'Sideways' Step for Rangers This Season

By Matt Calamia (Twitter)

Expectations were high for the Rangers entering the 2013 season, and while the ultimate goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to Broadway for the first time since 1994 did not come to fruition, head coach John Tortorella dispelled the idea that this was a “disappointing” season for his team.

“I know the surrounding feeling here is that it’s a negative season or a disappointing season, but I don’t buy it. I won’t,” Tortorella said at the team’s Westchester practice facility on the day the team broke for the summer. “There were some good things that happened. I don’t think we took a step backwards. I think this is a sideways step in our lineup and how things worked out.”

Those high expectations were a result of last year’s 109-point regular season that culminated in an Atlantic Division title — a first since 1994 — and their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals first since 1997.

This year, though, the team got off to a slow start and never truly found the consistency that was a staple the season prior.

While those expectations rang loudly in the media and among fans, the players said they set their own high expectations for this season.

“We put them on ourselves as well,” said Brian Boyle, who scored five points in 11 postseason games after posting five points in 38 regular season games. “We wanted more. We came up short. We didn’t achieve what we set out wanting to do. It’s not a good feeling, obviously, but the fact that everybody is angry about it and feels empty inside, that’s a positive” heading into the summer and beyond.

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan had similar sentiments as Boyle in that what the group set out to do in January was not achieved.

“We didn’t reach our goal,” Callahan said. “We set goals at the beginning of the season, to win the Stanley Cup. We underachieved. We didn’t do that, so it’s disappointing.”

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh said with each playoff run, the taste and drive for success only intensifies.

“This is my third year being a pro and third time exiting the playoffs early,” said McDonagh. “Obviously, I’m fortunate enough to make the playoffs every year at such a young stage in my career, but you get the taste every year. Every time you make it you have the chance to do something special.”

While no team is a carbon copy of itself from year-to-year, the Blueshirts are fortunate to have most of this year’s team under contract for next season. Of the 26 players on the roster for the playoffs, 17 are signed through next season, while McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello are restricted free agents. The team has just four unrestricted free agents in Ryane Clowe, Steve Eminger, Roman Hamrlik and Matt Gilroy.

That familiarity among the group has Callahan already looking ahead to next season.

“I thought we had a chance in here with this team to go pretty far this year,” he said. “We didn’t do that. But, at the same time, we have a lot of guys coming back and we’re going to have another good team next year.”

How would you sum up the Rangers season? Tell us in the comments below.