Glen Sather 2

Summer of Love

It may sound counter intuitive, but the Rangers are likely to struggle this season, and could easily miss the playoffs for the second time in three years.

You certainly wouldn’t come to that conclusion if you were to read the papers and what pundits the pundits are writing. The general consensus is that General Manager Glen Sather and the Rangers have had a good summer. Even Larry Brooks of the New York Post, has spent more time praising an organization that he’s never been shy about criticizing – Dubinsky contract a Grand Slam – Rangers Ace Richards Deal.

Without a doubt there’s many positives for the team. They’ve kept their core together with RFAs Ryan CallahanBrandon DubinskyArtem AnisimovBrian Boyle and Mike Sauer all signing multi-year contracts that will keep them on Broadway for the next 2-4 years. They replaced the tragic loss of Derek Boogaard, with a more multi-dimensional player in Mike Rupp. And not least of all, added a top-tier first line center for the first time since perhaps the waning days of Wayne Gretzky‘s career, if not beyond.

But the problem isn’t one of personnel this year, it’s the schedule. The Rangers start off with the travel plan from the wrong side of the River Styx. They start their preseason campaign off with games in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Albany, before heading over to Europe three days later to play in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland, before returning to Sweden for their season opening games against the Kings and Ducks.

That’s five countries, including two trips to Sweden, in a little over two weeks. They do get a week off before their first North American based game against the Islander – a semi-home game, before again hitting the road and visiting Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg on a trip that will bolster an already impressive frequent flyer award.

To make it even more depressing, the team has a 5-5 record against the Kings in their last ten meetings, haven’t won in Vancouver since 1997 when Bruce Driver scored two goals, haven’t won in Calgary since 2002 when Mikael Samuelsson scored the game winner, and have won just one regulation game against the former Thrashers in their last ten games on the way to a 2-3-5 record.

Throw in distractions of playing in the revamped Garden – teams with new stadiums often don’t perform well in their first season and the first month could be a complete disaster.

The pace becomes more sedate in November with just 11 games – 6 at MSG – and the farthest trip just the three hour flight to Fort Lauderdale, before they pick up again with a vengeance in December when the Rangers play a hectic 15 games in 30 nights. By the time the Rangers close out the calendar year, they could be really in trouble.

Obviously most of us go into the season excited, with great expectations, but for this season I have to wonder whether the organization has really set themselves up for a catastrophic failure.

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