Before last season, when we weren't all getting annoyed by the lockout nonsense, many of us were espousing the New York Rangers as a, if not the, Stanley Cup favorite. I mean, they were so good, and then they added Rick Nash. However, things didn't play out like expected. Marian Gaborik was traded to Columbus in order to get depth... from the team they traded their depth to in order to get Nash. The Rangers would have dealt Brad Richards if only they could have found a taker. Marc Staal was seriously hurt much of the season. They ended up the sixth seed and, while they did upset Washington in the first round in a battle of fretted over teams, they lost to Boston in the next round, and long time coach/rabble rouser John Tortorella got the boot.
So now, we are in a different, post-Tortorella world in New York. Their new head man is Alain Vigneault, who was the scapegoat in Vancouver. He is a very good coach, and a, perhaps, more pleasant personality to be around. Well, let me rephrase that. He is definitely a more pleasant personality, but the degree to which that matters, if at all, is unknown. Other than that though, it is pretty much the same team as the end of last year, which isn't a bad thing.
Nash took to New York quite well, although his playoff run was a disappointment. Who knows what Richards will provide, admittedly. Gaborik is gone, with guys like Derrick Brassard and John Moore brought in from Columbus to try and help the Rangers. Derek Stepan is very good. Ryan Callahan is solid, if not moreso. A healthy Staal will be huge for a defense that is very good. Then, there is the NHL's best goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. As long as he is there, this team shouldn't have to sweat out making the playoffs.
I think the Rangers will have a slightly better regular season. I don't know if they will win the Atlantic Division, but a home game in the first round of the playoffs isn't out of the question. I would consider them an outside Cup contender, due largely to their goal prevention led by Lundqvist. The offense should be better. If the goalies and defenders can be as good, this team should be more like what we expected from the Rangers before last season. Maybe a step down from that. At least press conferences should be less intense.