It is hard for a Ranger's fan to be optimistic. No reason to explain why, if you are reading this in August you already know. However, if you are objective, you have to admit this year is going to be better than last.
First, there are a few major positive subtractions from the 2010-2011 opening roster: Drury, Frolov and Rozsival. Second, there are a few major positive additions: Richards, Wolski, Rupp and Erixon. Yes, there are other changes too, but these seven are the most significant.
Richards improves the power play immediately. He is a major improvement from Drury. Wolski was very quietly the best +/- of any Ranger forward and a huge step up from Frolov. Rozsival was painful to watch - Erixon will be a joy. We mourn the loss of Boogaard and his quality penalty minutes. Rupp will take those penalty minutes and chip in ten goals.
Goals gained? Richards over Drury - 20-25. Wolski over Frolov - even. Rupp over Boogaard - 10. Gabby, with a real center - 10. And, nothing will be lost on defense.
Further analysis? Rupp will improve the 3rd and 4th lines as Prust and Avery will not have to be the only bad guys. Prust and Avery can play hockey and finally will be allowed to do that. Richards will make the first line and the power play much better. Now we have a first unit and a second unit. And, the Callahan-Anisimov-Dubinsky line will no longer face the best defensive line. Wolski might just get 20 goals (even 25) if he is on the first line. Gabby will be back at 30+ goals. The CAD line could even improve from 65 to 85 goals.
If this is right, and the Rangers score 40-60 more goals, while staying solid on defense, the Rangers will be in a top four team and part of the Stanley Cup conversation at year's end. However, I am not willing to go that far because Washington and Philly have improved in goal, the Devils will be back, and Pittsburgh will be healthy. So, we are not the only team that has improved in the Atlantic.
Prediction? We are not going to be a fun team to play against:
- 2009-2010: 38-33-11 87 - 9th 222 GF 218 GA +4
- 2010-2011: 44-33-5 93 - 8th 233 GF 198 GA +35
- 2011-2012: 49-26-7 105 pts - 4th 263 GF 203 GA +60