Pain is the Name of the Game
If you could only take one thing away from Thursday night’s drubbing at the hands of the league’s best Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s this: the Rangers have a long way to climb to return to contention. Part of the reason why is of their own doing, having dismantled much of what made them competitive for the last few years at this year’s trading deadline. But even with the likes of Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Grabner, they still couldn’t hang with the best the NHL has to offer. It’s why Jeff Gorton was so proactive about proclaiming his team a lost cause weeks before the February deadline. Hope is not a strategy, even if it can be marketed for a short while.
What the Lightning dominatingly illustrated is that there are no shortcuts to rebuilding a Cup contending team. Like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks before them, the Bolts did it right. Not only did they suffer the requisite pain for multiple seasons to allow them to draft franchise types like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in back-to-back drafts in 2008 and 2009, but they also proved that the draft is the key to establishing a pipeline to fill out the remainder of a competitive roster.
With ten selections in the coming draft, perhaps the Rangers will get as lucky as the Lightning were in 2011 when they drafted Vlaidslav Namestnikov (27th), Nikita Kucherov (58th), Nikita Nesterov (158th), and Ondrej Palat (208th) all in the same class. But like Tampa, it’ll likely take at least one more painful season of enduring more losses than victories to establish the kind of prospect pipeline that years from now might be looked back on as the start of something special.
The Rangers might even be lucky enough to land a franchise-changing talent with their own first-rounder while drafting a bevy of complimentary talents with their remaining selections.
“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Rebuilds don’t last forever.”