Defense, Please: How the New York Rangers Can Win the Stanley Cup

Keith LundquistCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2008

So the 2007-2008 NHL season is at the halfway mark, and teams are starting to think about preparing for the playoffs.

One of those teams is the third-place New York Rangers.

Of course, the Rangers need to actually make the playoffs first—but by the looks of things, it seems they'll accomplish that.

After all, you have to have a pretty awful won-loss record not to make the postseason in the NHL.

There was a time, however, when doing so a challenge for the Blueshirts. The Rangers fortunes went quickly downhill after they won their first cup in 54 years in 1994. Rather than maintaining a competitive club like their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers tanked, and more often than not failed to make the postseason.

In recent years, however, the Rangers have assembled a roster that could very well compete for a Stanley Cup—thanks to their unparalleled ability to spend and their shrewd acquisition of talented Swedish goalie Henrik Lundquist.

After signing forwards Scott Gomez and Chris Drury last summer to offset the unfortunate loss of center Michael Nylander, the Rangers should easily make the playoffs in 2008.

But what do they need to do to make a good run at the Cup?

Their first concern should be achieving consistency from their top scorers: Jagr, Gomez, Straka, Shanahan, Prucha, Hossa, and Drury.

This talented bunch needs to produce to compensate for the second point of concern, New York's lack of talent on the backline.

Overall, I think the defensemen on the team are good, but the Rangers lack that experienced, powerhouse defenseman that all Stanley Cup contenders have to have.

Marek Malik, Paul Mara, Michal Rozsival, and Fedor Tyutin are solid players, but on most teams they wouldn't be on the top two lines.

The Rangers should strongly consider acquiring someone like Rob Blake, Ed Jovanovski, Joni Pitkanen, Mathieu Schneider, or Filip Kuba to fill the void.

With Lundqvist in net, the goaltending issues are taken care of. With leaders like Jagr, Shanahan, Drury, and Straka, New York doesn't have to worry about leadership.

But if the Rangers want to win the Stanley Cup, they must upgrade on defense.

It's now up to GM Glen Sather, the architect of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, to make the next move.