Finally, after a rough couple of games, the Rangers looked to have solved their scoring issues against the Buffalo Sabres. The Blueshirts were able to net six goals in the NY state clash. Although the Rangers played very well, there are still many issues with this team. Through the first couple of games this season, it has become evident that fans suspect these New York Rangers are not completely committed to the rebuild they sought for two seasons ago.
The biggest issue for the Rangers involves the second and fourth lines. As of now, Panarin is playing with Ryan Strome, for the purpose of spreading the talent out between the top two lines. Although this seemed to be a quick-fix for the Rangers as Strome picked up two goals and Panarin scored one off a beautiful move, this combination won’t be sustainable. Despite what the majority of Ranger fans think, Strome can be a number two center. Strome only just turned 26 and is a former 5th overall pick. This is only his fifth full National Hockey League season, and although he may not have panned out on the Island or in Edmonton, he still has an enormous upside. Surprisingly, it’s not what people think about Strome’s capability that I disagree with. It happens to be the fact that Lias Andersson, who a lot of people forget is a prized possession of the Rangers, a player I still think is the future of this organization, as well as a star number one center in this league, rots on the fourth line. Andersson played just under ten minutes against Buffalo, which is much less than he is capable of. I am fine with Ryan Strome having a role on this team, just not at the expense of the Rangers future.
Lias Andersson’s role on the 2019-20 Rangers brings us to the disaster known as the fourth line. Right now, he is centering Brendan Smith and Greg Mckegg. In addition to Smith and McKegg, Micheal Haley has been shifting in and out of the lineup. As one could imagine, these may not be the ideal line mates for the young Andersson. The NHL has always had an old-school way of thinking. Veteran presence and experience seems to hold the most weight in the NHL out of the other 3 major sports in the United States. David Quinn was brought in to bring in a new youth movement to Madison Square Garden, but he is agreeing with the “old age syndrome” in the league. If Lias Andersson can succeed, he’d need good, young talent around him. Andersson will not grow with McKegg and Haley on his wings, but he may with Chytil and Lettieri.
As everyone in the hockey community knows, Brendan Smith is a defenseman. He always has been, and always will be. On a rebuilding team, there is absolutely no reason for a defenseman to be playing as a forward, especially one who isn’t offensively talented. The Rangers either need to send Brendan Smith down to Hartford, or trade him. This would be a crucial move due to the fact that Filip Chytil was called up and could easily replace Smith, and actually make an impact. The Wolfpack sit atop of their division, having only lost one game in the shootout. Filip Chytil led the team with three goals and five assists for eight points through six games this season. Vinni Lettieri is right behind him with three points and four assists for seven points through six games this season. Lettieri would be able to replace Micheal Haley, and make an impact. There is no reason to have two veterans over the age of thirty taking the ice time of our young forwards. They need to learn and become accustomed to NHL ice. The Rangers have a pretty bad track record of developing prospects. It’s crucial to the future of this franchise that Andersson, Chytil, and Lettieri can develop into everyday NHLers. Hopefully, this situation doesn’t become worse than it already is.
There is no doubt that the Rangers have a ways to go with this lineup. There are still a lot of holes to fill and many questions to answer before we truly know what this team is. Although we all want our beloved team to win, and possibly make the playoffs, it certainly doesn’t make sense to mortgage their future this season by misplaying potential stars.