The Rangers and Oilers: Good teams with big flaws that make them complete wild cards
These teams are good. I know these teams are goood. But how good are they and what exactly are they capable of in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
From the very start of the 2022-23 NHL season I have been pretty consistent in my view on the New York Rangers.
They are good.
They have a lot of the ingredients you want to see on a Stanley Cup contender from outstanding top-line players (Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider), to a No. 1 defenseman (Adam Fox), to a game-changing goalie (Igor Shesterkin). But something just always seems to be missing with this team in the way it plays, which makes them a complete wild card team among the Stanley Cup contenders.
I could easily envision a situation where they go on another deep run in the playoffs and potentially win big. I could also easily envision a situation where they Igor Shesterkin hits an off week and they get blown out in the first round. I do not see an in-between here.
As the season has progressed, and even after their big trade deadline additions, that belief just keeps getting stronger and stronger as they drift back toward the same recipe they followed a year ago where they get outplayed at 5-on-5 (sometimes badly outplayed) but still find ways to sneak away with wins. Sometimes it is the power play. Sometimes it is goaltending. Sometimes it is a come-from-behind win.
I am also not sure about what they did at the trade deadline.
Over in the Western Conference there is a similar thing happening with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers have steadied themselves after an uninspiring start, and they have a lot of things going for them. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the two most dominant offensive players in the NHL. Their team defense has been better than you might realize this season, and it should only get better after the trade deadline addition of Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators.
Their major flaw? They do not have a goalie they can count on to stop the puck.
Did the Rangers address the right needs at the trade deadline?
We should start with the Rangers here because they made some of the biggest splashes at the trade deadline and intrigue me the most.
I loved the Rangers’ trade for Vladimir Tarasenko, not only because he gave them another big scorer, but also because the price was right. They also got another defenseman (Niko Mikkola) in that deal and allowed them to dump some extra weight off the roster that was mostly holding them down. It was a strong move.
But the Rangers did not stop there and a couple of weeks later found the salary cap space to add Patrick Kane from the Chicago Blackhawks.
This is the one that lost me a little, and the one that seemed like a team going for a luxury it did not need instead of something more practical and necessary. He is a big name that was a great player a few years ago that is still a big name to put in lights on the marquee that did not really solve the Rangers’ biggest problem or concern.
Which in some ways kind of makes him the perfect New York Ranger.
The Rangers’ biggest flaw for the past two years is that they are not a particularly good 5-on-5 team and do not get much help from their forwards defensively. To combat that they simply added two more forwards that do not excel at 5-on-5 at this stage fo their caarers and are not particularly good defensively. Whatever flaws Tarasenko might have in those areas, Kane’s are even more glaring. Whatever value he still brings on the power play is, at this point in his career, nearly wiped out by his flaws at 5-on-5 and defensively.
The Rangers are also not really improving when all sides are even.
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