As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically or by losing in the postseason -- we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2018-19, along with three keys to its offseason, impact prospects for 2019-20 and a way-too-early prediction on what 2019-20 will hold.
What went wrong
Nothing went wrong. In fact, everything went according to plan.
The Rangers laid out their strategy for a rebuild with rare transparency in February 2018, and everything management outlined in "The Letter" has gone exactly as advertised. New York promised it would "be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character." The Rangers incorporated plenty of fresh faces -- to varying degrees of success -- in the 2018-19 lineup, including 23-year-old goalie (of the future?) Alexandar Georgiev; Filip Chytil, 19; Brett Howden, 20; Lias Andersson, 20; Pavel Buchnevich, 23; Tony DeAngelo, 23; and Neal Pionk, 23.
The growing pains for this group were apparent; first-year coach David Quinn established his tone early and followed through with regular benchings to send messages. That seemed to take a toll on some veterans, who are not used to losing. But by the end of the season, there were very few of those veterans left. Only Chris Kreider, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal and Jesper Fast remain from the 2015 Presidents' Trophy-winning team.
Now for the good news: New York has stockpiled picks like few other teams. The Rangers will have five picks over the first two rounds in the upcoming draft, including potentially three in the first round alone. For a team that has been low on draft capital for some time (thanks to a win-now mentality over the past decade), that's an excellent haul.