With the successes of last season—which included an Atlantic Division title and an Eastern Conference Final appearance—and the offseason addition of Rick Nash, New York Rangers fans had all the reasons to believe that 2012-13 could be the year Lord Stanley returned to the Big Apple.
Too bad the NHL and NHLPA had other plans.
But when an agreement is finally reached it'll be back to work for the Boys in the Blue. If they want to get back to where they were last season—and beyond—they'll have to handle the rigors of the (potential) 82-game regular season and the duration of the playoffs better than all 29 other clubs.
Even though hockey is the ultimate team sport, and to win in the NHL a team must learn to stick together while maintaining a high level of consistency, each squad has to have horses to lean on to put a team over the top.
The Rangers are no exception.
Throughout John Tortorella's coaching career, he has consistently leaned on his top players. While that approach won him a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay, it also paid dividends in New York last season, as he rode the top defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh all the way to Game 6 of the conference final.
But to get over the hump, it's going to take more than just two warriors on the blue line. So here are the seven most important players for the New York Rangers if they're going to immortalize 2013.