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Complete 2013-14 Season Preview for the New York Rangers

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor ISeptember 30, 2013

Complete 2013-14 Season Preview for the New York Rangers

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    It is that time of the year again, and the New York Rangers will start their quest to win the Stanley Cup. It has been 20 years since the Blueshirts hoisted Lord Stanley, and their journey starts again on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. There are not many new faces this year, but there is a new coach behind the bench.

    There is a lot of information to go through, so here is your complete 2013-14 season preview for the Broadway Blueshirts.

Key Roster Changes

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    Pouliot is a speedy forward with offensive upside.
    Pouliot is a speedy forward with offensive upside.Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Arrivals

    Over the summer the Blueshirts made a few moves, but the biggest was the hiring of Alain Vigneault. Vigneault had a successful tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, but management felt it was time to make a change.

    The Rangers also added some depth to their roster this summer by making a number of signings and trades. On the blue line, Justin Falk and Aaron Johnson joined the roster, and Dominic Moore, Benoit Pouliot and Danny Kristo joined the forward corp.

     

    Departures

    The Rangers also lost a number of players from their roster in addition to the dismissal of bench boss John Tortorella. On free agency day, Ryane Clowe signed with the New Jersey Devils, and Benn Ferriero, Kris Newbury and Christian Thomas were dealt.

    Matt Gilroy, Steve Eminger and Roman Hamrlik were allowed to go to free agency, and long-time injured defender Michael Sauer was not re-signed.

     

Projected 2013-14 Depth Chart

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    Nash will look to improve upon his first season with the Blueshirts.
    Nash will look to improve upon his first season with the Blueshirts.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Forwards

    Left WingCenterRight Wing
    Brad RichardsDerek StepanRick Nash
    Benoit PouliotDerick BrassardMats Zuccarello
    J.T. MillerBrian BoyleJesper Fast
    Taylor PyattDominic MooreDerek Dorsett

    Injuries will keep Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan out of the opening night lineup, and this is expected to be the starting lineup based on preseason practice and game combinations.

    You will see that Brad Richards is slated to be on the left wing, and this is because of the log jam at center. Richards is an offensive player that is suited for the top six, and it makes more sense to move him to the wing instead of the bottom six.

    Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan will be looked upon to lead the team offensively, and Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello are in prime roles to be secondary contributors.

     

    Defense

    Left DefenseRight Defense
    Ryan McDonaghDan Girardi
    Marc StaalMichael Del Zotto
    John MooreAnton Stralman

    On paper, the Blueshirts have one of the best defenses in the league. The Rangers' top four have the potential to be all-stars, and Moore and Stralman are competent blueliners with some upside and skill. There is a solid balance of offensive and defensive skill in each pairing, and you can expect the blue line to be a bright spot this season.

     

    Goaltending

    Starter: Henrik Lundqvist

    Backup: Martin Biron

    All-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist will lead the Rangers onto the ice as their starter on October 3. He is expected to start fewer games than usual because of the Olympics this season, and Martin Biron will play a valuable role as his backup.

    The tandem is one of the best in the league, and it will be an important backbone of the 2013-14 Rangers.

Biggest X-Factor

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    Brassard has a great opportunity ahead of him.
    Brassard has a great opportunity ahead of him.Steve Babineau/Getty Images

    The biggest X-factor for this season is Derick Brassard. The 2006 No. 6 overall pick was acquired by the Rangers in a trade that shipped Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets. With the Blue Jackets, Brassard put up average numbers, and he exploded offensively after joining the Rangers.

    In 13 regular-season games, Brassard tallied 11 points, and he was a point-per-game player through 12 playoff games. The second line will be centered by Brassard this season, and he has the potential to facilitate offense alongside Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot. 

    The 26-year-old center has a great opportunity ahead of him this season, and he could be a huge X-factor who allows the Rangers to be a successful team this season.

Best and Worst Case Scenarios

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    Richards could be a help or hinderance to the Rangers this season.
    Richards could be a help or hinderance to the Rangers this season.Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Best Case Scenario

    Under new bench boss Alain Vigneault, the Rangers become an offensive powerhouse. Rick Nash scores 50 goals, Brad Richards returns to form and records 80 points, Derek Stepan solidifies his role as a first-line center with an 85 point campaign and Derick Brassard anchors a successful second line, finishing the year with 75 points.

    Henrik Lundqvist adjusts to his new equipment and new system, and he benefits from seeing more shots. The young defense continues to grow, and Ryan McDonagh captures a Norris Trophy after finishing the season with 60 points. Michael Del Zotto is utilized properly, and he finishes with a career-high in points. Marc Staal isn't limited by his vision, and he finishes the year strongly.

    Finish: No. 2 in the Metropolitan Division

     

    Worst Case Scenario

    The Rangers struggle under Vigneault's system, and the injuries to Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan are too much to overcome. Lundqvist struggles in a system where defenders are not blocking as many shots, and he becomes distracted with contract negotiations looming at the end of the season.

    Richards continues to struggle mightily, and he is shutdown midseason so the Rangers are able to use a compliance buyout on his contract once the season is over. Both Derek and Derick struggle to produce, and Nash only scores 30 goals.

    Marian Gaborik lights it up in Columbus, and the Blue Jackets dominate the Blueshirts all season long.

    Finish: No. 6 in Metropolitan Division

Final Prediction

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    Lundqvist will be important to the overall success of the Rangers this season.
    Lundqvist will be important to the overall success of the Rangers this season.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    No. 3 in Metropolitan Division

    The New York Rangers enter this season with the future of their roster uncertain. The coaching change should help the team in the long run, but the first few weeks of the season will be tough. Years of John Tortorella hockey are ingrained in the current roster's head, and it will take a while for these dogs to learn some new tricks.

    The star power, goaltending and defense required to be successful is found on the roster, and the overall depth should allow the team to be stronger than last year. Once the philosophies of Vigneault are learned, the Rangers should be a dangerous team.

    While the Rangers have the potential to be one of the best teams in the league, they will realistically be a middle-of-the-pack franchise. 

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