Alexis Lafreniere lottery stunner shouldn’t nix Rangers’ plan
First-overall pick to Edmonton in 2010. First-overall pick to Edmonton in 2011. First-overall pick to Edmonton in 2012. Seventh-overall pick to Edmonton in 2013. Third-overall pick to Edmonton in 2014. First-overall pick — who was Connor McDavid, by the way — to Edmonton in 2015. Fourth-overall pick to Edmonton in 2016.
And do you know how many playoff rounds Edmonton has won over these past 11 years? That would be one, and that is with the player who might have the most complete offensive skill set in NHL history.
Look, Monday became a glorious day in Rangerstown. There is no reason to rain on the Blueshirts’ parade following the stunning lottery victory in which the 12.5 percent chance the team had to land the first-overall pick in the entry draft turned into a 100 percent shot at adding projected franchise winger Alexis Lafreniere to a stable of upper-echelon up-and-comers with the first-overall pick in October’s draft.
Let’s face it. This was a stunner. The Rangers somehow wound up 16th-overall in 2005 when they entered the lottery as one of the four teams with the best odds of grabbing the No. 1 and the right to select Sidney Crosby. The league instituted a retroactive cap-recapture component to the collective bargaining agreement following the 2012-13 lockout meant to punish the Blueshirts for the front-loaded free-agent signing of Brad Richards.
So yeah, right, to those folks who believe the Rangers’ victory in this lottery was somehow rigged.
The Rangers are going to be able to add a big-time talent in Lafreniere, who in time should be an important piece of a Stanley Cup contender. But please, don’t get ahead of yourself. The Blueshirts don’t figure to be in that position next year and an attempt to short-circuit the rebuild process that is just two years old because of the result of the lottery drawing would be a terrible mistake.
And I have confidence that president John Davidson, who has overseen rebuilds in St. Louis and Columbus, and general manager Jeff Gorton understand that there are no short cuts to becoming a perennial contender. That, after all, is the objective. If the Rangers had just wanted to be a playoff team, there’d have been no Letter in February of 2018.
There is no doubt that adding a talent such as Lafreniere accelerates the process just as incorporating Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Ryan Lindgren and Igor Sheshterkin to the mix did this past season. But there is still heavy lifting to do to become a perennial contender.
There is still final analysis to be done on the Rangers’ frightful performance in their three-game qualifying-round sweep by Carolina. Gorton indicated that he and the deciders were placing a significant amount of weight on the team’s performance under the bubble as opposed to the work accomplished over the 37-28-5 regular season that ended five months ago.
“We’re still trying to get through that one, but I think it’s fairly significant,” the GM said. “Even though it was three games, the way we lost, I think we have to consider a lot of things we could do differently as we move forward to be a harder team to play against. We’re looking at that.
“I don’t want to dismiss the 70 games and how far we came as a team and where we were prior to the pause. We were in a good spot, we were winning a lot of games, a lot of young guys were doing a lot of good things, [Artemi] Panarin had a special year, Mika [Zibanejad] had a special year, [Igor] Shesterkin had come on, [Adam] Fox, there were so many good things that were happening. I don’t want to dismiss that at all and I’m excited about all of it.
“But at the same time, we’d be kidding ourselves not to ask why were we taken out so easily? So we’re going through that now for sure.”
The Rangers moved into 2020-21 essentially the moment the team received its eviction notice to leave the bubble. But, even with this lottery victory and the delicious, well, prospect of adding the, well, universally recognized top prospect to the mix, this offseason cannot be about 2020-21.
It has to be about 2021-22 and 2022-23 and 2023-24. There are no short cuts to sustained success — the Penguins with Marc-Andre Fleury No. 1 in 2003, Evgeni Malkin No. 2 in 2004 and Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005 didn’t make the playoffs until 2007 — and it would be a dreadful mistake for the hierarchy to act otherwise.
The Rangers have Shesterkin. They have Kakko. They have Fox. They have Panarin and Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. They have K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist coming. They have a second first-rounder coming from the ’Canes this year. They have Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren. They have Filip Chytil. They have Tony DeAngelo. They have talent.
And they have the first pick in the 2020 draft.
Here’s to the future, and a very, very bright future indeed. But it is one that New York management must not mistake for next year. For good things — indeed, great things — come to those who wait.
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