Yes, the run to the Stanley Cup Final was a two-month long tour de force. But what was accomplished in 2013-14 has no bearing on the 2014-15 season.
That, essentially, was head coach Alain Vigneault’s message prior to the Rangers’ home opener.
“I feel we’ve turned the page on last year,” Vigneault said. “This is a new team, new group of players, trying to sort things out, where the pieces fit. [I’m] hoping that the experience from last year should help everybody individually and collectively to be better. In that sense we are using last year, but this is a whole new year [and] a different team. We’re fighting our way — like everybody else in our conference — to get in the playoffs and have the opportunity to compete for the Cup.”
One of the angles that should make for a fascinating season-long study is the development of Kevin Hayes, Anthony Duclair and J.T. Miller.
The three impressed during training camp, as all made the team. Duclair and Miller are part of the Rangers’ top nine forwards, and Hayes drew into the lineup Sunday night.
Their inclusion is vital as the NHL, a hard salary cap league, virtually demands teams keep cost-controlled talent on rosters.
“I believe to have success every year, you need to have some good young players,” Vigneault said. “We brought in some really good young players last year. They might not have started the season with us, but both [Chris Kreider] and [Cam Talbot] came in and had big roles. Mats Zuccarello wasn’t [a] proven NHL veteran.
“So you expect some of those young kids to come in your lineup, contribute and that’s how the NHL is built today. You need to have [some] young players.”
Rick Nash was a game-time decision as his wife Jessica went into labor Sunday morning.
“We got a text 15 minutes ago saying that [the birth] isn’t going to happen today, so there is a chance he could be joining us in the next little while,” Vigneault said.
Nash did end up being in the starting lineup against the Leafs Sunday night.
The coach was asked how much paternity time Nash would be granted once his wife gave birth.
“Very short,” Vigneault said through a grin. “‘Hi, got to go to practice.’ I can’t explain it any other way.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.