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Best post-lockout Ranger: Round 1, Marian Gaborik (3) vs. Matt Gilroy (14)

Fedor Tyutin got the win yesterday.

Fedor Tyutin got the win yesterday.

As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. Yesterday we saw #6 Fedor Tyutin take out #11 Karel Rachunek. Today’s matchup is #3 Marian Gaborik vs. #14 Matt Gilroy:

Marian Gaborik (acquired – 2009 unrestricted free agent)

Following the Scott Gomez trade, the Rangers targeting the best scorer on the 2009 free agent market, landing Marian Gaborik to a five year contract worth $7.5 million annually. That first season, Gaborik came as advertised, putting up 42-44-86 while playing 76 games. The second year, Gaborik also came as advertised, as he suffered an injury and his on-ice performance suffered to the tune of 22-26-48 in 62 games. Following a rebound year in 2011-2012 (41-35-76 in 82 games), Gaborik really struggled in the lockout year (following offseason shoulder surgery), putting up just 9-10-19 in 35 games before getting shipped to Columbus.

The gripe most fans have with Gaborik is that he wasn’t consistent, but I don’t think that’s fair. In 3.5 seasons, Gaborik had a pair of 40-goal years, and he played with a pretty bad shoulder in the 2012 playoff run. It’s tough to ask more of Gaborik, who put up 114-115-229 in 255 games. He fulfilled his role as top-line scorer.

In need of depth, the Rangers sent Gaborik to the Blue Jackets (with a pair of AHLers) for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore, and a 2014 6th round pick. The trade got the Rangers to the playoffs, but most will remember Gaborik not for his 40-goal years, but for his struggles coming out of lockout #3.

Matt Gilroy (acquired – 2009 undrafted free agent)

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Do hits and blocked shots correlate to (lack of) puck possession?

This is what stat geeks wear to formal occasions.

This is what stat geeks wear to formal occasions.

As the quest for better stats has come, so has more analysis into the stats that are currently available via NHL.com. Hits and blocked shots have become more of the industry standard when looking at defensive prowess. Hits is a relatively “new” stat in the sense that people are using it more than PIMs lately. PIMs have gone the way of the dodo in terms of positive value, and people have replaced it with hits. The theory is that PIMs used to tell how physical a player was, but as more clutch-and-grab was introduced (and then eliminated with some inconsistent officiating post-lockout), PIM numbers grew with stick penalties and not fights/roughing. Hits have been used to evaluate the physicality of a player’s game.

The same theory applies for blocked shots, as the more blocked shots a player has, the more defensively responsible he is (such is the theory). While this is more system dependent, a team playing a low-zone collapse will block more shots than a team playing a strong side overload, the generalization still exists that if you are blocking shots, you are good defensively. It was the Rangers MO during the 2011-2012 season, although they backed away from it during the 2013 season.

However, these are defensive stats, meaning that these stats only increase if you don’t have the puck. You can’t deliver a hit if you are controlling the play in the offensive zone. You can only block a shot if the opponent has the puck in your zone. Both of these stats go up when you don’t control the puck. The theory is that teams with lower FF%/CF% will generally have more blocked shots and more hits. But the theory in itself hasn’t really been tested (at least I haven’t seen it tested) because we have CF% and FF%. Since those are still new-ish stats, I think it’s worth diving into this generalization.

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