Lundqvist, and another year of seasoning for Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Nigel Dawes could make the Rangers a scrappier, more dangerous team in 2008-09.
But (and you knew this was coming)…….
What’s also to say these Rangers don’t turn out to be something like the 1997-98 Rangers? Think about it: a team loses a charismatic legendary captain and is forced to rely on players who either a) haven’t shouldered such a hefty responsibility before, or b) are past the point of being able to do so. A team that brings in some free agent signings as either a false tonic or a stop-gap solution, only to see those players are out of their depth playing in New York (or when it comes to Pat LaFontaine, riddled by injury).
Granted, every year is different, and they all contain extenuating circumstances that don’t apply anywhere else. But if there’s one note of caution, it is this: when you’ve had a reasonably effective formula for success, you put yourself at much greater risk when you decide to abandon that formula and begin anew.