The New York Rangers entered the 2013-14 season with multiple obstacles already ahead of them. For starters the Rangers changed their head coach during the offseason. They went from a defensive minded coach in John Torterella, to a more offensive minded coach in Alain Vigneault, the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks last season. When a hockey team gets a new head coach it takes some time for the team to start to really play well in that new system. Even with a full training camp this could still cause the Rangers problems in the early parts of the season.
Another problem for the Rangers to start off the season is that they open up the season on the West Coast and on a 9 game road trip. It is extremely unusual for a team start a season with such a long road trip, but there is a good explanation for it. The reason is that Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers play their home games, is finalizing renovations to the arena, and it will not be ready for another couple of weeks. This is unfortunate for the Rangers as long road trips can sometimes make or break a team’s season. However, with this lengthy trip being so early in the season they should still be okay to bounce back if they get off to a bad start.
The problems don’t end at just the new coach and the stadium. The problems also include some of their key players. The Rangers starting center, Derek Stepan, had contract disputes with the team over the offseason. He refused to report to training camp unless the team offered him more money than they were initially offering him. The two sides would eventually come to an agreement on a contract, but it would not be until 3 days before the season started. Not only was Stepan missing out on training at the Rangers facility and playing with his teammates again, but Stepan was also missing out on getting to know the new system being put forth by head coach, Alain Vigneault. This can clearly cause many problems for one of the Rangers best and most important players.In addition, two of their best players, Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, had shoulder surgery over the offseason. Both surgeries were major and neither player will return before the start of the season. Ryan Callahan, the team captain will return sooner than Hagelin, as Callahan was placed on the early return injured reserve list. Carl Hagelin was placed on the long term injured reserve list, and he is out for at least the first 10 games of the season. Both players were at training camp though, so both were able to participate in some drills, and both were able to start to practice under the new head coach.
It was not all bad news going into the season for the Rangers, as a few of their key players looked great in practice and pre-season games. Marc Staal, who was hit in the eye last year by a puck, recovered greatly from his injury, and he has even improved on his game since last season. The Rangers superstar goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, has looked great in the new system and is looking to have another great season just like the past seven he has had.
The Rangers have more than a fair share of problems heading into the season, but they are a very talented team with a good head coach and they are going to look to improve on their second round knockout from the playoffs last season.