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Silverman: Lockout’s End Gives Rangers Chance To Make Huge Statement

(Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

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By Steve Silverman
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Hockey is back.

After posturing, blaming and locking players out since mid-September, the NHL has agreed to a deal with the NHL Players Association. That means there will be a 2012-13 NHL season that will conclude with one of the 30 teams skating around with the Stanley Cup.

It appeared that the NHL was more than willing to cancel the season, much like it did in 2004-05.

Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted to shove terms of a new deal down the throats of the players, but NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr refused to allow that.

He attempted to negotiate a settlement. When that didn’t work for the majority of the lockout, he got approval from his membership to file a disclaimer of interest, a move that would have changed the NHLPA from a trade union to a trade association.

That move could have made the NHL liable in an antitrust lawsuit, and that did not hurt the NHLPA’s case.

So now hockey will begin. The details that hockey fans want to know – when the season will begin and what the schedule will look like – have not been announced.

But the end of the lockout is especially good news for the New York Rangers.

The window to win a Stanley Cup Championship is once again open for John Tortorella’s team.

When we last left the Rangers, they were eliminated in six games by the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

They had been the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, but there was a lingering problem that played out against the Devils:

A lack of goal scoring.

Glen Sather and Tortorella knew this and they addressed the situation during the summer when they acquired Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the offseason.

Nash, 28, is not a miracle worker, but he can put the puck in the net. Nash has scored 289 goals in his nine-year career with the bottom-feeding Blue Jackets and he has scored 30 goals or more in five straight seasons and has twice scored 40 goals or more.

Nash has size, strength, skating agility, an array of offensive moves and a wicked shot. Throw him in with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, and you have a slew of big-time scorers who can dominate.

You already had a team that was stellar defensively that excelled at blocking shots and the best goalie in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist.

You have a demanding coach in Tortorella that should be able to get the most out of this extremely talented team.

Nobody is saying it will be easy as teams like Pittsburgh and Boston appear to be the biggest challengers in the East and they will have to contend with a team like the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks or the San Jose Sharks from the Western Conference.

And then there’s that little matter of playing the games on the ice.

It’s one thing to make an assessment of a team on paper; it’s quite another for that team to perform on the ice.

Particularly after a four-month lockout. Physical conditioning will have a huge impact and so will the state of mind of the players. Most will be thrilled to be back on the ice, but there will be lingering anger towards the game’s powers and that resentment could have an impact on overall play.

But the bottom line is that hockey is back and that the Rangers have an excellent chance to do what they did in 1994 – lift the Stanley Cup and reward their fans with a championship.

That’s the only thing that will make the season a success for the Broadway Blues.

Are the Rangers favorites to win the Stanley Cup?  Let’s hear your thoughts…