As I write this eulogy of New York's season, too many adjectives can be used to describe the team to choose just one. So it seemed most fitting to choose inconsistent to be the theme of the 2011 season for the Rangers. At times this season the Rangers were dominant. At other times they were horrible. Some games they looked like they could outscore an All-Star team, and then other games they looked like they couldn't outscore a pee-wee team.
Forgetting the playoff series (I'll touch on that later) overall consistency was a big issue for the Rangers this year.
Marian Gaborik, who was the Rangers only true offensive weapon last season, had one of the worst years of his career this season. His 22 goals and 26 assists only earned him 48 points in the 62 games he played. He only had one goal and one assist in his five playoff games. This was a far cry from the 44 goals and 42 assists he posted last year.
But it wasn't just his numbers that had dipped, it was his overall presence on the ice. Last year you knew when Gaborik was on the ice. You didn't even need to see him skating around, you could tell by the way the defense would sacrifice space for the other forwards while focusing on him. He was dangerous every second he was skating, from every spot on the rink. This year was the exact opposite. He worked hard defensively, but never found a way to be as dangerous in the offensive zone.
Brandon Dubinsky picked up the slack offensively in the first half of the season, but had a significant dropoff in points post-All-Star Break. Still, Dubinsky finished the season with 24 goals and 30 assists, for a team-high 54 points. He showed up for the playoffs, and even scored the game-winning goal in game three, but his second-half play was disappointing.
Henrik Lundqvist was his usual dominant self, winning 36 games and keeping the Rangers in most every game they played. Lundqvist was fantastic in the playoffs, and once again showed his heart and commitment to the team when the camera panned to the goalie with tears streaming down his face at the end of Game 5.
Although it might not feel like it, there are many positives for the Rangers to take from this season, their youth being the biggest factor. Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer and Artem Anisimov all grew as players and seem poised to be the core of the New York Rangers future.
The Rangers also have a plethora of nuggets in the system, with many of them showing significant upside in their respective minor leagues. Chris Kreider (who will be returning to Boston College next year), Ethan Werek, Dylan MacIlrath and Michael Del Zotto all seem as though they can step up to the plate and make a difference in the next few years.
The Rangers also brought back John Tortorella,signing the fiery coach to an extension after the season ended. Tortorella has done a great job, especially when it comes to developing the youth and getting the most out of the team. Don't overlook that Tortorella had an injured squad for most of the season, and had all of this success without his number one weapon (Gaborik) functioning properly.
In the end, the Rangers were playing with house money this season. They spent their time (appropriately) developing the youth and putting together a team filled with heart and character.
Now we turn to the off season, where the Rangers can address whatever flaws they saw with the team.