Meaning if WotC wants to give us the animal companion in a brand new Hunter class, I would be onboard for that.If you mean animal companions aren't essential to Rangers, okay.
If you mean animal companions aren't essential to D&D, I disagree.
They would probably have to find someone else to design the class than Crawford and Mearls, though. No point in going through all the effort if the results are still weak sauce, I mean...
Not that it should be hard. Just give us a companion that magnifies each animals natural traits, and stays sturdy at all levels. Where the definition of "sturdy" uses any hero on the front-line as a model. If not Paladin-levels of sturdy then at the very least Ranger-levels of sturdy.
Since the master isn't some shrunken weakling but a real character in itself, my conclusion is obvious: the combo is closer to two character's worth of spotlight (if not actual DPS power) the only real design breakthrough will come when they give up the idea the resulting class must be equal to others.
Simply add a sidebar explaining how the class requires the assent of the DM and the group (probably barring it from AL play) and get on with it. Once past this mental obstacle, the actual class design should be entirely straight-forward!