Following Rangers’ win in the playoffs on Saturday, Chris Kreider quoted how “everybody bought into it from day one” when discussing the making of that successful season.
That certainly seems to have been the case under head coach Gerard Gallant with what appears to be a really narrow circle of players willing to sacrifice for the greater good.
Except for one guy who had no interest in shopping at all. That would have been Vitali Kravtsov packing his bags and taking his injured pride to Russia when he was told he would start the season with the AHL Wolf Pack after picking up an injury in training camp that set him back . He wouldn’t even change his mind if Gallant personally pitched him for it.
And now, after allowing Blueshirts President General Manager Chris Drury to play in the KHL after a brief suspension, Kravtsov is eligible to join the Rangers after his team Traktor were eliminated from the playoffs on Monday night.
At this point of the year, do you know how deep a team is preparing for a long playoff run? That’s gold, Jerry. Gold! Kravtsov, who had 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in 15 playoff games after a 19-game regular season and 13 points (six goals, seven assists), would certainly add more depth to the Blueshirts’ right side that it always doing seems to be an injury away from the crisis.
But do you know what and who the Rangers don’t need? A player who left them, that’s who.
Kravtsov, Rangers don’t need him, although they could use a player of his talent. Bringing Kravtsov back now would send the wrong message. Where was he after Sammy Blais was out for the season in mid-November and Rangers were desperate for top six guys on the wing? Oh he was home.
Kaapo Kakko’s return on Saturday after 31 games bolsters the right flank, initially strengthened by Drury’s acquisitions of Florida’s Frank Vatrano and Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp at the close. Barclay Goodrow, temporarily back in the middle while Filip Chytil is sidelined, would be an alternative for the right wing.
Yes, the blueshirts would be forced to climb in response to either Vatrano or Copp being injured. But do you think that after a season (and essentially a career) on big rinks, Kravtsov would suddenly be able to catapult himself into a top six role while competing in the NHL’s version of the melee?
The Rangers have an active roster with four additional forwards. That includes Chytil, who missed Saturday’s game and was a doubt for Tuesday’s first-place showdown against Carolina at the Garden. That doesn’t include Tyler Motte, who sustained what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury late on April 7 in the win over the Penguins.
Kravtsov’s skills certainly set him apart from guys in the lineup bubble like Hunt, Ryan Reaves, Greg McKegg, Julien Gauthier, and Jonny Brodzinski.
But what really sets Kravtsov apart from not just this subset of Rangers, but from every player in the organization, is his decision to drop out of the team when he’s unhappy with his role. What sets him apart is the fact that the 22-year-old (I know he’s so young) has retired from his team.
Call me crazy, but I bet Zac Jones thought he’d beat Nils Lundkvist out of camp for a varsity spot, but he didn’t want to overdo it when he was assigned to the wolf pack. Alex Georgiev was unhappy with his role and reportedly asked for a swap, but the keeper never pulled any sort of job action to force his way out.
Gallant seems to have his players under control, and so does Drury. There are marquee names sprinkled across the lineup, but Rangers’ success was a shared endeavor. The six captains – roughly one for each line and defensive pair – have created an inclusive leadership system.
From the first day of camp, the rangers spoke of a different feeling. After more than three years of rebuilding, reloading, and re-evaluating that saw good guys Alain Vigneault, John Davidson, Jeff Gorton, and David Quinn lose their jobs, the atmosphere was different. There was an unspoken mandate to make the playoffs that the team embraced.
There was buy-in and it was universal.
To bring him back now would be a betrayal of the space and everything that the Rangers have stood for during this time of sacrifice and revival.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/12/rangers-would-betray-locker-room-if-vitali-kravtsov-returns-now/ Rangers would betray the dressing room if Vitali Kravtsov returns now