"Well #New York, your long wait is finally over...Captain Mark Messier, come get the #Stanley Cup!"-Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner.

"The waiting is over! The New York #Rangers are Stanley Cup Champions! And this one will last a lifetime! No more curses, this is unbelievable!"-Sam Rosen, MSG Networks play-by-play announcer for the New York Rangers.

Can it be? Are these iconic quotes really from 23 years ago - 24 years next spring?

I would like to say that I remember it well, the night that the Rangers broke the infamous curse that dated back to 1940. Alas, I was just 1-year-old at the time, a baby sitting in the arms of his parents as they, along with the Blueshirt faithful, cheered on their beloved team.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Mere moments after time expired on the Vancouver Canucks' season, the biggest celebration ever to come to the World's Most Famous Arena was underway. One fan held a sign that said it all, "Now I can die in peace."

Well, that fan may be able to die in peace, but what about those of us who, like myself, were technically alive to witness this momentous victory, but too young to remember it?

Can't we get our chance to bask in the glory of the most sought after trophy in professional sports?

In my conscious lifetime I remember the Rangers clawing their way to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance during the 2013-14 season. The pain of that series still haunts me and the rest of Rangers Nation to this day. A five-game loss to the Los Angeles Kings -- a series in which the Blueshirts held a two-goal lead in all but one game -- was as close to a Stanley Cup championship as the Rangers have gotten since their magical run in 1993-94.

Advertisements

Every year since the 2011-12 season, the 7th Avenue Skaters get tantalizingly close to achieving their dream, only to watch it get snatched away in heartbreaking fashion. Three Eastern Conference Finals appearances, plus the one Stanley Cup Finals appearance, have proceeded to get the hopes up of every Ranger fan in the country, only to watch it all slip away.

Well not this year!

This is the year. Every year seems like it is the year, but that has so far proven folly. As the old Brooklyn Dodgers used to say, "Wait till next year." After decades of hoping that that statement would come true, the Boys of Summer finally became the Men of Autumn when they beat their rivals -- the New York Yankees -- in a thrilling seven-game series during the Fall of 1955. The "Wait till next year," was finally over, 1955 was their year. So, why can't 2017-18 be the Rangers year?

Here's why this upcoming season is finally going to be the Year of the Blueshirts.

Offense

A team that finished in the top-5 of most offensive categories last season, has seen roughly 120 points get subtracted from its' lineup.

Advertisements

The big blow being the trade of Derek Stepan to Arizona.

But, where the Rangers have lost, they have also gained. While it is unlikely that we see 21st overall draft pick Filip Chytil in MSG this year, there is still a realistic chance that we see fellow first-round pick (7th overall ) Lias Andersson in the big-leagues this season.

Rumors run amok during this time of year, but this one seems to have some legs. General Manager Jeff Gorton and his braintrust have stated that Andersson will be given every chance to make the team out of training camp.

A speedy center with explosive movements and soft hands, Andersson could easily make up for the loss of Oscar Lindberg, and then some.

The continued growth of Chris Kreider, JT Miller, and Kevin Hayes, will be the key though. Kreider and Miller both took steps forward last season - playoffs notwithstanding - and Hayes certainly had his moments. With bigger roles this season, it is not unreasonable to expect each of this trio to top the 50-points and 20-goals markers.

Another name to watch is Mika Zibanejad. The young center who was brought over in a trade for Derick Brassard last summer has a newly signed contract to live up to, and should he avoid another freak injury, he is well positioned to continue his climb up the charts.

Defense

A unit that was porous at best last season, has been remade thanks to some shiny new acquisitions.

Before I get into that, a fond farewell must be afforded to long-time defensive stalwart Dan Girardi, who was bought out early this offseason.

That being said, the loss of Girardi has been completely offset by the re-signing of last season's trade deadline acquisition Brendan Smith, as well as the signing of New Rochelle native Kevin Shattenkirk.

A top-4 of captain Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith-Brady Skjei is easily the best in the Metropolitan Division and ranks up there throughout the NHL.

That loss of Stepan that I mentioned earlier, well we didn't just give him away for nothing. On top of getting the pick that snagged the Rangers Lias Andersson, they also received talented 21-year-old righty defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. Off-ice concerns aside, DeAngelo has the speed and puck movement skills necessary to one day be a top-4 defenseman, but here, he'll serve on the third-pairing with a rotation of Marc Staal and Nick Holden.

Goaltending and Special Teams

Contrary to prior reports, the King is not yet dead.

It is true that Henrik Lundqvist struggled more last season than he had ever done so, even still, he managed to rack up over 30 wins (11th time in 12 seasons).

With a newly minted defense in front of him, there is no reason why Hank can't hold off Father Time for another year or two. Father Time is undefeated, but certain athletes have been able to delay him, and with the way Henny keeps himself in shape, he's definitively a candidate to do just that.

Ondrej Pavelec may not inspire many fans as the backup netminder, but goalie coach Benoit Allaire -- known around the league as the Goalie Whisperer -- has done a great job with less talented goalies, so let's see what he does with Pavelec.

If Allaire can revive Pavelec's career then watch out NHL, because a team with few other weaknesses, will now have no glaring ones to speak of.

A power play unit that lacked spark last season will now be a strength with Shattenkirk running the point. Among defenseman with enough 5-on-4 minutes to qualify, Shatty led them all in power play points, as well as a number of other categories.

The penalty killing unit had some off games last season, but with the additions made to the blue line, and the tutelage of new defense coach Lindy Ruff, this should be one of the better units in the league.

Verdict

Games aren't won on paper, but if they were, the Rangers would already be Cup champions.

That being said, they play in the toughest division in the NHL but are battle-tested and hungry to take that next step.

Anything can happen over the course of the season, but this definitely feels like, "The waiting is over."