The New York Rangers were one Olli Jokinen goal away from the postseason a year ago, and while that might actually seem like a rather substantial margin, it really only worked out to a single point in the standings.
As evidenced by our SB Nation Preseason Power Rankings, however, the Rangers might be a little further off as the new season begins. Bloggers from across out network see the Blueshirts finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference this season, and that situation isn't helped by several gigantic question marks.
The biggest ones, as usual, have to do with Marian Gaborik -- more specifically, his hip and his groin. With help from Joe Fortunato of our Rangers blog, Blueshirt Banter, we take a look at Five Burning Questions surrounding the Rangers as we prepare for the 2010-11 NHL season.
1. Will Marian Gaborik remain healthy this year?
Joe Fortunato: This is probably the biggest question being asked around Rangers' nation right now. And the answer is a resounding yes. What a lot of people don't realize is that Marian Gaborik's injuries were caused because of a faulty hip. When he was evaluated two years ago by Wild doctors he was told that his groin injuries were occurring because of his faulty hip (and obviously so were his hip flexor injuries). The reason behind this was because he was skating differently to deal with the pain in his hip, and that was causing his injuries. So when Gaborik opted to get hip corrective surgery he was also decreasing the chances of him hurting his groin again.
2. Will the Rangers give the kids a shot?
JF: All indications are that the kids will get a legitimate shot at making the team. John Tortorella has made it known that he wanted to give guys like Ryan McDonagh, Evgeny Grachev and Derek Stepan long looks in camp, with McDonagh being a fan favorite to make the team in place in Wade Redden. Dale Weise and Dane Byers will also get looks to fill role positions on the team. The Rangers also have guys like Chris Kreider, Ethan Werek, Ryan Bourque and many others waiting in the wings and developing nicely.
Don't forget, however, that the Rangers have a lot of home grown talent already integrated into the team. Guys like Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Artem Anisimov and Matt Gilroy are all Rangers prospects who are 25-years-old or younger.
3. Will the Rangers find a way to get scoring from a guy not named Marian Gaborik this year?
JF: If any question trumps the concern of Rangers fans more so than Gaborik's health, it's the team's scoring as a whole. The Rangers made a huge addition, grabbing Alexander Frolov (the second best scorer on the open market in my opinion) on a one-year $3 million contract. Frolov figures to help create more space for Gaborik, while also alleviating the scoring pressure from the 42-goal scorer as well.
Dubinsky also figures to equate into the secondary scoring department, scoring a career high 20 goal last year. Callahan also figures to help out, scoring 19 goals himself last year; and the Rangers have high hopes for Erik Christensen to continue his hot play as well. There is also some level of expectation for guys like Anisimov, Del Zotto and Gilroy to all have much-improved years as well.
4. Which youngster figures to have the biggest improvement this upcoming season?
JF: Although a ton of Rangers fans would argue that the answer to this question is probably Artem Anisimov, I would have to give the nod to Michael Del Zotto. The reason behind my choice is mainly because last year Del Zotto jumped right from the juniors to the NHL, and still put up fantastic numbers. As a 19-year-old he scored nine goals and finished with 37 points, while averaging 19 minutes of ice time a night for the Rangers. Oh yeah, he also quarterbacked the power play from game one. The addition of Alexander Frolov should help create some more space for Del Zotto on the power play. And with a year of NHL seasoning the Rangers future star seems poised for a breakout year.
5. Will Wade Redden actually be demoted to the AHL?
JF: I take back everything I said before; this is the biggest question that Rangers fans are asking before this season kicks off. Honestly, every Ranger fan has his/her own opinion about the Redden saga; but the general consensus seems to be that he will be sent down the Hartford. It's no so much his play, but his $6.5 million cap hit that seems to seal his fate. With the re-signing of Marc Staal, there really doesn't seem to be any room for Redden, especially if Ryan McDonagh impresses in camp. Personally, and that's really what the answer to this question comes down to at this point, I see him in Hartford. But that's just me.