The 2008-2009 season has finally come to a close with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Stanley Cup Champions and the NHL Awards Ceremony having taken place. The New York Rangers have had their ups and downs throughout the season that ended in them falling apart in a series against the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
The regular season began with high hopes for Rangers fans having been bolstered with big acquisitions of names like Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev (acquired in a trade along with Dan Fritsche that sent Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman to St. Louis), Aaron Voros and Wade Redden after having lost Jaromir Jagr, Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan.
The entire season seemed to drag out with the Rangers seeming to lack that spark they need to get into high gear, with the exception of the first few weeks of the season. Their spiral downwards to the point of not making the post-season was cut short by the firing of Head Coach Tom Renney and Assistant Coach Perry Pearn.
After John Tortorella took the reigns the Rangers began to show the offensive prowess that analysts and fans were expecting since the first few games of the season. That offensive spark, coupled with the acquiring of Nik Antropov from Toronto (in exchange for a second round draft pick and a conditional draft pick) and Derek Morris from Phoenix (in exchange for Dmitri Kalinin, Petr Prucha, and Nigel Dawes) put the Rangers in the position they needed to contend for the bottom seeds for the post-season.
Not to be overlooked was the reacquisition of Sean Avery off of re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars. His controversial comments led to his suspension and his placement on waivers by the Stars. Avery, in his previous stint with the Rangers, was successful and for the most part free of the usual controversy.
The Rangers did not acquire the Sean Avery they thought they were getting. They received a more toned down, perhaps reformed Sean Avery. He still provided the same effort he had provided in his earlier stint with the Rangers, but he was not quite the same agitator they had the season before.
Sean Avery was a major spark and motivator for the New York Rangers in his previous season, however, with his less agitating ways, he appears to not quite provide that adrenaline rush that the New York Rangers need anymore, which contributed to the collapse against the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
Perhaps now after the season is over it can be admitted that the Derek Morris trade was a bit lopsided in the Coyotes favor. Petr Prucha has been a hustler throughout his entire stint with the Rangers and would have fit into Tortorella's hustle, effort, and speed style perfectly. Nigel Dawes also showed a lot of promise for the Rangers as a solid third line player also never lacking in hard work. Trading Dmitri Kalinin on the other hand was perhaps a good move making way for the surplus of defensemen in Hartford the chance to advance.
The signing of Wade Redden was a bust for the Rangers and they are now stuck with him unless they can find someone willing to pick up his overpriced contract. He will be given a second chance without a doubt. The price tag on his contract warrants him deserving of some sort of chance, but he will have to make serious improvements if he wants to keep his career alive.
Markus Naslund was also fairly unproductive in his stint with the Rangers. It was his lowest point scoring season since the 1996-97 season when he started the season with a Canucks uniform for the first time. He had 21 goals, 20 assists, 41 points, and posted a minus-15 that season; compared to 22 goals, 24 assists, 46 points, and a minus-10 as a Ranger. His retirement has opened up a lot of cap room that the Rangers will need to fill positions in the upcoming season.
Nikolai Zherdev was perhaps as productive as anybody should have expected him to be as he was consistent with his previous season where he had career high totals. Although his season with the Rangers was the first season he wasn't a minus but instead a plus-6 which should be noted.
Aaron Voros had a very quick start to the season and appeared to be the perfect acquisition. He maintained a presence in front of the net and was a major contributor to the early success the Rangers had in the beginning of the season. However, his performance dropped off greatly towards the end and he was rotated in and out of the rotation, never recovering to the performance levels he showed in the early stages of the season.
If the Rangers are to move forward they will need less big names on the roster and more young talent that will not tire out by the third period. Glen Sather should revert to his commitment to rebuilding the team like he was during the first two post-lockout seasons and stop trying to jump-start the team's growth with older players that have been on the decline in the past few years.