Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the Rangers and their compete level. The coach has said there is no compete level. We’ve said this team has no compete level. Your next door neighbor said this team has no compete level. It’s a fairly common phrase. The term, obviously, is used to describe how the Rangers just don’t seem willing to do what it takes to win. We’ve seen it on the ice in every aspect of the game: hitting, defense, backchecking, board work, cycling, moving to tough areas, generating offense, etc.
You know we here love our #fancystats, and compete level is something that we can use #fancystats to quantify. If you are unfamiliar with Fenwick, read our Metrics We Use page for a refresher. Thanks to ExtraSkater, we have a visual representation of how the Rangers compete (using Fenwick) when the score is close (+/- 2 goal differential). This shows us how the Rangers play when the score is close, and if they are able to meet the challenges presented while the game is close. The graph below shows the results, and they are not pretty.
Note: This does not include last night’s game.
I broke the season down into three sections, each with a different colored box. The gray box is the first 11 games of the season, and I’m calling that the “learning” phase. The Rangers were banged up, had a new coach, and barely had any time to really play as a cohesive unit. I generally give them a pass here, but the results aren’t something to brag about. This matches what we saw on the ice: a product that was rough to watch. On a bit of the funny side, I’m sure you can pick out the San Jose and Anaheim games.
The black box is the “we finally get it” phase. The team was getting healthy. They ended a very long road trip. The systems were starting to sink in. This is when the Rangers went on their 7-3 run to get back to .500. They were skating, moving, hitting high traffic areas, finishing checks, etc. You can see the positive Fenwick Close here. Even when the Rangers lost games in this phase, they were doing the right things on the ice. If they continued to play this way, their luck would eventually come back and they would start winning games in droves.
The red box is the state we are in now. It is the “what is going on here?” phase. Seven of nine games in the negatives for Fenwick Close. That sounds about accurate, considering what we’ve seen so far. The right things mentioned in the “we finally get it” phase? Those disappeared. The Rangers have been getting outworked in every facet of the game, and their compete level plummeted to the point where they don’t want to play if the score is close.
Is Fenwick Close something that we can use on its own to tell if the team is competing? Not by a long shot. This is actually a very nice coincidence. That said, for a puck possession team like the Rangers, we can use it as supporting evidence to what we see on the ice: This team just hasn’t matched their compete level from early November. The fact that they are still in the playoff mix is some cause for optimism, but this compete level problem needs to be fixed.