Rangers fans, are you guys tired of hearing how terrible your team has played over the past few seasons?
That's going to change soon.
With Adam Fox winning the Norris Trophy as an NHL sophomore, he has quickly established him as a force nobody wants to deal with. That comes at the expense of Carolina and Calgary, who missed out on having the league's top defender after he couldn't come to terms with either team. But in New York, it's a start of good things to come for one of the brightest franchises in the league – even if the situation doesn't look too appealing right now.
The surprise firings of team president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton following the end of the regular season set a ripple through the franchise. Did it make any sense? Why were they getting rid of two key members of the team's rebuild? Letting coach David Quinn go was a bit more expected, but you typically don't see many members of management left in the middle of a rebuild. But with Chris Drury at the GM stand and Gerard Gallant on the bench fresh off of a gold medal with Canada at the World Championship, there's a new sense of hope.
The past few years haven't been pretty, but with failure comes a host of opportunities. While neither Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere have found their groove just yet, there's still a lot of excitement for both. A new coach could be exactly what Kakko needs to unlock his potential, and Lafreniere just needed a season under his belt - of course, it was a shortened one after an eight-month layoff, but his time will come.
There are some bright pieces to the core coming, with K'Andre Miller set to be joined by fellow defenders Zac Jones, Braden Schneider and Nils Lundkvist in the future, and the hopeful continued rise of forward Lauri Pajuniemi. And with Igor Shesterkin in net, the Rangers should be in good hands.
But as it stands, the future looks to surround Fox. The fact that he became an elite defenseman so quickly in his career when most of the attention was on Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes shows just how good Fox truly is. With a better team around him, just imagine what Fox would be capable of doing. And it won't be that long until that's the case in the Big Apple.
The Rangers have one of the best prospect bases in the entire NHL. There's depth at every position and with three players appearing in the top 40 of The Hockey News' annual Future Watch issue, they're clearly in a good spot. It's interesting that none of the players appear before No. 35, but with so many young stars already in the lineup, the future truly is coming sooner than most.
The team has done a great job of drafting outside of obvious picks of Lafreniere and Kakko. The team seems to find gems anywhere they select and that shouldn't change with the 15th pick this year. Defense has been an issue for a few years in New York, but Fox and Miller leading the way - and a host of others not far behind - it'll be a big asset once the players mature a bit more.
Just imagine what the Rangers can do once Shesterkin feels fully comfortable with the team in front of him. The 25-year-old Russian was highly regarded after an incredible KHL run and his 10-2-0 start in the NHL last season made Rangers fans drool. His 16-14-3 record this year as a rookie on a non-playoff team was impressive, but his 14 losses were the most of his professional career. Not that seasons of five losses are sustainable by any means at the NHL level, but it shows just how dominant he was in the past. If he can find that same energy and skill in the NHL, he'll be a Vezina Trophy contender in no time - and many experts believe he'll reach that level sooner rather than later.
Rangers fans didn't need an award to validate what they already knew about Fox. He's going to be a major star in the NHL for years to come and it just cost two draft picks - Carolina moved one of the picks to Ottawa and turned the 2020 second rounder into Noel Gunler, a good pick in its own right. But it's unlikely any of the players involved in the deal will have the same impact as Fox.
Rangers fans, get ready. It won't be long now.