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Rangers final grades: Top six forwards

If you’re new to the site and have never read our report cards before, essentially what we do is break up the roster evals into 4 separate posts (top 6, bottom 6, defense, and goaltending+management). We include the mid-season grade we posted earlier this year, the full regular season grade, as well as a separate grade for the playoffs. Before we get started, let me reiterate these grades are based on the players executing their specific roles within our team concept. This isn’t just based on stats.

Marian Gaborik:

Marian Gaborik had a terrific regular season (41 g, 76 pts) and to no surprise really bounced back from an off-year last season. He proved to everybody that he’s more than just a one-dimensional goal scorer, which so many offensive stars seem to be these days (cough, cough Semin). He is a terrific passer, he is not a puck hog with a tendency for turnovers, and most importantly he makes an effort to backcheck, which is so critical to a team’s overall success. Unfortunately, he failed to really elevate his game during the postseason (5 g, 11 pts in 20 gp).

Steve Zipay reported yesterday that Gabby injured his shoulder early in the playoffs and needs offseason surgery. The report is a bit ambiguous, but we can probably cut him some slack for his sub-par performance, particularly for not attacking the net enough. Still, I’m glad he manned up and hoped over the boards. Had he not, I’m not sure we win that triple OT game against the Caps, and I’m not sure this fanbase would have ever forgiven him. Mid-season: A+/Full Season: A/Playoffs: B-

Brad Richards:

Although Richie’s points were down from last year (66 vs. 77), he did play much of the early season with Callahan and Dubinsky. Cally is a personal favorite of mine, but he is certainly not the same caliber offensively as Loui Ericksson. And I think we all know feeding Dubinsky for scoring chances is where assists go to die.

Richie started off slow this season and generally wasn’t attacking the puck or winning faceoffs. Torts benched him, he got the message and became a point per game player after the All-Star break. He also finished with a 52% winning percentage on the draw. Richards was also extremely clutch, as he had 9 game winning goals during the regular season, which tied for 3rd in the league.

Richards led our team in points during the postseason (6 g, 15 pts in 20 gp) and continued his clutch ways, but I still expected a little more out of him on the power play. His puck possession numbers were decent (+3 relative corsi, which is basically just a combined +/- for shot attempts), but should have been better considering he had a 62% offensive zone start %. Keep in mind this stat doesn’t account for line changes on the fly, only faceoffs. Mid-season: B-/Full Season: A-/Playoffs: B+

Carl Hagelin:

Hagelin started off his pro career with 14 goals and 24 assists in 64 games played. Prorated over the course of an 82 game season and you are likely looking at a 45-50 point rookie year. Obviously Hags has a great first step, is terrific on the forecheck and possess playmaking ability. If he ever learns to shoot mid-stride, watch the eff out.

His zero goals and three assists on the postseason were obviously disappointing, especially considering his spot on the top line. With that said, I was more disappointed with his puck possession numbers, which were so damn good during the regular season, but dropped during the playoffs. Given, Carl isn’t used to playing this many games. Last year for Michigan he played 44 games. This year he played 98 games, so you have to keep that in perspective. None the less, I still thought the effort was there, just not the execution. Mid-season: A/Full Season: B+/Playoffs: C+

Ryan Callahan:

If you could build a model of an all around terrific hockey player, you would build that model around Ryan Callahan (29 g, 54 pts). Callahan does it all on both ends of the ice and plays in all situations. He hits for turnovers, blocks shots, backchecks, plays between the dots, I could go on and on. Some undermine his offensive abilities because most of his goals come from playing down and dirty in the crease and not pretty transition goals, but you need to score goals in many different ways to have a successful team and he obviously helps us get there.

I think Cally was a little inconsistent during the playoffs (6 g, 10 pts), which might have something to do with the number of games we had to play. Though this is true for most of the team, I think it’s magnified for him given the sandpaper style he plays. Still, I aint mad atcha. Mid-season: A+/Full Season: A+/Playoffs: B+

Derek Stepan:

It’s hard to believe this kid is only 21. He took a major step forward this season in his overall play and the future is still incredibly bright for him. Stepan put up 17 goals and 51 points and looks like he could be a major playmaker down the road. To no surprise he improved his faceoff wins to 45% (up from 38% last season). He should continue to improve in that regard as he continues to grow into his body and better understand the competition’s tendencies.

(For more on how to improve at faceoffs, checkout a technical post I wrote here.)

Derek also much improved defensively this year, which is a credit to the coaching staff. For that reason he saw his penalty kill minutes increase from 37 last season to 105 pk minutes this season. Ultimately, he needs to work on his shot selection. He is a brilliant passer, but sometimes he over thinks what to do with the puck, especially on the cycle, and that carried over into the playoffs (1 g, 9 pts). Mid-season: B+/Full Season: B+/Playoffs: B-

Chris Kreider:

I was thoroughly against trading him at the deadline for Nash and/or Bobby Ryan and very much for signing him for the playoffs. It was a risky move by John Tortorella to push for this kid’s signing (as it burns a year off of his entry-level deal), but ultimately it was necessary and it all worked out.

Kreider played very well (5 g, 7 pts in 18 gp) for his first taste in the Show. Eighteen games may be a bit too small of a sample size to start projecting this kids future statistical output. If he makes improvements in his defensive zone coverage, he will ultimately have the puck more in the offensive zone and more chances to bury that powerful shot of his. If he can continue to have Hag’s quickness, hit for turnovers like Callahan, and bury them like no one else on this roster, the Rangers will have a much better chance contending next season. Playoffs: B+

Next up, Chris will break down our defense.

30 Responses to “Rangers final grades: Top six forwards”

  1. TommyT says:

    As per the usual on this blog, excellent write up. I told my father it was Gabbys shoulder because you can see his hesitation to shoot on may occasions, electing to differ his shot for a pass. All in all a great season by the organization and I am proud fan, no one thought they would even contend and look at what they did.

    • The Suit says:

      Definitely, and it also hurts your play along the wall, since your shoulder is typically the principle point of contact with the boards. I guess we will see as more info is released.

      • TommyT says:

        Yes, i could not imagine playing with a hurt shoulder, I am sure we will see its a deep sprain or something. He got beat up in the playoffs Double coverage and always getting hit. Excited to see what happens next year.

        • Spozo says:

          We should trade him. He obviously can’t perform in the playoffs.

          • The Suit says:

            He has a no trade clause, so that would be difficult. I think he’ll play out his contract here. Hopefully he can stay healthy next postseason and we can get him some secondary scoring support.

  2. Zen says:

    Nice write-up Suit. I concur.

  3. Walt says:

    Great analysis, and very thoughtful. Right on Suit, this is good stuff!

  4. Andy Allu says:

    I think you are being kind giving Stephan a B-ish rating for the playoffs. Personally, I expected more from him and think he kind of disappeared. The ability to “pass” does not mean squat unless the person he passes to CONVERTS… plain and simple… He really has to elevate his game come playoff time

    • The Suit says:

      I agree Stepan had an inconsistent postseason, but disagree with you on passing. If a player makes a great pass to an open teammate and that teammate misses the net or puts the shot right into the goalie’s belly, it is not the passers fault. If that’s the case, you can blame Richards and Cally for every scoring chance Dubi did nothing with. Not sure anyone would agree with that.

      • Andy Allu says:

        I am not blaming Step for scoring inadequacies of others… I just meant that being a “great passer” is somewhat meaningless on this team since there are so few finishers. Hey, “I” am a great passer and always was… but it never meant anything because I played on lousy teams so I ended up a Salesman…lol

  5. Zev says:

    Good post. I really don’t get the Gaborik hate in some of the comments here. Feel like there’s a lot to like about his game and very little to dislike. Health has certainly been an issue throughout his career, but everyone knew that when the Rangers signed him. So far the Rangers have gotten great value out of Gaborik and that will continue as long as he stays healthy.

    • The Suit says:

      Agreed. And this idea he sucks in the playoffs when healthy is a bit of a stretch. He had 21 points in his first 24 playoff games for the Wild.

  6. kdiff77 says:

    The amount of young talent we’re stockpiling is ridiculous. Stepan, Anisimov, Kreider, McD, MDZ, Hags, Sauer, and Staal are all 25 or under (and I suppose you can include Zucc, but he probably won’t be back next year). And this isn’t even including top prospects like Erixon, McIlrath, Miller, and a whole host of others.

    This team is built for the future, and any success we had this season was a huge bonus. We’re way ahead of schedule, and that’s absolutely terrific. Can’t wait to see Hagelin and Kreider for a full season.

  7. Matt J says:

    Kreider a b+? He literally exceeded every bit of expectations I had for him, and he has the most goals of any player yet to play his first regular season game. Not to mention I thought he was the best if not the most consistent forward in the Devils series. This was a kid who two months ago was playing in the NCAA.

    Kreider gets an A++ by me.

    Agree on all other grades though.

  8. keco says:

    B- for Stepan, completely invisible in the Devil series?
    B+ for Richards, also invisible in the Devil series, and partly responsible for the game 5 and 6 game winners?

    • The Suit says:

      Grades were for entire post season spanning 20 games, not just Devils series

      • keco says:

        Stepan, 2nd line center, had one goal in 20 games, and was on the first PP unit the whole playoffs. He also was awful on faceoffs, winning 44 %.

        • The Suit says:

          I know. I mentioned his stats. I’m still waiting for your grade.

          • keco says:

            D, and that’s being generous, he was completely invisible at times, and for the first time in his career, his lack of elite footspeed became as issue.
            Richards gets a C because he did something in the first two rounds, he was horrible against the Devils though, in all facets of the game.

  9. Ray says:

    Suit – I have a lot of respect for your hockey knowledge and your posts, but I have to disagree on this report card for Gaborik.

    “He is a terrific passer, he is not a puck hog with a tendency for turnovers”

    I watch every single Ranger game (dont think I have missed one in 15 years+. Been a fan since I was 6, thats 44 years) and I dont see the Gaborik you see. He makes the odd pass from time to time that actually connects, but most of the time he is coughing up the puck. He is not a puck hog mainly because he can not carry the puck without turning it over. I did not know he had a shoulder issue till this post, but that does not excuse the rest of the season. He coughed up the puck against the boards practically all year (my wife got tired of me yelling F-in Gaborik)

    He is no longer a one dimensional player because he finally started to backcheck. Take that away and what do you have? A one dimensional player that ONLY has a shot, and the shot has to be from a near perfect pass. That is all that he has. He needs to understand that his role is basically to skate and get in an open lane for that pass and the quick shot, because honestly he cant skate with the puck, he cant forecheck against the boards, and just the slightest bit of pressure and the other team has the puck. I saw it all year.

    Like I said Suit – much respect for you but I dont aggree with this one =)
    Everyone else was on point.

    • The Suit says:

      I appreciate where you’re coming from Ray and I don’t expect to change your mind, but allow me to retort, respectfully.

      I found myself agreeing with a lot of what you said, with the caveat of when Gaborik is injured. When he is healthy, I don’t agree that he has a penchant for coughing up the puck. Especially when you compare him to other premiere goal scorers.

      Point in case, other than James Neal, Gaborik actually had the least amount of giveaways among all of the top goal scorers in the NHL. Kovy, whom many among this fan base are giving kudos to right now, had 120 giveaways to Gaborik’s 41. That’s a lot, even when factoring in scorer bias.

      By no means is Gaborik a terrific forechecker, but an F- is a bit extreme for that aspect of his game. I would say his play along the boards is comparable to other top goal scorers. Again, we are analyzing everybody’s game within the context of their role.

      Can’t agree on his passing either. He’s certainly no Sedin twin, but every player makes bad passes and maybe when he does there is a bit of confirmation bias, but again I point to the low turnover numbers. You also have to go back and watch some of the plays he made this year off the rush. Some of them were just brilliant. Gabby draws attention and when he’s not scoring goals he isn’t completely shutdown, which many are saying. He can make backhanded passes through traffic better than most and he has the assists to prove it. Again, when he’s healthy…

  10. Aniara says:

    I largely agree except for with Carl’s grades. He is put in a forchecking role by Torts and he is the only way that first line will be able to retrieve the puck in the offensive zone. IMO he deserves at least an A- for his playoff effort and def higher than B+ for the regular season. Gabby and Richards are simply not able to play a puck chasing game (Richards have some skills and Gabby has none in this game), so considering what Carl was able to do he derserves a much higher grade. But I assume you listened too much to Mike Millbury who complained about Hagelin during the playoffs.

  11. becky says:

    Well done Suit.