The 2013-14 New York Rangers season is almost upon us.
While the team, on its surface, looks like it could compete for a Stanley Cup, there are a few potential problems that could end up derailing them.
What are the biggest potential problems for the 2013-14 season?
Read on to find out.
Brad Richards needs a big year, and he knows it.
After being saved from being bought out this offseason, if Richards doesn't perform this year, he will be gone next offseason. His contract is simply too large.
Richards will be moved to left wing to start the season and will be on a line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan.
In theory, that should be a dangerous line. It takes some playmaking pressure off of Richards, and he gets to play with world-class players in an offensive role.
Maybe that will help him break out of whatever ailed him last season.
But it's also possible that Richards is just old, and his game declined very, very rapidly.
If Richards isn't productive, the Rangers will struggle. They need his offensive production. He doesn't need to get 90 points, but anything north of 70 would be very welcome.
A bad season for Richards could mean a bad season for the Rangers.
Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin will both miss at least part of the beginning of the season.
Callahan could return sometime in October, but Hagelin is expected, according to Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times, to be placed on the 10-game inactive list.
These are two essential players to the Rangers' success. Callahan is the captain who sets the emotional tone for the team. He blocks shots, throws his body around and kills penalties. He is the heart and soul of the team.
Hagelin is a top-six winger, a ferocious forechecker and a dynamic threat in the offensive zone who burns opposing teams with his speed.
Both are expected to be back, but there's always a risk of further injury. Even more, both players are coming into the season with limited practice time and no real experience with new coach Alain Vigneault's system.
If they are unable to find their game, and if they struggle out of the gate, then the Rangers will be in trouble. Callahan and Hagelin are so important to this team, and if they can't get it going, then that's two out of the top six that aren't scoring. If they aren't scoring, then their linemates aren't scoring—a domino effect throughout the lineup.
Their health and successful recovery are vital to the Rangers' success and could present a big problem if they can't get it going.
The Rangers are going to have to adapt to new coach Alain Vigneault.
It's a completely different style than John Tortorella's. Tortorella wanted to collapse in the defensive zone, block shots and not take any risks.
This was a successful strategy for some time, but the offensive struggles were noticeable.
Under Vigneault, the Rangers will be more wide-open. The defense will join the rush more, there will be more freedom to create in the offensive zone and less impetus to sacrifice the body.
Vigneault was successful in Vancouver, coming within one game of winning a Stanley Cup. But the Rangers have been so successful in recent years, in large part, because of the defensive style. Will the overall team-play suffer because of the new style?
Further, will the Rangers players struggle to pick up the new system? Will the cohesion period take too long? Teams sometimes take a little while to figure out how to play under a new coach. By the time they do, it might be too late.
And finally, is the Rangers roster suited to play a more up-tempo style? The roster has been built with John Tortorella's vision in mind, and there wasn't that much change between last year and this year. Is this the wrong roster for Vigneault?
Time will tell, but these are things worth keeping in the back of your mind.