Chris Kreider still has a pit in his stomach.
Barclay Goodrow said this is the longest summer he’s had in a while.
Mika Zibanejad plans to focus on what he can do better.
Adam Fox wants to learn from this past season.
The Rangers have had 95 days to dwell on their seven-game first-round loss to the Devils, which represented one of the most exasperating playoff defeats in recent memory for the organization — especially after coming off an enchanting run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2022.
That immense letdown feeling has not faded.
It has clearly stayed with each of those aforementioned players.
“I expect that to turn into a bit of a chip on everyone’s shoulder,” Kreider said in the locker room of the Terry Conners Ice Rink, where the Shoulder Check Showcase charity event was hosted in support of the #HT40 Foundation.
Though the inconsistencies of the 2022-23 season will always be a part of the Rangers on their quest to end a near 30-year Stanley Cup drought, the club cannot let it linger for too long.
That is something they allowed to happen at the start of last year, when it was evident just how difficult it was for the team to get up for the early days of the regular season after falling two wins short of what would’ve been their first Cup finals appearance since 2014.
The past should shape these players, but not dictate how they proceed.
“I think it’s just learning from past years,” Fox said. “I mean, obviously, we were super happy with the year before and how we exceeded what people thought we could do. And then this year, people set that bar high and we set that bar high, too. We came up short, but I think just learning from it. We do have a couple guys who maybe we do have to experience that heartbreak and that letdown to really push us through.
“I think it does add that chip and gets you excited to get back there and try and compete and try and win a Stanley Cup.”
There was a lot of talk on breakup day about how it will be up to the players to take the disappointment from their collapse against the Devils and turn it into a footnote of their championship story.
It’s one thing to discuss it, but another to actually do it.
Though president and general manager Chris Drury brought in a new head coach in Peter Laviolette, as well as a new supporting cast that’s headlined by right wing Blake Wheeler and backup goalie Jonathan Quick, this Rangers core has been through the trenches together.
That is usually a commonality among Stanley Cup-winning clubs.
The 2023 champions, the Golden Knights, failed to even qualify for the postseason the year before they won.
The 2022 champions, the Avalanche, couldn’t make it out of the second round for three straight years before they won.
The 2020 and 2021 champions, the Lightning, were swept in the first round before becoming just the eighth organization in NHL history to win back-to-back Cups.
The list goes on.
“When you go into training camp each year, especially with the team we have with the expectations to win the Cup, when that doesn’t happen, it kind of makes you hungry for the next year,” Goodrow said. “Whether we brought in a new coach or not, or brought in different players or not, I think everyone who was here last year is still going to have that hunger to improve what we did and make sure the same mistakes don’t happen.”
Zibanejad probably said it best.
There’s a new season on the horizon. Zero wins and zero losses.
The Rangers decide where they go from there.