Earlier this week the NHL tweeted out a simple graphic with an equally simple question. On one side was Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers and on the other side was Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders. The question: who will have more wins in 2021-22?
The answer seems simple enough too. Over the last three years, the New York Islanders have 115 wins to the Rangers 96. That’s 19 more wins or 38 more points since 2018-19. The answer is the Islanders, right?
Yeah, I think so, but it’s probably going to be a lot closer than you think.
New York Islanders shouldn’t sleep on New York Rangers
Look, say what you will about the Rangers but they have a lot of talent. With Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers have two of the top 20 producers in the league since 2018-19. They’ve combined for 439 points in 385 games or 1.14 points per game.
On the blueline, they have reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox who put up a very impressive 2020-21 season with 47 points in 55 games. Jacob Trouba has struggled since he arrived in 19-20, but there’s still a 50 point defenseman in there somewhere.
And don’t forget all that young talent still growing into form. Guys like Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and K’Andre Miller are 19, 20, and 21 respectively. They’re still quite young.
The Rangers have talent in spades, but they weren’t tough to play against. And while we all like to poke fun at new GM Chris Drury for maybe going too hard at adding some grit to the roster, he definitely addressed the Rangers one need this offseason.
And while the plan for the Rangers this offseason was acquiring some grit instead of more talent, we can’t sleep on what that can do to a roster.
Does that put them over the top and get them to playoffs for the first time since 2016-17? Who knows, but they’re going to be a tough team to play against with Gallant behind the bench and that extra grit on the roster.
And look, if there’s one team that can appreciate what a little grit and cohesiveness can do to change the competitiveness of a roster it’s the New York Islanders. Remember what we thought would happen in 2018-19 when Lou Lamoriello brought in Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, and Tom Kuhnhackl versus what actually took place?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say the Rangers will be good, but none of us (myself included) shouldn’t write them off so easily.